Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Jason Hammel, and Scott Feldman. For the next 66 games, those five names are the keys to the Baltimore Orioles. Health will obviously play a role, but Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter seem at ease with this group pitching every day. I am highly confident in two, on the edge of my seat for one, hopeful in the fourth, and still not quite sure about the fifth. Make sense? Let me explain:
Chen and Gonzalez have been great pretty much since the day they arrived in Baltimore. For the failures that the Orioles have in developing young pitchers, Duquette has to be applauded for bringing in these two guys. Chen is about to turn 28 and Gonzalez 29, so the future is still bright for this duo who will only continue to improve.
Chen returning was the last piece in stabilizing the rotation. The worry last year was giving Chen extra rest later in the season, but with him missing so much time due to an oblique injury, Showalter won’t have to deal with that issue again.
Gonzalez has been consistent all season long and has seven straight quality starts. I hate that stat, but his 2.49 ERA in that span is a better indicator of how well he has pitched. Chen and Gonzalez both know what it is like pitching in a pennant race, and that experience will only pay dividends for the Orioles.
Edge of my seat:
It is crazy to think that I would be nervous for a guy who is tied for sixth in the majors in wins and is fresh off of making the All-Star team, but when it comes to Chris Tillman, that’s just the way it is. The record is there and even the ERA is there, but everything else points to Tillman teetering on the brink of disaster. Tillman seems to be in constant trouble and it takes him about three innings before he finally gets comfortable and settles down. By that time his pitch count is high and it is another night where he fails to pitch deep. He is often one hit away from a big inning, but to his credit, he works his way out of it.
Am I being too hard on him? Maybe. The fact remains though, that his WHIP is 1.35, good for 29th in the American League. As bad as everyone thinks Hammel is doing- and he is – his WHIP is at 1.44. That is not too far off from Tillman. This is something to keep an eye on because as of now, Tillman’s success this season can be called lucky. Eventually, allowing so many baserunners will catch up and the Orioles will start to pay.
Was Jason Hammel a one-year wonder? Perhaps he was, but the stuff I saw last year was filthy, and up to this point, Hammel has yet to rediscover that 2012 magic. The Orioles desperately need him to if they are going to make the playoffs again. Showalter seems to have the same hope in Hammel as I do as he is continually standing behind a guy with an ERA in the 5’s, when he has shown in the past to be impatient with pitchers who weren’t even as bad as Hammel has been.
I think the All-Star break will be good for Hammel. He seems to put too much pressure on himself and the time away from baseball this week may be exactly what the doctor ordered. If Hammel can regain the form that made him a success last season and in October, the Orioles will be in great shape to make a run at the division.
Not Quite Sure:
I haven’t watched enough of Scott Feldman to know if he will be good enough to help this rotation over the next 2+ months. He was ok in one start, bad in another, and great in the third. I have a feeling this will be what the Orioles will get from Feldman for the rest of the season. The comparisons to Joe Saunders of last year are fair and I am sure we will hear Showalter say “he kept us in the ballgame,” a lot over the next couple of months when referring to Feldman. That means, basically, “he wasn’t that good, but at least he didn’t give up seven runs.”
Unfortunately, this is what is to be expected from the Orioles when they trade for a pitcher. They won’t give up their top prospects to get anyone that can make a true impact so they are left with the Saunderses and Feldmans of the world to help keep the team afloat.
We all know about the offense, the defense, and the bullpen, but the five names mentioned at the start of the article will be the difference between waving towels at Camden Yards again on cool, breezy October night or counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report.