Baltimore Orioles: Are O’s Skeptics Already Vindicated?

Mar 9, 2016; Clearwater, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo (49) pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2016; Clearwater, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo (49) pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

The major theme of critics of the Baltimore Orioles both within the fanbase and beyond is that the starting rotation is terribly insufficient. Have spring training results already vindicated this viewpoint?

Before jumping into this, let me ask another question. If at this point of the spring season, having played 15 games, if the starting rotation was performing as among the best in MLB, would the critics be saying that they were completely wrong in their assessment? Of course not.

However, it might be countered that the expectation was that the rotation would be bad rather than among the best. So it would be more likely that performance would vindicate rather than overthrow prior expectations.

There is no way to be encouraged overall by what has been seen so far, it is about as bad as could be. The team ERA is in the sevens! Some of this is the contribution of low-level pitchers who have never been expected to be a part of the scene for the O’€™s in 2016.

However, major pieces of the rotation have been sketchy at best, and horrible at worst. As with yesterday with Yovani Gallardo, the excitement was that the middle of his three innings was very good, forget that there were five earned runs allowed, including three homers.

Honestly, the postgame interviews in spring training are wearisome and worthless. It is known what they are going to say: “€œI got my work in” … “I felt good, the ball was coming out of my hand well (whatever that actually means),” … “I was just missing the zone, my fastball was good and placed well, except for the three balls I left up in the zone that they hammered.” … “I was just working on a few things and not worrying about the results, etc., etc.).”

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I actually don’€™t mean to sound as critical as this piece surely does to the reader. All the items listed above are a part of spring training, and it is pretty crazy to give up on anything based upon results tallied on the Ides of March!

But again, even after saying that, is it not true that the starting rotations of other teams are doing the same thing in terms of trying pitches, getting in their work, not worrying about results?  So why aren’t their results as bad as the Orioles? Why does Baltimore have the worst ERA so far in spring training?

And having said everything above, I will add that I do not think Dan Duquette and the Baltimore Orioles should have spent excessively on the couple of top-level starting pitchers in free agency. The prices for such are out of control, not that the millions spent on Chris Davis grant a guarantee of success. However, I think there is a higher percentage expectation of getting bang for the buck from the acquisitions of Davis, Trumbo, Alvarez, etc. than with starting pitchers. Darren O’€™Day is also a better investment as a reliever. The game is changing and bullpens are gaining in value.

The list of lousy deals for high-priced starting pitching is huge. The fact of the matter is that, though a team may seek to add an occasional expensive pitcher, the necessity is to develop your own. The Orioles are seeking to do this, and while having had some injury setbacks, there are players on the cusp of developing and contributing. It is my view that they need to be given the opportunities to do this, especially when there is really nothing more to prove at AAA.

So there is time for a lot of good things to happen, for Gonzalez and Tillman to get the touch back, for Jimenez to go on an extended dominant streak, for Gausman to fully arrive, for Gallardo to knock the rust off, for Worley to step up in a big way, or for Wright and Wilson to put on their big boy MLB pants. Of these eight names, four or five of them have to find a way to be at least average, which with the O’€™s explosive lineup may be good enough.

Next: Reason for concern about Miguel Gonzalez

I’m not ready to say the critics of the rotation are already vindicated. I’€™ll admit that the rotation could prove in the end to stink up the joint, but I’€™d say that for practically every team. And yes, it is true that a team can’€™t win it all with a God-awful starting five. But baseball is bigger than a rotation, especially in ways it is morphing in recent years.