It seems fair to say that things have not worked out as well as many hoped on the pitching side for the Orioles this year. The plan was supposed to be to “grow the arms”, but that hasn’t exactly paid dividends yet. In fact, it hasn’t really done so at all in quite a long time. The best pitcher the O’s have developed since 1991 - a span of 20 years (a generation, if you will) - is clearly Mike Mussina. For number two on the list, we have a massive drop.
The list of best pitchers the Orioles developed in the last 20 years, using Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) as the measuring stick (not that that’s really necessary, but it provides some perspective):
1. Mussina. Accumulated 47.5 (fWAR) as an Orioles, and 85.6 fWAR for his career. He was really, really good.
2. Erik Bedard. He missed some time with injuries, but had a nice run in Baltimore when he put things together - especially that 2007 season when he led the majors in strikeout rate (10.9 K/9). After being traded to Seattle he never managed to stay on the field long enough to replicate that success (though 2011 is looking OK so far). 16.1 fWAR as an Oriole, 20.4 career.
3. Sir Sidney Ponson. It’s a little sad how quickly we arrive at the Punchin’ Aruban. He had a couple good seasons, notably the one during which he was traded to the Giants (before returning as a free agent). His value largely comes from having pitched so much - close to 300 career games. 16.5 fWAR as an Oriole, 20.0 career.
4. Arthur Rhodes. Really. Still hanging around at age 41, too (he debuted in 1991 with Mussina). 6.3 fWAR as an Oriole, 18.4 career.
5. Daniel Cabrera. The power arm. The strikeouts (sometimes). The lack of control. And it’s not as if Cabrera is really a developmental success story; they just kept giving him chances to pitch based on the potential (that he never reached). 9.2 fWAR as an Oriole, 8.8 career.
I’m going to stop at 5 because, well, there isn’t much point in going on. The next most valuable pitcher who debuted as an Oriole in 1991 or later and spent at least some time before that in the O’s farm system is maybe Jim Johnson. Or Brad Bergesen. Yeah.
That is an atrocious run, and if we did 1992 instead of 1991 then that would drop off Mussina and Rhodes. The list would be Bedard-Ponson-Cabrera. Those are the jewels of the Baltimore farm system. Only a couple other teams in baseball have been worse on the high end:
Angels: John Lackey (36.2 career fWAR)
Astros: Roy Oswalt (48.8)
Athletics: Tim Hudson (48.0)
Blue Jays: Roy Halladay (67.8)
Braves: Kevin Millwood (46.4)
Brewers: Ben Sheets (31.7)
Cardinals: Matt Morris (29.5)
Cubs: Carlos Zambrano (32.2)
Diamondbacks (expansion team!): Brandon Webb (32.9)
Dodgers: Hideo Nomo (24.9)
Giants: Tim Lincecum (28.0)
Indians: CC Sabathia (55.5)
Mariners: Felix Hernandez (31.2)
Marlins: Josh Becket (36.7)
Mets: Bobby Jones (13.2)
Nationals/Expos: Javier Vazquez (52.8)
Padres: Jake Peavy (30.4)
Phillies: Cole Hamels (23.1)
Pirates: Jon Lieber (37.5)
Rangers: Darren Oliver (22.0)
Rays (expansion team!): James Shields (19.8)
Red Sox: Jon Lester (21.1)
Reds: Johnny Cueto (7.5)
Rockies: Aaron Cook (20.5)
Royals: Zack Greinke (29.4)
Tigers: Justin Verlander (30.9)
Twins: Brad Radke (46.2)
White Sox: Mark Buehrle (45.0)
Yankees: Andy Pettitte (66.9)
And when your No. 3 guy is D-Cab, that means there’s not much depth, either.
Maybe one of (1) Brian Matusz, (2) Jake Arrieta, (3) Chris Tillman, or (4) Zach Britton will break through here. Heck, maybe all of them will.
Currently these guys are respectively: (1) putting up a 1.8 K/BB ratio in Triple-A after coming back from an injury throwing 86 mph, (2) likely out for the season due to injury, after posting a 5.05 ERA, (3) not doing much of anything in either Triple-A or the majors this year (though his last start was decent), and (4) on the DL after giving up 23 runs in his last 6.1 major league IP.
Keep climbing, fellas, and maybe you too can reach those lofty heights where Daniel Cabrera walked (pun intended).
Why has this issue persisted for the Orioles for so long? Some of it is surely bad luck - young pitchers aren’t exactly the safest bet in the world even under good circumstances. It happens.
But at this point, surely some of it isn’t luck. And it would behoove Andy MacPhail (or the next general manager) to figure out what’s going on and fix it.
Daniel Moroz blogs about the Orioles for Camden Crazies and joins MASNsports.com as part of our season-long initiative to welcome guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.