In his first week as manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Buck Showalter has proven not simply to be a great baseball mind, but also a pitching guru. After more than 100 games of borderline ineptitude, the starting pitchers for the Orioles responded to their new manager with seven straight quality starts and the results are six wins in seven games and perhaps a new attitude in Charm City.
After 13 years of disappointments Orioles fans have to be careful not to get carried away after winning six of seven games against two teams fighting for playoff positions in the American League. However, the immediate change in performance both offensively and defensively is a hopeful sign that the Orioles have some of the right players in place and simply needed a manager capable of pushing the buttons.
Team president Andy MacPhail said at the beginning of the season that he believed the Orioles were ready to stop rebuilding and start playing to win. A 32-73 record in their first 105 games hardly supported his statement.
However, since Showalter’s arrival, along with the return from injuries of starting second baseman Brian Roberts and starting catcher Matt Wieters, the O’s have definitely played at a different level.
The Orioles have averaged 4.4 runs per game (compared to 3.6 for the first 105 games) and have allowed only 3.4 (compared to 5.5) per contest.
A big reason for the reversal is the performance of the starting pitchers. After averaging barely five inning per start with an ERA of 5.5 for the first 105 games, they have turned things completely around in the last seven contests.
In registering seven straight quality starts for the first time since 2003, the Baltimore starters each went at least six innings while allowing two or fewer runs and every pitcher could have easily registered a victory. Unfortunately, the bullpen cost Jake Arrieta, Kevin Millwood and Brian Matusz victories while Brad Bergesen didn’t get enough run support while allowing just one run in his start.
If it continues, the increased performance by the starting pitchers should help a bullpen that has been over-worked throughout the year.
The pitching also helps the team in the field as shorter innings and fewer large deficits will ultimately help the Baltimore hitters improve their performance.
Sure it only took God a week to create our world, but it will take a lot more weeks like this past one before the Orioles can truly be considered back to a level of respectability. However, Buck Showalter and the O’s are certainly off to a good start.