Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
It’s a little hard to believe, but last season the Orioles began play on July 3rd with a 48-37 record. The 2014 Orioles currently have a 45-39 record. However, the major difference is the Orioles are presently a game back of the Toronto Blue Jays for the division lead, whereas last season they were 3.5 games back.
Most of the core players from the 2013 roster are still on the 2014 roster. However, like every off-season for almost every team, the Orioles had several departures between last season and this season. This is especially true for the pitching staff.
Around this time last season, the Orioles made a deal sending Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Cubs for veteran starter Scott Feldman. Arrieta and Strop were both exceptionally talented but had fallen out of favor with Orioles management, as well as Orioles fans, after an extended period of inconsistency. They seemed to be classic “change-of-scenery” players and Feldman seemed a good fit for a rotation seeking a stabilizing veteran.
The Orioles got what they wanted from Feldman in the second half of last season. He was anything but exceptional, yet gave the Orioles quality innings pitching to a 4.27 ERA in his 15 starts for the Birds. However, the Orioles lost Feldman to free agency when he signed a lofty three year, 30 million dollar deal with the Astros. Feldman started off the season hot but has recently cooled off, and currently holds a 3.92 ERA in his 14 starts this season.
Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop have both seemed to find a home in the National League. Arrieta made headlines earlier this week when he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. He currently has an ERA of 1.81 in his 11 starts this season. He has also only walked 17 batters this season. In comparison, he walked 17 in 23 innings with the Orioles last season. Strop also seems to be more comfortable in Chicago. He has an ERA of 2.93 in 31 appearances this season. However, control still seems to be an issue as he has walked 15 in that span.
An important member of the 2012 rotation that drove the Orioles into the post-season, Jason Hammel struggled with constancy and health in 2013, eventually losing his spot in the rotation. In the off-season, Hammel signed a one-year deal with the Cubs. Like Arrieta and Strop, Hammel has also found success in Chicago pitching to a 2.98 ERA over his 16 starts this season. He also averages nearly nine strike-outs per nine innings.
The biggest surprise of the former Orioles would be Francisco Rodriguez. In 2013 with the Orioles, K-Rod hardly resembled the closer that once saved 62 games. In fact, he pitched to a very mediocre 4.50 ERA in his 23 appearances with the Orioles. However, this season he owns a 2.34 ERA in 42 appearances with the Brewers, and even leads all of baseball in saves with 27.
Baseball is impossible to predict and there is no way of knowing what these players’ numbers would look like if they were still in an Orioles uniform. However, the Orioles made a decision to allow these players to leave and are now hoping that the changes to their pitching staff translate to more success in 2014 than 2013.