Baltimore Orioles: A Decade Of Disastrous Starting Pitching

BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 24: Starting pitcher Chris Jakubauskas #36 of the Baltimore Orioles delivers to a Cincinnati Reds batter during the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 24: Starting pitcher Chris Jakubauskas #36 of the Baltimore Orioles delivers to a Cincinnati Reds batter during the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Another decade of Baltimore Orioles baseball is set to wrap up this season, highlighted by a lack of dominant pitching performances.

Fans of the Baltimore Orioles are well aware of how the pitching staff performed in 2018. A combined 5.18 earned run average, 1.50 WHIP, and .276 average against all ranked dead last in Major League Baseball. The starting rotation alone accounted for a league-worst 5.48 ERA, giving up 159 home runs and a .284 batting average in the process, both also ranking last in baseball. The 2019 season likely won’t be much better, ending a 10-year span of less than impressive pitching performances. In fact, it has been the worst decade of pitching since the organization moved to Baltimore in 1954.

Since 2010, the starting rotation for the Baltimore Orioles has recorded a 66.7 fWAR, nearly five wins lower than the San Diego Padres who rank 29th in this metric. For comparison, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals rank first and second in combined fWAR since 2010, posting marks of 147.0 and 135.3, respectively.

Only the Minnesota Twins have recorded a higher ERA than the Orioles’ staff (4.77) and only two franchises have a lower strikeout rate and higher walk rate during this same time frame. Despite posting five seasons at or above .500 this decade and breaking up a streak of 14-straight losing seasons, pitching has been the constant bugaboo of the Birds.

Below are the top five individual starters, ranked by fWAR this decade. Caution, a few of these names may bring up feelings of anger and/or depression.

  1. Kevin Gausman– 10.2
  2. Wei-Yin Chen– 9.4
  3. Chris Tillman– 9.1
  4. Ubaldo Jimenez– 4.6
  5. Jeremy Guthrie– 4.4

Seven other franchises have just one starting pitcher with a double-digit fWAR this decade, two have just one pitcher in double-digits and feature at least one pitcher with less than a 5.0 fWAR in their top five, only the Baltimore Orioles have two sub-5.0 fWAR pitchers in the top five.

With a current rotation consisting of Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, and a long list of rookies and second-year pitchers fighting for the last two remaining spots, its safe to say that matching the 88.5 fWAR of the 2000-2009 Orioles, a decade that saw Erik Bedard (15.4), Sidney Ponson (13.7), Rodrigo Lopez (9.9), and Daniel Cabrera (8.1) top the individual fWAR list, will be a difficult task.

Below is the decade-by-decade fWAR totals for Orioles’ starting pitchers, beginning with the 1960’s, the first full decade of Baltimore Orioles baseball.

  • 1960s- 131.2
  • 1970s- 151.5
  • 1980s- 97.5
  • 1990s- 117.4
  • 2000s- 88.5
  • 2010s- 66.7 (9 years)

Can the Baltimore Orioles turn the corner?

Growing up in the 1990s, recently inducted Hall of Famer Mike Mussina was the star of the rotation and someone all of us Orioles fans who grew up in the 90s idolized and tried to imitate during our little league days. Fans haven’t had that big name starter that makes you say, “We have to get tickets for this game because Pitcher X is pitching.” Instead, this decade’s group of starters will likely finish with the worst production numbers in franchise history. Sometimes you just have to hit rock bottom, right?

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Recent amateur drafts have brought in pitching prospects of note, including DL Hall who was recently ranked as the top prospect in the O’s system by Fangraphs, an underrated LHP in Zac Lowther who finally appears to be garnering high praise from the national media, and RHP Grayson Rodriguez, a four-pitch pitcher with a fastball that touched 99 mph last year. More names like Keegan Akin, Brenan Hanifee, and Dean Kremer (acquired via trade) will also figure into the rotation mix over the next few years.

Is a future ace of the rotation in this group? Hall and Rodriguez may have the most potential, but there’s a long way to go in the development of both of these teenagers before that sort of praise starts getting thrown around. At a minimum, the new regime has tools to work with and a group of pitching prospects who can fill the back end of a rotation and compliment one or two big name free agent signings that Mike Elias and staff will need to bring in over the next few offseasons to help turn the corner.

Will Doug Brocail be the man to turn things around? Highly unlikely he is the difference maker, but with Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal now in place and a team of analysts ready to aide in the rebuild of the Baltimore Orioles, there’s optimism in the air.

Next. DL Hall Finds His Name On Numerous Lists. dark

So, as we close the book on a decade of forgettable starting pitching performances, keep the faith in knowing that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Besides, the rotation can’t possibly get any worse, can it?