2011 Baltimore Orioles Preview: Starting Rotation
Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be previewing the Orioles 2011 season in a position-by-position format. Beginning with the projected starting rotation today, and ending with the coaching staff, I will break down and grade each position. At the end I will provide an overall grade of the team and pick how I feel they will do in 2011. Without any further adieu, lets get started with the starting rotation.
Ah yes, the starting five for the O’s. Probably stocked with the brightest future potential on the team, but by far it is the weakest link in this season. I don’t think they are done adding to the rotation, but I also don’t believe the top two or three will change much.
Before I get to the current projected rotation, I want to mention that I believe that at some point this season, Zachary Britton will end up in the rotation. I’m hoping to see him compete in the spring games, but at this point it is highly unlikely that he’ll be in the big leagues in April.
The “ace” of the staff this year is Jeremy Guthrie. Last year was reminiscent of his better seasons, as Guthrie went 11-14 with a 3.83 ERA in 32 starts. Eleven is his most wins in a single season, and he is primed to break out in 2011 if he can get decent run support.
Second in the rotation – as listed going into camp – is Brian Matusz. He has all the tools to be a true ace on the O’s staff this year. In his rookie season a year ago, he won 10 games losing 12 and pitching to a 4.30 ERA. He should improve even more this season, and isn’t afraid to take on the Red Sox or Yankees.
Recently acquired (not yet formally introduced) Justin Duscherer, a 33 year old former All-Star who has been with the A’s for a while, will slot in as the third best on this team. If he can stay healthy, he has a potential to be an innings-eater with more upside that Kevin Millwood had last season, and he brings a veteran savvy with some great experience to the team. At least, he will be a half-season stopgap while Chris Tillman and Zach Britton continue to develop in Norfolk.
After Guthrie, Matusz, and Duscherer, the starting rotation is average at best, and in reality this is a below average three through five. Jake Arrieta only pitched in 18 games last season, going 6-6 along the way to an ERA of 4.66. Brad Bergesen won just 8 decisions in 28 starts while posting a 4.98 ERA. And finally, Chris Tillman started only 11 games and was not a regular in the rotation last season. He is billed to replace the departed Kevin Millwood. Tillman went 2-5 in those starts and his 5.87 ERA doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of Carl Crawford or A-Rod.
To be sure, even if the Orioles do add another starter or two in the coming weeks (and I think they will), the rotation is the weakest link on an otherwise up-and-coming team. However, as you’ll hear the experts say, to win in the AL East you have to pitch well, and the Orioles are just not quite ready to do that.
Grade: D+ (some bright futures here in Matusz, Bergesen, Tillman, and even Britton but a long way to go). My next post in a few days will be a preview of the bullpen.