As the postseason continues, the old baseball adage is getting dusted off again.
Pitching and defense wins championships.
The Orioles have the defense -- statistically, they were the best in the majors in 2013 and, perhaps, they are the best all-time depending on what stats you want to use for that determination.
Pitching, though, is another story. In the 15-team American League, the Orioles’ 4.20 staff ERA ranked 10th.
It's easy to heap some of that blame on the much-maligned bullpen, which wasn't as good as it was in 2012. But it still was fairly effective. The Orioles' bullpen logged 514 innings, the fifth-most in the AL and still posted a 3.52 ERA, which was sixth-best in the league.
No AL team's bullpen threw more than 500 innings with an ERA better than the Orioles' cadre of relievers.
And that brings us to the starting rotation, which was 12th of 15 AL teams with a starters’ ERA of 4.57. If you look at the major categories, the Orioles rotation was below average pretty much across the board. The starters combined to give up the most homers in the majors, issue the fifth-most walks in the AL and finished 12th of 15 in strikeouts.
The rotation threw 939 innings -- that's 11th of 15 AL teams and 16 innings below the league average. In comparison, the Detroit Tigers' other-worldly rotation logged 1,023 innings -- 84 more innings than the Orioles.
Chris Tillman is the only Oriole who reached the 200 innings plateau in 2013; Miguel Gonzalez (171 1/3) is the only other pitcher to have thrown more than 140 innings for the Orioles this year (both Bud Norris and Scott Feldman logged considerable time with other teams).
The Orioles used 14 different starters (including four that made just one start) this season. Compare that with the Tigers, who used just six starters all season. They had three throw more than 200 innings and two more pitch at least 170.
So, yeah, the Orioles need to do something about improving their rotation.
The good news is they have plenty of pitchers to choose from: Tillman, Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen and Norris are likely penciled into the rotation.
Feldman is a free agent, but both sides would like to reach an agreement.
Rookie Kevin Gausman will be in the mix for the rotation, as will lefty T.J. McFarland, who stayed with the club all season as a Rule 5 pick. He made just one start for the Orioles, but he was scheduled to leave today for Venezuela, where he'll start for about six weeks for the Caribes, based in Porta La Cruz.
Lefty Zach Britton is out of options in 2014, so he either has to make the team or be exposed to waivers. Steve Johnson will also be given a chance to make the rotation.
The club obviously is short an established ace -- though there is hope that Tillman can fill that role consistently and that Gausman and eventually Dylan Bundy (who is in Sarasota rehabbing after elbow surgery and likely won't be able to pick up a ball until January) will emerge as top-of-the rotation starters.
There are no true No. 1s on the free agent market and the Orioles likely don't have the young, cheap players it would take to trade for an ace (Tampa Bay's David Price is reportedly on the market, but the Orioles are a division rival and likely don't have the prospects to compete if he is shopped).
So it's not a particularly pretty situation for the Orioles when it comes to starting pitching. I'd suspect, despite the number of potential starters they have, that they'll be looking to add at least one more starter this offseason.
Just don't expect it to be someone who is clearly better than what they have.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun