Jack Flaherty Joins a New Flock in Baltimore

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports activities

The Orioles entered Tuesday with the American League’s finest document at 65-41 due to a rebuilding effort that’s lastly paying off. Nonetheless, the group made only one transfer to shore up its main league roster within the ultimate week forward of the commerce deadline, buying righty Jack Flaherty from the Cardinals in change for a trio of prospects, infielder César Prieto, lefty Drew Rom, and righty Zack Showalter.

It’s hardly a high-impact transfer, notably provided that the Orioles have been reportedly among the many frontrunners to land Justin Verlander and will deal from power due to their well-stocked minor league system. But Verlander — who to be honest may have used his no-trade clause to dam a transfer to Baltimore if it weren’t to his liking — as an alternative wound up being traded again to the Astros. What’s extra, other than Verlander and former Mets co-ace Max Scherzer, who was traded to the Rangers on Saturday, this wasn’t a market the place frontline starters modified groups. As an alternative the strikes have been centered round leases comparable to Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn, whose new groups are hoping they’ll rebound with a change of surroundings, whereas strikes for higher performers, and pitchers underneath membership management, have been usually stifled by the excessive asking costs. Notably, the Rays, who entered Tuesday a sport and a half behind the Orioles, have been one group prepared to chew the bullet for a better-performing starter by buying and selling for the Guardians’ Aaron Civale.

The 27-year-old Flaherty, who can develop into a free agent for the primary time this winter, matches into the bounce-back group. The previous 2014 first-round choose, who had spent his total profession with the Cardinals, made an impression in his first few seasons, putting fifth within the NL Rookie of the 12 months voting in 2018 (his age-22 season) after which fourth within the Cy Younger voting (and thirteenth within the MVP voting) the next yr. For these two seasons mixed, he pitched to a 3.01 ERA and three.64 FIP with a 29.8% strikeout fee and 6.9 WAR in 347.1 innings. Whether or not it was his workload, which included 196.1 innings at age 23 (plus one other 17 within the postseason), or simply unhealthy luck, his availability has solely been sporadic since then. He’s totaled 264.1 inning because the begin of 2020, and didn’t throw greater than 78.1 in any season from ’20–22 as a result of an indirect pressure and recurrent shoulder woes, which mixed to ship him to the 60-day injured checklist 3 times.

Flaherty has been wholesome this season, avoiding the IL and lacking just one begin as a result of proper hip discomfort. His efficiency has hardly been exceptional, nevertheless. In 108.2 innings, he’s pitched to a 4.43 ERA (106 ERA-) and 4.22 FIP (100 FIP-) whereas placing out 21.9% of hitters, 0.1 factors beneath the main league common for starters. He’s strolling 11.1% of hitters, and so his 10.7% strikeout-to-walk differential is nearly precisely half of his 21.6% differential from his 2018-19 heyday. The place he generated a 31.7% chase fee and a 13.6% swinging strike fee in these two seasons, he’s right down to a 27.7% chase fee and a ten.2% swinging strike fee this yr.

Not shocking given the accidents, Flaherty’s arsenal isn’t what it as soon as was. His common fastball velocity is down 1.4 mph from his seasonal peak of 94.3 mph, set in 2019, and his horizontal motion on the pitch has diminished from a median of 4.8 inches in 2019 to 1.8 this yr. When batters make contact with the fastball, they’ve hit it for a .304 common and .439 slugging share. The pitch was 22 runs higher than common in 2019 in line with Statcast, however is 5 runs worst than common now. His handiest pitch is his curve, which generates a 41.7% whiff fee; batters have hit it for only a .176 AVG and .324 SLG. The Stuff+ model isn’t notably impressed with both pitch, grading his fastball at 95, his curve at 91, and his general Stuff at 93.

The excellent news is that Flaherty has generated a career-high 44.6% groundball fee and allowed a career-low 0.82 homers per 9. He’s accomplished an excellent job of stopping onerous contact; his 87.5 mph common exit velocity, 6.4% barrel fee, and 35.8% hard-hit fee vary from the 71st to the 77th percentile. He’s been singed for a .345 BABIP, which figures to enhance as he strikes from a group with one of many majors’ worst defenses to 1 that’s been fairly middle-of-the-pack based mostly on an evaluation I did of a number of completely different metrics a month in the past. If nothing else, the Orioles’ .686 defensive effectivity is 21 factors higher than the Cardinals’ main league-low .665, which ought to assist trim that BABIP.

Flaherty joins a rotation that’s been higher than anticipated — which isn’t to say that it’s been good, precisely. In our preseason beginning pitcher Positional Energy Rankings, the Orioles ranked twenty eighth within the majors in projected WAR (7.5), however at this writing they’re nineteenth (5.7). Amongst AL groups, their 4.48 ERA ranks eighth and their 4.47 FIP tenth. A significant space of concern is that three of their beginning pitchers, specifically Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells, and Grayson Rodriguez, have both already set profession highs in innings (main league and minor league mixed) or will accomplish that very quickly:

Orioles Beginning Pitcher Workloads

Pitcher Age MLB IP MiLB IP 2023 complete 2022 complete Profession Excessive Profession Excessive Yr
Kyle Gibson 35 133.0 0.0 133.0 170.0 194.2 2015
Dean Kremer 27 119.2 0.0 119.2 134.1 134.1 2022
Tyler Wells 28 113.2 0.0 113.2 106.0 119.1 2018
Jack Flaherty 27 109.2 0.0 109.2 63.0 213.1 2019
Kyle Bradish 26 104.0 5.0 109.0 145.1 145.1 2022
Grayson Rodriguez 23 62.1 41.1 103.2 75.2 103.2 2023
Cole Irvin 29 44.0 42.0 86.0 181.0 181.0 2022

Totals embody main league, minor league, and postseason innings.

That doesn’t give the Orioles lots of headroom in the event that they’re enjoying into October, and what’s extra, in including Flaherty they now have three starters who’ve already surpassed final yr’s workloads. Fatigue might already be an element for Wells, who after totaling simply 9 innings and permitting 11 runs in his first three second-half begins was demoted to Double-A Bowie on Sunday. Said supervisor Brandon Hyde of the demotion, “We really feel like he wants a bit little bit of a break… [R]eally the final three or 4 begins, there’s been some issues in there that have been uncharacteristic.”

Mentioned Hyde of the pitchers heading into uncharted territory, “All these guys are going to undergo issues for the primary time, actually… It’s a part of growth, and it’s a part of why they’re going to be actually good down the street, too. We’re making an attempt to win proper now. We’re going to attempt to win down the street.”

Right here’s common supervisor Mike Elias on the topic, from Sunday as nicely:

“We’re making an attempt to be aware of indicators that they is likely to be exhibiting that that is likely to be purpose to drag again, different than simply kind of the educational idea of, like, ‘Oh hey, have a look at what number of innings this man’s thrown. Let’s again that off,’” Elias mentioned. “There’s actually not a ton of science, or any science, there. We attempt to use frequent sense, we attempt to use our experience.”

Touché. Nonetheless, one would have anticipated a group within the Orioles’ place to come back away from the commerce deadline both with increased high quality or higher amount than simply Flaherty, who at this stage is a quasi-LAIM (League Average Innings Muncher), albeit one with merely a modest urge for food for innings based mostly on his spotty observe document for well being. If a contact-oriented Cardinals starter about to hit free company was the order of the day, why couldn’t the Orioles land the extra sturdy and dependable Jordan Montgomery, who was as an alternative traded to the Rangers? Perhaps a change of surroundings will assist Flaherty, however an AL East the place all 5 groups are above .500 is hardly essentially the most hospitable touchdown spot for pitchers in want of a brand new backdrop.

As for the returns, Eric Longenhagen has a separate column dedicated to them you’ll be able to learn right here, however right here’s a short rundown. Prieto is a 24-year-old infielder who has hit a mixed .349/.393/.475 (132 wRC+) with an absurd 7.4% strikeout fee cut up between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk; he was twenty seventh on the Orioles Prime Prospects checklist in February as a 40 FV prospect, and is now 18th on the Cardinals’ list. Rom is a 23-year-old lefty who has pitched to a 5.34 ERA and 4.21 FIP with a 25.1% strikeout fee in 86 innings at Norfolk; he was twenty ninth on the O’s prospect checklist within the spring as a 40 FV prospect, and is now twenty fourth on the Cardinals checklist. Showalter — no relation to the previous Orioles supervisor, alas — is a 19-year-old righty who has posted a 2.37 ERA and three.20 FIP with a 31.8% strikeout fee in 30.1 innings cut up between the Florida Complicated League and A-level Delmarva. He’s not but on The Board, however Eric indicated he might be added quickly.

All advised, it doesn’t look as if any of the prospects the Orioles gave up are more likely to be impression gamers. Whereas Elias sees this group as one whose aggressive window is simply beginning to open, maybe he and the Orioles will look again and need they’d dug a bit — or lots — deeper to spherical out their rotation in pursuit of October success.