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Limiting home runs a major factor in Orioles pitching staff's improvements so far in 2016

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman follows through on a pitch to the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a baseball game in Baltimore, Sunday, May 8, 2016.
Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman follows through on a pitch to the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a baseball game in Baltimore, Sunday, May 8, 2016. (Patrick Semansky / AP)

There are a lot of things different about the Orioles pitching staff this season, but one statistic stands out in particular when comparing this year's group to last season: home runs.

No one exemplifies the change more than top starter Chris Tillman, who has allowed just one home run in his first seven starts this season after giving up six over as many starts last year.

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Through 30 games this year, the Orioles have allowed 19 home runs -- second fewest in the majors, behind only the New York Mets, who boast one of the most electrifying young pitching staffs in the game. They've allowed 16 over their first 30 games.

Tillman, whose turnaround is among the best stories in the majors this year, is only one small part of the Orioles' improvement, which is staff-wide. Last season, the Orioles allowed 33 home runs over the first 30 games of the season en route to allowing 174 home runs on the season, the 11th-most in the majors.

Even if Camden Yards has seen more cold, power-suppressing weather than usual, it's not reflective on the Orioles' offense, which has 43 home runs compared to 41 at this point last year. So the pitching staff's better numbers are likely due to more than just game conditions.

The four newcomers to the rotation — Kevin Gausman (one home run allowed), Yovani Gallardo (one), Tyler Wilson (two), Mike Wright (three), and Vance Worley (two)—are all doing well at keeping the ball in the park.

It's the pitchers who aren't with the team anymore whose contributions seem least missed in this sense. Bud Norris had allowed four over his first six starts last season. Miguel Gonzalez had given up four as well. Even Wei-Yin Chen, who was the team's most consistent starting pitcher over the course of the season, had yielded five by the 30-game mark last year.

Those three account for most of the difference when holding the two seasons against one another, but Tillman's improvement is the most drastic. Whether these numbers hold as there are more breezy, warm days like Sunday at Camden Yards, remains to be seen.

But if you're looking for a reason the pitching staff that bogged down the team in 2015 is keeping the team in games in 2016, it's because of it's home run prevention.

The team ERA of 4.05 last year is down to 3.63. Letting teams put the ball in play against one of the best infield defenses in the league, and not having them put it over the fence, is a good place to start.

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