Baltimore Orioles: Starting Pitching Projections

Oct 4, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman (30) pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman (30) pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

As opening day approaches, here are my statistic pitching projections for the Orioles starting rotation

Opening day is almost here, and to follow up with my starting lineup projections, I’ve put together a series of statistical projections for the starting rotation of the Orioles.

I’ll warn you ahead of time, the rotation doesn’t project well. But here goes (Again, for reference of what some of these stats mean, click here):

1. Chris Tillman: 11-11, 4.31 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 6.72 K/9

I think, at this point, we have a pretty good idea what Chris Tillman is. He’s somewhere in between last year and the year before, though closer to last year.

In 2014, he had a 3.34 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, which is, by all accounts, a really solid year from a starting pitcher. Then, last year, he ends up with a 4.99 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP, which is, by all accounts, a pretty bad year from a starting pitcher.

So which Chris Tillman is he? Well, the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but unfortunately 2015 Chris Tillman is closer to accurate.

In 2014, while he had a great 3.34 ERA, his FIP was 4.01, and when there’s that much a discrepancy, red flags go up. Compare that to 2015, when his ERA was 4.99 and his FIP was 4.45, a bit less of a discrepancy.

Also, in 2014, his HR/FB rate was only 8.3%, well below his career average of 11% (and the league average of 10%), and when you’re pitching in Camden Yards, it’s hard not to give up home runs.

His control also got worse. He went from 2.86 BB/9 to 3.33 BB/9. That’s not a huge increase, but it’s worth noting.

So put all of this together, and we get a year last year that was worse than it should have been, and a year in 2014 that was better than it should have been, which is why I believe the truth is somewhere in between.

2. Yovani Gallardo: 10-12, 4.42 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 5.89 K/9

Back when the Orioles were perusing the free agent market, I wrote an article about two (at the time) free agent pitchers they should avoid. One of those pitchers was Yovani Gallardo. Unfortunately, the Orioles did not listen to me (how could they not?!), and here we are with Gallardo in our starting rotation.

The reasons I gave in that article are still the reasons I believe in now. Last year, Gallardo had a 3.42 ERA and an overall solid year, and it was a fluke. Every predictive stat suggests that.

His 3.42 ERA was a career-best, and it came with a 4.00 FIP and 4.31 xFIP. His K/9 last year was 5.91, which is pretty below-average, especially since his career average is 8.23. Compare that with his oddly high LOB% (77.2), and you see the discrepancy.

He’s also had, and continues to have, control issues, issuing 3.32 BB/9 last year along with a 1.42 WHIP.

In short, I expect Gallardo to walk a lot of batters, strike out very few, and give up a bunch of home runs (his career HR/FB is 11.0%, and that’s with a bunch of years in the National League). Not a great starter, but we’ll see if he can keep last year up.

3. Ubaldo Jimenez: 11-11, 4.19 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8.12 K/9

Ubaldo is fascinating to me, and equally infuriating. Watching his epileptic seizure of a windup is so hypnotic to me sometimes, and it amazes me that he’s ever able to get the ball remotely in the strikezone.

Ubaldo is one of the most frustrating pitchers out there because he’s so inconsistent. At times, he can look like his old Cy Young candidate days, and other times, you wonder why he’s in the rotation at all.

Ultimately what’s happened to Ubaldo is diminished velocity. Back in his Colorado days, he was a fastball pitcher with decent off-speed stuff. He threw the ball about 96 MPH and had a killer two-seam fastball. Now, he throws the ball about 90 MPH, and his off-speed stuff hasn’t changed. The way a former fastball pitcher adjusts to diminished velocity (and it happens to all of them) is by having better off-speed pitches, or having better control. It’s the difference between a fastball pitcher becoming Tim Lincecum or adjusting and staying Felix Hernandez.

Ubaldo’s control didn’t get that much better, and his off-speed stuff didn’t change much, which is why he went from a perennial Cy Young candidate, to what he is now.

On occasion, Ubaldo looks awesome, and regardless, he strikes out a lot of guys, which is why I project him to have the highest K/9 on the team. His control got a lot better last year, so I’m hopeful that he’s tweaked something and his control will stay about what it was last year.

4. Mike Wright: 7-10, 4.79 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 6.10 K/9

Mike Wright started off his major league career pretty well, with 14.1 scoreless innings. Combined with his prowess in the minor leagues, I was hoping Wright would turn into something good. Then he got crushed, with an 8.90 ERA the remainder of the season.

Now, Wright is only 26, he has time to figure things out, and it seems like the Orioles are going to give him a gig in the rotation, at least for the time being. Now, I don’t think he spends the entire time in the rotation, I’m projecting him for about 132 IP, which is a good amount, but not a ton.

Wright ended last year with a 6.04 ERA, but a 5.70 xFIP gives me hope that a little of that was bad luck. He also had a HR/FB rate of 13.6%, which I believe will go down a little bit (thought not a ton, this is Camden Yards after all). He’s also had some control issues, giving up 3.63 BB/9.

I think Wright is going to have some struggles in the majors, but he has potential. He showed a good fastball and a good slider last year, and he’s seemed to have figured out the minors, so hopefully he’ll fulfill some of his potential this year. Perhaps Wright will break out sometime soon, and I think some time starting in the majors will be good for him to help figure things out.

5. Kevin Gausman: 9-8, 4.02 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.69 K/9

I think Gausman is itching for a breakout season, and I really think this could be the year. I wasn’t a fan of how he got jerked around last year, I think he needed some time in the majors to figure himself out, and they gave him some of that, but he bounced around the minors and the majors too much.

Despite the bouncing around, Gausman showed a lot of promise. He’s got a killer fastball and a good slider, and if he can stay healthy, I think he’ll turn into something really good.

The health is key though, as of now he’s starting the year on the DL, though it won’t be too long. Health has plagued Gausman for awhile now, and hopefully things will be ok this year, I’m projecting him for around 130 IP or so. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s handled a bit cautiously this year, but we’ll see.

Regardless, even if he struggles with giving up some runs (his 3.80 xFIP last year gives me some hope though), I think he’ll strike out a lot of hitters. I’m projecting him for the second-best K/9 on the team behind Ubaldo, and I think we could see a really good year from him.