Stacey Long: Talented starting pitchers deserve some offensive support

Brian Matusz and Zach Britton currently are pitching back-to-back in the rotation. Yes, the rotation is in a bit of a shambles, what with it only having four members, one of whom is just back from the disabled list. But Matusz and Britton are pitching back-to-back in the Orioles rotation. Two lefties who are renowned around baseball just happen to be pitching consecutive games for the Orioles. When looking ahead to upcoming series, Orioles fans often see two lefties pitching for an opposing team and sigh, knowing it’ll be that much tougher for the Orioles to win those games. Now, it’s the Orioles with two tough lefties.

Looking back at the recent rotations for the Orioles, it’s hard to get used to the fact that the Orioles have four legitimate major-league caliber starters in their rotation, and it actually gives the impression that the Orioles are capable of being competitive in every game they play. It’s exciting that every game will feature Matusz, Britton, Jeremy Guthrie or Jake Arrieta.

But this is what cannot happen: the Orioles cannot become the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners are on a pretty good roll right now, having won 11 of 14 games. They have one of the best rotations in baseball, but they cannot hit (their wins above replacement, or WAR, is 0.2 according to FanGraphs, worst in baseball by a healthy margin). No matter how good a team’s pitching, if they can’t hit, every game will be stressful. You’ve seen it if you’ve been watching the Orioles games. The starting pitchers have no room for error and the bullpen has to be nearly perfect to ensure victory.

Since Andy MacPhail’s arrival in 2007, it seems that much more focus has been given to the the pitching side of the house than it has to hitting. And on one level, I’m grateful for that. After watching the Brian Burreses and Daniel Cabreras of the world take up space in the O’s rotation, it’s like a little bit of heaven to watch the guys that have replaced them. But something has to be done about the hitting.

In this space yesterday, I wrote about trading Guthrie for players that will help in the future and not signing stopgap players to one-year contracts. It’s not an easy task and I don’t envy MacPhail for having to make those tough decisions, but relying on the young pitchers will only get a team so far (detractors will point to the San Francisco Giants and say it can get them to the World Series, but let’s get real. The Orioles not only play in the American League, they play in the AL East). These talented starters deserve to have a lineup that can support them, and it’s the next step in building a contender.

Stacey Long blogs about the Orioles at Camden Chat. Read Long’s Orioles observations as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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