Definitely disappointing to finish so poorly after the first half they put together, but looking purely at the overall results, it's hard to argue this was a good season. It was important to follow up last season with another winning year, especially with so many people predicting a return to the basement and a sub-.500 season.
I think their biggest focus for next season has to be creating more concrete roles for guys. Last year, a big part of their success was working with all the moving parts and pushing the right buttons, but I actually think that same approach hurt them this season. 7 guys played 140+ games, but even then, they still moved around constantly in the lineup. The defense was fantastic, setting a major league record for fielding % and fewest errors in a season.
Recommendations for next season:
1. Find a LF that can hit consistently. McLouth is a great 4th OF option with his speed and defense, but they relied on him too much this season and I just don't think he's good enough to be an everyday type guy. I think he'll be gone anyway with his rumoured asking price. I think they need to go hard after Ellsbury or Zobrist (if not both). Even if they have to overpay, getting them away from Boston and TB respectively will be worth it.
2. Make Markakis the full-time leadoff hitter. This season he hit around .320 when leading off, and that was primarily against lefties. McLouth hit around .260 and Roberts hit around .120. Why Nick wasn't in the top spot every game down the stretch is beyond me.
3. Find a DH. I wouldn't be opposed to bringing Morse back on the cheap, but as much as Buck hates it, they need a specific guy for that role. Filling the DH spot with spare parts off the bench every night just isn't going to cut it.
4. Explore trades for pitching. I'd even consider dealing Bundy, as their window is now and he likely won't contribute significantly at the major league level before 2015 at the earliest. Garza is the only guy on the market I'd even really contemplate and he'll likely be overpaid.
5. Try Jim Johnson as a starter again. His sinker, mix of pitches and ability to keep the ball in the yard, coupled with the O's defense, make him a solid starting candidate if they can stretch him out. It's hard to justify giving $9M to a closer (which is likely what he'll end up getting).
Based on what they have right now, here is what their lineup should look like for next season:
5. DH (Morse?)
4. Feldman (It sounds like they'll be bringing him back)