Thursday Thoughts: Where Would Bullpen Be Without…Richard Bleier?!

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. I was very much hoping to see Alex Cobb make his Orioles debut last night. The guy who wore #17 and pitched two previous games for the Orioles was obviously not Alex Cobb. He was instead a guy that was still building up his arm strength and preparing for the season.

For the first few innings of last night’s game, I think we did see the real Cobb, but then, things unraveled. It’s still too early to write off Cobb, but the O’s could use a lot more from him in the near future if there’s any hope of salvaging this season. I do have faith that Cobb will resolve what’s going on and turn in somewhat of a decent season, but the fact that he’s not missing bats is concerning. Virtually everything hit last night was pulled firmly.

Cobb was an important signing for the Orioles this offseason, they just made it late. It’s going to take some time for him to get going, if he does indeed get anything going.

2. Kevin Gausman delivered baseball’s first “immaculate inning” of 2018 earlier this week, and it continued his slow but steady progression this season. If you look at his game log, through each of his first five starts this year, things get a little bit better each time out. Gausman was a complete disaster in the first half of last season, and it looked like it was going to be more of the same after his first start this year.

I think Gausman is pretty much who we’ve seen over the last year. He’s going to be really great sometimes (like he was on Monday night) and he’s going to be awful other times. I wouldn’t ever expect him to become a Cy Young candidate, but he’s good enough to be in a major league rotation. This is where we are with him. He’s done developing and has shown who he is and will be going forward as a pitcher.

The Orioles should at least be satisfied that they developed anyone who can stick in this rotation at this point. He’s not going to be as good as Dylan Bundy, but he’s also not as bad as any of the failed starters the O’s have tossed out on the mound over a number of years.

3. Tim Beckham certainly has not been a productive member of the Orioles this season. He’s miles away from his red-hot start with the team last August. Now, he’s set to miss a pretty significant bit of time with a groin injury. But no matter how poorly Beckham has been to this point, there’s no way to paint this as a positive for the O’s.

Beckham’s absence will only further stretch an infield that is already down Jonathan Schoop. The Orioles also don’t have a promising answer in the minor leagues. That’s why they went out and acquired Jace Peterson to play immediately. Luis Sardinas has already been pressed into duty, and the only other options in waiting are Ruben Tejada or Engelb Vielma. Beckham’s injury also means we’ll likely see a lot more of Danny Valencia in the lineup. Valencia wasn’t brought to the team to be an everyday third baseman; he is meant to be a platoon bat to hit against left-handers.

4. The great Matt Kremnitzer of Camden Depot posted this on Twitter yesterday and I had to read it three times to make sure I fully comprehended it.

Yes, that Richard Bleier is in the same category as Craig Kimbrel and Mariano Rivera. Bleier has been nothing short of spectacular this season, and that stat shows it. It’s a small sample size, yes. But without Bleier in the Orioles bullpen this year, could you imagine where it would be?

Zach Britton is obviously missing, and there have been missteps elsewhere. The bullpen alone has an ERA of around 4.50, and that would be miles worse without Bleier’s microscopic 0.57 ERA. But he’s also logged the most innings of any reliever.

There’s obviously no way the left-hander will be able to keep up what he’s done to this point, but it has at least been nice to see so far.

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