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The Big Five Starters - not so bad?


larrytt

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Sure, we definitely could really use more depth in the starting rotation. But it's not as bad as some make it seem. Let's look at what we actually have and what they did last year.

Tillman: 33 starts, 206 innings, 3.71 ERA

Gonzalez: 28 starts, 171 innings, 3.78 ERA

Chen: 23 starts, 137 innings, 4.07 ERA

Norris: 32 starts, 176 innings, 4.18 ERA (with Orioles and Houston)

Tillman and Norris made every start, Gonzalez only missed four, and even Chen, who was injured, missed only about nine. So we have a relatively hardy group here.

Now we throw Gausman into the mix. He has never been on the disabled list, and as far as I know has no injury problems. From another thread, projections from Steamer, Oliver, PECOTA, and ZiPs project his ERA next year as 3.97, 3.94, 3.86, and 4.28. (Disclaimer: I only vaguely know about these four groups, but I'm assuming they know something about what they're saying.) Let's say say 4.00. Then we have five starters who, when their ERA's are averaged together, come out to 3.95. (It'd actually be lower since our better starters would get more innings.)

Assuming Gausman meets these projections and continues to be healthy, then based on last year, we'd only need about 13 starts from someone outside these five starters. Let's be conservative, and say 20.

So for 142 games, we have starting pitchers with ERA's of 3.95. Now assume we make up the other 20 games with starters with 5.00 ERA's. Realistically, they'd pitch less innings per game than the other pitchers, and so would have less effect on the starting pitching overall ERA. But that just hides the fact that we'd have to bring in relievers early, and that probably won't work out well. So let's assume they work they same number of innings on average as the others. (Let's be conservative here.) Then the starting pitching ERA comes out as 4.08. Realistically, since our better pitchers (such as Tillman) will pitch more innings, it would be more like 4.00.

Where does this put us in the AL East? Last year the starting pitcher ERA was as follows:

TBR: 3.81

BOS: 3.84

NYY: 4.08

BAL: 4.57

TOR: 4.81

So around 4.00, or something close to that, combined with a strong offense, would likely keep us in the hunt for the playoffs.

Some things do need to go right for this to happen, of course. Gausman has to live up to projections. Norris has to pitch in the AL East roughly like he did outside it. (And remember that if he or Gausman is the 5th starter, they'll have fewer starts.) And we have to have relatively healthy starting pitching, with no major injuries.

Throw in last year's offense, with perhaps improvement from Wieters and Markakis, and we're looking pretty strong. Bottom line - to make the playoffs, a team has to play well, so if we're looking to make the playoffs, we have to assume that our playes will play well and be relatively healthy. If they do, then things get interesting.

Secretly (OK, not so secret now), I'd just as much like to bring in one more good hitter than another starter. Bringing in another starter improves us about as much as the difference in his WAR and the weakest of our current starting five, which isn't really much. (Plus the games where we have an injured starter.) Bringing in another good hitter could match or exceed that. Bad pitching knocks teams out of contention, but with decent pitching, the offense can carry the team just as much as pitching.

Having said all this, it still would be nice to add a sub 4.00 ERA starter to the mix for depth and to give us better starters in those projected 20 games when a starter is injured.

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I don't think our SP is all that bad either, but I believe that Britton is due for a comeback year and is more likely to land in the 5 slot than Gausman.

I'd go with Gausman, but whichever one doesn't make the top five likely becomes the backup.

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We have zero depth. Any of those guys go down for any real length of time (god forbid two go down), the season is pretty much over.

I'm not horrified we didn't sign burnette or arroyo ( I really wanted garza), but I aj concerned there is no Calvary coming this year should we need to make call ups.

Bundy isn't ready, Gausman is unproven at best, and Rodriguez and mike wright aren't there yet either.

Steve Johnson, Matusz and Britton are NOT guys you want to count on for anything more than a spot start.

The lack of pitching depth is noticeable and disappointing. Duquette is quickly burning up the good will he earned the last few years with this horrendous offseason.

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Sure, we definitely could really use more depth in the starting rotation. But it's not as bad as some make it seem. Let's look at what we actually have and what they did last year.

Tillman: 33 starts, 206 innings, 3.71 ERA

Gonzalez: 28 starts, 171 innings, 3.78 ERA

Chen: 23 starts, 137 innings, 4.07 ERA

Norris: 32 starts, 176 innings, 4.18 ERA (with Orioles and Houston)

Tillman and Norris made every start, Gonzalez only missed four, and even Chen, who was injured, missed only about nine. So we have a relatively hardy group here.

Now we throw Gausman into the mix. He has never been on the disabled list, and as far as I know has no injury problems. From another thread, projections from Steamer, Oliver, PECOTA, and ZiPs project his ERA next year as 3.97, 3.94, 3.86, and 4.28. (Disclaimer: I only vaguely know about these four groups, but I'm assuming they know something about what they're saying.) Let's say say 4.00. Then we have five starters who, when their ERA's are averaged together, come out to 3.95. (It'd actually be lower since our better starters would get more innings.)

Assuming Gausman meets these projections and continues to be healthy, then based on last year, we'd only need about 13 starts from someone outside these five starters. Let's be conservative, and say 20.

So for 142 games, we have starting pitchers with ERA's of 3.95. Now assume we make up the other 20 games with starters with 5.00 ERA's. Realistically, they'd pitch less innings per game than the other pitchers, and so would have less effect on the starting pitching overall ERA. But that just hides the fact that we'd have to bring in relievers early, and that probably won't work out well. So let's assume they work they same number of innings on average as the others. (Let's be conservative here.) Then the starting pitching ERA comes out as 4.08. Realistically, since our better pitchers (such as Tillman) will pitch more innings, it would be more like 4.00.

Where does this put us in the AL East? Last year the starting pitcher ERA was as follows:

TBR: 3.81

BOS: 3.84

NYY: 4.08

BAL: 4.57

TOR: 4.81

So around 4.00, or something close to that, combined with a strong offense, would likely keep us in the hunt for the playoffs.

Some things do need to go right for this to happen, of course. Gausman has to live up to projections. Norris has to pitch in the AL East roughly like he did outside it. (And remember that if he or Gausman is the 5th starter, they'll have fewer starts.) And we have to have relatively healthy starting pitching, with no major injuries.

Throw in last year's offense, with perhaps improvement from Wieters and Markakis, and we're looking pretty strong. Bottom line - to make the playoffs, a team has to play well, so if we're looking to make the playoffs, we have to assume that our playes will play well and be relatively healthy. If they do, then things get interesting.

Secretly (OK, not so secret now), I'd just as much like to bring in one more good hitter than another starter. Bringing in another starter improves us about as much as the difference in his WAR and the weakest of our current starting five, which isn't really much. (Plus the games where we have an injured starter.) Bringing in another good hitter could match or exceed that. Bad pitching knocks teams out of contention, but with decent pitching, the offense can carry the team just as much as pitching.

Having said all this, it still would be nice to add a sub 4.00 ERA starter to the mix for depth and to give us better starters in those projected 20 games when a starter is injured.

Nice post. And if everything goes well it might work. But things don't normally go well.

I actually think Tillman can pitch better than last year. He will be 26 this year and still is improving. Gonzalez may do slightly better if we look at his last 18 months.

However, what we saw from Norris was a 4.80 quality pitcher in the AL East. Gausman may become a 4.00 ERA pitcher when he learns to control his stuff and be consistent with his sliders but that may not be at the start of the season. He is still in a pretty steep learning curve.

Johnson, McFarland, and Stinson can help some. Yoon may help if he can pass a physical. But that doesn't seem likely at the moment.

Each year there is a certain amount of 6.00 ERA pitching that goes on and all in all the down side of several of the pitchers is were the O's come up short. It would appear that the O's will need to add a veteran starter during the year much like last year.

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I think all the talk about Gausman is still premature. This is the AL East, people. He is a rookie. I don't care how good he ultimately will be, there is no way he doesn't get his knocks and there may be times, if he makes the rotation, that he has to be taken out of the rotation to keep his confidence when he gets blown up a few times in a row. Remember how Tillman was for several years. I believe it would have been much better for him to be in Norfolk than to somehow be counted on as a starter out of the gate.

And everyone on the board is just taking it as a given that Chris Tillman is going to be a number one, TOR starter and have no further possible ups and downs. Well, I have seen plenty of a good season followed by a not so good season in young pitchers. The Orioles lack of veteran starters was a major problem last year that they didn't fill in the offseason signing Garcia and Jurrgens, and then they had to go get Feldman and Norris. It is still a major problem that they have decided to not address this offseason and it will be the biggest problem again. I would have preferred that they get Burnett and Arroyo because I think pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching decides who wins pennants.

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Nice post. And if everything goes well it might work. But things don't normally go well.

I actually think Tillman can pitch better than last year. He will be 26 this year and still is improving. Gonzalez may do slightly better if we look at his last 18 months.

However, what we saw from Norris was a 4.80 quality pitcher in the AL East. Gausman may become a 4.00 ERA pitcher when he learns to control his stuff and be consistent with his sliders but that may not be at the start of the season. He is still in a pretty steep learning curve.

Johnson, McFarland, and Stinson can help some. Yoon may help if he can pass a physical. But that doesn't seem likely at the moment.

Each year there is a certain amount of 6.00 ERA pitching that goes on and all in all the down side of several of the pitchers is were the O's come up short. It would appear that the O's will need to add a veteran starter during the year much like last year.

You have learned your lessons well, Grasshopper. ;)

I think Larry's scenario is really a "best case" scenario. It's not utterly unrealistic, but it's not the most likely case. Also, note that it involves a lot of innings from the bullpen, with Norris at 5.5 innings per start and Gausman and the replacements probably in that territory.

That said, I think we can improve on the 4.57 ERA we posted last year. Before we acquired Feldman and Norris, we had 28 starts by pitchers who posted a 6.64 ERA and averaged 4.99 innings per game. Feldman's gone, but Norris can surely beat those numbers, I suspect Gausman can for at least part of a season, and I think even the other spot starters can probably beat that number. The starters' ERA was 4.79 in April-June, 4.35 in July-September. I think 4.35 or a little lower would probably be a realistic "mid-case" projection for this staff, with an upside projection around Larry's 4.00 and a downside of 4.70.

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I think all the talk about Gausman is still premature. This is the AL East, people. He is a rookie. I don't care how good he ultimately will be, there is no way he doesn't get his knocks and there may be times, if he makes the rotation, that he has to be taken out of the rotation to keep his confidence when he gets blown up a few times in a row. Remember how Tillman was for several years. I believe it would have been much better for him to be in Norfolk than to somehow be counted on as a starter out of the gate.

And everyone on the board is just taking it as a given that Chris Tillman is going to be a number one, TOR starter and have no further possible ups and downs. Well, I have seen plenty of a good season followed by a not so good season in young pitchers. The Orioles lack of veteran starters was a major problem last year that they didn't fill in the offseason signing Garcia and Jurrgens, and then they had to go get Feldman and Norris. It is still a major problem that they have decided to not address this offseason and it will be the biggest problem again. I would have preferred that they get Burnett and Arroyo because I think pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching decides who wins pennants.

I can't really argue with any of these points. Another experienced starter who can soak up a lot of innings would improve our margin of error considerably.

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Norris has claimed that he was pitching through elbow issues near the end of last season, some of his poor performance could possibly be discounted from that.

I'm sorta sick of the "AL East offenses" talk - if you look at the top 5 offenses last year, only 2 were AL East teams (one was us). Tampa is a team that wins because of pitching, not hitting. The Yankees have a decent lineup, but they weren't a top 5 (or even a top 10) offense.

Both the Rangers and Angels scored more runs than Tampa and New York, Oakland scored more runs than we did. The only team without any comparable was Boston, who had a significantly more potent offense than the others.

Norris pitching in the AL West faced offenses just as strong as the ones in the East.

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You have learned your lessons well, Grasshopper. ;)

I think Larry's scenario is really a "best case" scenario. It's not utterly unrealistic, but it's not the most likely case. Also, note that it involves a lot of innings from the bullpen, with Norris at 5.5 innings per start and Gausman and the replacements probably in that territory.

That said, I think we can improve on the 4.57 ERA we posted last year. Before we acquired Feldman and Norris, we had 28 starts by pitchers who posted a 6.64 ERA and averaged 4.99 innings per game. Feldman's gone, but Norris can surely beat those numbers, I suspect Gausman can for at least part of a season, and I think even the other spot starters can probably beat that number. The starters' ERA was 4.79 in April-June, 4.35 in July-September. I think 4.35 or a little lower would probably be a realistic "mid-case" projection for this staff, with an upside projection around Larry's 4.00 and a downside of 4.70.

Best case scenario sums it up nicely. Its not a far fetched best case, but its probably a 20% chance this happens. Too many 'ifs'.

Another point, this rotation is going to abuse the bullpen and that will cost us.

Norris and Guasman don't project to go deep into many games, and honesty Chen and Gonzales don't do well in the 6th and 7th either.

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Here is the thing about the AL East:

Its not the AL east of a decade ago.

Three of the five teams in the AL East have offenses either at or below league average. The Orioles are one of the best offenses in the AL East by many measures.

The days of having to go up against massive Yankee/ Boston lineups 40 times a year are gone. The rays are always going to have trouble scoring runs and the Jays - well they are who they are.

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You mean the same pitching staff that was near the bottom of the league last year and everything will be great?

Orioles pitching staff was league average last year.

Which isn't good enough, but its a far cry from "near the bottom".

Team ERA+ 100. League average was 100.

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