31 May 2018

Orioles' 2018 Rotation Has Been Close To The Awful 2017 Version

In early February, while the Orioles were mostly sitting on their hands (along with lots of other teams) and free agent collusion was a popular topic, I said this about the Orioles' rotation options:
That was when, at least for a period of time, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman were the O's top two starters and there wasn't much behind them. A little over a week later, Bundy and Gausman started to get some reinforcements. Andrew Cashner signed on February 15, and Chris Tillman signed on February 19. Cashner's arrival slotted in somewhere between fine and meh (if there's a difference), and Tillman's below that. But they had two things going for them: they were starting pitchers who had performed well in the past, and their names weren't Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley.

About a month later, the Orioles surprisingly added Alex Cobb to the mix, and the O's had their starting five. Cobb signed late and would need some time to get ready, but the hope was that when he joined the team, he'd give them a boost. As we all know now, that was not the case.

The addition of Cobb added some excitement -- even if the O's starting rotation still didn't project to be very good -- and even though it seems impossible now, the O's kinda/sorta looked like the same .500-ish team that, if things broke right, could stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. But, almost since day one, the Orioles have rated poorly in nearly every phase of the game. And, unexpectedly, the 2018 starting rotation has been basically the same level of awful as the 2017 version.

Let's look at some numbers. Here's how the starting rotations from the past two years stack up:

2017: 5.70 ERA (15th in AL), 5.23 FIP, 19.4 K%, 9.4 BB%, 41.5 GB%, 35.0 Hard-hit%
2018: 5.53 ERA (14th in AL), 5.17 FIP, 19.3 K%, 8.0 BB%, 42.3 GB%, 35.2 Hard-hit%

Obviously the 2018 season isn't even half over, so things could improve. And, if anyone doesn't know, the 2017 O's rotation ERA of 5.70 is the worst in franchise history. But this rotation is still pretty close to that group and is really only better in walk rate and groundball rate.

But wait! Let's adjust for the change in offensive production. In 2017, the average AL team scored 4.71 runs per game. So far in 2018, AL teams average 4.50 runs per game. The average AL starter ERA in 2017 was 4.54; the average AL starter ERA in 2018 is currently 4.32.

That changes things, and it leads to the following:

Orioles SP in 2017: 129 ERA-, 115 FIP-
Orioles SP in 2018: 130 ERA-, 120 FIP-

Remember that with ERA- and FIP-, "100 is the league average and each point above or below 100 represents a percent above or below league average," so the lower, the better. That means that through about one-third of the season, the O's rotation has somehow performed slightly worse than last year's rotation.

At this point, you may be wondering if the O's rotation has been better in May, after Tillman was jettisoned to Sarasota. Tillman, after all, made five starts in April and two in May. But, nope, that's not the case:

Orioles SP in March/April: 5.34 ERA, 5.00 FIP in March/April
Orioles SP in May: 5.73 ERA, 5.35 FIP in May

Again, there's still time for improvement. June is about to begin, and it would be a surprise if the O's dealt away any of their starters. David Hess is also getting his shot, and he deserves an extended stay.

But one thing that can be said is the O's are not getting the most out of their starting pitchers. Gausman and Bundy are fine, but they're supposed to be better than that. Cobb was supposed to come in and provide legitimate top-of-the-rotation skills, and he has an ERA close to 7. Cashner has been OK, but nothing more than that.

The Orioles did not get the most out of Ubaldo Jimenez, or Wade Miley, or Jeremy Hellickson, or Yovani Gallardo, or... you get the point. Rotation signings haven't worked. Many prospects haven't developed enough or taken necessary steps. Fringe rotation options have been traded or discarded and gone on to find success elsewhere. International money is not being spent on pitching arms with potential. One person alone can't simply be blamed for starting rotations this bad.

As stated above, the Orioles have a whole lot of issues. They need to get better in many categories. They need to get younger and better. Unfortunately, that still includes the starting rotation, because the pitching woes persist.

Stats via FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference


Unknown said...

I think this rotation is in better shape than last year and should finish the season with better overall numbers. Cobb is starting to settle in, we can officially move on from Tillman and your probably not going to see 'one of the worst pitching performances of all time again in the same season. Maybe an unexpected minor league prospect emerges and performs decent before the end of the season?

Regardless, I'm more concerned about the offense this season. I wasn't expecting big things at the plate, but definitely not this degree of bad.

Pip said...

There’s an old Funky Winkerbean cartoon strip in which the football coach of the “Scapegoats” goes out and gets a goat to bring to games.
He says,”this team needs a mascot.”
And the goat looks at the reader and says,” This team doesn’t need a mascot, it needs a Messiah.”

Yeah, it’s like that.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Aaron, I would agree with that, and yet... here we are. There's always the hope of better pitching performances without the actual results.

Pip said...

PS: Roch said today that the team is leaning towards choosing an infielder instead of a pitcher with the 11th pick.
How do you feel about that?

Matt Kremnitzer said...

This team needs talent across the board, and if that's the player they deem the best, that's fine.

Unknown said...

This is very surprising, I was never expecting the current rotation to be slightly worse than last year. The inability to develop pitchers and to find international talent will haunt this team for years

Jan Frel said...

I was just reading a post at CamdenChat about O's 2016 draft. And this is what happened to their 14th pick, which I had overlooked -- I remember O's were excited about Matt Thaiss, who looks like a young Mauer at the plate, and went to Angels with the 16th pick.

"First pick - #14 overall - Forfeited by signing Gallardo
I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but it’s disappointing that the Orioles weren’t able to read the same warning signs about Gallardo that the rest of the league did. Don’t give up a draft pick to sign a guy who ohad a 5.9 K/9 and a 1.416 WHIP with declining velocity, no matter how good his ERA was! That’s it. But the Orioles signed him even after the dreaded Orioles physical revealed shoulder problems. Then he had shoulder problems and was bad here!"

Of course every team goofs, and there is probably a good working standard error rate in trades, signings, draftings, DFAs, rule 5s etc. (which I would like to know), so this thought is somewhat unfair. But I wouldn't mind doing a roster review of all the former O's minor leaguers since 2012 who are doing a good job elsewhere: here's who comes to mind (I put under this the names of a few pitchers who looked bright elsewhere for a moment, then who turned out to be not so valuable just for fun):

Eduardo Rodriguez (looking great this year), Josh Hader (averaging 2.7 hits per 9 in 2018), Zach Davies (5.8 WAR until 2018, not so great this year so far), Jake Arrieta (top 20 Mlb starter ever since the trade), Pedro Strop (nails basically since he was traded), and? -- any others?

Two fellows who were flash in the pan elsewhere: Andrew Triggs, Parker Bridwell.

Pip said...

Both Andrew Triggs and Parker Bridwell were more productive for their new teams than the players who were kept in their stead.
Flash in the pan or not, they had that flash for another team that got each for free.
And each is or has been injured, which is a big part of their current malaise.

O's Brose said...

It's been haunting them since the 90's.