4. Baltimore Orioles
I wanted to put the Baltimore Orioles higher, but I couldn’t do it. Why not?
Yes, we have seen Alex Cobb pitch in the AL East, and he is pretty good. He was arguably the third-best pitcher available this offseason, and he is in Baltimore.
Cashner has a lot of experience pitching in the American League. He is known as an innings eater, and with the Baltimore Orioles’ offense and bullpen, that is not a bad thing.
But, the issues holding back the Baltimore Orioles lie with the other three pitchers.
From 2012-2016, Chris Tillman was 65-33, one of the best records for pitchers in the American League. His ERA went from 2.93 to 3.71 to 3.34 to 4.99 to 3.77. He made 143 starts over that period. He was even a 2013 All-Star.
Then came 2017. Tillman was injured to start the season and never got on track. Tillman went 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA and was one of the worst pitchers in baseball. His WAR was an ugly -2.2.
Tillman’s strikeout to walk ratio was down to 1.24, and his WHIP was 1.892.
His previous WHIPs from 2012-2016 ranged from 1.047 in 2012 to 1.387 in 2015.
In all ways measured, it was an ugly season. But, the Orioles are hoping Tillman is healthy, and even if he isn’t the pitcher from the 2012-14 seasons, his 2015 season would be useful for the Orioles.
But, I would argue the real indicator for the pitching staff will be the performance of Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Opening Day starter, and Kevin Gausman.
The Orioles have long hoped that these two would become front of the line starters.
Now is the time for that to happen.
2017 was Bundy’s first full season as a starter. He went 13-9 with a 4.24 ERA in 28 starts, with 169.2 innings pitched. His WHIP was 1.196, and his strikeout per walk ratio was 2.98.
The WHIP is good, and the record isn’t bad. The Orioles would like to see Bundy’s ERA go down to below four as a sign of him taking the lead in the rotation.
It is important to remember that Bundy is only 25 years old, and has only been in the major leagues for 66 games in his career, and only 42 starts.
As for Gausman, he has started 106 games in his career and is 34-43 with a 4.18 ERA in his career. The second half of 2016 showed just how much ability Gausman has, but then the first half of 2017 was inconsistent Gausman again.
The switch again flipped in the second half, and Gausman was the starter the Orioles expect.
He is a pitcher who started 34 games in 2017, tied for the most in the majors. However, he only threw 186.2 innings, which is about 5.5 innings a game.
That won’t cut it from a top of the line starter. Gausman has worked on changing his typical routine to be ready for the start of the season, and he was sharp this spring for the most part.
If this two can become number one pitchers, or even number two pitchers, the Baltimore Orioles will likely be a playoff team. However, the ability of the Orioles’ rotation as a whole will be tied to the success of Bundy and Gausman.