The statistics are the first points of reference when critiquing the Orioles pitching staff this season. Eyes are drawn to a 5.84 ERA that’s the highest in club history, the 258 home runs allowed that also led the majors. But there’s more to the story.
Manager Brandon Hyde will preach the urgency to upgrade and how a team can’t compete in the American League East with these deficiencies. But he also will place an asterisk beside these numbers and explain the complications in fully judging how they arrived and the younger individuals responsible for them.
“I think a lot of them are still so early in their career, and this is a tough division to evaluate starting pitching, just because the lineups that you face are the premiere offensive lineups in the game,” Hyde said before the final home game.
“Our young starters, the majority of them missed a full year last year. I think that was unfair, also. Even though we talked a lot about how the secondary site was positive in a lot of ways, one thing was it didn’t allow game action and it didn’t allow you to try to work through a fourth, a fifth, a sixth inning, three times though an order. Those types of things that really are what this game is about. So, it was more simulated baseball instead of actual major league baseball, or minor league baseball in their case, from last year.
“I think that you still clean-slate guys, and we’re giving a ton of guys great experiences right now. Now, let’s see who can deal with some adversity, who can bounce back from it, learn from it and continue to improve.”
The Orioles used 39 pitchers this season, and three position players in emergency relief. Pat Valaika was called upon twice and didn’t allow a run in 1 1/3 innings.
When Pat Valaika resembles a high-leverage reliever in your bullpen, you may have some issues.
The rotation posted a 5.99 ERA, the most in the majors, in 735 1/3 innings that were the fewest. The bullpen’s 5.70 ERA also led the majors. The 666 2/3 innings were the third-most, with Tampa Bay’s 703 based more on design than the rotation’s inefficiency.
There’s no way to calculate exactly how much the loss of the 2020 minor league season influenced these numbers, but the Orioles were hoping that young starters such as Dean Kremer (7.55 ERA), Keegan Akin (6.63), Alexander Wells (6.75), Zac Lowther (6.67) and Mike Baumann (9.90) would take that next step and earn regular turns.
Maybe next year.
Glad you asked.
Franco signed with the Braves six days later and appeared in 10 games with Triple-A Gwinnett, going 5-for-30 (.167) with five walks and six strikeouts. He didn’t get back on the field until Sept. 16 and didn’t return to the majors, but does get the chance to hop back onto the free agent market.
The Orioles are unsettled at third base, but will pass on him.
Franco was worth a shot, but he batted .210/.253/.355 with 22 doubles, 11 homers and 47 RBIs in 104 games and got noticeably slower, to the point where my granddaughter could crawl up the first base line and beat him by a step. Or a hand.
Rio Ruiz moved to second base for Franco, was claimed off waivers by the Rockies on May 24 and batted .171/.225/.200 (6-for-35) with a double in 30 games. He was lot better at Triple-A Albuquerque, slashing .304/.361/.496 with 20 doubles and seven home runs in 59 games.
As long as we’re connecting these dots, Ruiz played second base for the Orioles because they released Yolmer Sánchez on March 30. A surprise move considering how the position was handed to him after the waiver claim and he owned a Gold Glove.
He didn’t hit in spring training, but still an unexpected decision.
The Braves signed Sánchez the next day to a minor league deal and he didn’t play for them. He appeared in 102 games with Gwinnett and batted .216/.309/.352 with nine doubles, three triples and nine home runs.
* I turned in my Cy Young ballot last week. I can’t reveal my picks until the winner is announced, but no one will accuse me of being a homer.
The industry consensus seems to be Robbie Ray and Gerrit Cole in some order in the top two spots. But that is an unofficial poll.
The ballot holds five picks. I narrowed mine down to six and had to make a difficult cut.
The only runaway winner figures to be Shohei Ohtani for Most Valuable Player, which is unfortunate for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and his really poor timing. He’d be such a slam dunk with a .311/.401/.601 line, 48 home runs and 111 RBIs.
It could be worse.
Lou Gehrig won the Triple Crown in 1934, batting .363/.465/.706 with 49 home runs and 166 RBIs, and he finished fifth.
Ted Williams won the Triple Crown in 1942 and finished second to Joe Gordon. He won it again in 1947 and his numbers crushed Joe DiMaggio’s, but the Yankee Clipper won the award.