Streak is over; time to worry about rotation's ability to go deep - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Streak is over; time to worry about rotation’s ability to go deep

Jimenez_Ubaldo_03
Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

I don’t mean to be the black storm cloud at your kid’s outdoor birthday party here.

Eight games in, and the Orioles’ season is all sunshine and roses. Seven-game winning streaks don’t happen often in the majors – every 11 years for the Orioles – no matter if they are in the beginning, middle or end of a season.

So I hope you enjoyed it.

And there are plenty of reasons to be enthusiastic about this club going forward. Joey Rickard has been a revelation. Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis and Manny Machado appear to be engaged in a personal home-run-derby contest. And the club’s defense and bullpen has been as good as advertised.

But here’s where that black-cloud opens. Say goodbye to the clown and the pony, grab your cake and ice cream and balloon animals and high-tail it into the basement.

The first eight games of this season have confirmed my apprehension about the starting rotation – not so much about quality as quantity.

Heading into today’s games, the Orioles have the third best ERA in the American League at 3.04 – and that’s fantastic. Yet they are 10th of 15 teams in the league in starters’ ERA at 4.19 in 38 2/3 innings pitched.

And that last number is the one that really bothers me.

The rotation is 12th of 15 teams in the AL in innings pitched so far, but the teams below the Orioles all have played fewer games. The Orioles are the only AL club that has averaged fewer than five innings per start.

Now, that stat is a little unfair. Chris Tillman would have pitched much deeper than two innings on Opening Day, but his outing was truncated by rain delays. Vance Worley hadn’t pitched in a week before his first start Sunday and so his leash was short no matter how he performed.

But what makes these abbreviated starts so concerning is that the Orioles’ tremendous bullpen is already being taxed early. The relievers have a collective 1.67 ERA, third best in the AL. What makes that mark even more outstanding is that the Orioles’ bullpen has already thrown 32 1/3 innings. That’s second most in the league behind only the Oakland Athletics, who have played two more games.

It’s kind of what observers expected from this pitching staff, but also a disturbing pattern. Yes, the Kansas City Royals proved last year that you can win by getting five solid innings from a starter before handing the ball over to a great bullpen. But that is a precarious blueprint for success. It requires the relievers to stay healthy and consistent when the innings pile up.

The Orioles relievers are an excellent group as a whole, and manager Buck Showalter manages his bullpen as well as anyone in the business. But, eventually, the innings load is going to take its toll. And, so, the Orioles’ rotation has to do its part for this great start to turn into a great year.

The winning streak is over; back to the reality of what the Orioles must do to keep the momentum going.

 

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. AlaskanOsFan

    April 14, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Unless we get hammered with injuries I don’t think this is gonna be an issue this season with all the “starters” we have in the ‘Pen…McFarland,Dylan, Wilson and probably Worley when Gaus comes back…almost have a whole other rotation in the Pen by itself…I can’t remember the bullpen ever looking like that, but could be wrong.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 14, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      But you can’t keep them all. When Gausman and Matusz return, two of the quartet you mentioned will have to be sent down or out.

  2. Schwarzstop

    April 14, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I’m not worried… yet! Tillman, Gallardo, and Jimenez look good or at least have had moments of brilliance. 7 of the 8 games have been played in less then decent conditions – cold, windy, wet – the Sunday afternoon game the exception but even it was chilly. Too early for me to call the black clouds a storm!

  3. 5brooks5

    April 14, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    It always has been and will be about the starting pitching. That’s why with all the money spent we are still talking about the same problem,it makes me wonder why?

    • Dan Connolly

      April 14, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      Frankly the reason why is because quality, top-shelf pitching is super expensive. And very risky. Top starters can get 5-6-7 years, and are rarely that good for that long. The key is to grow your own, which has been a challenge for the Orioles — and plenty other teams.

      • bv22

        April 15, 2016 at 2:18 pm

        That’s true, but I don’t understand why the O’s didn’t try to target Jordan Zimmerman in the off-season. He’s a good pitcher and didn’t sign a ridiculously priced contract. He would’ve been enough to upgrade the rotation. Instead, they go after Pedro Alvarez (why?) and wait for the market to fall on Gallardo and Fowler. What would have happened if Gallardo signed with someone else? I feel the O’s really handcuff themselves when it comes to free agency by refusing to go beyond 3 years with pitchers and refusing to even explore opt out clauses.

  4. Creatively_19

    April 14, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    I’m with you Dan. I think its a little early to judge the pitching staff though with the conditions they’ve played through – rain in Baltimore, bitter cold in Boston. I think these next 4 days with starters on regular rest in Texas will produce a much better environment to see what the Orioles starters are truly capable of.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 14, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      Fair enough. I’ll be watching.

    • BamaOsFan

      April 14, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      I hope you are correct. We had some consistency there back in 2014. If we can get back there, this team is going to to be hard too beat.

  5. BamaOsFan

    April 14, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Just can’t understand Ubaldo. He’s typically finished for the night by the 3rd or 4th inning because his pitch count is so high. He does have a of moving parts in his delivery, but what can be done to help him be more consistent? I would be bald if I were Showalter.

  6. boog1013

    April 14, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    We’ve had the same issue with starters not going past 5 innings for years now. Buck manages his bullpen incredibly well. We’ll find people like Oliver Drake and Chaz Roe and shuttle them back and forth just enough for the key bullpen guys to stay strong. So as long as we get good 5/6 innings out of starters, we’ll be fine. Not confident Matusz is worth putting into the mix right now. Who do you get rid of?

  7. LoganQuick

    April 15, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    Dan, I’ve been hearing that the O’s are interested in Kyle Lohse. What’s your take on this? And does he have anything left in the tank? Also, is he more valuable than Wright or Worley in the rotation? He’s had a great career, but at 37, I just don’t see the upside in this.

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