Veteran pitchers could provide more development time for younger ones

When it was reported this week that the Orioles reached an agreement with right-handed starting pitcher Jordan Lyles for the 2022 season, the news was met with mixed reviews from the O’s fan base.

Some were pleased at least that the team invested a one-year deal for $7 million on a player, signing someone to a big league deal and for more than a player could earn on a minor league deal. Others noted that Lyles’ ERA was only 5.15 last year and he led the majors by allowing 38 homers.

But it was also pointed out that Lyles threw 180 innings and that was 33 more than any Oriole in 2021. He at least ate innings, and if he could pitch 180 innings for the Orioles next season, it would not only provide some relief for the at times overworked bullpen but also be 180 innings someone else did not have to account for. Likely a someone else that could be an young pitcher now that the club could further develop or bring to the majors when they want to and not when they have to.

We have also written about the fact that several of the young O’s pitchers, while not putting up strong numbers yet so far, are still just beginning their big league careers. We have seen so little of most of them that we just don’t know yet what the team has here.

While Lyles’ ERA of 5.15 last year was among the worst among qualifying pitchers, he also recorded 13 quality starts and that would have also led the 2021 Orioles. And his ERA is better than most of the young pitchers have shown so far.

If we look at five O’s young pitchers - Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin, Bruce Zimmermann, Alexander Wells and Zac Lowther - they have thrown just 337 combined major league innings between them.

Thumbnail image for Baseballs-at-Camden-Yards-Workout-Sidebar.jpgPerhaps after last year, a season that followed a 60-game season and created pitching issues throughout the sport, the Orioles realize that someone has to cover some innings this season. If they add a veteran or two to do it while young pitchers develop at their own pace, that is better for the young pitchers.

The agreement with Lyles could be the first of several. No doubt the Orioles could pursue veteran pitchers on minor league deals. But when the lockout ends, they could also add one or two more on a major league deal.

The team may look to other one-year contracts for pitchers. Those contracts will be done after the one year, and if these pitchers perform better than expectations, they could be dealt at the trade deadline for other young talent. Or if they stay all year, hopefully they eat innings and help the young players progress at the proper pace.

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

This group just doesn’t have nearly enough big league innings to pass many judgments so far. The addition of Lyles, and perhaps others to follow, could better enable the team to bring the young pitchers along only after proper and complete development.

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