O’s brass still hopeful for the young pitchers

It can be easy to look at some of the Orioles’ young pitchers and their stats in the 2021 season and feel the odds are long against them helping the club much in the future.

This would represent a rush to judgment, however. And the team’s front office has likely not made such judgments, and their opinions count the most.

Pitchers like lefty Keegan Akin and right-hander Dean Kremer ended 2020 looking decent and maybe ready for the majors. This past season was a very different story.

Let’s take a look at five of the O’s young starters: Akin, Kremer, Bruce Zimmermann, Alexander Wells and Zac Lowther, and it’s worth noting that their career major league innings totals range from a low of 29 2/3 innings for Lowther to a high of 120 2/3 for Akin.

Let’s also note that plenty of young pitchers struggled a bit early in their big league careers and vastly improved and even excelled later. That doesn’t mean this group will do that, but it does mean one or more certainly could make improvements and adjustments that will work better for them as they pile up more innings and experience.

Take right-hander Logan Webb of the San Francisco Giants, a pitcher who was outstanding for the team this postseason. He’s 24 and was a fourth-round pick in 2014 out of a California high school. Over 304 minor league innings, Webb posted a 3.37 ERA and 1.324 WHIP. Lowther has thrown 365 innings on the farm with a 2.61 ERA and 1.076 WHIP.

In his first two big league seasons in 2019-20, over just 94 innings, Webb went 5-7 with a 5.36 ERA and 1.521 WHIP. In 2021 for the Giants, he went 11-3 with a 3.03 ERA and 1.106 WHIP. In two postseason starts against the Dodgers he allowed one run over 14 2/3 innings.

Again, none of this is to say any of the O’s young starters will pitch like this in 2022. But before this year, Webb didn’t either.

On the blog yesterday I wrote about some comments O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias made recently on the “Inside the Yard” O’s podcast. On that same podcast he was asked specifically about Kremer. Kremer this year went 0-7 with a 7.55 ERA in the majors and went 1-5 with a 4.91 ERA at Triple-A.

Kremer-Delivers-Gray-SEA-Sidebar.jpg“We like him and he’s very much in our future plans,” said Elias. “He’s got a starter’s pitch mix, he’s got a good delivery. He’s had some very good starts and some very rough starts in the majors. He’s still learning a lot about using his pitch mix. And I think being trusting of his stuff and attacking and not nibbling with it, which we saw him doing a lot this year. He’s been working on that and he knows that. But I guess what I’m pointing out is, pitchers like him, it’s more common than not that their first go-around in the majors looks like this.

“You know, we were playing Boston, for example. And Nick Pivetta, you look at his stats the last couple of years. He had a rough time in the big leagues, but he’s starting to figure it out. And there were some underlying indicators that it was going to happen with his strikeout numbers and his walk totals and his minor league numbers. And Dean Kremer has all that going for him as well, so I think he has a bright future. We will keep working with him and I think these guys will continue to get better.”

A look at career major league numbers so far for the O’s young starters:

* Kremer is 1-8 with a 6.84 ERA and 1.590 WHIP in 72 1/3 innings.
* Akin is 3-12 with a 6.12 ERA and 1.550 WHIP in 120 2/3 innings.
* Zimmermann is 4-5 with a 5.30 ERA and 1.472 WHIP in 71 1/3 innings.
* Wells is 2-3 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.617 WHIP in 42 2/3 innings.
* Lowther is 1-3 with a 6.67 ERA and 1.652 WHIP in 29 2/3 innings.

Webb’s numbers for his first two big league years are very similar to Zimmermann’s. and a little better than those of the other four. But he went from an ERA plus of 78 in 2020 to 135 this season.

As O’s fans look to the future they can be excited to see pitching prospects Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, Kyle Bradish and many others debut for the team. At the same time, we still certainly could see a pitcher who has already debuted take some big steps forward too.

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