There appears to be a growing concern about the Orioles starters only pitching into the fifth or sixth inning over their first 14 games of the season. I’ve seen local sports talkers tweeting about it (I don’t listen to local sports talk radio) and read several blog posts about the topic. Folks seem genuinely upset that the O’s staff isn’t throwing complete game gems and worry that the bullpen will be burned out because of overuse.
While this is a concern for some pitchers, like Jake Arrieta who threw 112 pitches through 5+ innings on Monday against the Rays, I don’t think it’s fair to lump the entire Orioles starting five into this “problem.” In 2013, rotations aren’t built to throw complete games, especially the Orioles’ starters, and bullpens are constructed to come in for relief in the seventh, eighth and ninth. In fact, the O’s have set guys specifically for each of those innings.
This old school mentality of a pitcher going the distance is incredibly rare in baseball today. Guys don’t throw 140 pitches anymore. Only the elite are expected to pitch into the eighth or ninth innings and, in case you forgot, the Orioles have solid pitching depth, but no ace in their rotation. Who’s their Justin Verlander or David Price or Matt Cain?
What they lack in the starting five, they make up for in the bullpen. T.J. McFarland has stepped up as a strong long-inning reliever, Brian Matusz has shown the ability to shutdown left handed bats, Darren O’Day has the eighth inning locked down and everyone knows Jim Johnson can get the final three outs.
Using these guys everyday wouldn’t be good, but Dan Duquette has constructed this team with flexible pitching depth throughout the system. If the Orioles need another starter, they’ve got Jair Jurrjens and Freddy Garcia pitching well for them so far in Triple-A Norfolk. Zach Britton goes tonight for the Tides, I’ll keeping a watchful eye on that start and expect to see him producing in the big leagues at some point this season.
Personally, I’d much rather see an O’s starter throw six innings of shutout or one-run ball than see him scatter three or four runs over seven innings. Quality starts are what the O’s are expecting. Stop fretting about pitchers not going the distance, you’ll be pulling your hair out all season.