|One Day a HR was hit and Oriole Little Thought the Rotation Was Failing|
All in all, the starting rotation has neither been a problem or all that good although the common refrain from the crowd is that it has been a horrific disaster. How does this compare to years past in terms of percentile performance in the American League?
If you want to go by ERA, then the starting rotation has been better than last year and equal to nearly playoff bound 2013 club. If you want to strip a little luck and defense from things, then the rotation is tied with the best one since 2012. If you want to now strip luck, defense, and normalize home run rates, then it also comes up as tied for the best starting rotation in the past five years.
ERA FIP xFIP 2012 40th 40th 33rd 2013 27th 7th 27th 2014 73rd 13th 13th 2015 13th 13th 40th 2016 27th 40th 40th
Another way to look at performance is based on a simple view on performance. A while back, I ran a study on what first division, average, and bottom rung pitching rotations look like based on ERA+. Amazingly, it follows a pretty even spread:
As it stands, the Orioles have an average starting rotation, which is neither good nor a problem. The club has a first rate bullpen and lineup, so it can work with a mediocre starting rotation.
How does the club get to a first division rotation? It needs to replace Jimenez' 63 with a 110 ERA+. So someone like Orioles' pitching prospect Zach Davies (). Unfortunately, the club traded him away last year for some guy wearing a Gerardo Parra jersey (that deal was panned by me at the time and it was expressed by several scouts in the game that the Orioles gave up way too much for half an unsustainable season of Parra). Outside of Davies, Drew Pomeranz' breakthrough or high water point season fits the bill with his ERA/FIP/xFIP slash as 2.76/3.32/3.64. Jeremy Hellickson can also fit into that group (4.23/4.42/3.81). You can also argue that Sonny Gray is a hopeful candidate (5.03/4.49/4.18).
Regardless, the point is that as the Orioles are four games up in the AL East with a strong record that they really have no major weakness. Their starting pitching is not good, but we need to be realistic. When describing the club, we should not act like Chicken Littles. The sky simply is not falling. That said, the club's average starting rotation does have quite a bit of room for improvement. If starting pitching improves, the club improves from a strong playoff contender to a team barreling down the AL East freeway into the post-season.