Orioles pitching cavalry has been in full retreat
The Orioles' starting pitching woes – and the seeming regression of every one of their young starters who has pitched in the big leagues this season – reminded me recently of an article that I wrote for The Baltimore Sun during spring training before the 2009 season.
The topic was “The Cavalry,” the nickname former Orioles manager Dave Trembley gave to the organization’s highly touted group of pitching prospects. You can read that here.
Trembley was hardly the only one singing the praises of the Orioles’ young arms. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus had this to say:
"If you want to be a huge dreamer, you start thinking about those early '70s [Orioles] rotations. Obviously, that's hyperbole, but there's definitely a lot of talent. If everything breaks right, you are talking about a 2011 Orioles rotation that could be pretty sick.
"Their pitching ranks with anyone in the business. There's no doubt about it. [Chris] Tillman and [Brian] Matusz are two guys that I have among the top 25 prospects in baseball. [Jake] Arrieta is in the top 50. [Brandon] Erbe makes it in the top 100, and there are these guys after them that may not be studs, but they project as back-of-the-rotation inning eaters. And those guys are valuable. They just have a ton of pitching."
I bring this up not an attempt to make Goldstein look bad. His opinion is well-respected around the game, and he is very good at what he does. At the time, other pundits, including Baseball America’s Jim Callis, who was quoted in the article, were saying similar things.
No, my point is to further exhibit how far and how fast the Orioles’ pitching has fallen. With about seven weeks left in the 2011 season, I don’t know that the Orioles can pencil a single guy into their 2012 rotation. The situation has become such a disaster that the Orioles are again left scouring the waiver wire, searching for the latest reincarnation of Victor Santos and Victor Zambrano just to finish out the season.
Jeremy Guthrie, whom I didn’t even include in the projected 2011 rotation at the bottom of the above-mentioned article, an omission that he playfully reminds me of on a regular basis, is a candidate to be traded this offseason.
You’d like to think that young lefties Matusz and Zach Britton will rebound from some tough times this year to become rotation mainstays, but they’d have to string together a bunch of strong starts to feel better about that potential.
Arrieta has a plus-5.00 ERA and is awaiting season-ending elbow surgery. Brad Bergesen and Tillman have done nothing over the last year or so to prove that they are reliable big league starters, and Jason Berken has been unable to solidify his spot in either the rotation or bullpen. Troy Patton, meanwhile, could factor in next year’s bullpen, but not in the rotation.
And that’s pretty much where things stand with “The Cavalry.” It is indeed not a pretty picture, and the group's regression is the biggest reason that it's hard to foresee the Orioles breaking from their losing ways in the near future.