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.
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.