I already said last week that I think Baltimore Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace is the team's best offseason acquisition.
Now, I'm going to go one step further and offer up a few what ifs that I have been mulling over ever since watching the Orioles' Aug. 22-24 series against the Chicago Cubs.
If we can all agree that Wallace is a huge improvement over his predecessors of Rick Adair and Bill Castro, then my question becomes: what might the Orioles' rotation look like today had Wallace been in place since 2011? The Orioles might not have traded Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Cubs for Scott Feldman in July 2013. In the case, they probably would not have needed to acquire a Feldman-type pitcher, because they would have had the real Arrieta we've seen this year -- a 2.53 ERA and 127 strikeouts.
On a slightly lesser level, Cubs reliever Pedro Strop, who struggled mightily at the tail end of 2012 and throughout his 2013 time in an Orioles uniform, has also rediscovered what went out of whack in Baltimore.
Adair originally came to work as the bullpen coach in 2011, Showalter's first full season. He was more or less the personal choice of Mark Connor, who replaced Rick Kranitz during that same offseason. Connor pushed for Adair, the same way current O's pitching coach Dave Wallace pushed for his man Dom Chiti to be hired as the bullpen coach.
While Adair might have made sense as a bullpen coach, he didn't deliver on developing the Orioles' young starters. Just look at the improvement starting pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris have made this season under Wallace's guidance.
And while Chris Tillman made giant strides during the Adair years, he actually had his delivery refined by Norfolk pitching coach, Mike Griffin and the club's organizational pitching coach, Rick Peterson.
Ubaldo Jimenez sticks out as the one pitcher Wallace has been unable to improve during their first season together. But I can't help but wonder, if the Orioles still had Arrieta in place, maybe executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette wouldn't have felt compelled to gamble $50 million on Jimenez.
I certainly wouldn't mind having Arrieta taking the mound for the Birds every five games … not to mention the extra millions in the coffers.