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Remember when the Orioles had four-to-five young pitchers that were going to save the rotation? That is looking a lot less plausible at the moment. The biggest problem with this team last year was their pitching. The O’s starting rotation had a league-worst 5.39 ERA in 2011. They were also dead last in innings pitched with 881. The Orioles were at, or were close to, the bottom of almost every single pitching statistic.
Last season, Brian Matusz was supposed to transform into the team’s ace. Instead, he suffered an injury in spring training and never returned to his form from the end of the 2010 season. His fastball dropped from the mid 90s to around 85-87 mph. He also struggled with command of all his pitches.
A healthy spring training and a clear mind could help restore some confidence in Matusz. In his last 11 starts of 2010, he went 7-1 with a 2.18 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 16 walks over 62 innings. This shows that Matusz does have the ability to dominate batters in the Major League.
Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Chris Tillman are the other young guns who the Orioles hope can develop into legitimate major league pitchers.
Arrieta ended last season on the DL after having a bone spur removed from his throwing elbow. He is expected to be 100% by spring training.
With Arietta, it’s all about consistency. He has too many “mistake pitches” throughout the course of the game that usually end up as home runs. In his last six starts of the season, Arrieta gave up nine home runs. O’s fans hope that was due to the discomfort in his elbow, which has now been removed.
Zach Britton wasn’t even supposed to make the team out of spring training but was forced into action when other pitchers were injured. The rookie responded and played well for the most part. He was the Orioles' best pitcher in the first two months of the season, boasting a 5-3 record with a 2.92 ERA.
But, like most rookie pitchers, Britton struggled when facing teams for the second time. After spending some time in the minor leagues, Britton returned to the Orioles to end the season. Britton will be entering spring training with a shoulder injury, but if he can overcome that and return to his form from the beginning of last season, the Orioles should be in good shape.
Chris Tillman didn't spend much time in the majors last season, only pitching 62 innings. Tillman’s biggest problem is the lack of a legitimate third pitch. His first year in the league, his curveball was very successful. But, once opposing batters learned that he really only had two pitches, his production plummeted.
He throws a fastball or curveball 86 percent of the time. Batters have learned of this and adjusted accordingly. If Tillman is able to develop a third pitch, he could be a good back-of-the-rotation guy.
The pitching situation in Baltimore will definitely be interesting to watch this season. It will be interesting to see if the additions of Tsuyoshi Wada and Wie-Yin Chen pay off. No one really knows how Japanese pitchers translate to the MLB.
The entire Orioles pitching staff needs to step up in order for the Orioles to surprise everyone in 2012.