This year was such a disaster two months ago. At the point when Buck Showalter took over as manager, the Orioles were on pace to lose 113 games. That they only lost 96 in the end is nothing short of extraordinary. How good has the brief Showalter Era been for the O's? Their winning percentage with two months under their new manager is .596. Extrapolate for the season and that would have been good enough for the best record in the American League.
For the first time in ages, the Orioles should head into next season with high hopes. The beauty of the strong end to the season is the fact that this is still a very young team, especially the pitching staff. If Showalter can work even a fraction of the same magic he brought this season, substantial improvement next year is a very reasonable expectation.
The off-season will be busy. Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood is likely finished as an Oriole, relieving the team of one of its biggest current contracts. Ty Wiggington is also a free agent now and one would hope that his re-signing would be a high priority. If they're to go shopping for new faces, I think offense should be the higher priority, though I hope the team won't crowd out the young talent which has come on so strong at the finish.
Perhaps the best thing for a strong team in 2011 would be a healthy Brian Roberts. Perhaps they could look for someone who could fill in adequately as the leadoff man, just in case.