Add Orioles bullpen lefty Paul Fry to the list of pitchers that made offseason changes or tweaks that could help greatly during the 2020 season. One seemingly simple adjustment has helped Fry gain velocity. According to FanGraphs.com, his fastball velocity has gone from 90.7 mph last season to 93.5 mph in his first five outings.
“It is really just, my new set position (with) hands down lower I think really helped me stay connected throughout my whole delivery,” Fry said this afternoon via a Zoom interview. “I’m not trying to throw it harder, it’s just happening. My spin efficiency has gone up a little bit compared to where I have been in the past. What we call rifle spin on my fastball with a little bit of a cut. Yeah, just being direction-wise straight to the plate and giving it all I got.”
“I was straight-up giving the guys at second base exactly what I’m throwing,” Fry said. “I had my glove wide open to second base and they can see everything. I only have two pitches. So, it’s kind of easy to pick.”
Fry is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in 3 2/3 innings. He has allowed six hits with two walks to five strikeouts to start his season. With Richard Bleier traded, Fry and Tanner Scott are the only lefties in the bullpen. Fry hasn’t spent too much time focusing on those statistics yet but feels comfortable with his pitching thus far.
“I’ve been taking a lot of positives out of every outing,” said Fry, who allowed just 11 of 43 inherited runners to score during the 2019 season (25.6 percent), the eighth-lowest percentage in the American League. “I’ve had a little bit of bad luck, I guess, how I’m perceiving it. I don’t know how everyone else is, but I don’t really care about that. But yeah, I think the stats are what they are. I just have to be aggressive and throw strikes and keep doing what I’m doing.”
Through this season’s first 12 games, the O’s pitching staff is among those most adept at striking out opponents in the AL. The Orioles have moved from 13th in team strikeouts per nine innings last year (7.78) to fourth so far this year.
The AL team leaders in K/9:
10.98 - Cleveland
10.55 - Tampa Bay
9.54 - Texas
9.26 - Orioles
Last year the top five AL teams in order of strikeout rate were Houston, Boston, Tampa Bay, New York and Cleveland. Each of those clubs, save for Boston, won 93 or more games.
“I think we’re all just pounding the zone, getting ahead (in the count) early,” Fry said of the improved K rate. “I know myself, when I do that, I have a much better success rate. Get more chases on my slider. I think if we keep attacking the zone and putting pressure on the hitters it kind of puts them in tougher spots and makes them go outside of their comfort zone. We all put in the work during the break to be where we’re at right now. It is stuff we’ve all worked on, and I hope the trend continues up.”
The O’s bullpen ranks 10th in the AL in ERA at 4.20 coming into the series at Washington. But over the last seven games that number is down to 2.02.
“I think we’ve all been competing with each other a little bit,” he said. “And been throwing strikes and going right after guys. Results for everyone might not be there yet, but a lot of guys have proven what they can do and they’re solidifying a little bit of a job in the back end.”
Now the Orioles look to move past being swept four in a row by the Marlins and look more like the team that swept Tampa Bay.
“There are going to be series like that,” Fry said. “It’s also a team we don’t see very often. But Tampa, getting that sweep was huge for us, confidence-wise. I think we’ll get back to that. We’re all playing for each other and it’s a good dynamic here.”
The Orioles lead the all-time series 42-34 against the Nats since 2006. They are 19-18 at Nats Park.