Reviewing the AL East 2015 Projections: Starting Pitching


Sep 17, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman (30) is taken out of the game by manager Buck Showalter (26) during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Well, in our reviews of my rankings of the AL East by position from the beginning of the season, we have made it to the starting pitching (projections seen here). Lots of changes about to be found here.

I thought the Baltimore Orioles staff would continue to improve on their solid 2014. And while Ubaldo Jimenez was much better, the majority of projected starters were not.

The staff of the Tampa Bay Rays was solid once again, despite being ravaged by injuries. The Yankees received surprise success from Nathan Eovaldi, but also dealt with injuries. The Red Sox motley crew was even worse than imagined. So, let’s look at how things played out.

Any pitcher who started five or more games will be included in the team’s list.

Preseason Rankings

  1. Baltimore Orioles – Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez.
  2. Tampa Bay Rays – Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, Jesus Colome, Nate Karns, Matt Moore
  3. Toronto Blue Jays – Mark Buehrle, Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada, Drew Hutchison, Daniel Norris, Johan Santana, Aaron Sanchez
  4. Boston Red Sox – Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson, Steven Wright
  5. New York Yankees – Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, C.C. Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Capuano, Adam Warren, Ivan Nova

End of Season Rankings

  1. Toronto Blue Jays – R.A. Dickey , Mark Buehrle, Marco Estrada, Drew Hutchison, David Price, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris

Let’s face it, pitching in the AL East isn’t easy. But, sometimes it is quite beneficial to receive a lot of run support.

Just ask Mark Buehrle, who received over 10 runs a game in his first three starts. Or Drew Hutchison, whose 5.57 ERA is probably one of the highest of anyone to start 30 or more games, but he finished 13-5. Makes no sense at all.

Without the addition of David Price, the Jays would probably have been second on this list, maybe even third. But, Price came in and had a 2.30 ERA, went 9-1 and helped carry the Jays to the ALCS.

The young guns, Sanchez and Norris both played roles in the playoff push. Norris was traded away with two other pitchers for Price, while Sanchez became the main setup guy to young closer Roberto Osuna.

While 2015 was a good season overall for the Jays’ starters, without a top pitcher like Price there may be trouble looming ahead, as most of the main young arms were traded, and Mark Buehrle is expected to retire.

  1. Tampa Bay Rays – Chris Archer , Jake Odorizzi, Erasmo Ramirez, Nate Karns, Alex Colome, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore, Matt Andriese

If I told you the three starters with losing records for the Rays were Matt Andriese, Chris Archer and Matt Moore, you would likely be shocked. But that was the case. Moore never got comfortable when he made his return to the Rays after rehabbing from his injury that cost him part of the season. The same goes for Drew Smyly in that respect.

Archer was done in by a lack of run support, as his 3.23 ERA and 1.1.37 WHIP should translate to better than 12-13. But, when you have the Rays’ offense, it makes sense.

Ramirez and Karns were two guys who many, including myself, figured weren’t rotation-caliber guys, but they both pitched well as full-time starters. When you look at where the losses piled up for Tampa, it is clear the blame goes to two places, the bullpen and the offense.

  1. New York Yankees – CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova, Luis Severino, Adam Warren

I was pretty high on Pineda and Tanaka, low on Sabathia and Eovaldi, and also figured Nova, if he pitched, would struggle. Pineda had a very good season, and Tanaka was good as well, although with injuries not quite the previous level we have seen from Masahiro.

Sabathia was terrible, despite starting more games than any other Yankee. But, the unsung hero of this rotation was Eovaldi. I figured going from the NL East, where there can be a lack of offense, to the AL East would be terrible for Eovaldi.

Instead, he went 14-3 with a 4.20 ERA. This from a guy who was 15-35 in his career going into the season. Eovaldi is always going to allow hits and runs, but he was able to keep the Yankees in games, and more often than not, they got it done.

Severino showed why he was such a highly touted pitcher, as he helped the Yankees make the playoffs down the stretch. He did struggle a little with walks, but did just fine for someone thrown into the middle of a pennant race.

4. Baltimore Orioles – Wei-Yin Chen, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Kevin Gausman, Bud Norris, Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson

A losing record from your starting pitchers is a good way to make sure you do not make a return trip to the playoffs, and that is what the Orioles received at 54-64. Bud Norris extended his terrible spring into the season, eventually being released after going 2-9 with a 7.06 ERA. Not good.

Also not good was Miguel Gonzalez, who went 9-12 in 26 games. A lot of the numbers for Miguel are fairly close to his career averages, except for his ERA, which was a full point higher (and then some at 4.91) from his previous career high.

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Chris Tillman also had a shaky season. He was expected to be the team’s ace, but instead went 11-11 with an ERA at a very high 4.99. Compared to his previous two seasons, Tillman had a major letdown. Tillman was absolutely dreadful against the AL East champ Blue Jays, getting crushed numerous times. However, Ubaldo Jimenez had a solid season for the O’s, returning to the pitcher who earned the big contract from Baltimore.

Wei-Yin Chen continued to be a steady, consistent lefty for the team. Kevin Gausman finally got off the Norfolk shuttle, but went through some growing pains in the majors. Gausman has the ability, but he seems to struggle to focus through an entire game. Now that he is spot in the rotation is clear, hopefully that will no longer be an issue.

Wilson and Wright both showed glimpses of the pitchers they could be, but also struggled for Buck Showalter‘s squad.

  1. Boston Red Sox – Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez, Clay Buchholz, Henry Owens, Justin Masterson, Steven Wright

Nothing went well for the Boston Red Sox starting pitchers in 2015. Arguably their best starter was a guy who started the season in AAA Pawtucket. Eduardo Rodriguez, who was acquired in the Andrew Miller trade from the Orioles, had a good first season for Boston, despite running out of steam at the end of the year.

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Clay Buchholz had a resurgent year, but also suffered another major injury that ended his season early. After a down 2014, Buchholz had a 3.26 ERA in 18 starts, with the best strikeouts to walks ratio in his career by far. His strikeouts per nine innings were also at levels not seen since the beginning of his career.

Joe Kelly started the year struggling, but turned it around at the end and finished with a 10-6 mark. However, he, along with Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson all had ERAs over 4.4. Not exactly what you want from four key pieces that had been added to the team. The other three all were bad for the Red Sox in 2015.

Owens saw his first major league action, and proved his value to the Red Sox moving forward.

Orioles Outlook

Questionable at best? Chris Tillman proved he is not an ace, but will the O’s go sign one?

Which Ubaldo Jimenez will we see in 2016? 2015 version or 2014 version? Will Miguel Gonzalez return to form. Will Kevin Gausman step up in his first full season in the majors? And who will be the fifth starter? With Chen gone, the Birds will lose their most consistent pitcher.

Wright and Wilson both could be starters, but I feel like the O’s need to go get a number one or number two starter. Jordan Zimmermann, Scott Kazmir or Mike Leake may be potential options.

While the offense is the focal point of the off-season talk, last year’s offense was just as good without Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz. It was the starting rotation that took a step back, something the team will have to fix in the off-season.

Because, I’ve said numerous times, but it bears repeating, it is all about the pitching in Baltimore.