Friday, April 27, 2012

Pitching Juggernaut....Orioles?

   2012 has been a fabulous season for the Orioles so far. At 12-7, they sit near the top of the American League. While they have a few hitters whom have started off slow, the pitching staff has oddly enough been the key cog towards the teams' success. Check out these statistics through 19 games:

   The numbers above indicate that the pitching staff has been fairly effective. If someone had predicted this kind of start before the season began, I probably would have laughed at them. ERA, FIP, xFIP all under 4.00? That's not the pitching staff that everyone was told about! It's obviously very easy to get excited about these numbers (Even though they seem middle of the pack in an aspect, let's remember that the Yankees won the division last season with a 3.84 xFIP and the Phillies had the best xFIP at 3.41). However, there are a few concerning trends that I have noticed. I don't want to take anything away from the strong start by the Orioles, but it's important to remember that its only been one month.

   The starting pitching has been league average in the numbers of innings they have thrown. I am fine with that. I honestly never predicted them to lead the league in innings pitched, and they were dead last in 2011 with 881.0. Unfortunately there are two things I am worried about in the future. First off, can the Orioles starting pitching keep up with the amount of innings they are throwing? I still have my reservations on a few of them. Is Wei-Yin Chen anything more than a six-inning pitcher? Can Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta keep their pitch count down enough to even get a chance in the later innings (More-so Matusz here). This is a question that none of us know right now. The second thing I worry about is the bullpen getting tired. As of now, they are throwing an awful lot of innings. Pedro Strop is on pace to pitch over 100(!) innings. Take a look at the bullpen statistics throughout the first month:

Yes, the Orioles are first in relief pitching ERA. Yes, their FIP and xFIP are absolutely terrific so far. Unfortunately I am not sure that will stick unless the starting pitching can continue to keep up their current pace. Otherwise, the bullpen probably suffers here. I am not saying this WILL happen, but it could. If the starting pitching can keep up their productivity somehow, the bullpen is going to continue to impress (Those statistics above are including Kevin Gregg!!!)

   The final thing I want to look at is their competition. The Orioles have not exactly played the top tier offenses so far. The teams they have played and their statistics:

   Looking at the above statistics, it is possible to determine that majority of the teams they have face are league average or worse so far on offense.The only team that could been said has clearly been an offensive force is the Yankees. Otherwise they have yet to face another dominant offensive club. Of course these statistics are flawed, as these teams could very well end the season as productive lineups. However, as of April, they are all average or worse. Thus, it is probably not much of a reach saying that this might be a part of the reason the Orioles' pitching staff has been so successful. Obviously the staff needs to get some credit for helping towards making these offenses' average, but regardless it should be remembered that they were swept against the only "true" top tier team (at least so far this season).

   The upcoming schedule should provide us with a plethora of new ideas towards how good this pitching staff truly is. Maybe the Orioles can surprise a few people.

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