One of the most popular areas of concern as the Orioles prepare to wrap up the third week of the regular season with a three-game interleague series against the Los Angeles Dodgers is the performance of the last two pitchers in the starting rotation.
Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman have struggled with their command of the strike zone and thrown too many pitches to preserve the bullpen.
Their numbers aren’t pretty. They are a combined 1-1 with a 6.21 ERA and have averaged just under five innings per appearance.
Sounds pretty bad until you take a look around the rest of the American League and realize that a little perspective is in order. The two worst-performing slots in the average AL rotation through Thursday’s games are a combined 1-3 with a 6.44 ERA.
That’s right. Arrieta and Tillman are actually doing better than average and the Orioles are doing better than that, since the team is 4-2 in the six starts out of those final two slots.
There aren’t many exceptions. The worst two slots in the Detroit Tigers rotation are a combined 2-2 with a 3.99 ERA that is the best in the AL. The Kansas City Royals are 1-3 but have the next best ERA (4.41) because one of the “struggling” pitchers is James Shields (1-2, 3.43). The back end of the Boston Red Sox rotation – Felix Doubront and Alfredo Aceves – is 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA.
Keep in mind that I’m refering to the worst-performing two slots in the rotation -- not necessarily the No. 4 and No. 5 starters. That’s why the two pitchers that fall into that category for the Tampa Bay Rays, surprisingly enough, are 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price (0-1, 6.26) and Roberto Hernandez (0-3, 5.79), who combine to be 0-4 with a 6.05 ERA. Just a hunch, but Price will probably be OK.
Want to instantly feel better about Arrieta and Tillman, who have managed to keep the Orioles in games even as they struggle to be as good as they want to be? The Yankees two poorest performing starters – Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes – are a combined 1-3 with a 6.08 ERA.
The Blue Jays also have a lot more reason to be worried than the O’s. High-expectation newcomers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson are a combined 1-1 with a 7.31 ERA.
The worst of the worst are in Cleveland, where the Indians have been scrambling to back fill the rotation. No. 4 starter Ubaldo Jimenez has made three starts and is 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA. The No. 5 slot has been shared by Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, who have given up a total of 10 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings. The three of them are a combined 0-4 with a 10.89 ERA.
Now, don’t you feel better?