The Baltimore Orioles need better outings from their starting pitchers.
If you follow the team, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Most fans, and possibly the team itself, were hoping that the issue could be overlooked thanks to it’s juggernaut of a lineup. Alas, the issue came to the forefront of everyone’s mind once again during the Toronto Blue Jays’ 3-game sweep of the O’s this weekend.
Detailing the problem
Ok, the starting pitching has been a weak spot all year (and last year, as well). But how bad is it actually? Well, the O’s currently rank 29th out of all 30 teams in ERA (4.43) and 23rd in quality starts (34). So not only have the starters been ineffective, but they have been unable to eat very many innings, which puts a huge strain on a bullpen that already has a few issues of it’s own (namely Pedro Strop).
As far as individual pitchers go, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzales are the only semi-reliable guys in the rotation, as Jason Hammel has regressed from last season dramatically, Freddy Garcia is simply not effective at this stage in his career (Update: Garcia has now been designated for assignment; Kevin Gausman re-called from AAA), and the 5th spot is completely up for grabs. The O’s have gotten spot starts from Josh Stinson, Zach Clark, Zack Britton, and Jair Jurrjens this year, and only Britton has given the team a winning outing. Kevin Gausman, while extremely talented, proved that he is not quite ready for the big leagues yet, and Jake Arrieta showed that he may never have enough command to be effective. When 11 different starting pitchers have taken the hill for a team, and it isn’t even the All-Star break yet, that says a lot about the state of a team (Baltimore used 12 all of last season). Shoddy pitching just is not going to cut it if this team’s dream of playoff baseball is going to come to fruition. The starters themselves have a combined ERA of 5.97, and when you consider that the team scores 4.84 runs a game, it’s a testament to the bullpen that the team is still somehow 42-34.
Detailing possible solutions
This is no time for the Orioles to be content with their current pitchers. I expect them to be very active at the trade deadline (July 31st) or before. They may not go after the big names, like Cliff Lee or Matt Garza, but they could look at guys like Bud Norris or Jason Vargas.
Norris currently has a 3.60 ERA with a bad Houston team, and Vargas has a 3.65 ERA with the Angels. Both pitchers would be immediate upgrades to the rotation and, in Vargas’ case, would give them that veteran starter that Buck Showalter loves to have in his back pocket (a noticeable hole on this years’ team). The Birds could also choose to try and reel in a slightly bigger fish in Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who would bring with him a 3.68 ERA and plenty of strikeouts per inning (He’s the Marlins all-time leader in K’s). Nolasco is another veteran who could bring much-needed experience to the staff.
It is important to remember that Wei-Yin Chen will hopefully be back in a few weeks as well, and while how effective he will be is anyone’s guess, he certainly cannot be worse than the guys currently taking the mound for Baltimore. Whatever the team decides to do, they need to do it quickly. Save for Gausman, who could still potentially help the club later on this year once he gets some more seasoning, it is unlikely that any of the starters’ performances will improve enough to be helpful.
On the bright side . . .
The offense is still performing well, and . . . that’s about it, honestly. But, as we’ve seen, a good offense can carry you a long way. Taylor Teagarden is beginning to come out of his season-long slump with his first two home runs of the year and Chris Davis continues to amaze each and every game. J.J. Hardy has also had a very strong month of June, posting the highest average of any singular month in his career (.365) with 5 home runs to go with it. Even Ryan Flaherty has gotten in on the action, hitting .258 with 5 homers in June (3 of which he hit in Toronto, so there’s something). The team’s overall defense has also been strong, though they had some bad bounces against the Blue Jays.
The road ahead
Let’s just forget this Toronto series even happened, shall we? It’s better for everyone that way. Baltimore will hope to pick up the pieces at home against Cleveland, starting tonight at 7:05 ET. They need to regain some momentum before they head into their important series against the Yankees this weekend. Britton will take the mound for the O’s, facing off against Ubaldo Jimenez. The Tribe (38-36) is coming off a series win against Minnesota. This will be the first meeting between these two teams this year, out of 7 total.