Tap-In Question: What do you do to fix the O's rotation mess? - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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Tap-In Question: What do you do to fix the O’s rotation mess?


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?




  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    June 16, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Tillman & Despaigne and pray for rain !!

    1st, I’d like to apologize to Tillman for calling him “a middle of the rotation starter at best” a few weeks back in this forum.

    At this point, I don’t believe there are any palatable solutions for the rotation’s woes. And Dan, I’ll cry if they give up any “solid prospects” as you put it, (do we even have any?) for the stop gap veterans you mentioned that may be available. To embellish the point you made, Arrieta looks awful with that beard, and Eddie Rodriquez certainly would look a better pitching against the BoSox tonight, rather than for them.

    Nope, no good answers at this point. Certainly we’ve got to ride Tillman and Gausman for now and hope that Yovani can make it back to contribute something at least. Beyond that, I think they have to give Wright and Wilson the ball a few more times and see if either one of them can grow up a bit. If they can’t, maybe it’s time to think about possibly giving McFarland and Worley shots? Possibly Oliver Drake?

    Hey, it’s a mess isn’t it?

  2. Dan Connolly

    June 16, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Truly. And one we saw coming. You can’t have a best- case scenario plan for pitching. And that’s what Orioles had. Again, this team is still in first despite rotation woes.

  3. Creatively_19

    June 16, 2016 at 9:56 am

    One Irish Coffee and one Natty Boh please Dan.

    Tough question here today in the bar, as we’re trying to wear the hats of both the GM and Manager at the same time. First, we can safely assume that the O’s will not be getting any 1 or 2 starters from any other teams. The O’s do not really have the depth in the farm system (what’s new?) to go out and acquire Julio Teheran or any front of the rotation guys. Secondly, given Dan Duquette’s history, we’re probably talking about waiting up to the trade deadline to make any external moves when teams that are selling have reduced their prices to clearance level. Additionally, we just don’t know who all the sellers are at this point and with the 2 wild card system, most teams will still be in the hunt for October on July 31.

    So that leaves us with what we have now, between Baltimore and Norfolk, from now til the end of July. And what I’m about to propose will be a radical solution, no doubt, but one which should at least be able to get the team through to the trade deadline.

    1) Tillman
    2) Gausman
    3) Gallardo
    4) Tyler Wilson
    5) Vance Worley (days) Ubaldo Jiminez (nights).

    Ubaldo should start (afterall, that’s what he’s getting paid to do), he just shouldn’t ever see daylight. Over 282 career starts, at night Jiminez has a 76-64 record in 140 starts. At night he sports a 3.91 ERA and serviceable 1.35 WHIP, and over 2.14 K:BB ratio. However when he starts during the day he is 27-37 with a 4.60 ERA, 1.457 WHIP and 1.76 K:BB. For whatever reason, Ubaldo is just that much more hitable when the sun is shining. I’ll also throw in that even before Sunday he had a 1.77 WHIP on artificial turf in a somewhat small 9 game sample size. Jiminez never should have started on Sunday, he was set up to fail from the get-go.

    I won’t say that Worley is the opposite, he’s not, but in 41 career day games he owns a 3.88 ERA and promising 3.26 K:BB ratio. Additionally, if you know ahead of time that Worley is pitching for Ubaldo during a day game, it allows both of them to be used for an inning here and there out of the pen.

    Another thing to note as we dive a little into the numbers is that over his career Gallardo has had better numbers with an extra day of rest between starts. Something to keep in mind as he comes back from his shoulder injury is that if Buck can find a way to give him an extra day between starts, it might work out for both his health and his success.

    Mike Wright should be starting every 5th day, just in Norfolk’s rotation, not here. Bundy will stay in the bullpen for the rest of the season, that plan should not change.

    In conclusion, this is not a Ron Popiel’s “Set it and Forget it” chicken roaster rotation. This staff must be carefully managed, much like the bullpen, and coached to success through match up based analysis. At least until there are better options available to baste the rotation with.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 16, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      You are set up 19. And I like the day/night thing. But there just aren’t enough spots. It’s one of the things the Orioles didn’t figure when they compiled the pitching staff. So many pitchers without minor league options that the Norfolk to Baltimore has had to be delayed at times this year. One of the reasons Brian Matusz was “traded.”

  4. rebusgadfly

    June 16, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Coffee please, hot and black as the night. I know what I would like to do to improve our rotation, but dreams, wishes and fantasy land does not jive with the constructs of reality. I agree we need to pray for rain. The struggle is real.

    The reality, ugly as it is, quality pitching in baseball (majors to the independent leagues) doesn’t exist. Yes, Arietta and Price are exceptions but look at other MLB teams and try to name me a starter worth acquiring at the high price of prospects.

    Newsflash, pitching sucks and it is league wide. Not to be a conspiracy theorist but I think a lot of the mind numbing (at least to true baseball fans) issues with regards to league-wide pitching lies in the size, stability, and span of the present strike zone. I don’t know about anyone else, but the strike zone has shrunk to an unrealistic hitter friendly size. Umpires need to be held accountable for the validity of their shrinking, non standard size strike zone.

    OH let’s wax philosophical about the days of yore when pitchers were 20 game winners and pitched well beyond the 6th inning. What changed? AHHHHH! The strike zone! Just saying…. You want to fix the Orioles, or any other team’s rotation establish a wider more credible, and a pitcher friendly standard strike zone.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      June 16, 2016 at 10:39 am

      Set that man up with his beverage of choice on me Dan. Maybe he didn’t exactly address what he’d do with the rotation mess, but he’s MORE THAN SPOT ON with his assessment of the strike zone.

      • Dan Connolly

        June 16, 2016 at 4:42 pm

        Love the interaction. Want more of it in this joint.

      • rebusgadfly

        June 16, 2016 at 5:36 pm

        I appreciate that drink Boog! I thought I would pontificate on the strike zone instead of suggesting a nuclear bomb to address our rotation woes. I figure the former would be more appropriate than the later. 🙂

    • Dan Connolly

      June 16, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      There has been talk about that. But I’m not sure it’s ever going to be what it was — or as uniform as it should be. But I like your thinking

  5. 5brooks5

    June 16, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Really, nothing can be done except hope for improvement from within. This really should have been addressed during the off-season,especially considering all the money spent.The farm system has been ravaged and it wasn’t deep to begin with, with several unproductive trades,short-sighted at best. I know hind-sight is 20/20, but Parra, Bud, Feldman and others were not difference makers!

    • Dan Connolly

      June 16, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      Unfortunately, given the perceived state of the farm system, what the Orioles brought in is what they had to give. And there may be more of the same. Remember, even Arrieta was in the minors at the time after continual failures in the majors. So, we all knew there was a chance the deal would be regrettable, but honestly that deal didn’t resonate at all outside of Baltimore.

  6. AlaskanOsFan

    June 16, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    How about a 7 man rotation where the 4-5 spots have two guys dedicated to pitch from the 5th-7th inning lol

  7. Dan Connolly

    June 16, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Or everyone but Britton pitches two innings in order. Like a continual batting order in Little League.

  8. rebusgadfly

    June 16, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    OMG Dan and ALaskanOsFan!!! how soon can we implement those! 🙂
    You guys rock. LMAO or a more family friendly version LMBO.

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