One thing I know for sure -- it's too early in the season to predict disaster for the Baltimore Orioles or the Philadelphia Phillies.

Of course, it's too early to predict success, either.

It's just too early -- period.

Neither team was predicted in the offseason to win a league championship this year.

And for good reason.

There are just too many "ifs" -- the possibility of injuries in both cases -- for anyone to get too excited about the O's and Phils.

If the two teams stay uncharacteristically healthy, they could contend well into the season.

But there are already signs that things aren't going according to plan.

The Orioles are 4-4 and tied for second place in the American League's East Division. They're only one game out of first place. Nothing to worry about.

Except that the best all-around player on the team, Adam Jones, was caught dogging it in the first week of the season and it might have cost the O's a win. Who dogs it in the first week of the season? And why? No excuse for that.

It's simply too much to expect the Orioles to duplicate their results from last year in winning one-run games (29-9, a major league record) and extra-inning games. And, of course, three of their four losses in the early going were one-run games.

And designated hitter Wilson Betemit, pitcher Steve Johnson and second baseman Brian Roberts already are injured and/or on the disabled list in the first week of the season. That does not bode well for this team.

But at least the O's have a plus-eight in the runs-for and runs-against differential. That's a good sign.

I hate to say it, but the Phils have some issues already, the least of which is their pitching.

Their runs-for/runs-against differential is among the worst in the Major Leagues at minus-12. They've scored 42 runs, but the pitching/defense has given up 54. Brutal.

And that's with everyone healthy. More or less.

The Phils are 4-5, in fourth place in the National League East, four games out of first place already.

So far, so good for Michael Young at third base -- he's hitting .375 and more than carrying his weight. Chase Utley (.333) is right there with him. In fact, the two of them are leading the team in every meaningful offensive statistic so far.

Starting pitchers Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels are stinking up the joint. Only Cliff Lee is getting the job done -- two wins in the early going.

And the bullpen has been God-awful.

The pitching is struggling and that could continue, I guess. I say that only because Cliff Lee had the season-from-Hell last year, despite being mostly healthy and pitching fairly well. So if it can happen to him, who's to say it won't happen to Halladay again and Hamels?

Note this much: Going into Wednesday's games, the Phils ranked 14th in the major leagues in runs scored, 15th in batting average, 21st in on-base percentage and 19th in slugging percentage. Combine that with the pitching so far, and it presents an ugly picture.

The O's, in comparison, ranked 11th, third, fifth and seventh, respectively. At least they're giving themselves half a chance to win.

Here's the thing with the Phils -- there's so much room for improvement, it's hard to imagine they won't get better as time goes by. Unless, of course, the injuries start to kick in.

If that happens, and depending on which players are involved, the Phils' season could be over before it gets started.

It's enough to worry a baseball fan.

But it's early.

Just keep telling yourself that.

Because I am.

Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Thurs days. E-mail: lhick