2009 In Review: Starting Pitchers

Jeremy Guthrie: 10-17, 5.04 ERA, 200 IP, 35 HR, 60 BB, 110 K, 1.42 WHIP, 4.95 K/9

Coming off back to back seasons with ERAs in the mid threes (3.70, 3.63) Guthrie was supposed to be the anchor of our staff and the only sure thing of the opening day starting rotation, but he just couldn’t get it going in 2009. Its kind of a mystery why he regressed so much, but there are a couple theories. Guthrie pitched in the World Baseball Classic in the spring and missed most of spring training. He never had much time to refine his pitches, but that doesn’t explain why he struggled over the course of the entire season. He did have that injury at the end of 2008 when he had to be shut down in September. There might’ve been lingering effects of that all year. There just didn’t seem to be the same movement on his pitches this season. The 35 homeruns he gave up led the american league. He had some encouraging starts towards the end of the year, so theres hope that he can bounce back in 2010.

2010 Prognosis: And I do expect Guthrie to bounce back some in 2010, but not to the same amount of success he found in 2007 and 2008. I think we’ll see him fall in between 2008 and 2009, somewhere around 4.40 – 4.60. But that would be very valuable if he keeps eating innings. He pitched 200 innings for the first time in his career and I think he’ll do it again next year. There is a chance Guthrie could be traded in the offseason, but it might be selling low so I could see us holding on to him and hoping he starts off good so we can look to deal him at the trade deadline.

Brad Bergesen: 7-5, 3.43 ERA, 123.33 IP, 11 HR, 32 BB, 65 K, 1.28 WHIP, 4.74 K/9

Bergesen was the surprise of the year. Mostly unheralded as a prospect despite having alot of success in the minor leagues. Scouts just didn’t think his stuff would play as good at the major league level. But hes a gamer and always finding ways to improve his game. He came up to the Orioles and worked with pitching coach Rick Kranitz, adjusting where he stood on the mound and fine tuning his breaking pitches. He gets alot of groundballs and has pretty good command so hes able to keep the ball in the park. He was looking like a rookie of the year candidate before he got hit by a line drive that hit off his upper left leg. It was scary at the time, but x-rays were negative. It was looking like Bergesen would only miss a few starts, but he ended up not pitching again in 2009.

2010 Prognosis: Bergesen should be ready for spring training. Being the hard worker he is, I don’t see him letting this kind of thing hold him back. In 2010, I expect him to continue to have success although I think his ERA will be somewhere between 3.75 – 4.50. Hes another guy that can eat innings and keep the team in the ballgame. He won’t strike out many batters, but as long as he keeps getting alot of groundballs he should be ok.

Jason Berken: 6-12, 6.54 ERA, 119.67 IP, 19 HR, 44 BB, 66 K, 1.74 WHIP, 4.96 K/9

Berken started the year in AA Bowie, but quickly got promoted to AAA Norfolk where he pitched to a 1.05 ERA over 5 starts. He got called up to the Orioles in late May and stuck around all year. Not that he necessarily deserved to. Berken was 2-11 at one point and struggled in almost every start. But he kept getting chances since there weren’t any other options. If nothing else it was a good learning experience for Berken. He should know what he has to do to improve.

2010 Prognosis: Berken will probably compete for the 5th starters spot in spring training, but I don’t think he really has much of a shot. I think he could be a good fit in the bullpen, either as a long man or turned into a Jim Johnson type. Remember, Johnson was a mediocre starting pitching prospect much like Berken at one point but was very effective in one inning stints out of the bullpen. If he doesn’t make it on the opening day roster he will mostly likely start in AAA Norfolks rotation until hes needed.

David Hernandez: 4-10, 5.42 ERA, 101.33 IP, 27 HR, 46 BB, 68 K, 1.62 WHIP, 6.04 K/9

Hernandez had a similar season to Jason Berken, just a notch better. He pitched very well at AAA Norfolk (3-2, 3.30 ERA, 57.1 IP, 18 BB, 79 K, .199 BAA) and was promoted to the majors in late May. He was sent back down after three appearances, but came back in late June and stayed in the rotation for the rest of the season. Hernandez was a bit inconsistent, had some trouble getting deep in games, but pitched really well for a rookie through August. He seemed to hit a wall in September (0-4, 8.67 ERA, 27.1 IP, 13 HR) seeing his ERA swell from 4.24 to 5.42. Hernandez has quality stuff and could be an effective starter if he can start to get his breaking pitches over for strikes and starts to pitch down in the zone with his fastball.

2010 Prognosis: I think Hernandez’ spring training performance will decide where he starts off in 2010, maybe moreso than any other pitcher. If he shows enough improvement he could win the 5th starters job. He could also win a spot in the bullpen, alot of scouts think hes going to end up as a late inning reliever. Or if it looks like he still needs some refinement, he could start out in AAA Norfolk’s rotation.

Koji Uehara: 2-4, 4.05 ERA, 66.67 IP, 7 HR, 12 BB, 48 K, 1.24 WHIP, 6.48 K/9

Uehara was the Orioles biggest splash in free agency last offseason and also the first time they’ve signed a Japanese player. Most teams saw Koji as a reliever in the majors, but the Orioles signed him to be in their rotation. It looked like the Orioles might’ve made a good decision after the first two months, but then the injury issues started to form. When he was healthy, Koji pitched very well and was probably our best starter. But his small frame and age (34) wouldn’t allow him to pitch that many innings. He was hurt in his start on May 23rd, came back for three more in the middle of June, but had to be shut down again after his June 23rd start. He didn’t come back in 2009.

2010 Prognosis: Uehara will turn to relief in 2010, much like most teams predicted. I think Koji could be very effective out of the bullpen and I could even see him as the Orioles closer in 2010. He’ll need to prove that hes healthy in spring training and will probably need to be used carefully in the beginning of the year. He could be versatile in relief, pitching anywhere from one to three innings at a time.

Chris Tillman: 2-5, 5.40 ERA, 65 IP, 15 HR, 24 BB, 39 K, 1.55 WHIP, 5.4 K/9

Tillman began the year as our third best prospect behind Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz and he did nothing to disprove that. As a 21 year old in AAA Norfolk he pitched outstandingly (8-6, 2.70 ERA, 96.2 IP, 26 BB, 99 K). He was brought up at the end of July and had his share of struggles but seemed to get better with each start through the end of August. Then September hit and had a similar effect to Tillman as it did to David Hernandez (1-3, 7.30 ERA, 24.2 IP, 5 HR). Despite the rough finish, which is only natural seeing as the minor league season ends a month earlier, Tillman showed alot of promise. He has one of the best curveballs from a right handed pitcher that I’ve ever seen, he just needs to be more consistent with it. He learned a change up that shows alot of promise this year. In fact it might’ve been his best pitch most nights out. He needs to work on his fastball command and maybe get some more movement on his pitches but I like what I see from the kid.

2010 Prognosis: Tillman will enter the 2010 season around the bottom of the Orioles rotation. I’d look for improvement as the year goes along. Hes pitched well everywhere hes been so I wouldn’t count out a big year from him, but I expect an ERA of around 4.65. If he can do better than that, it would be a big step for the Orioles.

Brian Matusz: 5-2, 4.63 ERA, 44.67 IP, 6 HR, 14 BB, 38 K, 1.48 WHIP, 7.66 K/9

Matusz wasn’t supposed to see the major leagues in 2009. He started the year at High A Frederick where he dominated over 11 starts (4-2, 2.16 ERA, 66.2 IP, 21 BB, 75 K). He was then promoted to AA Bowie where he dominated even more (7-0, 1.55 ERA, 46.1 IP, 11 BB, 46 K). The Orioles had no choice but to call him up when they needed to grab a starter from the minors on August 4th. Matusz pitched well in his first start, then struggled over the next four. The nerves died down and something seemed to click after that 5th start. Over his last three starts of the season he was pretty much lights out (3-0, 2.14 ERA, 21 IP, 4 BB, 15 K). The 22 year old has five pitches that are all above average and he knows what hes doing out there. Some minor improvements I’m sure could be made, but the kid has the arsenal and mental toughness of a big league ace.

2010 Prognosis: Matusz is our best starting pitcher right now. I expect nothing less than the AL rookie of the year award in 2010. He’ll probably start the year as the third starter (behind Guthrie and Bergesen), but I think he’ll clearly be the ace before long. I think Matusz is going to go down as one of the best starting pitchers in Oriole history. I may be jumping the gun a bit, but he is going to be a big part of future Orioles teams and it starts now.

Rich Hill: 3-3, 7.80 ERA, 57.67 IP, 7 HR, 40 BB, 46 K, 1.87 WHIP, 7.18 K/9

The Orioles traded for Hill last offseason, basically getting him for nothing. He was one of the best pitchers in the NL in 2007, but had physical and mental issues in 2008 and just wasn’t the same pitcher. The Orioles acquired him hoping he could bounce back to what he was in 2007. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Hill showed flashes of brilliance and he has an outstanding cuve ball, but he was just too wild and didn’t use his fastball effectively enough. He started the year on the DL after some discomfort in spring training and had to be shut down after his July 27th start with more arm issues.

2010 Prognosis: Hill is now a free agent after the Orioles outrighted him to AAA Norfolk and he declined. He could still sign with the Orioles, but I don’t see that happening. He’ll get a minor league deal from somebody and hope to get another chance in the majors.

Adam Eaton: 2-5, 8.56 ERA, 41 IP, 9 HR, 19 BB, 28 K, 1.83 WHIP, 6.15 K/9

Eaton started the year in the Orioles starting rotation and was just terrible from the very beginning. Most people knew it wouldn’t work out after it was announced we had signed him during spring training. But the O’s needed an arm for the rotation until some of the prospects were ready. He had one good start out of eight and was released after his start on May 21st.

2010 Prognosis: Hopefully nowhere near the Orioles organization. Eaton pitched in four games for the Rockies in August. Maybe he gets a minor league deal somewhere, who knows.

Alfredo Simon: 0-1, 9.95 ERA, 6.33 IP, 5 HR, 2 BB, 3 K, 1.58 WHIP, 4.27 K/9

Simon also started the 2009 season as a part of the Orioles rotation, but it was short lived as he was injured in his second start and had to be shut down for the season. He wasn’t effective in his limited time and has more value in the bullpen, although still not much. It was an unfortunate way for his season to end, but he would’ve been replaced after not much longer anyway.

2010 Prognosis: The Orioles outrighted Simon to AAA Norfolk and he accepted the assignment. I would imagine he pitches in the bullpen for them in 2010 and doesn’t see any time in the majors unless there is a real emergency.

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