Baltimore Orioles' Analysis: Starting Pitching

Bleacher Report Senior Writer IFebruary 5, 2009

Going into the offseason, Orioles team president Andy MacPhail would have to address the problem of the O's starting pitching. The only sure starter was the ace, Jeremy Guthrie. MacPhail has answered the doubters. On Jan. 13, he signed Koji Uehara, who will become the first Japanese player to put on an Oriole uniform. On Feb. 2, MacPhail also traded for Rich Hill, whom the O's have coveted for years. On Feb. 4, the 53-year old executive signed former Oriole John Parrish. He also traded reliever Randor Bierd for Red Sox right-hander David Pauley.

The rotation is starting to shape up, as the O's have a ton of options to make their starting five. Will it be pretty? Will the O's have a Hall of Famer? Absolutely not. But, MacPhail can put together a fairly good rotation and he has shown his seriousness in the rebuilding program. He has acquired four pitchers to aid an ailing rotation. If I were in charge, the rotation would start with Guthrie, followed by Uehara and Hill, then reliever Matt Albers, who is fresh off rehabbing his right elbow, and lastly, Parrish.

Last year, Guthrie got very little run support and finished just 10-12. However, he posted a 3.63 ERA, pitched 190-2/3 innings, and had 19 quality starts, leading the American League before the O's ace left on Aug. 29 during his start against Tampa Bay with an injury. I don't expect Guthrie to return to his former self, only to be a very competent option. He'll win 10, lose 13, and post a 4.01 earned run average, and with Mark Teixeira and Pat Burrell recently being moved into the A.L. East, it won't get any easier for Guthrie. And his counterparts aren't too shabby. A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia are both on the Yankees and 100 percent healthy.

On January 13, 2008, Koji Uehara made history, becoming the first Japanese player to sign with the Baltimore Orioles. He signed a two year deal worth $10 million. In Japan, Uehara went 112-62 with a 3.01 career ERA in 10 seasons. He fought injuries last year and finished 6-5 with a 3.81 ERA in the relief role. He won the Sawamura Award twice, which is equivalent to the Cy Young here in America. In 2004, he was 13-5 with a league-leading 2.60 ERA. Uehara will be the No. 2 starter behind Guthrie. The Osaka, Japan, native is patiently waiting for Spring Training and O's fans are nervous to see how he does. I think with the help of a great defensive outfield Baltimore has, Uehara will finish 13-10 with a 3.99 ERA. His first Spring Training start will definitely be a nervous day for MacPhail.

Recently, MacPhail traded for 28-year old southpaw Hill. Last year with the Chicago Cubs, Hill struggled with his control. He was 1-0 with a 4.12 ERA and 18 in 19-1/3 innings. However, that is primarily due to the health status that Hill maintained throughout the year. In 2007, he was 11-8 with a 3.92 ERA and 183 strikeouts and just 63 walks in 195 innings. With the O's, he'll be re-united with Rick Kranitz—the pitching coach. For the Iowa Cubs, the Chicago Triple-A affiliate, Hill was 8-5 with a 3.06 ERA in three short stints. His pitching coach: Kranitz. Hill should be excited for a reunion and eager to get back on the field. Projected statistics in 2009 for the O's? 10 wins, eight losses, and a 4.19 ERA. If he can make the Opening Day roster, I expect better.

In a trade on December 12, 2007, Albers and four teammates were traded from the Houston Astros to the Baltimore Orioles for Miguel Tejada. After struggling with Houston in '07, Albers impressed O's fans in 2008. He was 3-3 with a 3.49 ERA in 28 appearances, including three starts. In a Jun. 25 start against the Cubs, he allowed four runs in just one third of an inning and left the game. The next day, he announced that he tore his labrum. He decided to rehab the injury instead of getting surgery for the ailment. Albers comes back healthy this season and could have a spot in the rotation. After all, he did make two other effective starts—that is, when he was healthy. He won one of the starts and lost the other, allowing a run in five innings against Toronto in a 4-3 win and three runs in six frames against Tampa Bay in an 8-1 loss. Projected stats? 6-9 and a 4.88 ERA. That is, if he starts.

On February 4, 2009, the Baltimore Orioles signed John Parrish to a Minor League deal that included an invite to Spring Training. With the Blue Jays last year, he was 1-1 with a 4.04 ERA in 13 games, starting in six of them. Parrish, a former Oriole, was one of the only good relievers for the O's from 2003 to 2005. In those years, he posted ERA's of 1.90, 3.12, and 3.46. After a slow start in 2006, he was traded to Seattle. He didn't do much better for the Mariners and signed with Toronto for the 2008 season. Parrish started 10-2 in the minors and was called up. He signed a minor league deal with the O's but could work his way up to the rotation. Projected stats: 9-8, 4.17 ERA.

While that is one of the rotation that it could be, there are many other options. The O's are close to signing free agent Braden Looper to a deal. The O's also might insert Radhames Liz, David Pauley, Jim Johnson, or another free agent signing in the fourth or fifth slot.

However, for now, this is the rotation as I like it.