For starters, the Orioles need better starting pitching

Too bad a baseball season is not like a Saturday round of golf with your friends. Maybe the Orioles could take a mulligan on their first half, when they went 36-52.

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Over the last few weeks, each time I thought things could not get worse for the team, they did.

That said, I am almost afraid to say that, in losing 12 of 13 to end the first half, that the O's hit rock bottom.

It would be hard to imagine the starting pitching getting worse than it was in recent weeks. Here are some stats.

* In the four-game series at Boston, O's starters pitched just 11 1/3 innings while the bullpen worked 19 2/3. In that span of 11 1/3, the O's starters gave up 26 hits and 20 earned runs for an ERA of 15.88.

* Over the last 16 games, Orioles starters are 2-11 with an ERA of 9.56.

* Over the last 27 games, Orioles starters have an ERA of 7.54 and just five quality starts.

* On the night of June 11, the ERA on the year for O's starters was a respectable 4.07. But over these last 27 games, during which the team is 6-21, the starters' ERA for the year has risen to an unsightly 5.00.

If the team has any chance of a turnaround of any kind as the second half begins tonight, it all starts with those starters.

They are averaging 4.7 innings per start over those 27 games. Not even five innings per start on average, much less six or seven.

Just once in the last 27 games has an Oriole pitched seven innings or more.

When the O's were 30-31 a month ago, I didn't have them them figured to be 16 games under .500 at the break. But back then, Jake Arrieta was 9-3, Zach Britton's ERA was 3.18, Jeremy Guthrie's was 3.77 and Brian Matusz had returned to the majors with an ERA of 2.45 in his first two starts of the year.

A lot of has changed since then.

Seeing Matusz return to end-of-2010 form at some point later this year would be a huge positive development for this team.

I fully expect to see Arrieta and Britton pitch better during the last 74 games. Guthrie will do his usual solid job of taking the ball every fifth day and eating innings and giving the team some solid starts. But per usual, he will probably get both bad luck and a lack of runs to work with. He seems dogged by both during his O's tenure.

Has the O's starting pitching hit rock bottom? I am afraid to answer that question right now.

By the way, thanks to all that made some nice comments about my series of articles on international scouting and the minors during the All-Star break.

I have been asked by many of you about my take on the Orioles' international efforts. But over the last few days, I just wanted to present the interviews and info for your information and discussion.

Over the next day or two, I will be happy to share my thoughts after talking to Andy MacPhail and Ben Badler for those interviews that were posted this week. Thanks to all for taking the time to read some lengthy articles in recent days.

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