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2005 O's Review: Rotation

This is the wrap-up of the season review features. Here is an index of the other three parts:

Infield/Catchers (10/18)
Outfield (10/17)
Bullpen (10/19)

Bruce Almighty

Hard to argue that Bruce isn't Ray Miller's best work from the last two seasons. Chen went from an eternally promising prospect to a washed-up never-gonna-be to a perfectly reliable No. 3 starter, and it only took about 117 major league teams, countless pitching coaches trying to figure out what to do with him, and a final stop with the Orioles.

Chen got a lot of kudos around these parts for working out of the bullpen twice in the middle of the season when the rotation was getting knocked around by both bad starts and injury, and he deserved it. Chen did all you could ask of him this season. And to think he was competing with Rick Bauer for the fifth spot in the rotation in the spring.

Bruce was easily the best starter the Orioles had this year, but he was not without his rough stretch - he had one, and it was in July, when he posted a 6.75 ERA. Otherwise, rock solid, and he recovered from his one bad month with is best in August, going 4-2 with a 2.04/0.86/.177 line.

I don't know if Chen can continue this, because it's such an unexpected thing. I think he can, though, as long as his curve and change are working and he changes location as well as he did this year. He's never going to be Greg Maddux or anything, but he can be a good pitcher. He's still only 28 years old, and doesn't turn 29 until next June. This should be his prime. I became a huge Chen fan this season.

Rodrigo Lopez

Lopez won a team-high 15 games, but he was the fourth-best starter on the staff, behind Chen and the next two guys. He was a total back-end starter, struggling pretty badly from June on through September. Only his decent April and solid May kept his numbers as low as they ended up anyway.

I have no faith in Lopez. He had some good games this year, but they were outnumbered by the bad ones overall. The two most vivid memories of the year I have of Roddy: July 5 at New York and July 31 against Chicago. Both times Lopez was just unbelievably bad. Combined starts: 4.1 IP, 18 earned runs.

He had some gems, too, but what sticks out to me is Evil Roddy Lopez. And that breezy summer 'do of his.

Daniel Cabrera

Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling, and you've got a future. I wasn't too high on Cabrera after 2004. After 2005, I'm getting there. He wasn't great, but he had some games where he was absolutely untouchable and showed what he can do. Hitters can't HIT him - Cabrera beats himself with wildness and inconsistency. He's got a real K-rate, which is something the O's rotation hasn't seen in an age, and he's got the livest arm Baltimore has seen since God knows when.

All that doesn't necessarily add up to a successful big league career, but it is definitely a hell of a good start. If he masters his secondary pitches to go along with a destructive high-90s fastball, he's going to be outstanding. I am on the Daniel Cabrera train in a big way. He's also got an attitude about him, which I like. He struuuuuts off the mound sometimes if he just had a dominant inning, and he's not afraid to come inside, or, to be very frank, knock the hitter on his ass.

Ray Miller got something out of Cabrera sometimes, and if we really do get Leo Mazzone, I am highly anticipating what Leo could do with Cabrera's arm. Cabrera might be a sink-or-swim guy. He'll either never quite get there or he'll be phenomenal. We're all hoping for the latter.

Erik Bedard

Here's another guy I'd love to see Mazzone work with. Pre-injury, Bedard was a straight-shootin' son of a gun and a bad dude on the mound. He looked like a legit ace. After he got back, he just wasn't the same pitcher, ending up with roughly the same overall line he had in 2004. Bedard has a lot of talent, but he's got to stay healthy at some point or it's going to be wasted.

In Bedard's nine starts before the injury, he was 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA. His fifteen starts after he got back, he was 1-7 with a 5.44 ERA. His WHIP shot up .6 points. His BAA went from .224 to .285. He was walking people again. These are all points of concern.

But I think Bedard is going to be good if he can just stay off the DL for a full season and gets everything straightened out. Lefty starters with decent strikeout numbers don't just fall off of trees.

Sidney Ponson

We spent enough time on Ponson this season, I think, but here's some more: Sidney Ponson sucks. Gloriously. And he sucked gloriously for $7.5 million a year before he was finally thrown out on his ample ass after a bunch of arrests for erratic off-field behavior. Ponson was also a surly fat jerk. He was impossible to root for.

It is a curious thing to have someone on the team you love that you absolutely hate, but I absolutely hated everything about Sidney Ponson the last two years, and I didn't like him all that much before we rented him out to the Giants either. I will say without number-crunching that Sidney Ponson had to have been the bar none, number one with a bullet worst regular starting pitcher in the major leagues in 2004/05. Every time he took the mound, it was a challenge to even turn the game on. You wanted to win, but you knew you probably couldn't, and even if you did, Ponson was likely going to make a show out of it and leave it up to the offense to support his sorry effort and the bullpen to bail it out.

Ponson used to have a mid-90s fastball, even though he didn't strike anyone out. This year, he was routinely 89-91 with his heater, and his secondary pitches were all garbage. When I thought he was gone to San Diego, I clapped so hard at the ESPNews crawler that my hands hurt. This for Phil Nevin, mind you, who was no prize pig to be picking up. But if it's a pig you want, it's a pig we got, because Sidney stuck around until September 1, when the organization finally had enough and just told him to get the hell out of here. That was one of my very favorite days of the season. The Orioles had long since collapsed, and there was this enormous dark cloud over the team, but Ponson got his in the end. He was talentless on the mound and embarrassing off of it. If you aren't an O's fan and your team takes a flyer on Ponson sometime, my sincerest and deepest condolences. If he ever pitches against Baltimore, and it's bound to happen someday, I hope he gets destroyed and cries.

Whatever his personal problems may be, I am not talking about those. I'm not here to write a tabloid about his problems. I'm talking about Sidney Ponson the baseball player, and I have no good feeling toward him whatsoever.

Hayden Penn

Penn had eight starts at the tender age of 20, seven while filling in for the injured Bedard and one on September first. Only one of them was a Quality Start (June 19 against the hapless Rockies), but you could see he's definitely got the makings of a good big league pitcher. I'm not sure exactly how good he'll really be, but either good enough to trade for someone better, or good enough to stick in the rotation for a while I would guess. I doubt he'll ever be great.

Penn may be in the 2006 rotation, and he may not be. It's not like there's any rush, as far as I can see. He's just turned 21 a week ago today. His heater was routinely between 92 and 95, but his offspeed stuff was nowhere near major league level just yet. I like his future, but I'm not nuts about it.

John Maine

I like Maine, but I am accepting of the fact that at 24, Maine walked way too many people for a team to want to rely on him in a full-time rotation spot just yet. He's not a great prospect. I don't even have a lot of confidence that he'll ever pan out. But he's got some ability, and there's something to be said for that. Hell, look how long it took Bruce Chen to get it right.

Maine started off pitching OK in his stint with the O's this season, but was demolished down the stretch by the Yankees (1 IP, 6 ER) and Red Sox (3.1 IP, 5 ER), and then even the Devil Rays (2.2 IP, 5 ER) got their licks in against poor John. Those three starts knocked his ERA up a full three runs to 6.30. Hitters seemed to figure him out in a hurry, and watching him pitch, it wasn't that surprising. There doesn't seem to be a lot you need to figure out about Maine. He's a standard pitcher with rather standard stuff.