Baltimore Orioles: The Evolution of the 2020 Pitching Staff

If you were to compare the Baltimore Orioles 2020 Opening Day pitching staff to the collection of pitchers today, you wouldn’t see many of the same names.

In fact, most of the pitchers from the Baltimore Orioles Opening Day roster have either been traded or injured. Despite, the multitude of changes, the pitching staff has out-performed all expectations.

Consider the Opening Day rotation. John Means was expected to toe the rubber on Opening Day, but an injury sidelined him and put Tommy Milone in his place. The rest of the July rotation included Alex Cobb, Wade LeBlanc, Asher Wojciechowski, and Kohl Stewart.

Of those starting pitchers, only Wojciechowski and Cobb remain. LeBlanc is injured, possibly for the final time in his career. Milone is an Atlanta Brave, and Stewart opted out.

Means is obviously back, too. The Orioles have added Jorge Lopez and Keegan Akin to the rotation, and Thomas Eschelman gets the occasional start, too. Dean Kremer has also joined the rotation and is expected to have his second outing on Saturday. Cobb is also returning to the rotation, with an expected start today in Game 1 of the double header.

Before they left, Milone had an ERA of 3.99. LeBlanc pitched to an ERA of 8.06, and Cobb had an ERA of 4.33 before going on the 10-day IL.

Akin has an ERA of 2.08, Kremer is at 1.50, and Eschelman’s ERA is 3.91. Wojo’s ERA is 5.13. It’s clear that the Baby Birds are doing something right.

The relievers have also changed dramatically since Opening Day. Several Orioles stalwarts were traded, including Richard Bleier, Mychal Givens, and Miguel Castro. David Hess and Cody Carroll are out for the season.

So, Brandon Hyde has to rely on a mixed bag of experience. He’s trusting Cole Sulser with the closing duties. Sulser has some work to do before he earns the same respect on the mound that Castro and Givens had in the closing spot.

Hyde’s other go-to’s are Paul Fry, Dillon Tate, Tanner Scott, and Travis Lakins. Interestingly, Sulser, Lakins, Fry, and Scott have all pitched 17.2 innings in 2020. And, Scott has the best ERA at 1.52.

Hunter Harvey joined the team just a few games ago, and Cesar Valdez is now one of the oldest players on the roster. Surprisingly, Wojo pitched against a few batters in relief as the number of starters increased.

This change in pitching isn’t unexpected, especially as pitchers seem to be the players who are getting the most injuries in 2020. But, what is surprising is the success the pitchers have had despite their limited experience.