It’s no secret that the strengths of the Orioles in 2016 lie in the defense, offense, and bullpen. The only question mark is the starting pitching. Going into the season, the Orioles planned on using Tillman, Gallardo, Jimenez, Gausman, and either Wright, Worley, or Wilson as the starting five. Due to injury, that has yet to happen this year.
That’s hardly an intimidating starting five, and when you look at it on paper, it’s actually one of the worst in the league.
But this starting rotation doesn’t need to be great for the Orioles to be very good. It just can’t be terrible. If the starters hold up and do an average job, this team will make it to the playoffs.
So how do the O’s make sure they have at least an average, middle of the pack rotation? Chris Tillman needs to be at the same form he was in 2014. I’m talking the 3.34 ERA Tillman that we all grew to love. If he can do that, he will help make up for what’s lacking in the rest of the rotation.
It may seem like an obvious statement to say a team needs it’s best pitcher to be good, but I think that’s especially true for this Orioles club. You just can’t have 5 below average pitchers and expect to be average. Because like I said, average for this team is good enough. That’s all we need. Tillman needs to be very good this year, in order to balance out the underperforming bottom half. If that can happen, the Orioles rotation can be just good enough to allow the offense and bullpen to carry them to the playoffs.
The Orioles are the exact opposite of the Mets last year. Their rotation was so good, that all they needed was an average offense. That’s what Yoenis Cespedes brought to the Mets. He was the most important player on the Mets last year, because without him, the offense would have been too weak for the pitching to compensate. This 2016 Orioles team is just the reverse of that, and Tillman is our Cespedes. He just needs to be good enough to compensate for the rest of the starting five.
Of course, Kevin Gausman is the wild card here. If Gausman takes the next step we all hope he takes, suddenly Tillman isn’t quite the make or break piece that I believe him to be. Only time will tell, but for now I believe this season will go as Chris Tillman goes.