"Conventionally thinking and history and stats and all the other stuff, we made a lot of people scratch their heads last year," Showalter said. "These guys don't get too deep into conventionality. ... Hell, they thought it was a fluke when they didn't win [in the ALDS]. People start thinking [the Orioles' success] was some fluky thing or whatever, that's OK. The way I look at it, it's a little bit of a slap in the face to their ability."
That's why when Showalter jumps into one of the drills in spring training, his players listen. When he tells them to do it again, they jump to it.
"I think the trust factor is huge with us," first baseman Chris Davis said. "Buck trusts us to hold ourselves accountable and to be prepared to play, and we know that if he brings something to us that it's not going to be eyewash. He's going to have researched it and it's going to have a purpose. I think that makes a big difference in the way the players trust each other and the way the manager trusts his players."
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Winning a different way
The Orioles don't necessarily believe they're going to win in the same ways as in 2012. Their .763 winning percentage in one-run games was the highest since the 1890 Brooklyn Bridegrooms. They won an AL-best 46 games on the road and had a winning record against every other AL East team.
They hit 214 homers, second-most in baseball, but also went through stretches of horrific clutch hitting. They failed to get a hit with runners in scoring position in 47 games and had just one hit with runners in scoring position in 32 others -- but managed to win 32 of those 79 games.
"I don't think anybody in here thinks that since we made the playoffs last year that we're a shoo-in this year," McLouth said. "We're still hungry to get back there. Buck said earlier in spring training, 'You can't fool anybody for 162 games. You're going to get exposed at some point.' And that's the truth. We didn't make the playoffs by accident last year, but as far as people doubting, no matter what team you're on, there are going to be people who think you're going to be good and people who think you're going to stink."
The Orioles know it will help to have back several key players who missed significant time with injuries last year. Second baseman Brian Roberts, limited to 115 games during the past three years, is healthy again, and left fielder Nolan Reimold, who is coming off neck surgery after playing just 16 games last season, has returned. Right fielder Nick Markakis, who endured a 2012 calendar year that included three surgeries, is back as well. The anticipated June addition of Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada from Tommy John elbow reconstruction should help.
Another factor in the Orioles' confidence is their defense. They called up Manny Machado from Double-A Bowie in early August and made him the everyday third baseman. At the time, they had the worst fielding percentage in baseball (.980), including a horrid .914 fielding percentage by the third basemen. After Machado, primarily a shortstop in the minors, was permanently placed at third on Aug. 9, the Orioles made just 19 errors down the stretch and compiled a majors-best .990 fielding percentage.
It's no accident they also had the best winning percentage from Aug. 1 through the end of the season, going 38-20.
"If our defense is good like it was at the end of the season and our pitchers pitch reasonably, we should be able to continue to evolve as a team," Duquette said.
Youth and depth
The Orioles will have a full season of Machado in 2013, and the organization's other top prospects are on the horizon. Right-hander Dylan Bundy is a consensus top-three prospect in the game, and the Orioles' next two prospects -- right-hander Kevin Gausman and infielder Jonathan Schoop -- raised their stock in their first big league camps.
The Orioles used 52 players last season -- including 32 who made their debut with the team -- but they enter this season with much more depth. Thirteen pitchers competed for the five starting rotation spots this spring, and the Orioles will open the season with several players at Norfolk who have major league experience.
"We're making good strides in our player development operation. We're recruiting better," Duquette said. "We have more work to do to be consistent. But the other thing we have is depth to our major league squad this year in spring training. Last year we went about acquiring depth throughout the season, and this year we seem to have more depth when the season starts. So, hopefully, that will work to help the team."
Showalter loves a maneuverable roster. The Orioles made 178 roster moves last year, and several involved getting fresh relievers on the staff after long extra-inning games. Showalter often has said the organization values every game on the schedule, and it resonates through the clubhouse that every outcome matters.
After ending a memorable season with a close ALDS against the Yankees, in which four of the five games were decided by one or two runs, the Orioles know they can compete with the heavyweights of the AL East. And they don't give any impression that they're satisfied with last season's accomplishments.
"I think the motivation is that we made the postseason last year and lost," Davis said. "We finished the season with a bad taste in our mouths. If that's not motivation enough, I don't know what will be."