Last night, it hit us that the Baltimore Orioles have had the same five pitchers in their starting rotation all season as we finished the 35 game mark, and while that is an accomplishment for this or any team, the Orioles starting rotation is not off to the best of starts in 2014 and rank in the bottom half of the league in nearly every major category.
Before we beat up the rotation a little bit, let us first state that it is not all bad, not by any stretch. First off, it is an accomplishment to have the same five guys in your rotation through 35 games, but secondly, each pitcher in the rotation has shown their best and their worst thus far and this team is in first place in the AL East and five games over .500, so the starting pitching cannot have been but so bad. Also, the O's number two pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez, has been much better over his last two starts as the calendar turning to May has once again proven to be what Jimenez needs to get going as he once again struggled mightily in April. The rotation as a whole has done a great job of keeping the team in the game even when they do not have their best stuff on the mound and that shows grit, which we love to see.
Having said those things, the rotation has a lot of work to do as they are currently in the bottom half of baseball in nearly every major statistical category. First we will sum where the rotation is as a whole statistically as they are 12-13 with a 4.24 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and have thrown 201 2/3 innings in 35 starts, which is an average of 5.762 innings per start.
So where does the rotation stack up? Near the bottom.
Oddly enough, the one area that most fans point to as the biggest problem for the Orioles' starters, innings per start, the Birds starting rotation is right at the American League average of 5.8 (when rounded to one decimal) as Baltimore is one of five teams at the 5.8 mark. Only five teams in the AL average more than 5.8 innings per start, while five are below the 5.8 mark and five are at the 5.8 plateau. Of the five teams that average 5.8 innings per start, the Orioles average 101 pitches by their starting rotation to reach that average innings point, which is five more pitches than the nearest other 5.8 inning average starting rotation.
Baltimore's starting rotation is a bit of a victim however, as they average the third lowest run support per innings in the American League, meaning only two teams in the AL give their starting pitchers fewer runs to work with than the Orioles.
The worst areas of concern for the Orioles starting rotation is of course the lack of quality starts (six or more innings, while allowing three or fewer runs). Baltimore is tied for the fewest quality starts in the AL with just 12 of their 35 starts qualifying as a quality one. In addition, the Orioles are tied for the AL lead (DET, KC) with their starting pitchers averaging 101 pitches per start. The Birds starting rotation is finding themselves in higher pitch counts for multiple reasons, but one is their inability to finish a hitter off as their 165 strike outs are third lowest in the AL.
Baltimore ranks 13th with 201 2/3 innings pitched by their starters, but to be fair, the Orioles have only played 35 games whereas all but the Orioles and Tigers have played in at least 36 games and most of the teams in the AL have played 37 or more, so the Orioles starters would be higher in the innings pitched category if they had played as many games.
The Orioles 4.24 ERA ranks 11th in the AL, while their 1.42 WHIP also ranks 11th. Baltimore also finds themselves at 11th in opponent batting average by their starters with their .269 opposing batting average. To go along with runners on base, Baltimore's rotation has hit the fifth most batters in the AL with 10 and their 16 induced ground ball double plays are fourth fewest, thus the starting rotation is allowing men on base and are not getting very many double plays to get themselves out of trouble.
Despite where they rank in the American League, the Orioles starting rotation has been giving the team a chance to win and when you think about the fact that the offense has not been giving them much run support, it is understandable that each member of the rotation faces perhaps more "key" situations in their starts, which can lead to a higher pitch count due to trying to be too perfect.
Baltimore's rotation will need to be better moving forward, but again considering where they stand amongst the American League, Orioles fans and the team should be thrilled with the fact of the team's record and where they stand.
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