How to compete in the East: Win the arms race

How do the Orioles compete in the AL East? It is a fair question. If the Orioles added Mark Reynolds and J.J Hardy, while Boston added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, haven't the Orioles lost ground to Boston?

The answer is almost certainly yes.

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I can't imagine anyone figured the O's to make a move or moves to top the two Boston made. That is life in the AL East.

It seems the Orioles might sometimes have a better chance versus Boston and New York on the field than they do in the offseason when those clubs flash their real strength. And checkbooks.

I also certainly agree with anyone that would say that until and unless the O's start getting players like Crawford, they can't be expected to close the gap in the AL East.

The O's added some offense and made upgrades on the left side of their infield, but they didn't add the offense Boston did.

Still, there is one area that can help the O's close the gap and/or gain ground on the AL East big boys: their pitching.

If and when the O's young pitching fulfills its vast potential, they might actually gain some ground on the top teams.

I don't think the O's have to match every offensive move made by the clubs in the East, or produce a lineup that scores 900 runs, if they can get to the top or near the top of the league in pitching.

When they went 34-23 at the end of last year under Buck Showalter, it was with pitching leading the way. Sure, the club hit better and scored more as well, but the biggest improvement came from the arms.

The team ERA was 5.18 before Showalter and 3.54 with him at the helm. Oakland led the AL in ERA last year at 3.56.

The ERA of the O's starters under Showalter was even better at 3.16.

Meanwhile, the O's averaged 3.6 runs per game before Showalter and 4.1 after he took over. They scored half a run per game more under Buck, but gave up 1.64 fewer in ERA per game.

It is not as simple as the raw numbers make it seem, but I always have been and always will believe in a pitching-first philosophy.

Did you see in the playoffs this year, where the top hurlers kept getting out the big hitters and San Francisco shut down Texas in the World Series?

The Giants finished ninth in the NL in runs this year, but first in team ERA. In the postseason, they averaged a quite modest 3.9 runs per game.

You can challenge the big boys in the East with top-of-the-line pitching.

It is the O's best hope right now. They need Brian Matusz to take another step forward next year and guys like Jake Arrieta and Brad Bergesen to reach their potential and a guy like Jeremy Guthrie pitch to another ERA of 3.83.

It would really be a lift if Zach Britton turns out to be as good as some think he will be.

They just need to keep adding pitching, through all means and keep developing it. Everyone wants pitching. Pitching is what got the Birds a new left side of the infield.

Power is nice and a potent lineup would be great. But the quicker path to contention in the AL East will likely come from continued improvement on the mound.

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