O’s Starters Jockeying for Position
The second half has been kind to the Orioles as they’ve gone 30-17 since the All Star Game, good for a winning percentage of .638. That’s a significant improvement over the .582 winning percentage the O’s have posted over the course of the season.
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They’ve done it with stellar pitching, three of the O’s starters posting ERAs under 3 so far in the second half. In fact, only one O’s starter has been below league average since the break, with Kevin Gausman posting an ERA that’s just 6% higher than MLB average over the same period according to ERA-.
If we look at FIP, the results are similarly promising. Four of the O’s five starters have FIPs under 3.50, with only Miguel Gonzalez being worse than league average for FIP. It’s no surprise that the Orioles have surged to a commanding lead in the standings on the back of solid starting pitching. Below is a breakdown of the O’s starters by a variety of stats in the second half:
Highlighted are ERA- and FIP-, the two stats I mentioned above. Both are index statistics, which means that they tell you how a player is performing against league averages. Each point below 100 is a percentage point better than league average, and each point above is a percentage point worse than league average. Below is a chart of the same data that’s sortable by stat, showing how the O’s five starters compare against one another. Use the dropdown to check out the graphs!
The performances of these pitchers have had a huge impact on the O’s. As a team the O’s went from 14th and 29th in ERA and FIP respectively over the first half to 6th and 5th over the second half.
Going into the season there was a lot of discussion about the O’s having a lot of 3-5 starters, but very few top of the rotation type starters. While this held true over the first half, it now looks like the O’s have several guys pitching in that 2-3 range. Going from back of the rotation type production to what the O’s starters are doing right now is a large part of the reason the Orioles are in the position they are.
Expect to see this guy pitching in the playoffs.
(August 30, 2014 – Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America)
There will be a lot of discussion about which O’s starters should pitch in the rotation during the playoffs, and that’s obviously very important. All five starters could make a good case, based on FIP or ERA to be in the rotation come playoff time. However, that shouldn’t take attention away from the excellent numbers they have put up so far in the second half.
I will say that, as far as a playoff roster goes, Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen should be locks for the rotation. Tillman has lead the team with a 2.10 ERA and is second with a 3.31 FIP since the All Star break. Wei-Yin Chen has posted a 2.84 ERA, good for third on the team, accompanied by a 3.41 FIP.
My third choice for playoff starter would be Bud Norris, a guy that was talked about moving to the bullpen at various points this season. Norris has put up a 3.60 ERA over nine starts in the second half, but his 2.67 FIP (best on the team) suggests he’s been a bit unlucky.
The last slot comes down to Kevin Gausman (4.19 ERA, 3.32 FIP) and Miguel Gonzalez (2.11 ERA, 4.36 FIP). Both guys can make a case that they should be the one in the rotation with ERA (Gonzalez) or FIP (Gausman). That’s something Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter will have to navigate come playoff time, though I imagine Gausman’s likely inning limit will make the decision for the O’s.
Regardless of which 3-4 starters make the playoff rotation, the O’s look to be in a good place given their pitchers performances of late. I’ll caution O’s fans that we should expect all of these pitchers to regress to the mean a bit. That said, the playoffs could bring the best out of a pitching staff that has already stepped its game up here in the second half of 2014.