The stat that should concern all Orioles fans

Here it is: Over their last 22 games, Orioles starting pitchers have worked to an ERA of 5.53. That is a troubling statistic.

Orioles rotation this year:
* A 3.38 ERA in 27 games, with 15 quality starts through May 5.
* A 5.53 ERA in 22 games with 10 quality starts since May 6.

Over those first 27 games, the Orioles went 18-9 and their starters were averaging 6.1 innings per outing. In the last 22 games they have gone 11-11 and the starters have averaged 5.82 innings per outing.

Yes, that brings about cause for concern as the starters' ERA for the year has increased from 3.38 to 4.31 over those last 22 games. It actually is a little surprising that the club could go 11-11 with a starters' ERA over 5.00 in that time.

The last 22 games have also featured a stretch where the Orioles have faced Texas, Tampa Bay, New York, Kansas City, Washington, Boston, K.C. again and now Toronto.

That 4.31 rotation ERA for the whole season is actually just above average in the AL, where that mark is 4.30. But if the Orioles are to truly have a special season, their starters will probably need to get that mark under 4.00. If it drifts closer to 5.00 for the year, the losing will likely mount.

Tommy Hunter has clearly become a concern with an ERA of 7.18 over his last five starts. In his past four starts, Jake Arrieta has an ERA of 7.15. Those ERAs just won't get the job done at all, that is for sure.

The rotation is springing some leaks, but perhaps the consistency that Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel have shown can stabilize things. The O's will need Arrieta to pitch as he did when he had an ERA of 3.52 through May 2.

Brian Matusz has been better over his last seven starts and maybe Zach Britton will soon rejoin the rotation and add some stability, as well.

If the Orioles get a quality start this year, they win often. They are 22-3 when the starters provide one and 7-17 when they don't. Pretty clear cut there.

It's all about the pitching and the starting pitching is where that all starts, no pun intended. But we knew that in January and February and the point is being hammered home again in May.

The 2012 Orioles will go as far as their rotation takes them.

What is your take?: Is the O's rotation springing leaks or is this just a bump in the road? Will the rotation turn out to pitch more like it did over those first 27 games or as it has the past 22?

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