Chris Tillman hasn't pitched since August 20. He hasn't pitched well since August 11. Darren O'Day also hasn't made an appearance since mid-August. And yet, despite missing two of their most effective pitchers, the Orioles currently sit one game out in the American League East and one game up in the second wild card slot.
The overall struggles of the O's rotation is well-worn territory. As of right now, O's starters combined are t-24th in ERA (4.83) and 25th in FIP (4.69). But without Tillman in the rotation, things have not fallen apart. Over the past 14 days, O's starters are 14th in ERA and 17th in FIP. And over the past 30 days (which includes nine innings by Tillman), O's starters are 17th in ERA and 21st in FIP. Considering the unpredictable nature of a chunk of the rotation, those are quite acceptable results. And while far from dominant, the rotation has done enough to keep the Orioles in games.
The starter who has stepped up the most? Kevin Gausman. In the past month, he's made six starts and posted an ERA near 2 with a FIP near 3. As Ryan Romano noted over at MASNsports.com, Gausman has been particularly adept at limiting damage with runners on base.
The next best has been Ubaldo Jimenez, because of course. Not only is Jimenez doing a solid job of filling in for Tillman, but he's making Buck Showalter at least consider the notion of a six-man rotation after Tillman returns from the disabled list. Besides Jimenez's latest success, perhaps the best argument in favor of an expanded rotation is Dylan Bundy's declining velocity.
Jimenez has made three starts since rejoining the rotation and hasn't looked very Ubaldo-like. Perhaps that's because he threw a stunning and much-needed complete game on Labor Day against the Rays. He's mostly pitched to contact, limiting both strikeouts (5.4 K/9) and walks (1.25 BB/9) while running a BABIP of only .153. Jimenez seems to be receiving some good fortune that he lacked while recording a very high BABIP early in the season, but good luck extrapolating any kind of long-term meaning in his recent performance. Just enjoy Good Ubaldo while he's here, because his success could be fleeting (though not meaningless!).
It's also not hard to see where the O's have missed O'Day. Zach Britton has been amazing all season, but Brad Brach has taken a step back after the all-star break. That doesn't make Brach ineffective; it just means he's not as good as he looked in the first half, which you probably figured anyway. But it has mattered without O'Day around.
Mychal Givens has still been deployed often and has been useful, though he's maybe not as dominant as you hoped (especially if you're greedy). One bright spot has been Donnie Hart, who has yet to allow a run despite a strikeout rate slightly over 5. That's hard to do! Still, the O's clearly need O'Day, who adds one more reliable arm to the Britton, Brach, and Givens group. Hart isn't there yet, and who knows what Tommy Hunter has left in the tank.
Losing Tillman for any significant stretch was supposed to be a death knell for the 2016 Orioles, but it hasn't turned out that way. The Orioles are in the thick of the playoff race, and it's anticipated that Tillman will come off the disabled list and pitch on Sunday. Obviously there's no guarantee that Tillman returns completely healthy or effective. Still, the O's have shown that for weeks at a time they can win games without him. They're just hoping they don't have to do that anymore very soon.