Thursday, January 19, 2012

Looking Ahead: The 2012 Orioles Rotation

With Spring Training less than a month away it looks like the Orioles have a lot of spots open in the rotation. There aren’t many surprise candidates for the rotation, but there are a few additions to the ballclub.

After Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles have rotation spots 2-5 up for grabs. The O’s have acquired a few pitchers during the off-season, including the international signings of LHP Tsuyoshi Wada and LHP Wei-Yin Chen. In addition to Wada and Chen, the Orioles traded for journeyman Dana Eveland.

Those aren’t the only candidates for rotation spots. The Orioles also have Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Chris Tillman, Brad Bergeson, and Alfredo Simon.

Here is what I think the Orioles 2012 rotation will be:

Jeremy Guthrie - Guthrie has been the Orioles most consistent starter since 2008, making at least 30 starts each season. He also has won 10 games each year, except for last year, when he only won 9. Even though he has lead the American lead in losses in 2009 and 2011, he is the best the Orioles have to offer right now and he does have to go up against other number 1 pitchers, which hurts Guthrie’s numbers.

Wei-Yin Chen - Chen, who is only 26 years-old, is the one of the most recent signings by the Orioles. He has posted great numbers in the Japan Central League, with an average of a 2.48 ERA and an average WHIP of 1.06. I know that Chen’s numbers will not come close to the stats he posted in Japan, but it shouldn’t be a terrible season for Wei-Yin. It will be interesting to see how many innings he will be able to throw with the Orioles as he makes his transition to Major League Baseball.

Zach Britton - Britton was drafted by the Orioles in the 3rd round of the 2006 Draft out of Weatherford High School. He made his debut last season taking the rotation spot of Brian Matusz. In his Major League debut, Britton threw 6 innings of 1-run baseball and earned his first career victory. He had a great first-half to the 2011 season, posting an ERA under 4.00 until July 8th. Britton’s second-half ended up being miserable, as his ERA rose to 4.61 by the end of the season. Besides a rising ERA, he was also sent down the Minors to work on his mechanics. Britton’s sophomore season should be an interesting one to watch. Like Brian Matusz, Britton will have something to prove this year, trying to show that his 2011 first-half is what the real Zach Britton will pitch like. Britton will most likely have an innings cap for the 2012 season.

Jake Arrieta - Even though Arrieta is coming off a season-ending surgery, where he got a bone spur removed from his right elbow, I still expect him to compete for a spot at the end of the rotation. Arrieta did finish with 10 wins last season, despite his season ending in August. Last year he only posted a 5.05 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, which are much higher than league averages, I expect him to post better numbers this year, with an ERA below 5.00 and a WHIP below 1.40.

Brian Matusz - The 4th pick in the 1st round of the 2008 MLB Draft, Matusz was looked at as the potential ace of the Orioles staff. He definitely looked the part, dominating the Minor Leagues and making 8 starts for the Orioles in 2009. In 2010, Matusz struggled for the 1st half of the season and the month of July. However, once August hit he caught fire. Matusz went 7-1 from August 4th until the end of the season. 2011 looked like a bright future for Brian, but it went in the completely wrong direction for his development. Like Jeff said in an earlier article, Matusz was a little unlucky and injuries and a loss in velocity caused his numbers to decline greatly. I expect a bounce-back season from Matusz, hopefully the off-season will allow him to regain confidence and recover from any injuries.

Another legitimate contender for the 5th rotation spot is Tsuyoshi Wada. I view Wada as a Koji Uehara-type who will have a slighty difficult transition to the States.

However, all of these pitchers mentioned early have a chance to start a game in 2012. It is impossible to exactly predict injuries or break-out seasons. There may also be inconsistency, which Brian Matusz had last season. Another question is, will Jeremy Guthrie finally be traded this season?

This may be a tough year for the Orioles, with the 4 other AL East teams having very competitive teams and decent farm systems, but hopefully the Orioles younger pitchers will continue to develop so the O’s will have a formidable rotation in the future.

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