Breaking Down the Orioles Starting Rotation Through 19 Games

April 27, 2009 | Tom Clayton

Going into the 2009 season Oriole fans knew that the starting rotation was going to be a cause of great stress and frustration.  So far the rotation has done very little to prove fans wrong.  Through 19 games the Orioles starters have a combined record of 7-8 and do not have a starter with an ERA below 4.56. 


The staff as a whole is the 27th ranked group in all of baseball.   In 162 innings this season they have allowed 212 hits (most in MLB), 128 runs allowed (Most in MLB, 6 runs worse than that of the “new and improved” Yankees staff), and 36 home runs (most in MLB).  On the upside the Orioles are the 7th best team in baseball by only allowing 60 walks; a statistic aided by Daniel “Headcase” Cabrera who took his 100 walks per year up I-95 to Washington.


I broke down the Orioles offense through 19 games yesterday and will breakdown the Starting Rotation today; a proposition that made me more depressed as I went through it.  Tomorrow I will examine what was supposed to be the strength of the team in 2009, the bullpen and it is no less depressing.


Keep in mind as you read these nauseating stats that this is the worst rotation the Orioles will have for the foreseeable future as the rotation will improve with an influx of talent over the next few years. There is help on the way but right now the Orioles pitchers are allowing more things into orbit than NASA.


Jeremy Guthrie

2-1    5.16ERA    22.2IP    28Hits   13ER    10BB’s   12K’s   .321AVG Against

No player was hurt more by the World Baseball Classic than Jeremy Guthrie; instead of getting his work in during spring training Guthrie pitched just 3.2 innings in two games.  During the WBC Guthrie was shelled allowing six earned runs and fourteen hits in his brief appearance. 


Guthrie started out the season strong getting an opening day win against the Yankees and pitching six scoreless innings in a win against Tampa Bay in his second start.  Since then Guthrie has looked very poor going 0-1 while allowing five earned runs in each of his next two starts.


Guthrie has been giving up way too many hits this season and his control just hasn’t been there; something I hope is a direct result of his lack of work in the spring.  Guthrie’s fastball which is a plus pitch and sits around 94 has had little to no movement all season.  While he is throwing with good velocity the lack of movement has allowed hitters to feast on his once dominant fastball.


Guthrie is considered the Orioles ace based on the simple fact they have no other options on the major league roster.  Guthrie is more suited to be an average third and a top tier fourth starter in a competitive rotation.  Guthrie is a quality right hander pitcher with a career ERA of 3.95; at thirty he should still be a contributor for the team once the rebuilding process is complete.


Koji Uehara

2-1   4.56ERA   23.2IP    21 Hits    12ER    6BB’s    14K’s    .231AVG Against

Koji a 34 year old right hander signed a two year ten million dollar contract after 112-62 record in Japan. Koji is a player who hangs his hat on his control, in his 1549 innings pitched in Japan Koji only allowed 206 free passes.  So far his control is as good as reported and it has shown in his first four starts in America he has only walked six hitters in 23.2 innings.  Koji always seems to be around the plate and consistently hits his target with out making the Catcher move his glove.


Koji is not a power pitcher by any stretch of the imagination but he did strike out 1376 hitters in his 1549 innings while pitching in Japan.


Koji has a fastball that sits in the high eighties with superb movement.  He also posses two variations of his split fingered fastball as well as a cutter, slider, and his trademark forkball. 


Without top level stuff and his propensity to be around the plate Koji has the potential to get rocked but his excellent movement and ability to change speeds should help to relegate those outing to rare occurrences. 


Koji pitched the best game of his young major league career Friday night against the Rangers when he 6.2 innings striking out six, allowing two earned runs, and walking none.  Unfortunately Koji earned a no decision when George Sherrill allowed a Michael Young to hit a two run homer in the top of the 9th in a heartbreaking loss.


Koji is the number two in a Baltimore rotation, he would be more valuable as a three or fourth starter but like Jeremy Guthrie his place in the rotation is bumped up by a lack of talent.  Koji is currently the only Orioles starter with an ERA under 5.00 through Sunday.  At 34 and signed for just two years Koji probably isn’t in the teams long term plans but he is a quality starter in a rotation that lacks much talent. 


Mark Hendrickson

1-3    5.40ERA   18.1IP   26Hits   11ER   10BB’s   14K’s   .317AVG Against

The Orioles signed Mark Hendrickson this past off season after a 2008 where he was in and out of the Marlins starting rotation.  Hendrickson is an exceedingly tall pitcher at 6’9” who has pitched for seven different teams over his nine year major league career.


Hendrickson is a very average pitcher with a career record of 51-66.  His career ERA of 5.08 is nothing to write home to mom about either.


While Hendrickson is very tall and similar in build to Randy Johnson he doesn’t posses anywhere near comparable stuff.  Hendrickson is a finesse pitcher who has a fastball that sits in the mid-eighties and struggles to amp it up to ninety. 


Through Sunday Hendrickson is tied for second in the majors with seven home runs allowed in his four starts.


Hendrickson does have decent control as evident by the fact he has only walked 296 hitters in his 996 career innings. 


The 34 year old left hander is only an average pitcher at best and is simply a stopgap until the Orioles young minor league arms are ready to join the big league club.  Hendrickson has little value in the Orioles future and will probably be a one and done in Baltimore.


Adam Eaton

1-2   7.04ERA    15.1IP   23Hits  12ER   4BB’s  19K’s  .338AVG Against

Much like Hendrickson, Adam Eaton was signed by the Orioles in the off season a average major league career.


Eaton is a serviceable starter with a career record of 69-65 in his ten year major league career.  Eaton does posses an above average fastball that ranges from 92-97; in addition he has a big breaking slow curve, a good change, and slider in his pitching repertoire.  Eaton has good stuff but he seems to make a lot of mistakes with his fastball and has a reputation for “over thinking” on the mound rather than just pitching.


Eaton leads the Orioles in punch outs in 2009 with 19 in his 3 starts; a number helped out greatly by his by his nine strikeout performance on Thursday.  In a 6-2 Orioles win Eaton allowed six hits, two earned runs, and no free passes in 7.1 strong innings against the White Sox to earn his first win as an Oriole.


While Eaton does have intriguing stuff and an show flashes of excellence he is simply to inconsistent to be a viable option in the Orioles future plans.  Much like Hendrickson the 32 year old Eaton is probably a one and done who may not make it through the entire season in Baltimore if the young arms continue to develop.


Brad Bergesen

1-0   5.59ERA   9.2IP    14Hits   6ER    3BB’s   7K’s    .326AVG Against

Bergesen a fourth round pick of the Orioles in the 2003 draft was the first of what is certain to be an influx of young pitchers to Baltimore in the next two years.


Bergesen is an aggressive pitcher who attacks the zone and isn’t afraid of contact. Last season while spending time in Class-A Fredrick and Double-A Bowie Bergesen amassed a record of 16-7 with an ERA of 3.10 and was awarded the Jim Palmer award as the top pitcher in the Orioles minor league system.


Bergesen has excellent control of all four of his pitches which include a four seam fastball, a two seam fastball, a changeup, and a slider.  His fastball ranges in the low 90’s and top out at 93. Bergesen induces a lot of ground balls, a great trait to have in a stadium like Camden Yards where the ball flies out as the weather warms up.


Bergesen was called up on Tuesday after two quality starts for Norfolk where he went 1-1 with an ERA of 2.45.


In his first start at the big league level on Tuesday against the White Sox Bergesen looked great working quickly and staying around the plate all night.  Bergesen earned his first major league victory while pitching 5.2 innings allowing four hits, one earned run and striking out four and walking two. 


After his impressive debut Baltimore was a buzz and Bergesen fever exploded all over the city. Unfortunately Bergesen fever was short lived as he was rocked in his second start against the Rangers on Sunday.  The 23 year old rookie was roughed up to the tune of ten hits and fie earned runs in just four innings.


Bergesen is a mid-level prospect who has a good bit of upside.  While he doesn’t have the eye popping fastball of some of the other Oriole prospects Bergesen is an efficient pitcher with excellent command; something other recent Oriole prospects have lacked.  Overall Bergesen is a decent pitcher who could be a serviceable middle of the rotation starter who is very much in the Orioles rebuilding plans.


Alfredo Simon

0-1   9.95ERA   6.1IP   8Hits   7ER    2BB’s    3K’s   .308AVG Against

Alfredo Simon was named the Orioles third starter out of spring training after other pitchers such as Hayden Penn and Radhames Liz did whatever they could to avoid making the major league roster.


Simon is a hard throwing right hander out of the Dominican Republic.  He lacks a quality off speed pitch and gives up the long ball too much as evident by the five bombs he allowed in just 6.1 innings in 2009.


Simon was hit hard in his first two starts this season before being placed on DL with an elbow discomfort.  Unfortunately the discomfort Simon was feeling were torn ligaments in his pitching elbow that will require reconstructive surgery.  Simon will require the same surgery that sidelined both Chris Ray and Danys Baez in the past two seasons.


At 27 with a long road to recovery ahead of him Simon will probably not crack the starting rotation in Baltimore in the future. By the time he recovers the Orioles could have up to three top level prospects in the rotation by the time Simon is ready to pitch again.  A good story out of spring training Simon was viewed as a short term piece of the puzzle and nothing more then a marginal prospect.  If Simon can come back healthy there is a remote possibility he could see time in he bullpen but more likely he will have to try and make another teams big league roster