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What do the Orioles have to do to keep on winning?

Buck Showalter's club has been hotter than any team in Major League baseball over the first week and a half of 2016. What do the Orioles have to do across the board to continue rattling off wins?

Well, it might not have been the start you saw coming, but it's a reality: the Orioles are undefeated through their first seven games of the season, marking the best start in O's history. Buck Showalter's fighting Birds have sprinted out of the gate, leaving plenty of us to wonder what they'll need to do to continue the perfect streak.

They still have a ways to go before they reach the 13-0 mark - the best season start in MLB history set by both the Brewers and Braves in the mid-80s - but with the way things are rolling, it doesn't seem to be an unfathomable stretch.

Anyways, all borderline unreasonable projections aside, it's time to get serious about looking ahead at the team's long-term chances. It might only be April 13th, but it's certainly not too soon to begin figuring out if the team really has a shot to contend for the postseason down the stretch.

With that said, here's what the team needs to do across the board to continue their torrid paces.

On Offense

Let's start with the easiest area of the squad to break down, shall we?

This year's offensive production is going to be consistent. The legitimate talent in the middle of the lineup will continue to mash and plate a whole lot of runs, providing the basic backbone that should carry the rest of the unit to the promise land ... or, at least top-five numbers in the league.

When looking at what needs to be done moving forward, this is essentially a matter of figuring out the non-consistent guys in the lineup who still have a question mark attached to their name - namely Joey Rickard and Pedro Alvarez.

Overall, everyone else can be locked into a certain set of numbers based on past expectations. We know guys like Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Adam Jones will be more than serviceable in the middle, and the Matt Wieters/J.J. Hardy's of the world will be reliable at the tail end of the lineup.

As for new additions Rickard and Alvarez, all they really need to do is be slightly above average. Heading into the regular season, Showalter and Co. expected the returning bats to do much of the heavy lifting, figuring that these two new bats will provide baseline production to the run-scoring efforts. They just need to be consistently decent, nothing more.

Obviously, the stories have been on completely opposite ends of the spectrum for both Rickard and Alvarez. The former Pirate is pressing as hard as any hitter ever has to start a season, while the latter has played like an MVP candidate. Ultimately though, we can expect both to even out and return to "normal expectations" - if they do, all will be just fine for the offense's outlook.

Summed up, the offense doesn't really need change much or get any better for the O's to contend and fight through the tough summer months. They just need to not completely crash and burn. And chances are, a complete disaster probably isn't on the schedule for the Fightin' Showalters.

Starting Pitching

Here's the wrinkle to be ironed out. We started the season with a great level of unknown, and well, that hasn't quite changed. Perhaps when you have Vance Worley starting divisional games, that'll tend to happen. However, there is some positivity to be had now that every starter has had his first outing of the year.

Let's start with Chris Tillman, the de facto ace of the staff.

The good news? He's been rather sharp in his first seven innings of work. He's shown an encouraging sign of command with nice control and impressive stuff early on. Most notably, he's whiffed 10 over his seven innings of work.

The downside? Well, yeah - those mere seven innings of work. Even in baseball, it's difficult to glean much from such a small sample size.

Still, it's fairly simple to know what needs to happen for Tillman moving forward. After his 4.99 ERA/1.38 WHIP in 2015, the 27-year-old just needs to return to his 2012-2014 form, a time where his arsenal of pitches looked similar to what he's shown off over the early going so far.

Year Innings Hits ERA WHIP
2012 86 66 2.93 1.05
2013 206.1 184 3.71 1.22
2014 207.1 189 3.34 1.23

I'll put Kevin Gausman aside for now and touch over him when we get past these next three guys, but let's next look at Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovani Gallardo and Mike Wright as a whole. They're presumably be the three (four, with Gausman) in the back of the rotation after Tillman for much of 2016, looked upon, again, to just be average or even slightly below it.

Get the first few starts of the season out of your heads now, because those performances won't be sustained. The staff won't look like Cy Young winners and you certainly won't have the team leading the American League in ERA again during 2016.

What you will have is a chance to win a whole lot of games with very mediocre pitching, and that's perfectly okay. What we have seen this year is a capability to go at-least five innings with just enough productivity; luckily, that's all this team will ever need.

If Tillman can be on par with what he was in his ‘12-'14 stretch, there's no need for dominant, seven-inning performances every week. The offense is crushing baseballs out of the park and the talent on the defensive side is plenty capable of holding down balls in play. Average pitching should be encouraged, with any more than that being heavily applauded.

And if the first week and a half of play is any indication, the staff should be just fine to pitch out to their averages over the course of the year.

A real quick note on Gausman... post-injury, there isn't much of a bar to be set with his projections. He could still be on pace to have the best year of his pro career, or there may be disappointing lingering effects from an interrupted start to the year. Neither would be surprising and both should be within the range of expectations. Ultimately, his role is up in the air with a slight arrow pointing upward for the time being.

Rounding this section up, just keep this mind: average performances on the mound will translate to a whole lot of wins for 2016's Orioles.

The Bullpen

This one will probably be simpler to break down in chunks too, so do that we shall.

Darren O'Day and Zach Britton: I won't even fool around with this section - there's really no point. Both guys are dominant back end guys, and that shouldn't change for the entirety of the season. Count on many scoreless innings, holds and saves.

The long-men, "or something like that" guys (T.J. McFarland, Tyler Wilson, Dylan Bundy and Vance Worley): Here, the team has a surplus of talent that can only be looked at as a positive as the season rolls along. All of these guys have a perfectly good capability of being solid arms out of the ‘pen, whether for three innings of work after a shaky start or late in extra innings.

Bundy and Wilson are two interesting spot-start candidates as well, giving the team some nice flexibility within their late-inning selections. Overall, there's no reason to believe either McFarland, Bundy or Wilson are going to put together record-breaking seasons, but they'll be more than enough as arms to lean on during the heart of the grind.

Brad Brach and Mychal Givens: Here are two arms that - down the stretch - could end up being invaluable pieces to a potential postseason puzzle. Both are intriguing in their styles, and have shown at times to be almost unhittable if their command is reeled in. They'll need to continue fine-tuning their games, but both show potential to have surprising campaigns with the pitch arsenal they've shown off early on.

Every bullpen needs late-inning strikeout arms; the O's have plenty of reasons to be excited with this double dose of potential.

The question mark (Brian Matusz): After Monday's one inning, seven hit and six run performance in Bowie, it's safe to say confidence isn't exactly high here. We'll have to wait and see, but like Gausman, keep Matusz's role open for fluctuation for the first half of the year.

The Outlook

There really isn't much to "clean up" thus far, a rare component for an article like this. Moving ahead, if the Orioles were to continue to play the way they have over the first seven games, they'd be 162-0 and World Series champs by the time November rolled around.

Not bad, eh?

But when we twist back into reality, we realize that losses are on their way and tough stretches will creep their way onto the schedule very soon. Right now, the focus for the Birds should be simple: stay healthy, keep chugging along and pile up wins against the teams they should beat.