The Orioles took their first steps toward having a great pitching staff last year.
Before the men in white coats come to take me away to the insane asylum, allow me to prove I'm not crazy.
I'm aware of the Orioles staff ERA in 2008, and I'm also aware that the O's led the league in walks and hit batsmen in 2008.
That being said, I stand by my declaration. In 2008 the O's did what so many other clubs fail to do in pursuit of great rotations.
They focused on upgrading the team defensively. The significance of bringing in players like Adam Jones to compliment Nick Markakis and his AL leading seventeen outfield assists is, and will continue to be, obvious to the pitching staff.
In 2008 fundamentals, especially fielding fundamentals, were emphasized from spring training on. Dave Trembley held infield practice the first game of every series. It was an old school tactic that had been abandoned by many other clubs.
Last offseason the commitment to defense was taken to the next level when a glaring hole at shortstop was filled with the signing of Gold Glove winner Cesar Izturis. Trading for the athletic and speedy Felix Pie to play left field was also key, as well as bringing in veteran catcher Gregg Zaun.
Without upgrades to the defense, building a strong rotation would be useless. It would be like freeing a bird with a brick tied to its back. Before the O's young arms can take flight, Andy MacPhail knows he has to back them up with a defense they feel confidence in.
How can Rick Kranitz possibly preach "pitch to contact" if the pitcher worries about what will happen in the field after that contact?
The Orioles' commitment to defense will pay dividends this year. We could see a lot of young arms take the mound, and as unpredictable as the Orioles starting rotation is right now, something tells me we just might see more bailouts in the field at the Yard this season than on Wall Street.