Baltimore Orioles: Projected 2012 Starting Rotation & Bullpen
If there is one thing that has plagued the Orioles in 2011, it has been the pitching.
Baltimore ranks dead last in the majors in team ERA at 4.83. The next closest team is the Kansas City Royals at 4.52. It's clear that if the Orioles want any chance of competing at any point in the future, they are going to have to make some drastic changes to the staff.
Realistically, I wouldn't expect the Orioles to do much more than to add one veteran starter and a veteran reliever to help guide the young staff.
The Orioles have the fewest quality starts at 55, which shows that they clearly need someone that can pitch deep into the games because the bullpen is overused.
As the Orioles attempt to pitch their way to a strong finish and avoid 100 losses, here is a look at what the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff could look like when they break camp in 2012.
SP: Jeremy Guthrie
Jeremy Guthrie was a trade candidate at the deadline, and he will likely be in the same situation this winter.
But it seems to me that the Orioles can't survive without their chief workhorse and ace on the staff.
I get the feeling that Buck Showalter is a fan of Guthrie's attitude, because Guthrie's a guy that usually takes accountability for all of his mistakes and never puts any of the blame on the offense—which has let him down frequently over the last few seasons.
Even though Guthrie leads the majors in losses, he has still been a great leader and is approaching 200 innings for the third consecutive season.
Losing a guy like that could be devastating on the bullpen, so I see him starting Opening Day.
SP: Jason Marquis
I mentioned that the Orioles will likely get a veteran starter, and Jason Marquis is the most attractive, realistic candidate on the free-agent market this season.
As a dark-horse candidate, I would throw Mike Pelfrey's name as a potential trade target, but I'll stick with Marquis as the veteran addition.
Marquis is making $7.5 million this year, but I doubt that anyone will give him that much for 2012.
Despite that, he has not been able to match the numbers he put up in his last walk year, where he won 15 games for the Rockies.
Marquis could be a great get for the Orioles in the $4-5 million range as just a solid leader to help teach the younger staff.
He won't be the ace that the Orioles are starving for, but he could be just good enough.
SP: Jake Arrieta
Assuming he comes back at full strength after recovering from elbow surgery, Jake Arrieta could be one of the most improved pitchers on the team in 2012.
Arrieta racked up a lot of wins, thanks to healthy run support this year, but his elbow pain and inexperience lead to a loss of control.
His walk rate shot up, and power hitters started launching balls out against him.
With 93 strikeouts, Arrieta is still second on the team, so he definitely has the stuff to beat people, but he needs to stay healthy and consistent.
Rick Dempsey has said in the past that he believes that Arrieta could one day be the ace of the staff and I could see that, but he needs to take the field first.
SP: Tommy Hunter
When the Orioles got Tommy Hunter from the Texas Rangers, I was a big fan.
He came to the Orioles with a 23-13 career record and had shown he can be a great pitcher.
Unfortunately, he hasn't been great in his audition with the Orioles.
Hunter is a very big man, and it seems to me that his condition might be an issue.
He injured his groin at the beginning of the season and was out for a substantial amount of time, so I will give him a little bit of a pass for this year, but he needs to do better next year.
If Tommy Hunter can pull a Pablo Sandoval and shed some weight, he could be a horse for the Orioles' staff.
SP: Zach Britton
This spot is probably one that will come down to the last day and will have a lot of candidates.
Among the possibilities are Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Alfredo Simon, Brad Bergesen, Jo-Jo Reyes, Chris Jakubauskas and Rick VandenHurk, but Zach Britton is the clear favorite.
Britton had some serious trouble adjusting after an incredible start to the season.
Since then, he has found his groove and is looking more like the guy that was rolling through lineups in April and May.
I would expect that the Triple-A rotation will include Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman, but either of them could be in the majors if Arrieta isn't ready.
As for Alfredo Simon, I think he'll have a new(-ish) role in 2012.
RP: Brad Bergesen
It's been a really rough season for Brad Bergesen, who has bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, but I can't see him bursting back into the rotation.
Buck Showalter never really got to see Brad Bergesen at his best, and I think that hurts him.
He has had some great games where he is very efficient, but they are few and far between, so he'll likely become a long man that gets called for some spot starts.
RP: Jason Berken
Jason Berken is another of the young pitchers that has fallen on really tough times.
After a disastrous rookie season exclusively as a starter, Berken moved to the bullpen full-time and emerged as a terrific bullpen arm in 2010.
2011 has not been the same for Berken, who had to recover from a torn labrum that cut short his resurgent year of relief.
Berken has had injuries and has been sent to the minors a couple of times, which shows that he, too, has struggled to develop.
With an offseason of full health, Berken needs to improve to make the 2012 bullpen.
RP: Pedro Strop
Pedro Strop has only pitched in five games for the Orioles, but he has yet to allow a run and has made a terrific first impression for Buck Showalter.
Strop, who was acquired at the end of August from the Texas Rangers for Mike Gonzalez, has been getting singled out in Showalter's post-game interviews for his great fastball and strong start.
Despite the small sample size, it seems like Strop has a live arm and movement good enough to contribute in the majors in 2012.
RP: Troy Patton
Troy Patton has been up and down more than any other player on the Orioles for the last two years, and it's time for that to finally stop.
Patton was not ready to be in the majors for most of the season, but he has developed well and could be like a younger Mark Hendrickson on the team, with the ability to pitch multiple innings, get lefties and righties and spot-start when needed.
The Orioles can't afford a lefty specialist, but Patton could fill that role and more in 2012.
RP: Juan Cruz
I'm not going to lock this in by any means, because there are a lot of potential relief pitchers that the Orioles could go after, but Juan Cruz has had a season worth noting in St. Petersburg.
Originally signed as a minor league free agent, Cruz has outplayed his modest salary and has become one of the many talented, low-cost relief stars that the Rays seem to drag out of nowhere.
Cruz, Joel Peralta, Todd Coffey, Shawn Camp and Chad Durbin are all potential pickups for the Orioles to help strengthen the relief corps.
RP: Kevin Gregg
I really don't like Kevin Gregg and I wish the Orioles could get rid of him, but he will almost definitely still be on the Orioles in 2012.
In terms of his role, I don't see how the Orioles could let him continue to close games, considering he has had some tremendous blown saves that have cost the Orioles a bundle of wins.
Gregg's contract will force him to be just a regular reliever in 2012 if they can't bamboozle a team into picking him up.
SU: Jim Johnson
There have been talks that the Orioles will try to convert their top reliever into a starter again, but I can't see them making the change, considering Johnson is one of the best non-closing relief pitchers in the majors.
Johnson has taken on a huge portion of the innings this season and leads the AL in innings pitched for a reliever.
He has a sub-3.00 ERA and forces hitters to put the ball on the ground at a ridiculous rate.
All of these qualities have contributed to making Johnson the Orioles' best pitcher in 2012, so he should retain his role in 2012.
That said, I wouldn't be surprised if they stretched him out in spring training just to see how he does.
CL: Alfredo Simon
Simon has done a pretty good job as a starter this year, but I believe that their need at closer and logjam in the rotation will push Simon back to finish games.
Simon was pretty good as the closer in 2010, saving 17 of 21 opportunities.
With Gregg's failure, Simon should be the cheapest, smartest option on the team to become the closer.
The only obstacle for Simon is the Dominican government, since he is a suspect still in a New Year's murder, but it's probably not going to be an issue again.
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