Things have gone exceptionally well for the Baltimore Orioles in 2016, as they sit in first place and look poised to be legitimate postseason contenders by season’s end. It’s no secret that the Orioles have been carried by their offense, as they have hit the second-most home runs in all of baseball and have been quite adept at scoring runs all year. However, the Orioles still have an obvious weakness in their lack of rotation depth, despite trying to address that issue during the offseason.
The bright spot in Baltimore’s rotation this season has been Chris Tillman, who looks like his old self after a down year in 2015. Tillman is the undisputed ace of the staff and a legitimate All-Star candidate, but the Orioles are not giving him enough support elsewhere in the rotation. The lone exception to that may be Kevin Gausman, who has performed well but has not yet proven that he can be a quality starter over the course of 30 starts in a season.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, their rotation behind Tillman and Gausman has been disappointing. Ubaldo Jimenez, who was expected to be one of Baltimore’s best starters, is pitching to a 6.21 ERA, with opposing batters hitting .317 against him. Tyler Wilson has been unimpressive as a starter after a strong start to the season in Baltimore’s bullpen. Mike Wright has also been inconsistent as a member of the starting rotation, throwing the occasional gem but often failing to provide a quality start, putting all the pressure on Baltimore’s offense and bullpen.
In addition to that inconsistency from the back end of the rotation, the injury to key offseason acquisition Yovani Gallardo after just four starts has held back Baltimore’s rotation. However, Gallardo pitched to an ERA of 7.00 in those four starts, and while he’s made two rehab appearances on his way back from injury, those rehab starts have not gone well, creating questions about how effective he may be when he returns to Baltimore.
With little pitching talent in the upper levels of the minors – at least among pitchers who are healthy – the Orioles shouldn’t expect much rotation help to come from within the organization aside from hoping that Gallardo can come back healthy and effective. An inconsistent rotation that lacks depth is likely to hurt the Orioles sooner or later, and if they don’t see improvement at some point or seek help from outside the organization, this could be a weakness that is ultimately Baltimore’s undoing in 2016.