The Orioles’ 2011 Rotation

The Orioles' 2011 rotation will likely feature many familiar faces, but the results could be noticeably different if Baltimore's young starters continue adapting to the challenges of the American League East. Because of baseball's unbalanced schedule, the Orioles face four of baseball's top ten offenses on a regular basis. Not coincidentally, Orioles starters rank 26th in the majors in ERA, 25th in innings, 24th in quality starts, 29th in strikeout to walk ratio and 29th in FIP.

For some teams, those results would call for an offseason overhaul, but the Orioles have a young rotation that's capable of improving considerably. Jeremy Guthrie, the team's most established starter, has a 4.10 ERA in four seasons in the AL East, so the Orioles have pencilled him in atop next year's rotation.

Current starters Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Brad Bergesen will all be in the mix for starting jobs, but Kevin Millwood hits free agency and could sign in a more pitcher-friendly environment. Even if Millwood leaves, the O's will have a number of internal options, as president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail points out.

"You’d add [Zach] Britton and you’d add [Chris]  Tillman and you’d add [Rick]  Vanden Hurk, and then there are others that could work their way in there, like [Troy]  Patton," MacPhail told MLBTR.

With a month to go in the 2010 campaign and an entire offseason ahead of us, it's still early to predict starters with much certainty, but Matusz will presumably start for Baltimore in 2011. He entered the 2010 season as the fifth-best prospect in the game, according to Baseball America, but has struggled at times. Like AL East lefties Jon Lester, David Price and Ricky Romero, Matusz has taken time to adjust from the minors to baseball's toughest division, but if last month is any indication, he has made some adjustments. Though Matusz's season ERA sits at 4.72, he pitched to a 2.43 mark in August with a 26/7 K/BB ratio.

Jake Arrieta has a 5.10 ERA in 15 major league starts this season with more walks than strikeouts. Those numbers aren’t anything special, but the righty placed fourth on Baseball America’s preseason list of top Orioles prospects because of his “pure stuff” and potential to eat innings. The 24-year-old posted a 1.85 ERA in Triple A before the O’s called him up, so he figures to improve in 2011 as long as he can sort out his command issues.

Brad Bergesen, also in the team's current rotation, has an ERA of 5.55 with 4.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. He doesn't turn 25 until later this month, so he's still young, even if he doesn't have the upside of some Orioles prospects.

Tillman and Britton are among Baltimore's most promising young arms. Tillman, 22, has a 3.34 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in Triple A this season, though he has scuffled at the major league level so far. Britton, a 22-year-old left-hander, has a 2.69 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in the upper minors. Both will have the chance to break into Baltimore's rotation next spring.

The Orioles acquired Vanden Hurk for Will Ohman earlier in the summer and they consider the 25-year-old right-hander a potential starter. He has a 4.25 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 118.2 Triple A innings this year. Vanden Hurk, Tillman, Britton and current long reliever Troy Patton are not in the rotation now, but they give the Orioles a number of options. Still, if Millwood signs elsewhere, the O's may consider other veteran starters to complement their many young rotation candidates.

"If you have the opportunity to add another veteran innings guy, you might look at that as well," MacPhail said.  

Given the group's relative inexperience and the Orioles' division, it would be unfair to expect a San Diego or Oakland-esque breakout from this group right away. Pitchers like Tillman, Britton, Arrieta and Matusz will all be learning on the go, so they'll likely struggle at times. But those arms are promising, so the O's could have a young and effective rotation within a couple seasons.

45 Responses to The Orioles’ 2011 Rotation Leave a Reply

  1. As a Yankee fan, I can say that Baltimore will be competitive and postseason contenders by 2014.

  2. Slopeboy 5 years ago

    Matusz looks like a keeper. He still needs to learn how to pitch rather than just throw,but has shown flashes of ability. The O’s would be smart to nuture and support this guy.

    • jwredsox 5 years ago

      I don’t think he is a thrower. He is a low 90s lefty with a good changeup. He isn’t a power lefty so while I do believe he is very good calling him a thrower is a little off for me imo.

      • Sniderlover 5 years ago

        Yeah and I’m pretty sure even he knows he is not a thrower. He is a pitcher that has good control and number of pitches and he is finally starting to show his ability. It’ll take some time especially in AL East but he’s got the pitcher to become one of most dominating lefties in the game. God now that I think about it, AL East will become even more scary by 2012 where all the teams are competitive. heck even right now, Baltimore is pretty good under their new coach. Jays are an above .500 team right now and they have good upcoming guys and could look to contend by 2013, not to mention they have a brilliant pitching staff. Yankees are Yankees. RedSox are RedSox and Tampa is a great team with a very talented and deep farm.

        • jwredsox 5 years ago

          This why I like the 2 divisions (AL and NL) with all teams within their division playing each other in the same number of times with top 4 in each in the playoffs. If you have a super stacked division you could have a deserving team who won’t make the playoffs because of a hard division plus wouldn’t it make the playoff chase more interesting? Unless you have a vastly superior team the playoff chase should be closer. (and no this isn’t because of the Red Sox this season I liked this idea before this season).

          • Sniderlover 5 years ago

            I would rather just see them expand to 10 or 12 teams rather than 8 teams.

        • logicx24 5 years ago

          The problem with that is that if every team has the capability to get 90+ wins, then a lot of deserving teams will be left out. If that ever really happens, which it definitely could, then the AL East would have to be split up, to at least give other divisions a chance at the Wild Card. Besides, the Rays are losing Crawford, and Pena after 2010. It will be harder for them to contend, without one of their two power threats. In Crawford, they lose a stolen base threat, and a high average and decent power. They have B.J Upton, but he has not performed to the level he should have.

      • mstrchef13 5 years ago

        He’s very comparable to Tom Glavine in both stuff and command. I’ll take that in my rotation for the next several years.

    • basemonkey 5 years ago

      One of his primary pitches is his change up and he is a very good command pitcher. That’s not a thrower to me. In the last few starts you saw him deal changeups in the 70s for strikes to set up hitters. Pitching backwards is nit what you see in Throwers.

    • Lookouts400 5 years ago

      When you talk about Matusz, do the words crafty lefty mean anything? Marusz is a clone of Glavine and Cliff Lee. They didn’t do so bad, did they. Matusz can and will be a top of the rotation starter. He’s a bulldog and knows how to pitch.

      • Slopeboy 5 years ago

        Do the words wishful thinking and hyperbole me anything? As I said in the post, Matusz has ability and he’s a keeper, he has shown flashes that say he’s going to be really good but he’s still learning his craft. I’ve seen him pitch well and at times get flustered when there’s an error made behind him or lose focus when an ump misses a call. And like many pitchers, lose the strike zone and then come in and get whacked, that’s what I meant about him still being a thrower. I don’t live by stats, but in this case his numbers seem to back up what I see. And as for being a clone of Glavine or Lee, that’s really really a stretch. Lee, aside from his current woes, is one of the top pitchers today, and Glavine is 293 wins and a career removed from Matusz at this stage. Be fair to the kid and wait ten years before you use the words Clone, Lee, Glavine and Matusz in the same sentence.

  3. I look forward to a .500 season… it’s been to damn long since that sucker in the right field stands at yankee stadium snagged the routine fly away from tony tarasco!

  4. basemonkey 5 years ago

    Matusz is the real deal.

    • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

      So is Britton, Tillman, and Arrieta. So if only they can get those 4 situated and learn how to really pitch, they could be something decent soon.

      • basemonkey 5 years ago

        I’d like those guys to be so, but I don’t think you can say that until they pile up MLB innings. Britton hasn’t gotten a shot yet. Arrieta needs to manage his pitch count, hold runners better, be more consistent with command, and pitch out of jams. Tillman might have the highest raw stuff in his live fastball-curve combo, but he has significant hurdles to pass to adjust to the majors. His stuff is so good that he’s been able to go far just by getting minor-league batters to swing at his stuff, but he needs to pitch with command in the majors. A ton of great prospects end up as major-league fodder because they never make that adjustment.

        • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

          Thats why I used the word, situated.

          • basemonkey 5 years ago

            Ok. I just can’t say they are the “real deal” yet. They all hold promise, but they could all also turn into ineffective pitchers within a few years, for one reason or another.

            With Matusz, in spite of not being a finished product himself, I’ve already seen enough from him to see he is a real majorleague pitcher.

          • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

            Never said they were the real deal. Just expecting a lot

          • basemonkey 5 years ago

            I can agree with that. I’ve just seen A LOT of very good pitching prospects amount to not even a fringy career, on the minor league and major league level. So it informs my thinking here.

  5. MacPhail is the master of illusion. The offer to Tex was phony, knowing he wouldn’t take it but at least Andy can say he “tried.” You will see this off-season that there will be no free agent signings to talk about AGAIN. Until the fans of Baltimore stop going to the games and stop buying the merch, Pete and Andy will just keep pocketing the MASN money and laughing at the fans as they empty their wallets for an organization who could care less!

    • ugen64 5 years ago

      you know, for a second there I thought I was reading a comment on a conservative blog. you know, “Obama is the master of illusion. the health care bill was phony, but at least he can say he ‘tried'”, etc….

    • The_Porcupine 5 years ago

      Just stop with the propoganda. Angelos has not been a detriment to the O’s for the last 5-6 years. Yes, he ruined the team in the 90’s, but we’ve got to move past that. It’s not that the O’s won’t spend money, they offered big money contracts to Konerko, Vlad, and Teixeira (when they were in their prime). The fact is no one stud player is going to come to Baltimore unless there is significant improvements to the 25 man roster. They need to develop overall depth to get anyone big to come here. Why would they? Even if they get their money, they’re going to lose (classic example is Tejeda. Managment thought he could put them over the top, but they couldn’t put a lineup around him). So if money is equal, the free agents are going to go elsewhere.

    • Sockmonkey23 5 years ago

      They’ll clearly be signing a 1B/DH. I do not expect them to go out an offer Adam Dunn what he deserves, but I sure would love to see it.

  6. NYY92 5 years ago

    orioles have some good young talent if there starting pitching steps into its potential next year.they could be the rays champ team

  7. basemonkey 5 years ago

    I’ve watched baseball for over 30 years. This team has the earmarks of a good rising young team. It happens. There’s plenty of cynics here, but IM guessing most of them aren’t old enough to have seen any balance of power different from what exists today, and surely not when the Orioles were a dynasty. There was once a string of 18 consecutive winning seasons by the Os. To get an idea what that means. After this season there will be only 3 franchises in history to ever do that. The Yankees will join that.

  8. The_Porcupine 5 years ago

    Please, no one should expect the O’s to sign Lee. Don’t waste your breath. We need to sign/develop a few #2 or #3 starters before an ace will be willing to sign here. We need to focus on developing Matusz, Britton, and Tillman. Bergeson can be trade bait. Arrieta can be a bullpen arm or trade bait. Same with Patton. I don’t think Guthrie should be traded because we need someone with a track record to be the supposed “ace.” He’s relatively cheap and pitched well enough to be the veteran anchor. No more Millwood types! The only way I would trade any of the pitchers would be for a bat that we have control of for more than 2 years (ie. we should waste our breath on Fielder either). I feel we need 1 more year to develop our players before jumping out big in the free agent market (after next year the first base pool will be stacked).

  9. basemonkey 5 years ago

    If the Os could add 1 legitimate MLB slugger bat, and, bonafide veteran SP, the Os would have the right mix of talent to allow their young core to make serious noise.

  10. Sockmonkey23 5 years ago

    Bergesen looks like a different pitcher now. Who knows if it’s sustainable, but it’s a hell of an improvement.
    Full Season: ERA of 5.55 with 4.2 K/9 and 1.5 K/BB
    April: 12.19 ERA; 4.4 K/9; 0.8 K/BB – 3 starts, 10 innings
    May: 4.26 ERA; 1.9 K/9; 0.8 K/BB – 6 starts, 38 innings
    June: 11.17 ERA; 0.9 K/9; 0.25 K/BB 2 starts, sent to bullpen and then minors.

    ————–look at the change in strikeouts from here:
    July: 6.32 ERA; 6.3 K/9, 2.6 K/BB 6 starts 37 IP
    August: 2.72 ERA; 5.2 K/9, 3.0 K/BB 5 starts 36 IP

    His velocity is up, his fastball is moving better…remember he was injured in the offseason and never really caught up. Also, remember this is a GB pitcher with a terrible infield defense behind him for most of the year – Izturis and three DHs. It’s no mistake that the Orioles ERA turnaround began around the same time as the return of Roberts and the trade of Tejada.

    Home runs are a problem for Bergesen – that’s how you g0 0-5 with a 6+ ERA in July despite excellent K/BB numbers. Having said that, I’m very excited to see what next year will bring for Bergesen, as well as the rest.

  11. Eric 5 years ago

    I like a rotation of


    I really think Tillman belongs in the 5th spot for now

  12. jwredsox 5 years ago

    They offered 100mil to teixeira

  13. basemonkey 5 years ago

    You make it sound like the Os don’t try to sign good Free Agents, and/or, they delude themselves thinking declining veterans will have MVP seasons for them. The truth is that they’re caught in a vicious circle of losing, where good Free Agents won’t play for them unless they seriously overpay, in which case those contracts limit what they can do elsewhere on the team and farm.

    As jwredsox points out, the Os have put out the best or competive contract offers pretty consistently over the last decade. The better free agents just turn them down. Like in the case with Vladimir G, the Os had the best offer in 2 years more than anyone else and more money per year than anyone else but he took an inferior offer with the Angels. That exact scenario has happened repeatedly over the last decade. The only significant difference with GM MacPhail is that he’ll stick to his plan and will not overpay. His predecessors would do that, which in the long run limited what they could do on the farm. There were no high grade prospects with huge signing bonuses like Matusz or Wieters in those years.

  14. jwredsox 5 years ago

    They were testing how much of a hometown discount Teixeira would take. But point being is that they showed they were willing shell out big money to a player.

  15. redsandyanksfan 5 years ago

    Uhm the nationals was pretty deep in getting him to , i belivie it was 160 million they offered 20 million below the yankees

  16. basemonkey 5 years ago

    My point was that the Os have done that. They signed a mid career Javy Lopez, a rising Tejada, a late career Raphael. All at very overpaid rates. They offered countless contracts to middle tier veterans too (Baez, Hernandez, Erickson, Jason Johnson, etc..). At overpaid rates as well. When they overpaid for such guys, they rightly got criticized for it. The bottom-line is that no matter what quality the Free Agent is, if that given player has an option to play elsewhere, understandably they usually do.

    I am not defending the Os management of the last decade. There has been bad choices for sure, but to simplify the matter that, they have always been a Scott Rolen or Andruw Jones or any other middle tier vet away from making some noise is plain nonsense. The oriole offenses of the last decade have generally been ok to good. The single largest problem is attracting pitching while caught in this vicious circle.

  17. basemonkey 5 years ago

    Just out of curiosity, who of GG CF Adam Jones, RF Markakis, LF Scott, CF/LF Pie, OF Reimold would you replace with Magglio? I don’t think he’s better than what they’ve got, when you consider youth with talent.

  18. ugen64 5 years ago

    we’re definitely not targeting Magglio. I do agree that big free agents probably won’t want to come to Baltimore, but that doesn’t mean we should overpay for Javier Vazquez or something like the short term, we don’t have a lot of free agent needs. we definitely need to sign a shortstop (although that could mean resigning Izturis), and we might try to sign a short-term 1B, depending on a number of factors like whether Luke Scott is traded, Nolan Riemold looks good, etc. we could use a utility infielder better than Julio Lugo, but that’s a cheap position no matter what. and of course we’ll get a few cheap / minor league free agent bullpen arms. but for the holes in the field – SS and 1B – there’s no point in giving a big money deal to a middling free agent, because we’re not going to contend next year no matter what. so we’ll either pay big for a big player, or we’ll give a 1 or 2 year deal to someone like Carlos Pena. it would be a waste of money for us to shell out a big contract to someone like Derrek Lee, because he’ll probalby be gone before we’re ready to contend anyway – we should only commit big bucks when there’s a guy like Teixeira or Pujols available.

  19. The_Porcupine 5 years ago

    Free agents will not be going to the Rays. I like your point about not targeting big names (waste of resources to overpay to get one to choose us over better team). I don’t think Jones, Rolen, or Ordonez are good targets though (way too old and injury prone- again waste of resources). I admit De La Rosa intrigues me, but I think he’ll be too expensive to pursue. But he’s the type of player to look at- in his prime years, but not a superstar. Sign a few of those players and develop some depth.

  20. Lookouts400 5 years ago

    They offered 160 million.

  21. basemonkey 5 years ago

    I don’t get it.

    First you said that the problem with the Orioles was that they needed to sign better Free Agents. So, I offered an argument that they’ve made offers to the best Free Agents in the last decade and on the vicious circle of losing teams, where the best Free Agents just pass. Then you suggest the Orioles sign 2nd tier Free Agents, maybe 3rd tier. I then responded with an argument that, if those players have other offers, even they demand overpayment. So now we’ve gotten to the Orioles signing fringy players who wouldn’t realistically make a difference like Hairston (who the Os developed) and Inge (who could be useful but he’s not going to be a difference-maker at his age).

    Are these random names better than what the Orioles already have? The Os have a lot of good young talent in the lineup and rotation. Most of them haven’t had breakthrough seasons, but does it make sense to replace any of them with names that you’re throwing out? The Catch 22 of a losing team is that, once you are there, Free Agency is predominantly closed off to you. The only players willing to play for you will be players looking to rebound from “off” or unhealthy seasons (e.g. Bedard, Sheets, ), aging vets in the tail end of their careers trying to stick around (e.g. Millwood, Javy, Kendall), and onetime prospects looking for a shot (e.g. Jeremy Hermida, Chen, Corey Patterson, etc..). You can try to overpay, but even at that, the best free agents just won’t come. So you’re stuck with paying huge contracts to MLB average players.

    Historically the only way out of the cellar is via exactly what the Os have been trying to do, farm your way out.

  22. basemonkey 5 years ago

    wanted to add “Frank Thomas” to the list of aging vets. He signed with the As late in his career and had a pretty good season at that.

    One example we might want to note is KC’s signing of Gil Meche. He was a longtime prospect for the Ms and never quite had a breakthrough. His contract was a huuge overpayment for someone who was an average MLB pitcher (at best) to that point, but the following season he had a good year. Now he’s been injured and likely to pitch out of the bullpen for the indefinite future. Suddenly he has become a major albatross contract by being an expensive longterm bullpen arm. That’s exactly the kind of contract scenario that can really hurt a losing franchise from jumping back into contention.

  23. redsandyanksfan 5 years ago

    No but they coulda have been considered in the running. Jason Marquis was a bad signing hes been injuried this year but the Pudge and Dunn moves were excellent along with there drafting. They better hope they resign Dunn or the offensivie is going to look bad next year

  24. basemonkey 5 years ago

    You missed the point.

    I was saying that the Os have signed good players in their prime (I.e. Belle, Tejada) as well as middle tier guys as well. All at bogtime overpayments for their respective talents.

  25. basemonkey 5 years ago

    Again. If you read the post, you’d understand. I’m not comparing Frank Thomas to a top tier free agent. He was an example of one kind of free agent that is available to a losing club. A declining veteran.

  26. basemonkey 5 years ago

    Ever since MacPhail has taken charge, they mostly have stopped targeting big names. Teixeira was an aberration to that but most of their free agent signings are in the stopgap-with-upside type of deals like Huff, Wigginton, Hendrickson.

    I’m not putting words in your mouth. Your position is confused. First you say they need to do better in Free Agency. I took that to mean they needed to sign better Free Agents. Now you’re saying they they need to stay away from signing big names. Well, which is it? You’re contradicting yourself.

  27. basemonkey 5 years ago

    Ok. I can agree with that. That’s basically signing low risk shrewd deals with upside. I’ve criticized the orioles in the past, but for the most part, that’s exactly what MacPhail targets doing. He’s inherited a mess and his moves are just beginning to express themselves.

    That being said, as much as I prefer the low risk/high upside deals a la De la rosa or Zobrist or Bautista, you can’t rebuild a franchise banking on winning a fluke windfall, nor can you say that this team is a De La Rosa or two away from contending. The Orioles are all-in on the development of their youngsters like Matusz, Wieters, Jones, Markakis.

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