Zach Wilt: Kevin Gausman’s biggest concern

Kevin Gausman’s first five starts in 2013 have absolutely captivated the baseball world. Some prospect experts love talking about his smooth upper-90s fastball while others highlight his quick work on the mound or his ability work out of jams. For me, I’m most impressed with Gausman’s command, which is highlighted by his incredible 29-to-1 K/BB ratio.

In 28 2/3 innings pitched, Gausman has surrendered just one free pass and struck out 29. To give you some perspective, only one big leaguer has a higher K/BB ratio, Adam Wainwright with his 37-to-1. Bartolo Colon is second behind Wainwright with a 20-to-1. Not surprisingly, both starters have been very successful through the first month of the season with their respective teams (4-1, 1.93 ERA and 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA). Strikeout-to-walk ratio is a very important stat when discussing the effectiveness of a starting pitcher. The top 10 in K/BB in the big leagues also have ERAs of 3.38 or lower on the year. Gausman’s mark says a lot about just how far along he is in his development.

On our weekly podcast on, we chatted with Baysox play-by-play voice Ben Gordon-Goldstein about Gausman’s success in the zone and he said it’s actually something the organization is working on tweaking.

“You know, it’s funny because I was talking to Blaine Beatty, the pitching coach, about that (and) I talked to Rick Peterson about it a little bit as well,” Gordon-Goldstein told us. “The funny thing is, they say sometimes he throws too many strikes and the thing he needs to work on is that he has to learn that there are times when he needs to throw pitches out of the zone. And so sometimes the quality of the strikes is too good and that’s what’s led to him being hit a little bit more.”

If Gausman’s biggest concern is that he throws too many strikes, Orioles fans are in for a real treat when he gets the call up to Baltimore. It certainly seems like a great problem to have.

Gausman’s start on Sunday against Harrisburg proved to be his best outing yet. He went 7 2/3 innings, surrendering five hits, one earned run, no walks and eight strikeouts. The Senators lineup hit just .192 against him. I chatted with MLB Network Radio’s Grant Paulsen, who was in attendance for Gausman’s start, about the outing and he complimented his ability to work quick and pitch down in the zone.

Keeping the ball low seems to be the Orioles’ focus when it comes to developing their young pitchers. O’s director of pitching development Rick Peterson often stresses the importance of keeping the ball down and highlights the effectiveness of pitchers who are able to do so. Against Harrisburg (4 IP, 4 ER) and Erie (6 IP, 5 ER), Gausman struggled keeping the ball low and scattered more hits than he probably would have liked.

Surely, the Orioles have been impressed with what they have seen from Gausman this season. His lone walk came with the bases empty and he’s shown an ability to force ground balls (2.14 groundball/flyball ratio) with runners on base. With runners in scoring position, opponents are hitting just .208 off him in 6 2/3 innings this season.

Like everything in April, the sample size is small, but Gausman’s numbers are promising. Now if only the organization can teach him to throw a few more pitches outside of the zone.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. His views appear here as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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