The Orioles rotation was bad - really bad - during the 2017 season. The team ERA for its starters was 5.70, was last in the American League and was the highest rotation ERA in Orioles history, which of course, began in 1954.
While the rotation ERA was a tick better last year at 5.48, that still rated last in the AL, and a case could be made that it wasn’t that much better than the disaster of 2017.
The 2018 rotation pitched fewer innings than the year before (846 to 833 2/3) and posted a higher batting average against (.284 to .280) and a higher OPS against (.850 to .837).
The Orioles rotation last season did produce 64 quality starts to rank seventh-best in the AL and 18th in the majors. Both of the last two rotations allowed 159 home runs and that was 14th in the AL in 2017 and last in 2018.
Contrast the struggles of the last two years to the rotation for the 2014 AL East champion Orioles, who sported a rotation ERA of 3.61 to rank fifth-best in the AL. The most used starters that year were Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel González and Ubaldo Jiménez.
A look at the O’s rotation ERA and AL rank in recent seasons
2012 - 4.42 (ninth)
2013 - 4.57 (12th)
2014 - 3.61 (fifth)
2015 - 4.53 (14th)
2016 - 4.72 (13th)
2017 - 5.70 (15th)
2018 - 5.48 (15th)
So, yes, the Orioles made the playoffs with a rotation that rated ninth in 2012 and 13th in 2016, but that’s not how they draw it up and no doubt Birdland is ready to see a rotation that doesn’t rank among the bottom three or four in the league. That has been the case since 2014.
Barring winter trades, the Orioles will head to Sarasota in February with Bundy, Cobb and Cashner set for their rotation. Then it may be a revolving door for the fourth and fifth spots, as a rebuilding team does what it should and give plenty of young players the chance to show their stuff.
I’ve written previously that while the Orioles could pursue veterans on one-year free agent contracts for the back of the rotation, I’d rather see some of their own pitchers fill out the rotation. Let’s see more of the likes of Hess, Josh Rogers, John Means, Luis Ortiz, Yefry Ramírez and Jimmy Yacabonis. They could be joined during the year by looks for pitchers such as Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer.
We’re probably looking at another season in 2019 when that rotation is going to rank in the bottom third of the AL. If the club gets some performances to top that, they’ll take it as they try to build a long-term rotation with which they can win.
The rookies get honored: Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. and two-way Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani won the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year awards last night. Awards season is underway.
Ohtani is the third Angels player to win the AL Rookie of the Year. The others were Tim Salmon in 1993 and Mike Trout in 2012.
I was among the 30 voters from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for the AL award and had Ohtani first on my ballot followed by two Yankees in Miguel Andújar and Gleyber Torres.
Ohtani’s two-way performance was remarkable. He joined Babe Ruth as the only players in major league history with 10 pitching appearances and 20 home runs in a season. And he pitched well, with a 3.31 ERA and 11.0 strikeouts per nine in those 10 appearances, showing a fastball that could touch 100 mph. In 367 plate appearances, he hit .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers, 61 RBIs and an OPS of .925.
AFL note: Orioles minor league pitcher Tanner Chleborad threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts Monday in the Arizona Fall League. In 10 games for Glendale, the 25-year-old right-hander has an ERA of 1.46. The Orioles could potentially add Chleborad to their 40-man roster before the Winter Meetings, or else he would be Rule 5 eligible this year.
Chleborad (pronounced Kleb-bore-add) has thrown six straight scoreless outings for Glendale covering 7 1/3 innings.
Chleborad went 6-1 with a 3.61 ERA at Double-A Bowie this past season. In 62 1/3 innings, he allowed 69 hits with a .285 batting average against. Chleborad was taken in round 16 of the 2014 draft out of Washington State. He pitches mostly using a sinker and slider, throwing between 91 and 95 mph.