The first key to the Orioles continued success is for Showalter to establish a strong core for the starting rotation. Everyone has heard the saying that pitching wins baseball games, and that will always be the case.
No matter what type of offense a team has, there is no way they can win without a strong and reliable pitching staff.
Just take the Texas Rangers from the mid-2000s for example. They were one of the most powerful offensive teams in the majors at that time, but they struggled because they failed to put together a pitching staff that could keep them in enough games to put together a winning season.
Last season, the Orioles went through a number of starting pitchers and their rotation constantly evolved and changed throughout the season. At the beginning, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Zach Britton were the main three and young core.
However, each of them landed on the DL and all of them spent major portions of the year in the minors rehabbing and working on their stuff to get back to the major league level.
Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman and Steve Johnson (and Joe Saunders toward the end of the season) finished the season as the main starting rotation.
However, next season is a new year and all of these pitchers should be healthy. Saunders might not return, but the Orioles are hopeful he will. He tossed 11.1 innings, scattered nine base hits and surrendered only two earned runs in two must-win games for the Birds in the playoffs.
Chen definitely pitched his way into the rotation next year. Hammel led the Orioles for the first half of the season in wins, and if he is healthy, he should remain in the rotation. Gonzalez came out of nowhere and posted a 9-4 record with a stunning 3.25 ERA in the regular season.
Britton, Arrieta and Matusz are all young, talented pitchers and although they have struggled a bit in their careers, they have proven at times that they can pitch in a major league starting rotation.
Not to mention, Tsuyoshi Wada never even pitched in a regular season game for the Birds because he was injured in spring training. However, he is supposed to be a top prospect from Japan.
Showalter will have a very difficult decision on who he thinks will be the best starting five at the beginning of the year, and spring training will have a major impact on that decision. There are so many options for the skipper, I’m sure that will be one of the most important questions come February when pitchers report to training camp.
I think it is very important for him to establish the starting rotation at the beginning of the year, and not stray too far from it. Of course, if there are injuries or a hurler struggles mightily, change it up. But I think he needs to stick with a core five that will be able to last for a number of seasons (so he needs to choose younger pitchers).