Prior to last month’s non-waiver trade deadline the list of names linked to the Baltimore Orioles as possible trade targets was seemingly endless. While many clamored for a bat to upgrade the lineup, the consensus was that the starting rotation needed bolstering, even after the acquisition of Scott Feldman.
Jake Peavy was mentioned, but not too long after that came the $14.5 million he’s owed next year and how that wasn’t going to fit into the team’s financial plans. Matt Garza was considered an option because of his familiarity with the American League East. Ricky Nolasco was intriguing until the Marlins traded him Dodgers in early July, ending any thoughts of him in orange & black.
Perhaps the most consistent name to be connected with the O’s was Bud Norris of the Houston Astros. Sure enough – and conveniently enough – with Houston in town for a three-game series, the Orioles acquired Norris for minor leaguers L.J. Hoes and Josh Hader.
Norris’ history and track record isn’t that of former Cy Young winner Peavy or one-time American League Championship Series MVP Garza. But he was the guy the Orioles wanted, could afford, and the one Dan Duquette pulled the trigger for.
There were more than a few around Birdland who wondered what the fascination was with Bud Norris. A 4.33 career ERA in 118 starts with Houston, while not necessarily bad, doesn’t exactly scream “trade for him” in most cases. Neither does a 1.40 WHIP. The 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings is solid number, but gets offset a bit by 3.7 walks per nine.
The Astros apparently knew what they had beneath the numbers, which is why initially it was thought their asking price for Bud Norris was on the high side. Granted it’s still very early, but Orioles fans are starting to see why the Houston placed the value on Norris they did and why Baltimore wanted to pry him away.
In Norris’ first start as an Oriole he recorded a season-high eight strikeouts over six innings against his former team.
Through three starts Norris has pitched to a 2.65 ERA and 1.24 WHIP across 17 innings against the Astros, Padres, and Giants. He posted respective numbers of 3.93 and 1.41 through 21 starts this year with Houston. So far, Norris has held opponents to a more than respectable .238/.304/.413 slash line and stranded 88% of the base runners he’s allowed with Baltimore, according to Fan Graphs.
Having one of Major League Baseball’s best defenses (especially on the infield) behind you certainly helps considering Norris is now inducing ground balls at a 44% rate as opposed to 39% prior to being traded. He’s also upped his strikeout rate from 16.6% to 21.4%, while keeping his walk rate relatively the same (8.0% compared to 8.6%). When batters have made contact it hasn’t been solid all that often. They’re hitting line drives just 12.5% of the time, down significantly from 20.7% through his last start with the Astros on July 24.
The sample size with the Orioles is small and, based on his career numbers, a slight regression may be expected. But early results have been positive and I’ve even heard “Bud the Stud” around town in reference to the Birds’ new hurler.
That being said, Bud Norris will arguably make the most important starts of his career over the next month and a half as the Orioles push towards the postseason, increasing both the scrutiny that comes with bad performances and praise that accompanies good ones. More of the latter and less of the former may result in Norris’ new nickname sticking for a while since he’s potentially under the team’s control through 2015.
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