For years and years…and years, the Baltimore Orioles struggled to find pitching that could make it through games. And by that, I mean both starting and relief pitching. There were years where we wondered if someone’s arm was going to fall out in the bullpen, and games in which we wondered if the Birds would simply run out of pitching. That’s one reason that Dan Duquette has been willing to bring anyone and everyone who was willing into camp for a shot at the bigs. Think about it; a year ago would you have predicted that Josh Stinson and Evan Meeks would have been on this year’s Opening Day roster? A year before that would you have thought that Darren O’Day would become a staple in the bullpen?
Not all of the players that have come in have worked out, however it’s the old theory that if you throw enough mud on the wall some of it is going to stick. However backing up for a moment, what was the problem with the Orioles for all of those years? It’s easy enough to say that they simply didn’t have the guns in the rotation and in the ‘pen by virtue of the fact that they drafted poorly (for years) and they weren’t willing to develop what talent they did have. However that’s the easy way out; the O’s did have some talent in the organization at various points along the way. However what talent they did have (ie-Daniel Cabrera) wasn’t willing to put in the work to harness that talent, and ultimately they were afraid of failure.
Yeah, I said it; they were afraid of failure. And the powers that be in the organization at the time were also afraid of failure. (And perhaps with good reason I might add – neither Sam Perlozzo, Lee Mazzilli, or Dave Trembley have ever managed in the big leagues since their time with the Orioles.) But when I say that a pitcher is afraid of failure, I mean one thing specifically – they’re nibblers. For years we saw Oriole pitchers try to nibble on the corner of the strike zone to try to fool hitters into swinging. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes you have to do that – it’s part of the game. However you can’t make a career out of it, and it can’t be your bread and butter…for the same reason that throwing only straight strikes can’t be your bread and butter. You have to be nimble as a pitcher to survive at the big league level.
Pitchers become nibblers often because they’re afraid of what will happen if they get too close to the middle of the plate. And again, this can often be for good reason. But for years Oriole pitchers didn’t seem to know how to employ deceptive measures such as late movement on pitches to fool hitters. Ultimately what would happen would be that hitters would take pitch after pitch, going deeper and deeper into counts. Then when the guy had to throw a strike he either wouldn’t be able to (because umpires would know that he was making a living on being a nibbler and would thus give the hitter the outer part of the plate), or that strike would get tagged – FAR. Pitch counts would also be driven up little by little, which would tax the bullpen.
However now it seems that the O’s have their act much more in order when it comes to pitching, both in the rotation and the bullpen. In Monday’s game Chris Tillman gave up one walk, and Even Meeks gave up two later in the game. Three walks in a game isn’t too shabby. And keep in mind that the Orioles’ bullpen was a big reason why they went to the playoffs in 2012. Based on Monday’s performance, could this year’s bullpen be similar? We can’t say after only one game, but the pitchers that came in certainly looked strong.
After what seemed like an endless off day, the Orioles will resume league play tonight at the yard against Boston. They’ll send Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound to make his Orioles debut, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s John Lackey.