Come up to the bar and sit down. You look sullen. Maybe you should look sullen.
I’m eager for your opinion today. Because things are a bit disconcerting around here. The Orioles are back in a first-place tie with the Boston Red Sox. And that should be a good thing, a don’t-look-sullen thing.
There are 98 games to go, so we’re not quite at the halfway point, but enough of the season has elapsed to have a solid sense of each MLB team.
And here’s my sense of the Orioles: They have a powerful offense that can score a lot of runs, but still don’t manufacture enough to compensate for the occasional power outage.
The defense is good and will be better when J.J. Hardy returns from a foot injury (he’s now played in two rehab games at Double-A Bowie and his return seems imminent).
The bullpen is great, maybe even slightly better than originally expected.
And the starting rotation is rough, really rough, like knee-high-weeds rough. Or about as rough as fans feared in March.
The bright light is Chris Tillman, who has rebounded tremendously from his sub-par 2015 by winning nine of his first 10 decisions this year while posting a 2.87 ERA.
He’s been great. The rest of the rotation, well, not so much.
Take Tillman out of the equation and the Orioles’ remaining starters are a combined 10-20 with a 5.53 ERA in 50 games. That’s horrendous.
After allowing six runs in three innings Wednesday, Kevin Gausman is now 0-4 with a 4.14 ERA. And that ERA is clearly the second best for a starter on this staff. The ERAs of the other members of the rotation: Tyler Wilson (4.73), Mike Wright (5.31), Yovani Gallardo (7.00) and deposed starter Ubaldo Jimenez (6.89).
Obviously, much of this is on the Orioles’ decision-makers. Executive vice president Dan Duquette made a point this winter that the rotation had to improve on its collective 4.53 ERA in 2015. Right now, it’s even worse at 4.89.
The club didn’t re-sign lefty free agent Wei-Yin Chen (who is 4-2 with a 4.68 ERA in 13 starts for the Miami Marlins) this offseason and released Miguel Gonzalez (1-2, 4.74 ERA in nine games for the Chicago White Sox) in March. Those decisions look fine enough right now, but the question was and is, are their replacements upgrades?
This winter the Orioles added Gallardo, who returns from the disabled list Saturday and has made just four starts in 2016, and Vance Worley, who went on the DL Tuesday and has been used mainly as a long reliever, starting two games.
The club promoted Odrisamer Despaigne this week; he’s been the best starter at Triple-A Norfolk recently, but is currently ticketed as a long reliever. Joe Gunkel is pitching solidly for the Tides right now, but he has been viewed as a step behind Wright and Wilson. The best pitcher at Double-A, lefty Chris Lee, has been hurt.
I’m not really sure what the options are beyond the group that is here. The Orioles don’t have a lot to trade this summer — comparatively speaking with some other contenders — to replenish the rotation. And even if they did, there aren’t many aces floating about.
The website mlbtraderumors.com recently ranked the top 15 players potentially available for trade, and only one starter made the list, Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (seventh). The honorable mentions include hurt pitchers (Rich Hill, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner) or uninspiring ones (Jeremy Hellickson, Ervin Santana, Hector Santiago).
To get any of them, you’d have to deal away solid prospects. And the Orioles have done that the past few summers, trading Jake Arrieta, Josh Hader, Zach Davies and Eduardo Rodriguez for veteran help down the stretch. And let’s simply say some of those deals have not worked out.
It’s a definite mess for teams that need rotation help this year. The good news for the Orioles is most clubs are hurting for quality starting pitching. The bad news is most contenders aren’t hurting as bad as the Orioles.
So what do you do if you are Duquette and manager Buck Showalter?
Do you mix things up? Do you begin an open competition for two of the spots? Or do you hope time solves things. Do you believe that Gausman, Wright and Wilson can all grow together and improve as the season progresses, meaning you’d only need one other guy, such as Gallardo, Jimenez or a trade acquisition, to step up?
Is there even a starting pitcher out there worth depleting the farm even further for?
I don’t know which way to go. So take the steering wheel. If you’re Duquette, how do you improve this rotation for the rest of the year.
Tap-In Question: What do you do to fix this rotation mess?