In such an awful year for Orioles pitching, a great deal of my articles – especially the Suggested Change of the Week variety – have revolved around the rotation. This installment of Hot Take Tuesday will be no different.
A few weeks ago, I argued that John Means’ season may be the best since Erik Bedard graced the Yard. I stand by that statement, but the person I’d believed would jump to second-best has been far from trustworthy in 2019.
With that in mind, I see the rotation pecking order changing in Baltimore by the time the season ends.
As I’m sure you can guess, the name I’d been expecting to call the O’s #2 was Dylan Bundy, the 26-year-old righty who was an extremely exciting prospect for the Birds just a few years ago.
Now, Bundy sits at 4-11 with a 5.28 ERA in 18 starts, and he’s expected to come back from the 10-day IL today. And, while Bundy’s return is much needed, I feel a new starter may be gaining traction in Baltimore.
By season’s end on September 29, newcomer Asher Wojciechowski will be the second-best pitcher in the O’s rotation.
Upon reading that last sentence, it’s very likely that you feel I’ve made a massive overreaction to Wojciechowski’s dominant performance against the Red Sox over the weekend. You might be right.
I may easily be drinking the “Orange Woj” Kool-Aid at the moment, but I also think there’s significant evidence to support my point.
Starting with Bundy, it’s worth noting how unsuccessful he’s been in the latter months of a campaign. In fact, throughout his career, July, August and September/October have been the three worst stretches he’s endured.
The fact that he can’t put a full season together really comes into view when you look at these splits:
July: 7.35 ERA, 1.461 WHIP
August: 4.67 ERA, 1.261 WHIP
September/October: 5.78 ERA, 1.521 WHIP
Given that his 2019 summer has been a considerable struggle and that he’s coming off a minor injury, I don’t expect Bundy to kick the trend we’ve seen for the first three years of his career. Rather, I’m expecting it to get worse.
Now, turning the page to Wojciechowski, I think it’s logical after his last performance that he be considered a candidate for that #2 role in the rotation, at least as it pertains to the trust we place in him as fans.
Although there isn’t much of a track record from which to work, Wojciechowski has gone over 5.0 innings in three of his five appearances, one of which clearly was not intended to be an extensive one (he went 0.2 innings). In those five times on the mound for Baltimore, he’s only given up more than three runs once.
It’s become quite clear that Wojciechowski has the stuff to be a decent-to-strong starter in the majors. Per Steve Melewski in an article for MASN, Sunday’s start brought Woj’s strikeout rate to 12.13 per 9.0 innings.
Expanded to the league minimum to qualify for stats, that would put Wojciechowski 4th in the majors in that category.
While the pitcher’s ability to generate swings-and-misses isn’t everything he needs to succeed for the remainder of the summer, I also felt that his appearance this weekend was one in which he truly found his footing with the Orioles.
Having pitched for eight teams, Woj has struggled to stick in the league. However, it’s possible that the no-pressure environment with a team that gives him a bit more of a leash has helped him come into his own.
Undoubtedly, this is all speculation. Meanwhile, I do believe Wojciechowski has shown flashes of the type of talent to rely upon, at least more consistently than the arsenal Bundy has at his disposal.
While Bundy is declining, Wojciechowski is rising – all the way up to the second spot in the rotation.