The Baltimore Orioles made a splash toward the end of Orioles spring training by signing Alex Cobb to a four year, $57 million dollar contract.
Can you guess who leads the major league in losses from the Baltimore Orioles or even in Major League Baseball?
James Shields? No, although he is second, and how he still has a starting pitching job is beyond me.
It isn’t Jason Hammel or any other number of Kansas City Royals either.
The most losses in the major leagues belong to Alex Cobb.
Yes, the same Cobb who the Orioles paid top dollar for this offseason.
Look, I agree that his 3-15 record with a 5.31 ERA in 22 starts is not very good. He has allowed more runs than he ever has during his career at 87, despite pitching more innings four times.
The 1.488 WHIP is high as well.
But, the news isn’t all bad.
In April, Cobb made three starts, all losses. They weren’t pretty. He got touched up to a 13.11 ERA in 11.2 innings, with a WHIP of 2.829 and a batting average against of .484.
That’s horrendously bad.
You can blame it on the lack of Spring Training.
You can blame it on not going to the minor leagues in order to continue to pitch with the major league ball.
Whatever the reasoning, Cobb was terrible.
May brought six starts for Cobb. Cobb lost four of those, but also picked up his first win as an Oriole.
His ERA was 4.67 in 34.2 innings, with a batting average against of .300. The WHIP against was 1.471, which still isn’t good.
However, the numbers were trending in the right direction, although I don’t think it would be possible for them to be worse than they were in April.
Cobb went 1-2 in June in five starts, with a 6.67 ERA in 28.1 innings. Opposing hitters hit .281 and his WHIP against was 1.447. So while the ERA was up and he had one fewer start, all the other numbers were trending down.
July brought a really rough month for Cobb, as he went 0-5 in five starts. That’s the bad. The good is that his ERA was 4.34 in 29 innings, with a batting average against of .257 and a WHIP against of 1.276.
If you break that down further, Cobb had starts of 6.2, 5, 6.1, 5 and 6 innings in July, where he left up 3, 5, 2, 1, and 3 runs respectively.
Take out the five runs allowed to the Minnesota Twins, and that isn’t bad.
In August, Cobb has made three starts. On August 1 he got his third win, beating the New York Yankees by throwing six innings and allowing one run. On August 7 he got a no-decision in a game where he went seven innings and left up one run against his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays.
On August 12, Cobb went seven innings and allowed one earned run (two runs) in a loss to Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox.
Since that start against the Twins, Cobb has seen his ERA go from 6.67 to 5.31.
That is a marked improvement.
His three starts in August all came against AL East foes, and that was part of the reason the Orioles wanted him on this team.
Over those three starts, Cobb has a 1.35 ERA with a WHIP of 1.100 and a 4.00 strikeout to walk ratio.
In five starts since the All-Star Game, Cobb has a 2.03 ERA with a WHIP of 1.226 and a strikeout to walk ratio of 2.75.
Yes, this is cherry-picking statistics to an extent, but Cobb has been a different pitcher over the majority of the last two months.
Cobb has a career strikeout to walk ratio of 2.76, so his post-All-Star Game numbers match that. He has a career WHIP of 1.258, so he has actually been a little better post-ASG.
And his 2.03 ERA is well below his 3.77 career average.
At the end of the year, it will be just as much a lost season for Cobb as it is for the Orioles.
However, Cobb is an Oriole for three more years after this one. That means he could hold significant value, both to the Orioles and potentially as a trade chip in the future.
The Orioles need Cobb to be an ace or at least some semblance of a number 1/2 pitcher moving forward. With Dylan Bundy all over the place and Kevin Gausman gone, the rotation moving forward is Cobb, Bundy, Andrew Cashner and, well… whoever sticks of all the young pitchers.
Cobb needs to keep the Orioles in games, and also mentor the younger pitchers.
All reports indicate the second part is going well. If Cobb can carry his second-half performance into the second year of the contract, it will give the Orioles the opportunity to win some games.
Which is important, because they may be few and far between.