Starting the new year with good starters

Happy new year, everyone! I hope 2015 is your best year yet.

As for the Orioles, they begin the new year with a pretty solid starting rotation.

If pitching is the biggest key to any season - and starting pitching is even bigger than the bullpen in terms of importance - the Orioles seem to be in decent shape in that regard.

As some readers seem to be focusing almost 24/7 on which outfielder the Orioles may or may not acquire, let’s not forget the pitchers.

None of the starters pitched over their head or exceeded expectations to any degree that they could not reasonably pitch as well in 2015.

Let’s take a closer look ...

Chris Tillman: He went 13-6 with a 3.34 ERA. He went 20 straight starts allowing three earned runs or less. He went 6-1 with a 2.33 ERA and .218 average against after the All-Star break. The Orioles went 11-1 in his last 12 regular season starts.

Wei-Yin Chen: He went 16-6 with a 3.54 ERA. He posted the most wins and lowest ERA in his three Baltimore seasons. He was 7-3 with a 2.76 ERA after the All-Star break and was 13-4 in 25 starts beginning May 9. Chen walked 35 in 185 2/3, the fewest walks in a single season in club history for a pitcher with at least 175 innings.

Bud Norris: He went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA, posting career bests in wins, ERA, WHIP and walks per nine innings. He went 8-2 with a 3.27 ERA after the All-Star break. Norris went 9-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 14 starts against the AL East and the Orioles were 13-1 in those games.

miguel-gonzalez-white-side-throwing-sidebar.jpgMiguel Gonzalez: He went 10-9 with a 3.23 ERA that led all O’s starters. In 13 starts beginning July 1, he was 6-4 with a 2.09 ERA. He went 5-2 with a 2.78 ERA against the AL East. Some still doubt him, but it is hard to understand why.

Kevin Gausman: He went 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA. He allowed three earned runs or fewer in 16 of his 20 starts and posted a 3.18 ERA in nine road starts. He did this in six different stints on the big league club, making one wonder what he could do with a full season in the majors and off the Baltimore-Norfolk shuttle.

Ubaldo Jimenez: He went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA and was the weak link, losing his rotation spot late in the year. Will he be handed a rotation spot coming north in April or will he have to win one back? He pitched to a 3.41 ERA in a 12-start stretch from May 2-June 30 and a few late-season adjustments provide some hope for a turnaround this season.

The Orioles pitching staff ranked third in the league in team ERA and fifth in starters’ ERA, both very solid numbers.

But the Orioles starters produced just one quality start in the playoffs and we know they need to pitch deeper in games more often. There is room for improvement.

But as we wonder and speculate about position player moves and so forth, the Orioles start the New Year today with a solid rotation.

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