The Orioles' rotation: Disturbing trends for a perceived strength
The Orioles will purchase the contract of Mitch Atkins on Tuesday so he can start Tuesday night’s game against the Texas Rangers. It will be the 25-year-old’s first big league start after seven relief appearances in the past two years with, you guessed it, the Chicago Cubs.
That means the Orioles will have used Chris Jakubauskas and Mitch Atkins in consecutive July starts. They will have used two starters in the first half who weren’t on the 40-man roster in April. In fact, Jakubauskas didn’t even receive an official spring invite and Atkins didn’t throw a pitch in spring training because of a left oblique strain.
This, I am pretty sure, is not how Andy MacPhail drew up the first half of the season.
That’s not meant to be disrespectful to Jakubauskas, a good guy, or Atkins, whom I’ve never met. They earned the shot to start in the majors, that’s an honor and good for them.
But the Orioles’ starting rotation was supposed to be its great hope. If the club was going to turn the corner this year, it would be led by the young rotation.
And now, before the first half is over, two guys who were back-burner insurance policies will have started consecutive games. That’s problematic. And the worst part is that injury isn’t what caused this.
No, it was ineffectiveness by Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen, three pitchers that were supposed to help lead the Orioles back to respectability. Tillman and Matusz are at Triple-A Norfolk and Bergesen is in the Orioles’ bullpen.
The rotation’s woes don’t end there, though.
De facto ace Jeremy Guthrie leads the team in innings with 110 and has a ERA under 4.00, but has 10 losses to show for his mostly solid effort. Zach Britton, who wasn’t supposed to join the Orioles until late April, was forced into the rotation when Brian Matusz strained an intercostal muscle and was great at first. But he is 1-3 with a 4.64 ERA in his past six starts (which is to be expected for most rookies, of course).
Jake Arrieta leads the team with nine wins but has a 4.74 ERA and has a right elbow that has been barking.
It’s tough to find the rotation’s silver lining.
And what the starters have done recently is most disturbing. In its past 10 games, the rotation’s ERA is 8.75. In its past 20 games, only once has a starter (Jeremy Guthrie) gone at least seven innings in an outing.
The Orioles staff, led by its rotation, also has allowed four or more runs in 12 straight games.
The reality is a perceived strength is becoming a consistent weakness. And if that trend continues, this season will only grow longer.