Miley could help in Orioles rotation’s quest for mediocrity

July 31, 2016 | Luke Jones

The Orioles trading for left-handed starting pitcher Wade Miley from Seattle is hardly exciting, but we knew there was only so much Dan Duquette had to offer with such a thin minor-league system.

Giving up left-handed non-prospect Ariel Miranda — who is only two years younger than Miley — hardly looks like a move the Orioles will regret as they didn’t think highly enough of the Cuban pitcher to even give him a shot in such a poor rotation. Miley is under contract through next year with a club option for 2018 and averaged a steady 32 starts and 198 innings per season from 2012-2015.

The 29-year-old’s 4.98 ERA this season won’t make anyone do cartwheels down Eutaw Street, but that doesn’t mean he can’t lend a hand in the Orioles’ quest to make the playoffs for the third time in five years. His career 4.07 ERA is still below average, but his 3.91 career fielding independent pitching mark (FIP) suggests Miley could benefit from a stronger infield defense behind him.

Much will be made about the Orioles finally landing a left-handed starter, but the lack of a southpaw hasn’t been the reason why their rotation entered Sunday ranked 14th in ERA and last in innings pitched in the American League. They just haven’t had enough quality starters or even mediocre ones to at least eat innings, whether right-handed or left-handed.

The bar has been set so low that Miley qualifies as a decent upgrade.

A left shoulder impingement landed Miley on the disabled list in June, but he missed only 2 1/2 weeks with the ailment and posted a 3.45 ERA in five starts covering 31 1/3 innings in July, easily his best month of the season. That recent prosperity is a small sample size, but how many stretches like that have the Orioles received from starters not named Chris Tillman or Kevin Gausman this season?

Baltimore enters August in first place in the AL East despite sporting one of the worst starting rotations in baseball. Even middle-of-the-pack performance from the starting pitching the rest of the way — perhaps a rotation ERA in the neighborhood of 4.40 and a slight increase from the current 5.4 innings per start — could be enough to make it to October if a slumping offense perks back up in August and an elite bullpen remains strong.

Relative to what it’s produced through the first four months, mediocrity would be celebrated for the Orioles rotation. And that’s exactly what Miley should be able to provide.

Last year was his first season in the AL as he pitched to a 4.46 ERA in 193 2/3 innings for Boston. That kind of ERA the rest of the way wouldn’t be great, but he has the ability to consume innings while giving the Orioles a reasonable chance to win. The lefty has also averaged just 2.7 walks per nine this season, a better rate than all but Gausman in the current rotation.

He immediately becomes the club’s No. 3 starter with promising rookie Dylan Bundy — who’s almost certain to see his innings limited in some way down the stretch — and the disappointing Yovani Gallardo slotted behind him. Such a setup would allow manager Buck Showalter to move Vance Worley back to long relief where he could be next in line to replace Bundy or Gallardo if necessary.

Of his 19 starts in 2016, Miley has completed at least six innings 13 times. That’s not something to overlook as the Orioles entered Sunday with the second-most bullpen innings pitched in the AL.

Miley may only provide modest improvement at best, but a little bit would help a bad rotation.

And it’s worth it when the Orioles didn’t give up much to get him.