If you were asked which O's pitcher has the best ground-to-air out ratio you'd probably guess Jim Johnson and you'd be right. He has a ratio of 2.70:1 of ground-to-air outs.
But many fans and reporters might not guess who ranks second on the club. It is Pedro Strop.
The 27-year-old right-hander has had a great year out of the O's bullpen, going 4-2 with three saves and a 1.29 ERA. Strop has recorded 13 consecutive scoreless appearances over a total of 12 1/3 innings.
If it seems like he is getting fewer strikeouts recently, that is the case and somewhat by design. Strop, who can hit the upper 90s and even 100 with his fastball, said he no longer is concerned with what the radar gun reading says.
"I think it's my sinker," he said today when asked what has been the key to his strong season. "I've become more of a sinker pitcher, trying to get ground balls every time. I used to be trying just to get strikeouts and have 25 or 30 pitches in an inning. But now I am trying to simplify everything I can and throw my two-seamer to get ground balls. I didn't trust the two-seamer so much before.
"Then I would try for velocity and try to throw 100 and strike them out with a slider or split-finger. Velocity is good but I am more focused on locating that sinker down and away and down and in to righties to get a ground ball as soon as possible."
Strop had a 2.08 ERA in April when he allowed three earned runs. He has given up just four total since then, pitching to a 1.01 ERA since May 1.
If he needed to reach back to throw 100, could he still do it?
"I don't know. It's kind of late in the season. But I don't even want to think about that, just want to focus on getting ground balls," Strop said. "When you're young you always hear people talking about velocity, you never hear someone say he got a groundball on just three pitches. You hear 'he throws 100.' That gets in your mind and that is what I was thinking, throw 100. Now I try to get outs on three pitches, that is my goal."
Pretty mature approach for a young pitcher that can impress with those radar readings, but no longer tries to do so.
A reporter reminded Strop today that he remarked early in the season that this O's team could be special and be a playoff contender. What did he see in the team then to make that statement?
"Just what I said three months ago," he said. "We've known we can battle and fight since September of last year. You see how close the guys are in here. Everyone tries to help each other. It was there, but we just needed that to click on and show we can do it. We're doing it."
And Strop is doing quite well now, even if he no longer tries to throw 100 mph.