After rough year, David Hess looks for 2020 turnaround

He ranks third on the Orioles with 33 starts the last two seasons. He trails only Dylan Bundy (61) and Andrew Cashner (45). But as of right now he may be a longshot to significantly add to that in 2020.

That is because right-hander David Hess took a big step backwards last year, going 1-10 with a 7.09 ERA in 23 games of which 14 were starts. The Orioles went 2-12 in those starts.

Hess-Winds-Gray-sidebar.jpgIt was just a year before that when Hess pitched much better and ended his season with a solid finish. In 2018, the right-hander went 3-10 with a 4.88 ERA. But over his final nine starts, he was 1-4 with a 3.24 ERA. Over 50 innings he walked 16 and fanned 40.

In those nine starts he allowed nine home runs or 1.6 per nine innings. That is not a low number but was much better than his 2019 season, when he gave up way too many longballs.

If Hess can recapture the form that he had to end 2018, his shot to make the Orioles rotation goes way up.

Hess finished last season with a career-high 28 home runs allowed, the third-most on the Orioles. He allowed three or more in five starts. Since 1954, the Orioles’ first season, Hess is just the third pitcher in the majors to surrender 28 home runs with fewer than 100 innings pitched, along with Chris Young (2016 - 88 2/3) and Bruce Chen (2006 - 98 2/3).

His 3.15 homers per nine innings was the highest in the majors among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched. Hess was much better keeping the ball in the park on the farm. For his minor league career, he has allowed 0.81 homers/nine.

Hess’ homer rates from last year show he was more prone to give up the longball at home with a 3.6-per-nine rate. And to right-handed batters. He’s a righty pitcher but allowed 23 homers to right-handed batters last year in 221 plate appearances. He gave up just five to lefty batters in 144 plate appearances. So he gave one up every 9.6 PA against righty batters and one every 28.8 PA to lefty hitters.

Hess spent some time this offseason at the P3 pitching performance center in St. Louis, where John Means did some work last winter. He was given a remote program to take home and work on.

In a December interview, Orioles director of pitching Chris Holt spoke with my colleague Roch Kubatko about Hess.

“I think he can out-stuff guys at the minor league level, and in the big leagues, you can’t do that,” Holt said. “In my mind, it’s less about the stuff and more about his ability to pitch with it. And physically, he’s working on a better consistency with his delivery, which would allow him to access his best velo consistently.

“So, in terms of having more in the tank, when the delivery is consistent and he has the ability to attack with a plan and the plan is improved for him, that’s where he’s going to improve his performance.”

Based on what we saw during the 2019 season, Hess is a rotation contender that needs improvement, obviously. Based on what we see at the end of the 2018 season and with his winter work, he might have a better shot to make that improvement that you may think.

Babe’s bash tonight: The 26th annual Babe Ruth Birthday Bash, hosted by the Babe Ruth Museum, is set for tonight. It begins at 5:30 p.m. at Game sports bar at 1400 Warner Street. It is a great event and I’ll be attending once again and looking forward to meeting and talking with O’s fans. During the night local reporters will be part of forums discussing the Orioles, Ravens and Maryland basketball.

For ticket information go to baberuthmuseum.org or call 410-727-1539. Hope to see you later for one of the great events of the year on the Baltimore sports calendar.

Today’s the day: Also, today begins the three-day Birdland Caravan, for which players and club officials will be in 12 cities across Maryland this weekend. The Orioles put out this tweet yesterday, so in saying it all starts tomorrow, well, that’s today now!

Plus check out a new Twitter account for the Orioles Player Development department.

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