Three weeks ago, Pedro Strop was thought of as one of the top setup guys in baseball. If Strop came into the game, fans assumed three outs and a Jim Johnson save the next inning.
Over his last six appearances, Strop has walked five, struck out four and recorded an 18.00 ERA (six earned runs in three innings). Opponents are hitting .500 with a .609 OBP off the Orioles' flamethrowing relief pitcher.
Everyone remembers Strop allowing two runs in the eighth inning of last Thursday's dramatic game against the Yankees. Strop relieved Randy Wolf with two on and two out and allowed a Curtis Granderson RBI single, a bases-loaded walk to Chris Dickerson and an Ichiro Suzuki RBI single before being relieved by Darren O'Day, who recorded the final out after New York tied the game at 6-6.
His next outing wasn't much better. Strop pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowed two hits, an earned run, walked one and struck out one. Strop forced Nick Swisher to ground out, fanned Mark Teixeira, then allowed a home run to Alex Rodriguez, walked Robinson Cano and allowed a single to Russell Martin before being relieved by Brian Matusz.
You could chalk up Strop's difficulties to the Yankees' lineup. The Bronx Bombers are hitting .304 off of him in seven games this season, higher than any team he's faced more than three times. However, it's Strop's command that probably has Buck Showalter worried.
Strop threw 15 pitches in his outing against New York last Thursday, only six of which were strikes. According to the data from Brooks Baseball, the Yankees only swung and missed at one pitch that was in the zone and never missed his fastball when it was thrown for a strike. Of his 10 fastballs thrown, only one was a strike, two resulted in runs and the other seven were taken for balls.
The pitch Rodriguez hit out on Saturday was a dead-center first-pitch fastball. No matter how hard he throws, good hitters aren't going to miss many pitches thrown knee high right across the plate.
Until Strop is able to find the bottom of the strike zone with his two-seam fastball, he can't be relied upon in crucial game situations. He proved over his first 55 appearances this season that he can control the 96-97 mph fastball, so there's no reason to think that he can't find his way out of this recent rough stretch.
Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com'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 MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.