In looking at the rotation, are O’s fans hopeful or fearful?

While this has the potential to be a quieter offseason than most for the Orioles, it also seems like it will be an offseason without the pursuit of a starting pitcher. At least one that can step right in on the big league level.

Right now, the Orioles have six starters for five spots. Some feel the rotation gets off to a good start with Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. But then it falls off a cliff with the veterans Yovani Gallardo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley.

gallardo-pitching-white-sidebar.jpgLet’s start with Gallardo. He went 6-8 with a 5.42 ERA that ranked as the worst of his career. The Orioles added a pitcher that had worked to an ERA exactly two runs less at 3.42 the previous season with Texas and one that had pitched 180 innings or more seven straight seasons. For Baltimore, he threw just 118 innings and he went on the disabled list with shoulder issues.

But Gallardo gave up three runs in 12 innings over his last two starts of the season and pitched to an ERA of 3.38 in a four-start stretch in August. Throwing around 88 mph before he went on the DL, he showed more readings of 91-92 mph after. The Orioles hope that he will have a healthy year in 2017 and look more like the pitcher they thought they signed before the 2016 season.

Miley had an ERA of 8.41 in his first eight starts with the Orioles, but worked to an ERA of 1.23 over his last three starts with two walks and 23 strikeouts. It was a dramatic reversal. If Miley could pitch closer to his career 4.18 ERA, the O’s would have a back-end piece of their rotation with four years of 190 or more innings on his resume. And he’s a lefty.

Jimenez pitched to an ERA of 2.45 with a WHIP of 0.86 over his last seven starts of the year, starting Aug. 25. From that date, he allowed a batting average against of just .170, which was the lowest in the majors during that span. His season ended badly in a relief role in the wild card game. But did his strong finish leading up to the postseason provide him the confidence to pitch better in 2017 than his season ERA of 5.44? Jimenez is 26-31 with an ERA of 4.72 in his three Baltimore seasons.

Meawhile, Tillman went 16-6 with an ERA of 3.77 in 30 starts, Gausman was 9-12 with a 3.61 ERA in 30 starts and Bundy went 10-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 36 games with 14 starts.

The Orioles rotation improved by a large margin in the second half. At the All-Star break, the starters had an ERA of 5.15. In the second half, that number was 4.24. Over a full year, a rotation pitching to an ERA of 4.24 would have ranked fourth in the American League in 2016.

Can the 2017 starters look more like the second-half rotation next year? Can the Orioles contend with three starters that look solid and three that look shaky?

The Orioles rotation depth for next year could come from pitchers on the big league roster or at the higher levels of the minors like Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright and Joe Gunkel. It might also include Jayson Aquino, Parker Bridwell, Jason Garcia and David Hess.

During the 2016 season, the rotation was an issue often for the Orioles. But a better second half, which included some solid final starts from Gallardo, Miley and Jimenez, might provide at least a glimmer of hope for a more solid rotation starting in April.

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