Baltimore Orioles: Pieces needed for playoff chances
The Baltimore Orioles were one of the more active teams during the Trade Deadline, but they are still not in a position to contend.
In order to truly contend, the Baltimore Orioles need to add several key pieces to build a postseason team.
During the Trade Deadline coverage on MLBTV, expert Tom Verducci revealed his check list for postseason success. And, the Orioles will need to make some more trades to fulfill the list.
According to Verducci, a senior baseball writer for Sports Illustrated, there are five necessities for a team to contend in the playoffs. These include the following:
- An ace starter
- Two premier hitters
- 2nd and 3rd starters who pitch six consistently
- Matchup lefty reliever
- Four relievers who have more strikeouts than innings pitched
Where do the pitchers rank?
Right now, the Orioles have what most consider to be the worst rotation in the MLB. According to the MLB Team Pitching Stats on ESPN.com, the Orioles are 29th out of the 30 teams when looking at ERA. The team’s 5.91 ERA is well below the American League average of 4.36. When looking at batting averages against, the O’s are dead last with .279.
No opposing team batters wiggle in fear when they see the O’s pitchers.
Kevin Gausman and Wade Miley average five innings per game and Dylan Bundy averages six. And, we won’t even talk about Ubaldo Jimenez or Chris Tillman with their nearly 7 and 8 ERAs.
That takes care of the ace starter and the six innings in the rotation. Those are massive needs that must be fulfilled if the O’s are going deep into October – or getting there at all.
What about the two premier hitters?
The key is defining what makes a “premier hitter”? Batting over .300, with OPS’s that are close to 1.000. Extra base hits are helpful, but they are not necessarily needed. Right now, Jose Altuve is leading the MLB with his .367 ERA, but he has fewer than half the home runs (15) of Aaron Judge (34) and Giancarlo Stanton (33).
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In other years, it would be easy to say that Manny Machado is a premier hitter, but 2017 has not been his year. Right now, the only premier hitter in Birdland is Jonathan Schoop, who is sitting in the 11th spot in the AL. He has a .305 batting average and is the only Oriole with a batting average above .300. His OPS is .916 which is the sixth highest in the AL.
Trey Mancini is working his way toward being a premier hitter. His .299 batting average is enhanced by his .868 OPS. He does have more home runs (17) than Altuve.
Ok, so the O’s need another premier hitter. Or, Machado needs to get back his mojo.
That leaves the relievers.
This is the one spot where the Orioles excel but do they have four relievers with more strikeouts than innings pitched? No, but the team is close:
- Brad Brach: 44.1 IP with 48 Ks.
- Darren O’Day: 36.2 IP with 47 Ks
- Mychal Givens: 51.1 IP with 55 Ks
- Zach Britton: 19 IP with 15 Ks
And…that’s it. Even though Britton is considered a “Super Closer” he has more innings than Ks and so does Donnie Hart and Richard Bleier. But, in 2016, Britton pitched in 67 innings and struck out 74. Once he gets back to normal, Britton could easily get the 2017 numbers reversed.
Bleier and Hart are the go-to lefties when a matchup is needed and they do their jobs well. Bleier’s ERA is 1.22 and Hart’s is 1.38.
Next: Baltimore Orioles add Tim Beckham at the deadline
The pitching holes are the most difficult to fill and the back-end of the O’s staff is playoff-ready, at least by Tom Verducci’s standards. Now…about the front end of the pitching staff…