Hi all. As a long-time reader on CC, I’ve often been tempted to try my hand at posting, but haven’t worked up the resolve to do so until now. Now in the face of the upcoming series against they who shall not be named, I have questions, dire questions, questions that cannot go unanswered.
I'd like to start by acknowledging something of which I am now ashamed: I sighed pessimistically upon seeing Joe Saunders listed as our starter last night. I doubted the 2012 Orioles! There. It's out, and frankly I'd be surprised if there weren't a few other sighs accross Birdland. Clearly Mr. Showalter sits where he sits - and I where I sit - for a reason, as the decision proved remarkably successful. I was impressed by Saunders’ ability to use his offspeed stuff to make up for his total lack of fastball command, and to work out of jams, although I am still a little wary of his ability to do that again if needed. But for now I'm left to wonder what's next?
As I see it, we have 6 pitchers on the staff who could conceivably start games in the playoffs. Saunders has already pitched, so I assume two things about him. First, he won't be pitching tomorrow against Carsten Charles, but second, he will be part of the postseason rotation. I also assume MiGo and Tillman have been as reliable as it gets down the stretch and will start games. That leaves three pitchers to choose from for any remaining games.
Wei-Yin Chen was by far the most consistent pitcher for the first two thirds of the season, but he’s a completely different pitcher since August 9. Here’s my evidence. Before: 3.46 ERA, 6.15 IP per start, 10-6 W/L. After: 5.34 ERA, 5.73 IP per start, 2-5 W/L. Everyone on the Orioles, including Chen himself, says he isn’t feeling the drag of the heavier workload, but all indications are that is exactly what is happening. I really like Chen, but I’ll go out on a limb and assert that I think he should be shut down for the season.
Jason Hammel, like all O’s pitchers, has my heart, but not necessarily my mind. I think I’m finally ready to stop resisting, as I have all season, and buy into the notion that this 6-year veteran is shedding his career 4.75+ ERA and has turned into a whole new man. Not only did he consistently do well this year, but by all accounts he seems able to pitch again per various injury reports! That said, he’s started 2 games since July 13, and something feels wrong about thrusting a rehabbing player into the driver’s seat in the playoffs.
Steve Johnson is a strikeout machine (46Ks in 38.1 IP this year) with a 2.11 ERA. At this pace, he could be the next Pedro Martinez. The only problem is keeping up this pace. Johnson has appeared in a grand total of 12 big league games, only 4 as a starter, and hasn’t gone deeper than 6 innings in any of those starts. Is there any way that that serves as a large enough sample size to put the ball in his hand for a start? Interestingly, his only experience vs. the Empire was three innings of one-hit, no-walk, shutout ball in relief of Chen who had given up 7 earned in less than 5 innings.
My best guess is that Hammel fills the last spot and starts either Game 3 or (if necessary) Game 4 behind Gonzo, Tilly, and maybe Saunders, but what I really want to hear is what Birdland thinks. I’ll be repeating my new mantra to myself no matter what: In Buck We Trust.