Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles (49-35) club is one of the best hitting teams in baseball.
Power-wise there is no club better, and few can contend with the offensive production that his players have put out through the first-half of the season.
Pitching is a different story though, especially when it comes to the starting rotation.
The O’s bullpen is one of the best in the majors – fifth in ERA (3.20), fourth in saves (29), and its 21 wins trumps all other teams.
Baltimore’s starters on the other hand rank near the bottom in ERA (5.14), opponent batting average (.279), and WHIP (1.46).
This all while Chris Tillman has put together another great start to the year, pitching to an 11-2 record and 3.55 earned-run average. The rest of the starters who have made 10 or more starts are an abysmal 13-24 with a 5.56 ERA.
It’s clear the Orioles have the offensive fire power to win the AL East, but it’s hard to win ball games when your pitching staff gives up as many runs as your high-powered offense scores.
There is hope, though, for O’s fans.
Help is on the way
- Luckily for Showalter, his all-star caliber set up man Darren O’Day is on his was back from injury. O’Day has been dealing with a hamstring injury which has kept him on the DL since early June. However, according to Showalter, the side-arming right-hander is showing signs of progress and could be back in an Orioles uniform immediately following the All-Star break. O’Day’s return alone will help Baltimore out tremendously.
- Yovani Galldardo’s recent return from the shelf also helps Baltimore, although the break could be useful to him in order to get as close to 100 percent heading into the second half. Gallardo’s biggest problem this season has been giving up the long ball. He has surrendered at least one home run in five of his eight starts.
Subsequent domino effect
The return of O’Day does create a bit of a domino effect.
- With O’Day resuming his role as the eighth inning setup man, that likely pushes all-star Brad Brach up to be a specialist in the seventh inning. Brach’s role moving up an inning also alleviates some of the innings that have been put on the arm of Mychal Givens, who can also become a true specialist out of the pen, likely to be called on to get a key out around the sixth and seventh innings.
- All of that could create a bit of an “odd man out” scenario involving Dylan Bundy, who has emerged as a viable option on the mound out of the bullpen. However, there could be another option for him. Bundy has always been thought of to be the next great starter for the Orioles. This could be his chance.
- Ubaldo Jimenez has obviously struggled, and young starters Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright have shown signs of success, but overall have been inconsistent. Wright especially hasn’t given Showalter enough reason to keep them in the rotation for an extended period of time. One of the three, at least, stand a good chance of losing their spot in the rotation.
- Alongside Bundy is Vance Worley. The former regular starter has made a pair of spot starts for the Orioles, but has spent a majority of time in the bullpen. Worley certainly has the experience to take over the reigns from one of the pitchers currently in the rotation.
Score runs for Kevin Gausman
Every team has that one pitcher that, for one reason or another, whenever he is on the mound the offense just doesn’t perform as well as it does for every other pitcher on the staff.
For Baltimore, the unlucky pitcher is Kevin Gausman.
Gausman has gotten the 13th-lowest run support of the 99 pitchers who qualify. Orioles hitters have only managed to score an average of 3.4 runs while he is on the mound.
Meanwhile, the club has tallied nearly 1.5 more runs on average with Tillman toeing the rubber.
Gausman, who’s 1-6 record doesn’t nearly indicate how well he has pitched this year, just hasn’t gotten the run support needed to be a successful starter.
Make a trade
- Doug Mittler of ESPN wrote Thursday (link) that there’s some interest in Pittsburgh’s starting southpaw Jonathon Niese, who could be a tradable asset from the Pirates given their recent promotions of multiple of their young starting pitchers to the big leagues.
- Other pitchers such as Jake Odorizzi of the Rays and Rich Hill of the Athletics are likely candidates to be moved at the deadline, and could potentially be options for the Orioles.
- A trade, however, could be tough for the O’s to make given the lack of assets in the farm system the team appears to be willing to deal.
There are a number of different options for Showalter and company to fix the pitching staff.
The good news is that, barring a bad home series against the Angels heading into the break, Baltimore will have the division lead entering the second half of the season. There is still time remaining to figure out and fix the problem(s).
Time is running out, though, with the August 1 trade deadline approaching quickly.