Can the Orioles have a top ten team ERA this year?
If you are a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, you are probably aware that their starting rotation has not been a major contributor to their recent success. Playoff contenders come in all shape and sizes, some make it due to their excellent bullpen, others perhaps due to strong hitting. But leaning on just a few great parts of your team can only get you so far, that is why it is imperative that the Orioles’ starting pitching rotation plays better than league average in 2017. The question remains, however, does this staff have it in them?
When looking at the last 20 teams to win a World Series, you can find that all of them finished in the top half of the league in team ERA and that 14 of those 20 finished in the top ten team ERAs that year. Finishing in the top ten for team ERA is something that the Orioles have only done once in the past 19 seasons. Of course, the last time they did that (2014) they made the AL Championship series. It is no secret that pitching wins championships, especially for teams that tend to go through long slumps in the hitting department.
So, bottom-line, is the 2017 Orioles starting pitching staff good enough to help get the team ERA into the top ten? It will have to be led by the top-heavy part of the staff. Chris Tillman’s fantastic first half of 2016 was one of the best of his career with a 3.41 ERA and nearly 8 S/Os per game. Kevin Gausman had an impressive second half to his season with a 3.10 ERA and nearly 9 S/Os per game. These two alone could headline many teams in the MLB, but where the Orioles lack is depth to their rotation. Dylan Bundy is a guy who has all the potential in the world but will most likely be on another pitch count this season, and Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley are as inconsistent as they come.
A couple of things need to go the Orioles way to make it two of the past twenty seasons, instead of one, in the top ten of team ERA. Gausman and Tillman have to be great once again but more importantly, we need to see a third guy emerge. Bundy can certainly do that, especially if he is able to add a cutter back to his repertoire. In 2016, the Orioles would have needed to cut off .18 from their team ERA in order to make the top ten. Finding a strong #3 pitcher for this rotation could mean that large difference between a 4.22 ERA and a 4.04, one that would have made the top ten. The Orioles would welcome any pitcher to step up as a strong third guy to the rotation, and I think Bundy has the best shot of them all to do just that. If the Orioles are able to produce a more consistent starting rotation this year, expect to once again see a splash in the postseason.