What is the state of the Orioles’ pitching?

So how did the Orioles’ pitching fare in 2013?

A factual answer is, not as good as 2012. The team ERA went up from 3.90 to 4.20. The O’s went from sixth to 10th in the American League in team ERA. The starters’ ERA increased from 4.42 to 4.57 to rank 12th in the league. The bullpen ERA increased from 3.02 to 3.52 to rank sixth.

To say the least, the Orioles need to do a better job of keeping the ball in the park next year. They allowed 202 home runs this season, up from 184, and they gave up more than any AL team. The Orioles allowed 117 homers at home and 85 on the road.

The Orioles’ WHIP and team strikeout-to-walk ratio was very close to 2012 and the team had 78 quality starts, identical to the 2012 total.

One notion I can shoot down is the theory that the Orioles bullpen pitched worse in 2013 because the starters didn’t go deep enough in games. While the O’s starters do need to get deeper into games, O’s starters pitched 937 2/3 innings in 2012 and 939 in 2013. Bet that will surprise some of you.

The O’s bullpen actually pitched 30 fewer innings and played three fewer extra-inning games in 2013. Still, no doubt they need more innings from their starters in 2014.

O’s ERA by month:

April: 3.81
May: 5.06
June: 4.40
July: 3.95
August: 4.34
September: 3.62

Other pitching notes:

* Chris Tillman led the staff with 16 wins. He came up a win short of becoming the 19th Oriole to record a 17-win season. Tillman was winless his last four starts and won just twice over his last 11 starts.

* Tillman’s 16 wins are the most by an O’s pitcher since Mike Mussina won 18 in 1999. The Orioles’ last 20-game winner was Mike Boddicker, who went 20-11 in 1984.

* Three Orioles relievers had some wild splits. Brian Matusz gave up an average of just .168 against left-handed batters but .302 to right-handed hitters. Tommy Hunter gave up an average of .141 against right-handed batters and .294 to lefties. All 11 homers Hunter allowed came versus lefties. Darren O’Day gave up an average of .309 versus lefties and .154 against right-handed batters.

* The Orioles used 14 starting pitchers this season.

* The Orioles had just two complete games; only Minnesota, with one, had fewer in the AL. Tampa Bay led the league with nine and New York was second with seven. The AL average was four complete games per team in 2013. Jim Palmer, by the way, pitched 25 complete games in 1975.

The Orioles need to improve their starting pitching. We know that. But how to do it is a key question. We know the team is unlikely to throw a huge contract at a free agent pitcher and that acquiring someone like David Price via a trade would be very difficult to do.

Can the Orioles win without a No. 1 pitcher? Well, they did win 93 games and make the playoffs last season without one. Is the answer to have better depth - one through five - even if you don’t have an ace?

The 2013 Orioles scored more runs than the 2012 playoff Orioles, but they won eight fewer games. The pitching was the main reason. It needs to get better in the rotation and in the bullpen for 2014.

What is your take on the current state of the O’s pitching? What changes, improvements or upgrades are needed for next year?

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