The Rays Tank: At What Point Do We Proclaim The O's Are For Real?

May 16, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones (10) connects for a home run in the 15th inning of the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Orioles won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

The title of this piece is a question I've been pondering for a week or so: What's the point where we should stop looking at a team's hot start as merely lucky and chance, and start to think that hey, maybe these guys are for real? Because as it stands right now, the Rays and Orioles are duking it out for first place in the AL East, and as Grant Brisbee covered, the AL East is incredibly, incredibly strong right now.

The analyst in me can't help but take the cautious approach. Each game provides us with one more data point, but we're still not even a quarter of the way through the season (although we're close). With each game and each new bit of information, we should be revising our previous opinion on the Orioles and shifting their projection based on their crazy success...but I still don't think we have seen enough to dramatically overlook their preseason projections (which still had them in 5th place and sitting around 75 wins).

Then again, the fan in me remembers 2008. I remember how long it took the rest of the baseball world to acknowledge that the Rays had something real going on, while I had figured that out months before. And when you look at the O's roster, there are some signs of unsustainability, but nothing terribly dramatic. Adam Jones is breaking out. Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen are (likely) playing over their heads. Jake Arrieta isn't walking the world anymore. And umm...that's all I have.

This might sound weird, but I'm completely and utterly rooting for the Orioles to keep this success going. Maybe it's the compassionate D-Ray fan in me that remembers how horrible losing was, and I can't help but root for the Orioles to stop being laughingstocks of the division. They'd be another franchise to challenge The Evil Duo, and for some reason I don't entirely understand, I like them a bit better than the Blue Jays.

And I don't think it's out of this world to think that the Orioles could remain in the race for most of the year, and finish with a mid-80s win total. I'm still not willing to go high-80s or low-90s, but hey, they certainly are banking some wins at the moment.

Sure, Jason Hammel will start pitching like Jason Hammel at some point. And Adam Jones likely won't keep this up all year. But for every bit of regression that's expected, who's to say that Brian Matusz couldn't piece things together again? Or that Jake Arrieta learns to solve his homerun problem? Or that, you know, Mark Reynolds actually starts hitting? There's room for regression in both directions.

Anyway, that's my morning ponderings. Links after the jump.

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