4 Reasons the Orioles Need to Acquire a Big-Game Pitcher
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Even though the Baltimore Orioles reached the playoffs for the first time since 1997 and pitched outstandingly (2.28 ERA) with a no-name staff once they got there, they need a big game pitcher to take the next step and reach the ALCS and possibly even the World Series.
Make no mistake, the Baltimore staff did a fine job in the 2012 postseason, shutting down two excellent offenses in the Rangers and Yankees. It still wasn't enough to keep the dream ride going though.
When many thought the Orioles would fade out of playoff contention in 2012, they proved the doubters wrong and won an incredible 93 games.
While the Orioles rotation is made up of a group of guys who believe in each other, they still need a big arm to lift them in postseason play.
To Pitch a Game 5 or Game 7
Hammel pitched Game 5 of the ALDS for the O's.
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No offense to Jason Hammel, but he doesn't have any business pitching a deciding game in the playoffs.
Hammel threw admirably (5.2 IP, 2 ER, 6 K), but he is not the pitcher the Orioles need in that situation.
Hammel went 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 20 regular season starts, but he is far from a surefire bet to pitch well in a big game.
His career 4.78 ERA shouldn't be ignored.
Other staff members who stepped up, such as Joe Saunders, do not have big-game stuff. Saunders and rookies Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez all dazzled in the postseason, but it's hard to expect them to produce at that level again.
Big names like Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and James Shields are potential big game pitchers the O's should pursue.
While none have a great proven track record in the postseason, they would have a shot at redemption, and the Orioles could offer them that perfect opportunity to be the guy in big games.
To Take the Pressure off the Rest of the Staff
The 27-year-old rookie was great in his first season.
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A big game pitcher would take a lot of pressure off the current O's staff.
They are all a bunch of No. 3 and No. 4 starters who were asked to do things a No. 1 starter would have to do.
They may have accomplished it in the short-term, but a big game pitcher would alleviate the pressure from these guys and give them a veteran leader to look up to.
They would be able to pitch effectively in their roles without having to worry about a deciding game where one of them would be chosen to start just based on the way the rotation fell.
With a big game pitcher, manager Buck Showalter, the runner-up for the American League Manager of the Year Award, could better align his rotation.
With the current roster, it seems like a toss-up as to who should start a big game.
The O's must acquire a pitcher who has a fearless pedigree and is ready to win the big game.
To Keep Up in the AL East
Miguel Gonzalez was another pleasant surprise for the O's.
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If the Orioles want to return to the postseason in 2013, they must get a big game pitcher that will allow them to keep up in a very competitive AL East.
The Yankees have the resources to go out and grab a pitcher any time they want, and also already have C.C. Sabathia as their big game pitcher.
The Boston Red Sox will not have a repeat of the 69 wins last season with former pitching coach John Farrell as the new skipper.
Finally, the Tampa Bay Rays have AL Cy Young Award winner David Price at the top of a young rotation, and a team that came up just short of making the playoffs, winning 90 games last year despite major injury problems.
The O's have to see all the talent around them on the mound in a competitive division and do something about it. Their $81.4 million payroll should give them flexibility to make a move.
Because They Actually Need One
Mussina was the last big game pitcher for Baltimore.
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The Orioles hadn't made the postseason since the '97 season, a span of 15 years.
Therefore, they didn't needed a big game pitcher in those years of futility.
The last time the O's had one was Mike Mussina in the 1997 season when they eventually lost in the ALCS to the Cleveland Indians.
Mussina dazzled in that postseason, going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in the ALDS. In the ALCS, he had a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings, striking out 25 batters.
Now that the Orioles have proven they can contend, they need to improve their staff.
Their fan base won't accept an offseason of inactivity.