When Zach Britton pitches in Seattle tonight, it will be interesting to track how many groundouts and how many flyouts he gets. It's not a secret that Britton has a power sinker, and when it is on, opposing batters hit on top of the ball and the groundouts start to mount.
Britton went 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA in three starts for Triple-A Norfolk. Over 13 2/3 innings, he gave up 13 hits with seven walks and five strikeouts.
But here is an amazing stat: He recorded 29 groundouts and just one out in the air in those three games. Yes that is a 29-to-1, ground-to-air out ratio, an excellent number for Britton and perhaps a sure sign that his power sinker is in good form right now.
In his first start - which lasted just two innings due to a blister - Britton got three groundouts to one in the air. In his next start, he had a 15-to-0 ratio and in his most recent start a 13-to-0 ratio.
American League hitters are better than International League hitters and he can't be expected to duplicate those numbers now - or maybe even come close. At times in the past , the more experienced big league hitters have laid off Britton's sinker as it dipped low and out of the strike zone.
Will that happen again?
I say those groundball numbers for Britton - in just three starts, I know - bode well for him. His sinker comes in at a better velocity than for a lot of pitchers, thus the term power sinker. He gets the advantage of the sink and a an extra tick or two on the radar guns than some others get with a sinker.
Britton went 5-3 with a 5.07 ERA last season for the Orioles and is 16-14 with an ERA of 4.74 in 40 games (39 starts) in his O's career. The team is 21-18 in those starts.
He is facing a Seattle team that ranks 13th in the AL in batting average and 14th in runs and OPS.
Tonight, he gets another shot to begin to establish himself again in the Orioles rotation. Will he take the ball and run with it this time?
Update: Britton gave up a homer on his second pitch tonight and is now out of the game as Tommy Hunter comes on to start the last of the seventh with the Orioles trailing 6-2. Britton allowed that homer to Michael Saunders and gave up 10 hits and six runs over six innings. The Orioles will need a major comeback to take him off the hook for a loss tonight.