Can Orioles Starting Pitchers Bounce Back in 2016?

orioles player sitting in dugout with towel around neck

A lot has been made this offseason–and rightfully so–about the Orioles needing bounceback seasons from the majority of their rotation. We all can recite the stats of Orioles starting pitchers from memory at this point. Chris Tillman: 11-11 4.91 ERA. Miguel Gonzalez: 9-12 4.91 ERA. Kevin Gausman: 4-7 4.25 ERA. Ubaldo Jimenez: 12-10 4.11 ERA. Its not hard to imagine why prognosticators have predicted The Birds to give up the third most runs in baseball.

So what do the Orioles and their fans have to give them hope that 2016 will be better than 2015? Well, history. And not just recent history.

We all know that the 2014 Baltimore Orioles won 96 games and the American League East division title. How could we forget? It was a prolifically powerful team with great pitching. Tillman and Gonzalez sported ERAs more than a run-and-a-half lower than their 2015 campaigns, and Gausman 0.61 lower. But who’s to say that the 2015 versions of these pitchers aren’t the real versions as compared to 2014? Well, all we have to do is dig a little bit, say, back to 1996.

What you may recall about the 1996 Orioles team is that they made the playoffs for the first time since 1983, winning 88 games and earning a Wild Card spot. What you may not recall is how they got there.
First, that team had the most productive lineup in Orioles history. The team mashed a then-record 257 home runs with seven players that started the season on the roster hitting more than 20, and nine overall.

That led to a team-record 949 runs scored.

What people don’t remember is that the Orioles needed every one of those 257 home runs and 949 runs, because the pitching staff gave up 903 runs while throwing just one shutout.

Remember how great Mike Mussina was? In 1996 he won 19 games. But did you know his ERA was 4.81?

How about Scott Erickson? Yes, he won 13 games; while sporting a 5.02 ERA. David Wells won 11 games with 5.14 ERA.

In 1997, the Orioles, fresh off a loss to the Yankees in the 1996 ALCS, came back with a wire-to-wire 98-win season. That team scored 812 runs, down 137 runs from the year before (though still 5.01 R/PG), but their pitching staff gave up just 681 runs, down 222 runs from the year before.

Mussina bounced back, winning 15 games while pitching to a 3.20 ERA. Erickson bounced back, winning 16 games while pitching to a 3.69 ERA. Even David Wells, though pitching for a different team, bounced back, as he would go on to win 34 games over the next two seasons with a 3.85 ERA for the New York Yankees.

The point here is that even some of the pitchers we remember most fondly have bad seasons. Mussina in his 18-year career posted an ERA of 4.41 or higher five times. With one exception, those seasons were sandwiched between seasons with a sub-3.51 ERA. Scott Erickson is a former 20-game winner who pitched to a sub-4 ERA in two of his first three seasons with the club.

In 2015, we saw Miguel Gonzalez spend two stints on the disabled list. Chris Tillman started slowly, but from May 21-July 29, he pitched to a 3.35 ERA while going 6-2 over a 13 start span (the team was 9-4 in those games). An ankle injury sidelined Tillman for nearly two weeks after that, and he was slow to rebound upon returning. If he had never gotten hurt, who knows what his number would have been?

At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves, do we believe in these starters? We know who Ubaldo Jimenez is: an overpaid number 4 that can be brilliant if he throws strikes. The jury is still out on former first rounder Kevin Gausman. Is this the year he becomes the player the Orioles envisioned when they drafted him?

Perhaps most importantly, are we getting the Chris Tillman who from 2012-2014 won 38 games while pitching to a 3.42 ERA, or the Tillman who got derailed during a hot streak in 2015? Are we getting the Miguel Gonzalez who from 2012-2014 pitched to a 3.45 ERA over 75 games (69 starts), or the Miguel Gonzalez who got hurt twice in 2015 and never had a chance to fully recover? I’m inclined to think the former on both counts.

If the Orioles can add another starter to replace Wei-Yin Chen, much like Jimmy Key replaced David Wells in 1997 (sources say they are close to reaching an agreement with Yovani Gallardo), then there is reason to believe that this team could return to the playoffs in 2016.

This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured by Paul Valle. Bookmark the permalink.

About Paul Valle

Paul Valle
Paul Valle is a Baltimore native who has always had a passion for baseball. But his passion goes beyond the average spectator. Paul has been studying baseball--specifically the Orioles--since his youth. He not only appreciates the on field play, but the strategy and statistics behind it. Paul obtained a Bachelor...more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Hot off the street

Series Preview: Rays (10-10) @ Orioles (12-5)
Series Preview: Rays (10-10) @ Orioles (12-5)

After taking two of three from the visiting Boston Red Sox over the weekend, the Orioles will look to continue their excellent run of form against the Tampa Bay Rays during the second leg of the home ...read more

Baltimre Riles: Where’s the O?
Baltimre Riles: Where’s the O?

The final result of a chaotic series at Oriole Park at Camden Yards over the weekend was that the Orioles won two of three games over the Boston Red Sox and have yet to lose a single series three week...read more

Monday’s O’s Links: Joseph Helping Fuel Miley’s Stellar Start
Monday’s O’s Links: Joseph Helping Fuel Miley’s Stellar Start

Tempers flared, baseballs flew at heads, and suspensions are sure to be coming soon. More importantly, the O's took two of three from the Boston Red Sox over the weekend, pushing their record to a ste...read more

PiR: O’s Take the High Road, Kim Gets a Hit Off a Lefty
PiR: O’s Take the High Road, Kim Gets a Hit Off a Lefty

REALITY: Manny Machado and Dustin Pedroia kept their cool when the rest of their teams didn’t. https://twitter.com/brianmacp/status/856265211493445632 PERCEPTION: I gained a lot of respect f...read more

Week in Review: Good Vibes, Bad Blood
Week in Review: Good Vibes, Bad Blood

Well folks, we have another week in the books as we enter the final week of April. And the Orioles have another week of being in first place under their belt. After capping off an excellent firs...read more

View More