AL East 2017 Positional Rankings: The Need for Strong Starters in the Division

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: Pitcher Wade Miley
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: Pitcher Wade Miley /
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The AL East is a pitcher’s nightmare, with a lot of small ballparks and big offenses, but it is often the teams with the best rotations that are playoff-bound by the end of the year.

The AL East is a pitcher’s nightmare, with a lot of small ballparks and big offenses, but it is often the teams with the best rotations that are playoff-bound at the end of the year.

Going into the season, the rotations were ranked:

5. New York Yankees

4. Baltimore Orioles

3. Tampa Bay Rays

2. Toronto Blue Jays

1. Boston Red Sox

Whoops. Now, a lot of my reasoning for the rankings were valid. I had concerns over Severino being in the rotation in 2017 after a putrid 2016. He was great. Also, who knew that Montgomery would be such a success as a rookie?

The Orioles, I expressed a lot of concern over Chris Tillman‘s shoulder, which was warranted. I thought Kevin Gausman would become an ace (he didn’t) and that in contract years, Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez would be close to their career average. That’s a funny story.

The Rays’ young starters had to prove themselves, and did quite well, but probably don’t move much in the rankings.

I was dubious that the Blue Jays’ staff could repeat their unprecedented success from 2016. Would J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano prove that 2016 was their new level, not an abnormality. Of course not. And then Aaron Sanchez couldn’t stay healthy.

As for Boston, I was concerned over Chris Price’s injury, but knew that there were other All-Star winners throughout the rotation. Well, who would have guessed that one of those (Rick Porcello) would be so bad.

Without further ado, let’s get to the 2017 rankings. All pitchers listed started over 8 games, are listed based on number of starts.

Ubaldo Jimenez
Ubaldo Jimenez /

5. Baltimore Orioles – Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez, Dylan Bundy, Chris Tillman, Jeremy Hellickson

When your top three pitchers had ERAs of 4.68, 5.61 and 6.81, it isn’t going to go well. When two others on the list (of 6) have ERAs of 7.84 and 6.97, it is historically bad.

So it was for the Orioles in 2017, where Miley and Jimenez were terrible, Gausman’s first half was terrible, Tillman never got on track and the trade for Hellickson did nothing.

Only one other rotation in the American League allowed more runs per game than the Orioles 5.19 (Detroit). The Orioles had 69 losses from their starters, third most in the AL.

Only 38 percent of the Orioles’ starts were quality starts, tied for worst in the American League. The average game score for their starters was 46, worst in the American League.

There were a few bright spots, such as Dylan Bundy’s complete game shut out which was tied for the best game score of the season. The Orioles left 254 runners on base when pitchers exited, fifth-worst in the AL.

Where do they go from here, you may be wondering. That’s a good question.

Only Bundy and Gausman will be back, and the Orioles need them to be top of the rotation pitchers. After that, the Orioles need to fill out their rotation, while accounting for inevitable injuries, etc. Miguel Castro started one game in 2017 and is an option, as is Gabriel Ynoa, who started four. Alec Asher started six games before Tillman returned, and is another option.

Any free agent not named Darvish or Arrieta is on the Orioles’ radar, and quite frankly those two may be too, depending on how high the price is. However, there is a lot of competition for guys like Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas and others.