Subscribe to our newsletter

John Means to the Moon!

John Means pitches.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Supporting your favorite baseball team in the midst of a rebuilding phase can be a grind, especially when the team does so in the unapologetic, scorched-earth fashion the Orioles have over the course of the past three seasons.

It can do funny things to your brain; I recently reminisced about the 2007 summer of Erik Bedard, romanticizing a season during which the Orioles record was *checks notes*…69-93!

Yeah, it’s been a little rough; however, one of the best parts of a rebuild, along with the proliferation of the top prospects fans have been reading about for years, is the emergence of players who exceed even the team’s expectations and solidify themselves as valuable Major League pieces who could potentially stick around for the days when the team is ready to compete again.

John Means pitches.
Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Sports

For the Orioles, John Means has been one of those guys, and his disappointing 2020 was a cause for concern for people who may have thought that Means was someone who may be making future postseason starts in Camden Yards. While his raw numbers were obviously subpar and the sample size small, there was a lot of encouraging data from his starts last season that suggests that he can write off 2020, and as the Reddit finance bros so eloquently say, I am holding John Means stock with diamond strong hands.

The glaring issue with Means was his home run numbers last year; like so many Orioles hurlers before him, he was absolutely snakebitten by the long ball. His 2.47 HR/9 was nearly double that of his 2019 all-star campaign, and his 21.8% HR/FB ratio placed him 14th among MLB starting pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched in 2020. The good news is that the last number is unsustainable and almost certainly a result of the small sample size. Allowing home runs will always be a heightened risk for Orioles pitchers given the ballpark in which they play, but Means has posted average to above average HR/FB rates throughout his time in professional baseball and should continue to do so moving forward.

Despite the ugly ERA last year, a lot of Means’ peripheral numbers, like his batted ball profile, actually improved! His ground ball percentage increased from 30.9% in 2019 to 43.9% in 2020 (which is another reason to believe his home run numbers were an aberration), his line drive percentage decreased eight percent, and his fly ball percentage fell by nearly six percent. In addition, he managed to lower the amount of hard contact from opposing batters consistently throughout his ten starts.

As you can see in the graph above, the second half of his season stands in stark contrast from the first. After getting tagged in three of his first four starts, Means was able to cut his hard contact to 30.9%, slightly higher than it was in 2019.

Another thing to point out about these final five starts: the Orioles faced top-third offenses in each of those games (NYM twice, TB, TOR, NYY). Each of those four teams ranked in the top 12 in wRC+, a stat that weights each offensive outcome and uses league/park adjustments to calculate offensive performance relative to league average, and that Means was able to succeed against them indicates that rumors of his demise might possibly have been exaggerated.

Back to the contact numbers. What was behind the gradual decrease, you ask? Beyond the otherworldly home run rate and typical small sample shenanigans, Means made a subtle change to his pitch mix. 

His changeup, by far his best pitch in 2019, was much less effective in 2020. Through his first five starts, Means was throwing the changeup 33.3% of the time.  His second five? 28 percent. 

This, coincided with an increase of fastballs (the velocity of which ticked up 2 MPH from previous seasons), helped lead Means to turn his tumultuous start around. His changeup remains a worry, but if he can regain the efficacy of that pitch to match with his improved fastball, he may be able to tap into an even higher level of production.

I get it. The Orioles have been through some rough years, and we try to look for any feel-good story we can to get us through times during which the Win/Loss record is, more simply, a loss record. We’ve had a few fleeting moments with guys like Hanser Alberto and Renato Nunez, only to have them fall victim to a rebuild that can sometimes be void of emotion. You have to be when you’re an executive that’s team-building, but fans don’t.

John Means was one of the guys we latched onto last year, the guy that could be the Orioles version of Dallas Keuchel: a left handed kinda-prospect who emerged into a key cog for a championship-level team. It was easy to be discouraged last season, when young potential pieces such as Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, and Cedric Mullins were showing flashes of what they could become, but I am here to tell you not to worry.

It’s time to strap yourselves in, buy some John Means stock, and take it TO THE MOON.

Clock at Oriole Park at Camden Yards Warehouse
News and Analysis

It’s Time to Spend – Will Ownership Step Up for Rebuild to Progress?

As the end of the 2021 season approaches, the Orioles are in another compelling race for worst record in the league. They are neck and …

Read More →
people standing by entrance to stadium with large potted plants
Down on the Farm

A Farewell with a Twist…to the FCL

Several years ago, while recovering from a major accident, I started fixating on the Orioles minor leagues. It was an outstanding decision and a way …

Read More →
News and Analysis

O’s Need to Aim to be Competitive in 2022

As another lost season in Birdland mercifully comes to a close, O’s fans are left yet again waiting for a future that we’re promised will …

Read More →
Colton Cowser
Down on the Farm

Colton Cowser Showing Off Tools in Delmarva

The Orioles had a lot of good options in the 2021 MLB Draft. Many experts had them picking either a pitcher or infielder with the …

Read More →
outfield at night with scoreboard at orioles stadium
News and Analysis

Maryland Food Bank & O’s Join Forces for Weekend Series

The Maryland Food Bank and the Orioles are joining forces before the O’s go head-to-head with the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend at Camden Yards. …

Read More →
Palmer McNally Cuellar
News and Analysis

Greatest O’s Pitchers of All-Time

Our beloved Orioles may not be giving us hope for anything more than a merciful end to this season but there have been many highlights …

Read More →
Get notified of the Latest Sport News Update from Our Blog
Latest posts
Join our newsletter and get 20% discount
Promotion nulla vitae elit libero a pharetra augue