Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Worst rotation ERA ever; no homer or strikeout king; the degree of awfulness; saying farewell to Bancells - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Worst rotation ERA ever; no homer or strikeout king; the degree of awfulness; saying farewell to Bancells

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

It’s official.

Your eye test was right.

This 2017 rotation was, statistically speaking, the worst in the modern-day history of the franchise dating back to when the Orioles moved to Baltimore in 1954.

That is based on rotation ERA, which was 5.70 this season, crushing the previous worst mark of 5.51 set in 2008.

So, yes, Kevin Gausman (34 starts) Wade Miley (32), Dylan Bundy (28), Ubaldo Jimenez (25), Chris Tillman (19), Jeremy Hellickson (10), Alec Asher (6), Gabriel Ynoa (4), Jayson Aquino (2), Miguel Castro (1) and Tyler Wilson (1) can infamously say that, as a group, their ERA was higher than the 2008 collection of Orioles’ starters: Jeremy Guthrie (30), Daniel Cabrera (30), Garrett Olson (26) Brian Burres (22), Radhames Liz (17), Chris Waters (11), Steve Trachsel (8), Dennis Sarfate (4), Adam Loewen (4), Brian Bass (4), Matt Albers (3), Lance Cormier (1) and Alfredo Simon (1).

Those are some powerful words and some head-shaking names.

The craziest thing about that 2008 rotation is that Guthrie had a 3.63 ERA overall in 190 2/3 innings, so just imagine how insanely awful the rest of that group was.

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But now the 2017 stable of Orioles starters can safely be called the worst.

Their 5.70 rotation ERA is the highest for a full season in the majors since the 2012 Colorado Rockies posted a 5.81 mark.

Before you ask, Jimenez was not a part of that team in Colorado. He was sent to Cleveland the previous season.

But coincidentally, Guthrie was a 2012 Rockie. The Orioles traded him to Colorado for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom in February 2012. Guthrie posted a 6.35 ERA in 19 games (15 starts) for the Rockies before they dealt him that July to Kansas City.

No homer king, no strikeout king

For the first time in five seasons, an Oriole did not lead the American League in home runs.

In fact, the Orioles didn’t land anyone in the Top 10 in the league in homers this year.

Manny Machado was tied for 12th with 33, and Jonathan Schoop finished one behind Machado and placed 18th with 32.

From 2013 to 2016, Chris Davis (2013, 2015), Nelson Cruz (2014) and Mark Trumbo (2016) paced the league in longballs.

This year, New York’s rookie phenom Aaron Judge led the AL with 52.

Judge also was the AL leader in strikeouts with 208 (in 542 at-bats). The Orioles’ Davis, with 195 strikeouts in 456 at-bats, tied for third with Oakland’s Khris Davis (195 in 566 at-bats). Texas’ Joey Gallo was second (196 in 449 at-bats).

As a team, the Orioles, who fanned 18 times in Sunday’s 6-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the season finale, finished fourth in the AL with 1,412 strikeouts. The Rays, Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers all had more. The Orioles were fifth last year with 1,324.

So, they had 88 more strikeouts this year with a significant drop in walks from 468 in 2016 (sixth fewest in the AL) to 392 in 2017, second worst in the league (ahead of only the Kansas City Royals).

Bad finish, bad record, last place — but it has been worse

The Orioles lost 19 of their final 23 this year. And that’s horrendous.

But it’s not their worst finish – not even close.

The 2002 squad under Mike Hargrove lost 32 of its final 36 (after getting to 63-63), including 20 of its final 23.

Want more from the “it’s been worse” department?

Well, thanks to their awful September skid, the Orioles ended up 75-87, their worst record since 2011, when they were 69-93 in manager Buck Showalter’s first full season with the club.

And 75 wins is terrible. But … from 2000 until 2011, the Orioles had more than 75 wins in a year just once in those 12 seasons: a 78-win campaign in 2004 under Lee Mazzilli.

One last one: The Orioles finished in fifth place in the American League East for the first time since 2011. But that year was the fourth consecutive season the Orioles had been basement dwellers.

A farewell to Richie Bancells

Richie Bancells’ decision to step down as the head athletic trainer of the Orioles is noteworthy in two ways:

One, the tremendous impact Bancells, 61, made in his 30 seasons in his current role and four decades with the organization. I can’t tell you how many times former players have wandered over from opposing dugouts to seek out Bancells and his staff first before touching base with old teammates. Industry-wide, there may not be a more respected athletic trainer than Bancells, who was president of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society for six years.

Two, the incredible continuity the organization has had with the position that spans almost 100 years. In the franchise’s 64-season history, the Orioles have employed only three head athletic trainers: Eddie Weidner (1954 to 1967), Ralph Salvon (1968-1988), and Bancells (1988-2017). That run is even more impressive when you consider that Weidner was with the minor league Orioles from 1923 until the big league team arrived in 1954.

It’d be nice to see that streak get passed to 51-year-old Brian Ebel, who has been Bancells’ assistant for 21 seasons and who started in the organization in 1985 with Rookie-level Bluefield.

Talk about paying your dues.

As for Bancells, on a personal note, I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who took his job responsibilities more seriously.

I remember years ago, in the middle of baseball’s steroid controversy, I was assigned a terrible story angle – to look into the culpability of Bancells in the Orioles’ deep involvement with performance-enhancing drugs.

The concept, as misguided as they come, was to find out if Bancells was negligent in educating the Orioles’ players on the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs and whether he was potentially involved in the PED scandal. The Orioles, after all, had nearly two dozen current or former players named in The Mitchell Report roughly a decade ago.

To put it mildly, Bancells wasn’t amused by the idea, but he couldn’t have been more professional or open in answering my queries. Everyone else, though, was highly amused by the concept.

One player after another guffawed about the possibility of Bancells having even implicit involvement in the PED scandal. Way too old school and by-the-book for that.

One player called Bancells the ultimate “tree killer” for all of the papers and pamphlets the athletic trainer placed in the lockers of players that detailed the dangers of using anything not approved by the league. Another veteran said he had never dealt with anyone in his career who was more diligent about disseminating proper health information — PED dangers or anything else — to players than Bancells.

It didn’t make for the juiciest newspaper story, but it reinforced everything I had ever heard and witnessed about Bancells’ character. And his pride in his job and profession. No question that will be missed in 2018.

 

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 2, 2017 at 8:13 am

    Thanks for another great year of BB.com Mr. Connolly.

    Allow me to commend you on your choice of subjects for this last article, to officially put us (Oriole fans) out of our collective misery.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 2, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Yeah. Wasn’t a happy-happy, joy-joy one. But thanks so much for reading and participating. And we aren’t done. Plenty of stuff to write about (nearly daily) in the offseason.

  2. 5brooks5

    October 2, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Dennis Sarfate, wow now that is a blast from the past!

    • Dan Connolly

      October 2, 2017 at 9:15 am

      That’s the one that struck me too. He is now the best closer in Japan. I kid you not.

  3. GSISDANNO

    October 2, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Going 4-23 down the stretch is pathetic. It was alarming how badly the Orioles played. It seemed like they went from contention to last place overnight. Everyone knows how nad the starting pitching was. To me, the most alarming statistic was the low number of walks the Orioles drew. It is hard to imagine how a team with so many quality hitters can walk so rarely. The Orioles hitters don’t even give opposing pitchers the chance to pitch around them. They don’t work the count at all. I don’t know what can be done about this issue. The Orioles ‘ everyday lineup compares favorably with almost every team in baseball. Just imagine how good it would be if they were more selective.
    The pitching is a different matter. The starters were so bad that the Orioles wore out their bullpen. The staff needs a complete overhaul. Bundy and Gausman are a good start but they need 3 or 4 more starters. If they could trade Brad Brach or Zach Britton for two young starters, they should do it. But I am not sure Brach and Britton have the same trade value as they did before the season.
    I am very surprised Buck Showalter didn’t explode this past month while watching this team underachieve. Showalter teams usually finish strong. This was terrible.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 2, 2017 at 9:17 am

      I’ve got nothing to add here, GS. Except don’t take my job.

  4. Mau

    October 2, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Team collectively said O well. SMH. They showed balls the size of, well, a real Oriole, down the stretch.

    Thanks for the great coverage Dan!

    • Dan Connolly

      October 2, 2017 at 11:50 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Mau.

  5. Bancells Moustache

    October 2, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Quitters. Period.

    Moments like the third out of top 5 are what make me question whether this team could have won anything even if they had Scherzer, Kershaw and Walter Johnson on the hill. The best player on the team has the third strike bounce away from the catcher while being no hit (by lock first ballot Hall of Famer Blake Snell, no less) and, rather than make any effort to run, stands there and takes his shinguard off. I get it, its the last game of the season and some guys want to go home, but that’s just unacceptable. I said after last year that this team needed to get some veterans in the clubhouse who had been to the big dance because no one involved with the big league club had ever won a damn thing. Stuff like that, and a myriad of other uninspired performances during one of the most dreadful months of baseball anyone can remember convince me I may have been onto something.

    Oh, and no I won’t be changing my name.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 2, 2017 at 11:51 am

      Damn right you won’t be. We wouldn’t allow it

  6. DNo

    October 2, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Dan, I appreciate you because you tell it like it is. I believe we have the weakest, most sycophantic beat writing squad I’ve ever seen. The post game presser questions for Buck are nauseating cream puffs. “Gee Buck, must have been frustrating to give up 10 walks, huh? “ Buck, how important is it for the team to maybe not strike out 15 times?” I feel like I’m watching a North Korean press conference. How about this—“Buck, WHY do we see the same things night after night after night? WHY can’t Adam Jones EVER perform in the clutch? WHY does Chris Davis strike out 2-3 times a game? If this was NY or Boston Buck would be roasted on a spit. I’m tired of not winning the World Series. Going deep into the playoffs was the birthright of everyone my age (54). For us to get there, everyone has to get better. The players, management, ownership, fans, and, yes, this wimpy beat staff we have.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 2, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      DNo. I appreciate the props. I will say this tho. The postgame conference is really about quick hits for that specific game. Emotions are high. The answers are often clipped. Get too pointed and they get even more clipped — which doesn’t help our purpose, which is to get usable quotes to post within minutes. The bigger picture questions you are talking about are asked during his daily pre-game conferences and get a lot more thought with emotions taken from the equation (btw, this is typical of all managers, not just Buck. Go listen to a Red Sox postgame one on NESN and come back to me.) I can’t tell you how many times this year pre-game we have talked about Davis and his struggles, but those aren’t televised. (As for Jones not in the clutch, he has one of the best averages in the history of the franchise in close and late situations. I think you are off on that one). Anyway, big picture is usually left for pregame. That’s standard. And part of that is the answers are so much better.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 2, 2017 at 11:48 pm

      DN: that is based on this year if I’m not mistaken. And I hadn’t realized his numbers in the categories had dropped. At some point last year I looked at Os close-Late numbers historically and Jones was among the best Os career-wise. Wieters if I’m not mistaken was the best among those on that team career-wise.

  7. 54orioles

    October 2, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Sad day and frustrating year. Such a total collapse is so unlike what we have gotten use to over the past few years.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 2, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      Yeah. I think that is why it feels like a gut punch to many. Cuz it has been a while with this kind of season.

  8. Jacobs1928

    October 2, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Hi: Dan, I really enjoy your articles…I also am proud of ur CHC background ….me 1946
    About the Birds…what is your and your followers view about trading some of the real worthwhile
    Talent we have…Machado .etc to build up a pitching staff?

    • Dan Connolly

      October 2, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      Jac: thanks for posting and reading. And go Cards (1987). My belief is the only prudent way to get pitching that can truly help in 2018 is to trade for it. Free agent starting pitching is expensive and rarely a good investment. Each case is individual but no player would be untouchable in a trade this offseason if it were up to me.

  9. GooseLu

    October 2, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    September REALLY took the wind out of my sails. This site helped me stay sane…and I’m looking forward to the off-season coverage. Thank you so much!

    • Dan Connolly

      October 2, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks Goose. There will be plenty of coverage this winter. Darn near daily. Especially once free agency begins.

  10. Orial

    October 2, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    And when the off season dust settles Davis/Trumbo will be sitting right in the middle of the lineup. That concerns me.

    • Mau

      October 2, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      This I haven’t understood at all. This makes me worry about Buck. Literally everyone could see the problem in this but apparently not Buck. He himself insisted on having this huge hole in the lineup. I don’t care about the rationale for it. It hamstrung the lineup ever since Trumbo came back. Meanwhile Alvarez hit well all year…in the minors.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 3, 2017 at 12:20 am

      I get your points. But with all due respect Pedro hit .239 at AAA. He had a great July in which he hit .327. Otherwise he didn’t bat above .250 in any month this year in minors. But he did hit 26 homers.

      • Mau

        October 3, 2017 at 8:28 am

        That was one example. He could have remedied the situation in a variety of ways.

  11. cowhand214

    October 2, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Dan, thanks so much for the great coverage all season. I really enjoy your posts and articles. I wish you had had better news to report for us! It will be an interesting off season for sure. I can only hope it’s not nearly as frustrating as the 2017 season was.

    Also, thank you very much for your comments on Bancells. I hadn’t heard he was leaving but I’m always fascinated by those people who work more or less behind the scenes to keep something like the Orioles organization running. I find it doubly interesting when they have the type of longevity Bancells has. Have you considered perhaps doing a few profiles of some of the staff? I, for one, would enjoy it.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 3, 2017 at 12:21 am

      It’s easier said than done. Staffers are usually pretty leery about getting the spotlight. But it’s an interesting idea to pursue.

      • cowhand214

        October 3, 2017 at 1:19 am

        Fair enough. I can understand that and respect it. It was just a passing thought.

  12. Beeb

    October 3, 2017 at 4:53 am

    Dan, I wanted to add my thanks for your coverage. This site is true Oriole destination reading. I don’t need to compare and contrast with why MASN coverage “reporting” has become a disappointment.
    Instead, just 2 quick observations. First, there is something seriously missing in the pitching department. I’m not talking about the obvious statistical major league results. It appears to extend to scouting, coaching and evaluation. Too many repeated issues in misses on drafting, talent, signings, waivers, trades and development. One or both in Mills and McDowell will probably not return, but there’s something more serious system-wide.
    The second mention relates to Davis. He seems to be a psychiatric rolling ball of emotion. It concerns me to even see his season-ending press statements. 75 called 3rd strikes is startling. The harder he works, the worse he seems to get. And failing veteran players bring out the worst in Showalter. Unlike Weaver, Buck just can’t say no.
    Just my rambling .02 Unlike Peyton Manning’s funny jingle evaluation for Nationwide insurance, it doesn’t feel like we are “almost there”.

  13. Birdman

    October 3, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Dan, we have seen many comments in recent months to the effect that, since 2018 is a “walk year” for Duquette and Buck, they probably will just try to cobble together a team that can make one last playoff run in 2018, rather than making moves (for example, trading Manny in the off season for prospects) to build the team long term … do you see a potential conflict between what’s personally best for Duquette and Buck in 2018 and the best interest of the team over say the next 5 years?

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