Another day, another wasted quality start. This has been the pattern throughout what’s certainly been a tough start to July for the O’s. It wasn’t too long ago when we wrote that June 28 was The Day the Birds were Back, when the Orioles reclaimed 1st place in the crowded AL East with a double-header sweep of the Cleveland Indians, but we’ve hit yet another bump in the road in Baltimore. The O’s have since lost 8 of 10 (a record of 2-5 in July), and have now lost three consecutive series. Before this rough patch, the Birds had gone 7-0-1 in their previous eight series, and it seemed like they could do no wrong as they climbed up power rankings everywhere.
The Orioles are now licking their wounds as they fly back to Camden Yards with a 3-game set against the NL East-leading Washington Nationals before we hit the All-Star Break next week. If any team has ever needed four days off to regroup, its the Orioles. Despite all of this, the O’s sit just 2.5 games back of the Yankees, and are certainly in the thick of things in the American League Wild Card race. There have been a ton of rumors surrounding the club about potential trades and how Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter are going to handle this roster in the coming weeks. Most of this speculation has been about the pitching staff, including both the starters as well as the bullpen. Six of the team’s last eight losses have been by 2 runs or less, yet everyone is jumping on the pitching staff. Hmm.
I think everyone needs to pump the breaks here. Are we talking about the same group of arms? I’ve been extremely satisfied with our pitching this year (see our first-half Orioles Grade Book). The pitching certainly hasn’t been the problem in our recent struggles in July. This post will take a deeper look into our staff, and explain why you can be confident this group that is fully capable lead us to back-to-back AL East titles.
This man is flat out killing it. He’s earning every bit of his 50 million dollar chunk of change this year, and he’s shoving it right back at all of the fans that wanted him off the roster following an inconsistent 2014. Ubaldo is (4-1) in his last 5 decisions and (7-4) on the year. He ranks 9th in the AL with a 2.81 ERA, and he’s gone 7+ innings seven times this season in 16 starts. Last year he had 3 of such outings in 22 starts. This man has returned to his 2010 form when he went 19-8 with the Colorado Rockies, and I don’t envision his success stopping any time soon. He’s been able to consistently locate his fastball, and make quality pitches in the big situations. There certainly won’t be any debate when a playoff series rolls around this Fall on whether or not Ubaldo should make the roster. This year, rather, it will be about him getting the ball Game 1.
2. Wei-Yin Chen
It’s really a shame that Wei-Yin is a free agent at the end of this year. Someone is going to appreciate what this guy has brought to Baltimore for the past 4 seasons, and that’s consistency. I don’t think Orioles fans understand how valuable this guy is to the team. Somehow WYC is just 4-4, while he’s positing the 10th best ERA in the American League at 2.82. That’s two starters in the top-ten in ERA in the league. I wouldn’t want to face these guys in a best-of-seven, would you?
This is another guy who’s had a solid 2015. He’s big game Miggy for a reason, (5-2) against the AL East this season. His 3.87 ERA is respectable, especially for someone who spent some time on the DL. While his numbers have climbed throughout June, I look for him to build upon his six-quality innings in his win in Chicago on Sunday. This guy isn’t going anywhere, his spot in the rotation is secure. Look for him to pitch important innings against quality, division opponents down the stretch.
— The Win Column (@WinColumnMD) July 4, 2015
This was a tweet I sent out before Tilly’s Saturday start in Chicago. The man’s a second-half pitcher, and I expect to see more consistency from our ace down the stretch. Despite all the chatter, Tillman is 4-0 his last 6 starts, and has continued to battle and keep the Orioles in ball games. Walks are also a common stat brought up with regard to Tillman’s 2015 struggles, but he’s had just one walk total in his last three outings, so maybe that whole “mechanics problem” is getting worked out, and he didn’t need a “rehab stint” to do so.
Back-and-forth KG goes between Baltimore and Norfolk, but I think this last mini-minor league stint during the All-Star Break will be his last trip down to Triple-A. To keep him on a 5 day rotation, Gausman was optioned following his worst start of his professional career Tuesday in Minnesota, where he gave up a career-high seven earned runs. This was very un-Gausman like. Fans jump on this guy every rough inning he has, saying he doesn’t have control of his off speed, his fastball is flat, and that the kid is not ready. Shut up. Stop it. Goose pumps 96+ consistently. He gets swings and misses on his flat fastball, and like anyone else (@BudNorris) he has to locate the fastball to have success. He’s young. He’s going to have his ups and downs, but he’s going to be in the front of our rotation for years to come. Deal with it. And for the Twitter haters of Gausman: have you seen this guys change up? Mercy. That’s the most plus-offspeed pitch I’ve seen in an Orioles uniform since Erik Bedard‘s slider. Everyone jump off the kid’s back, he’s going to be dominant. I know it, Buck knows it, and I think Kevin knows it. There’s a reason he was the fourth-overall pick in the draft, and I think he’s going to show everyone why down the stretch.
Duquette really surprised me when he said he wanted to add bullpen depth. These guys rank 6th in reliever ERA, and are anchored down by All-Stars Zach Britton and Darren O’Day. Other than moving Brian Matusz (who has pitched well of late) to potentially buy a bat, I don’t see too much movement going on down there. It all depends how much Buck trusts Chaz Roe to continue getting guys out in the 7th inning. If he wants to add another quality arm, I won’t be surprised for them to pull the trigger on some of their stowed away, minor league talent to help the big league club. We’ve done it in the past adding Andrew Miller, Scott Feldman and Bud Norris in recent years.
Speaking of Bud, this guy has to figure it out. He’s going to be an important piece. With our roster moves pretty limited, Bud seems to be the long-man in the bullpen with the help of Brad Brach. Brach can’t work every night, so the innings will definitely be there for Bud. Following a tough road trip, (0-2) and raised his ERA up towards 7.00, he needs the All-Star break more than anyone. Regroup, Bud! I can see him having a Tommy Hunter-style role down the stretch if he starts getting outs. If not, this could get ugly for the Birds.
All-in-all, pitching isn’t going to be what holds the Orioles back in 2015. It’s the bats. The inconsistent offense that somehow leads the league in average with RISP. These are the same league leaders that went 1-20 in their series sweep in Minneapolis. We need a bat, and we needed it yesterday. I’m not going to question DFA’ing Delmon Young just yet, but I’m another series or two away from doing so. If I’m Buck or Duq, I’m trying to assemble a package of minor league taken that I can flip to someone out of the race and grab an impact OF bat. I’m not trying to put together a deal to add more pitching. I’m of the belief that you don’t need a true ace to win anymore. Look at the 2014 Orioles, or even the Kansas City Royals. They do so with quality starts throughout the rotation, and with guys who can shut the door out of the pen. The depth is there, the talent is there, they just need some run support!