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The Orioles starting rotation that could have been

It is no secret that the Orioles starting rotation is bad. They could have had a better one, if not for a series of moves over the last several seasons.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Orioles starting rotation has been terrible in 2017. They are sporting a 5.63 ERA, which does not include last night’s game. That remains the worst ERA in the American League and the second worst in baseball, behind only the Cincinnati Reds.

The starting rotation has been the Orioles’ Achilles heel for the past several seasons. In prior years, they were able to patch together a viable rotation. That hasn't worked out this year, as the previously acceptable pitchers have been bad and the previously bad pitchers have been truly awful.

In spite of persistent troubles with the starting rotation, the Orioles have let go a bevy of starting pitching talent over the past handful of seasons. Here’s a few that come to mind.

Parker Bridwell

The Orioles have had the opportunity to face Bridwell twice in the past two weeks. He went a combined 12 innings, giving up twelve hits, five runs, three earned runs, one walk, and seven strike outs. Those stats go along well with his 2.92 ERA in his 12 starts at the major league level in 2017. That ERA would be far and away the best in the Orioles rotation.

The Orioles traded Parker Bridwell to the Angels after designating him for assignment about two weeks into the 2017 season. Bridwell had opened up the season struggling in Norfolk. The Angels almost immediately inserted him into their starting rotation and have not looked back.

There are some bad signs for Bridwell. His ERA is shiny, but he is only striking out hitters 15.2 percent of the time while walking them 5.8 percent of the time. His FIP is 4.55, which is fine, but not great. He has been able to induce a decent amount of pop ups suggesting he does have the ability to induce weak contact. He also struggles against left handed hitters.

All in all though, he is a young, cheap, controllable starting pitcher who, in an admittedly small sample size, has shown an ability to at least eat up innings without killing his team. The Orioles gave him up for nothing.

Zach Davies

You remember Zach Davies, right? He was the pitcher the Orioles traded to the Brewers for the right to see Gerardo Parra’s BABIP come back down to earth for two months back at the trading deadline in 2015. Well, Davies has been an entrenched part of the Brewers’ rotation for the past two seasons.

In 26 starts this season Davies has a 4.09 ERA (slightly better than league average) over 149.2 innings pitched. Like Bridwell, Davies is also not striking out many guys, only 15.2 percent, and probably walks too many at 7.3 percent. But, he sports a 4.40 FIP which is also slightly better than league average. He gets a good amount of ground balls as well.

As with Bridwell, Davies is not a star, but he has proven himself—and over a much larger sample size than Bridwell—to be an effective innings eater type starting pitcher. He also manages to be young, cheap, and under the Brewers control until 2022.

Miguel Gonzalez

Of course you remember Miguel Gonzalez. I wrote about his unceremonious and unconditional release from the Orioles back in spring training of 2016. He was coming off a bad 2015 and suffering through injuries in spring training. The Orioles saved roughly five million dollars by cutting Gonzalez when they did.

Gonzalez ended up getting signed by the White Sox on a minor league deal and has been a fixture in their rotation for the past two seasons. In 2017, Gonzalez has had his ups and downs but currently has a 4.44 ERA (exactly league average) and a 4.91 FIP (slightly worse than league average).

Gonzalez is only striking out 13.4 percent of hitters and walking 8.5 percent of hitters. His season has not been going great, but you’ll notice, as with the two pitchers above him, Gonzlaez’s ERA is well below the Orioles starting rotation ERA.

Unlike Davies and Bridwell, Gonzalez is 33 years old and only has one more year left under team control. So in that sense, he is not as desirable, but he has been effective and able to throw a lot of average innings at the major league level. An area the Orioles are incredibly deficient in.

These are only three of the names that popped into my mind. Ariel Miranda is another player the Orioles gave up on, although his numbers are worse than the above three. Jake Arrieta is probably the paragon of the Orioles giving up a pitcher and that pitcher producing for his new team.

While none of the above three pitchers would have saved this Orioles’ season, all three would have been much better options. On top of the fact that they all would have reduced the Orioles’ starting rotation ERA, they also are under contract for many years to come and cheap. In 2017, Bridwell, Davies, and Gonzalez are being paid a roughly combined $7 million.

Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Chris Tillman are all free agents after 2017 (Miley has a team option for 2018) and they are being paid a combined $32.3 million this year. All three of them have been significantly worse than Bridwell, Davies, and Gonzalez. If only the Orioles had valued these players the way they should have.