MASN’s Roch Kubatko wrote last week about the woes of the Orioles’ starters with regard to walks surrendered. It’s not just the starters though, this trend seems to be afflicting the entire pitching staff.
Last year, the Orioles’ bullpen was among the best in the league. While certainly the group has allowed the team to pull out more than one win in the young season, they look to be tiring already. So why do these walks seem to be so contagious? Just as the strong performances last season of Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez seemed to rub off on one another, this season a need to overcompensate for each other’s less than stellar performances seems to be passing between them this year.
We all know that it’s a domino effect on any pitching staff — your ace has a bad outing, the manager is forced to use up the bullpen, so the number two starter feels more pressure to come up with a perfect performance. They nibble the corners, overthrow the ball, and it turns into multiple walks. Four days later, you’re back around to the ace, the bullpen is already wiped out and the pressure is even greater the second time around.
Time and again we see Oriole pitchers get ahead of hitters, only to get to a full count and walk the batter. It’s a disturbing trend, and it needs to stop if the starters want to get their pitch counts down and save the bullpen some innings. We have seen flashes of improvement from Hammel, and especially Chen in his last start against Oakland. Though Miguel Gonzalez did ultimately surrender 4 runs in the sixth inning of his start on Sunday, up to that point he looked great. One can safely assume that whatever broke down in that sixth inning is being addressed by Rick Adair.
It may take another week or so to right the ship so that we can avoid another situation like last Wednesday in Baltimore when Jim Johnson walked in the winning run against Toronto. Or when Troy Patton walked a batter ahead of Seth Smith‘s game tying home run on Sunday. The bullpen is overworked right now, and it’s not quite May yet. On the flip side, that leaves plenty of time for improvement!