- Paul Swydan, ESPN Insider
On a macro level, the Orioles have been fairly consistent this season. They've won at least 15 games in each month of the season, and their standing in the ESPN Power Rankings has been fairly well clustered. They have been ranked no higher than No. 4 and no lower than No. 13. Fresh off a sweep of the rival Yankees, they rank seventh this week, but that ranking might be their ceiling if they are unable to improve their starting pitching.
It's hard to know who's in and who's out on a daily basis, given how many pitchers the O's have shuffled through. Ten different pitchers have started games for Baltimore this season. Of them, only three -- Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman -- have pitched well enough to retain their starting spot as we move into the second half. The bottom line is that their starting rotation -- which ranks 28th in FIP- -- is not getting the job done.
Jason Hammel was the talk of the town in the first half of last season, but a knee injury killed his momentum, and he hasn't been the same since. He has tossed a quality start just 44 percent of the time this season, which is a below-average rate. With a significant drop in both his strikeout rate and ground ball percentage, he is seeing a lot more hard-hit balls fly off opponents' bats. When everything is firing on all cylinders for Hammel, he is a solid No. 3 starter, but that is definitely not the case this season.
There are a number of unpalatable options to go with Hammel. Zach Britton, who has a higher walk rate than strikeout rate, Jake Arrieta (6.46 BB/9), Steve Johnson (on the 15-day disabled list) and Tsuyoshi Wada, who was so bad during his rehab from Tommy John surgery (8.14 ERA in six outings) that the team out righted him to Triple-A. None of them should be trusted moving forward.
Gausman clearly has the tools, and with a .337 batting average on balls in play as well as a very high 21.2 percent HR/FB ratio, you could make the argument that he has been unlucky in his initial showings. However, he's far from a sure thing for 2013. McFarland, a Rule 5 pick from the Indians last winter, is even less of a sure thing.
Point is, if the O's want to make sure they don't waste one of the best lineups in baseball, a rotation upgrade is in order. Here's a look at who they should target as well as some possible trade chips.
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