The Orioles will attempt to win another series tonight (if the rain holds off) and they will try to do it behind left-hander Wade Miley. The veteran credits former Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor for his success to end last year and his strong start to 2017. McGregor told Miley to try easier and I don’t know how that phrase has made a pitcher who has been in the league since 2011 more effective, but that’s where we are with Miley. The 30-year-old owns a career 4.14 ERA so it will be interesting to see how long this good streak will last.
Gausman Continues to Struggle
While Miley may be in the midst of one of his better stretches in his career, the pitcher that was supposed to take the next step is currently in the worst stretch of his professional life. Kevin Gausman has been off since opening day and now sports an ugly 7.50 ERA and even worse 17:15 strikeout to walk ratio through his first five starts.
The question is, why? We know Gausman is better than this. His fastball velocity has been around 95 MPH which is in line with what it has always been. Gausman is blaming his mechanics which are making his fastball command inconsistent and has led to the disappointing results.
The other factor is his pitch deployment. Gausman’s best pitch is his split-fingered fastball, yet he has not used that pitch at the rate he has in the past. Gausman really turned the corner in the final two months of 2016 and during that time, he threw the split-fingered fastball less than 15 percent of the time only twice in his final 12 starts according to FanGraphs.com.
Through his first five starts in 2017, Gausman has thrown his split-fingered fastball less than 15 percent already four times. It’s not a coincidence that after the first inning in his latest start, Gausman pitched much better and ended up throwing his splitter 19 percent of time.
Gausman is quoted in the Baltimore Sun as saying he hasn’t faced as many lefties, but also he doesn’t throw that pitch a lot in spring training because he doesn’t want to develop any blisters so he scraps it until he builds up rough skin on his fingers. This has led Gausman to not have a great feel for the pitch.
The question becomes, how much longer until Gausman believes he can use that pitch more consistently? Also, will this be an issue in future seasons, and if so, what will Gausman do to counter that so he doesn’t look like a minor league pitcher for the first month of the season?
We don’t have much history to go from, as Gausman dealt with a shoulder injury last year to start the season so he made rehab starts before making it back to the big leagues and he was used as a reliever to begin 2015.
As we continue to wait for Manny Machado to start hitting and Mark Trumbo to get out of a slump that has lasted since July of 2016, Adam Jones has been a steady presence once again in the Orioles lineup.
It’s amazing how consistent Jones has been throughout his career and congratulations to him for eclipsing the 1,500 hit mark. I realize it’s only been one month, but could Jones actually be in store for his best season yet? The 31-year-old was special in 2012 and 2013, so at worst, maybe he could come close to those numbers.
The reason I’m encouraged by Jones’ start is because of his patience at the plate. Jones will never confuse anyone with a hitter that will walk 100 times and he will always swing at the low and away slider, but as of now, Jones is at a career-best nine percent walk rate. Jones already has seven walks this season and is on pace for over 60 this year. The centerfielder has never walked 40 times in his career.
Another reason to be optimistic about Jones is his ability to hit the ball to all fields. Again, only one month, but Jones is hitting to right field 38 percent of the time, another career high. The ability to draw a walk and hit to all fields is exactly how to maintain a high batting average and right now, Jones is doing both.