The Baltimore Orioles have been one of the most fun teams to watch this year in Major League Baseball. Their home run happy offense has led them to a 78-65 record and right in the thick of the playoff chase.
The problem is, as talented as their bats are, they don’t have the quality pitching that a team needs to make a deep postseason run. Their starting pitching has brought them down from being possibly one of the best teams in the American League.
Led by sluggers Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Manny Machado, the O’s find themselves just two games out of the American League East lead and two games up for the second wild card spot.
As good as their hitting has been, their pitching staff hasn’t been up to speed as they rank towards the bottom in several categories.
Their starting pitching has struggled significantly this season. Other than Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman, their rotation has been nothing to write home about. Ubaldo Jimenez has made 22 starts for the team and has an ERA of 5.73. He even had an unsuccessful stint in the bullpen before moving back to the rotation.
However, their bullpen has been a big plus on the pitching side for them, with Zach Britton having a historic season going 41-for-41 in save opportunities, along with guys like Brad Bach and Mychal Givens both having very strong seasons out of the ‘pen. The bullpen has given their iffy starting staff a pretty big boost.
The Orioles looked for outside help in Wade Miley, acquiring him from the Mariners for Ariel Miranda, but he has been very unsuccessful so far with a 7.15 ERA in his 7 starts in an Orioles uniform.
The problem with the Orioles is their lack of depth; they have used nine different starting pitchers, but only Tillman and Gausman have been productive throughout the full season. In a five game series, the Orioles would likely send out Tillman and Gausman for games one and two, but who would go in game three or possibly beyond? The candidates from which they have to choose are not great.
Dylan Bundy is one option. He was moved to the rotation on July 17th and he has been fairly effective for the Orioles with a 4.36 ERA in his 12 starts, but his .255 BABIP and his susceptibility to the long ball (12 allowed in rotation) paint a cloudy picture on his ability to keep up his modest success in the postseason, against great hitting teams such as the Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, or Boston Red Sox.
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Just last year, the Texas Rangers made the postseason with an 88-74 record with an offense that ranked 3rd in the American League in runs per game. On the pitching side, however, they gave up 3rd most runs per game in the American League, even behind a 74-88 Oakland A’s team.
In the playoffs the Rangers battled through a tough five game set with the Blue Jays thanks to Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson (among others) feasting on a Rangers pitching staff that really only had a few good arms.
The last time that a team with a run differential even close to the Orioles had serious success was the New York Yankees in 2009, when they won the World Series. But even then, they still had one of the better pitching staffs in the American League thanks to a heavy leaning toward offense at the time (only one team had a team ERA below 4.20 compared to eight in 2016).
Good pitching will almost always beat good hitting, and the Orioles don’t seem to have the pitching to keep up with the great hitting teams in the American League.