Everyone knows that the Orioles would like to add another starting pitcher. They know that their starters must pitch better this year than last, but really how many effective starters do they need?
Everyone thinks they need five, but if you look back on recent Orioles history, you’ll find that they rarely, in their most successful years, have had five outstanding starters.
Last year, Ubaldo Jimenez won 12 games, Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Tillman 11 each, Miguel Gonzalez had nine wins, and their fifth leading starter was Kevin Gausman, who had three wins as a starter. Gausman picked up another win in the bullpen.
Chen’s loss to the Miami Marlins is bemoaned, but he was never the team’s No. 1 starter. He never pitched on Opening Day.
Over his four years with the Orioles, Chen won 46 games, three behind Tillman’s 49. Tillman spent the first half of the 2012 season at Norfolk while Chen missed two months in 2013 with an oblique strain.
In 2014 when the Orioles advanced to the American League Championship Series, they had four starters who won 10 or more: Chen (16), Bud Norris (15), Tillman (13) and Gonzalez (10).
Their fifth most winning starter that year? It was Gausman with seven wins. Those seven wins were the most by an Orioles fifth starter since 1993 when Fernando Valenzuela won eight.
Not since 1979 have the Orioles had five starters with 10 or more wins. Even in 1983 when the Orioles last won the World Series, the team didn’t have a fifth starter with 10 or more wins. Dennis Martinez was the fifth leading starter with seven.
While it would be preferable for the Orioles to find an effective starter to go along with Gausman, Gonzalez, Jimenez and Tillman, it’s not mandatory if they each pitch well.
MORE ORIOLES: For Orioles, Rule 5's aren't the exception
In 2012 when the Orioles advanced to the postseason for the first time in 15 years, they had only one pitcher — Chen — with 10 or more wins. Their fifth leading starter that year was Brian Matusz, who won five games before he was sent to Norfolk and later converted to a successful reliever.
If the Orioles don’t add another potential starter to the mix, Vance Worley is a likely candidate. Worley won 11 games as part of a much publicized Philadelphia Phillies rotation in 2009.
But even that year, Worley was the fourth leading winner. Roy Oswalt, who won 163 games in a terrific career, had just nine wins.
Last year’s World Series winners, the Kansas City Royals had only three pitchers who had 10 or more wins as starters.
The St. Louis Cardinals had five starters that won 10 regular season games, but they lost the Division Series in four games to the Chicago Cubs.
Of course, the Royals had a terrific bullpen, and one of their starters, Chris Young, won three of his 11 games in relief.
But, the Orioles have an outstanding bullpen, too. Matusz, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Mychal Givens and Darren O’Day will have to take on a huge load.
If the starters are effective, the Orioles can contend. If they’re not, the exemplary bullpen can’t save them. No matter if there’s a capable fifth starter or not.