Making Sense of the Orioles Catastrophic Pitching

It’s no secret that the Orioles pitching staff entered the 2017 under scrutiny of the national media, with most suggesting the rotation would have a tough time keeping the team competitive, even despite its mashing offense.¬†While the rotation was always expected to struggle, the bullpen, which has consistently been one of MLB’s best in recent years, was expected to be one of the team’s strengths again. A new coaching structure, headed up by Roger McDowell and assisted by Alan Mills with the bullpen, would also be on display and open to judgement from an increasingly passionate Orioles fan base, hopeful of a return to the playoffs.

Through the first month of the season, while far from spectacular, the staff was serviceable, working to a 4.19 ERA through 23 games. Dylan Bundy and Wade Miley in particular were impressive, while the bullpen was somewhat inconsistent, yet holding leads more often than not.

May started well with just 28 runs allowed in the first nine games (3.11 runs per game), however a bullpen implosion in Washington DC on May 10th seemed to be a warning of the fate which awaited the team. As the now notorious and lengthy slump followed, the remainder of the month saw 106 runs allowed in 19 games (5.58 runs per game). Both starters and relievers were to blame, with Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Tyler Wilson, and Donnie Hart the worst of a bad bunch.

If alarm bells were ringing in May, the building has been burning down all of June, as the staff works to a horrendous 7.01 ERA through 16 games. Most concerning is that this hasn’t been due to just a handful of pitchers performing terribly, it’s been almost the entire staff.

Of the six working to sub-5.00 ERAs this month, only the impressive Richard Bleier (0.00, 7.0 IP), Brad Brach (0.00, 5.1 IP), Mychal Givens (1.17, 7.2 IP), and Miguel Castro (2.70, 3.1 IP) have consistently looked good, while Vidal Nuno and Darren O’Day each own 4.50 ERAs through their two innings of work respectively.

The rotation – Bundy, Miley, Asher, Gausman, and Tillman – have collectively allowed almost a run per inning.

As it currently stands, despite the solid April and strong start to May, the Orioles own a 4.97 ERA on the season, only worsened by the Cincinnati Reds (4.99). Compared to AL East rivals, they’re miles off the mark.

  • 4.24 – Toronto Blue Jays
  • 4.09 – Tampa Bay Rays
  • 3.91 – Boston Red Sox
  • 3.73 – New York Yankees

The current 4.97 mark is the worst under Buck Showalter’s guidance and you’d need to go back almost a decade to see worse (5.15 in 2009). That team went 64-98. While the 2017 offense will ensure more games than that are won, the pitching currently on display would accurately reflect a team losing close to 100 games.

Concerningly, there doesn’t appear to be any answers within the organization. Zach Britton will return after the All-star break and that will provide the bullpen with some added strength, however most other internal candidates have been used – 23 pitchers in total in fact. We’re almost at the mark from last season (27), and that included Ryan Flaherty’s cameo against the Astros.

Arguably of even greater concern is the overworked bullpen which has already thrown 248.2 innings this season – enough for third most in the Major Leagues behind the Cincinnati Reds (266.2) and Milwaukee Brewers (253.2). The bullpen is on pace to pitch more than 600 innings this season, which has never before occurred in the ballclub’s history. It’s also making MLB statisticians reach for the record books.

If the ‘pen has performed poorly due to fatigue, buckle up Birdland because it’s about to get even bumpier as a long, drawn-out season progresses.

All in all, the numbers don’t lie. This team’s pitching stinks and I don’t believe Showalter has the artillery within his camp to see them win the 90+ wins likely required to return to the playoffs.