As his second-half resurgence rolls on, Orioles starter Kevin Gausman credits a rather comprehensive midseason delivery change that has kept his body in line and gotten his season back on track.
Gausman said sometime before the All-Star break — data on his release point suggests it was after he walked six and allowed seven runs on eight hits against the New York Yankees on June 11 — he decided to square his shoulders more through his delivery as opposed to keeping it facing third base throughout.
"I think when I was kind of geared more toward third, looking at third base, I had a tendency to go toward the third base dugout," Gausman said. "Anytime you go that way and try to throw the ball that way, it's going to be difficult to do and tough to repeat.
"Now, I'm more toward home. I think that that allows me to stay more through the plate, and I think that's why my fastball is doing what it did last year, which is really staying true through the zone, where early on in the year, my ball was kind of moving all over the place. It wasn't consistent."
The change seems to coincide tidily with Gausman's turnaround this season. Through that Yankees start, he had a 6.49 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP in 14 starts. Since then, he has a 3.46 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP in 15 starts, making for a season ERA of 4.79 and a 1.57 WHIP.
"It's really felt good with every pitch," Gausman said. "It's been kind of an easy transition, to be more than halfway through the year and kind of decide not to go back to ground zero but to change some things, you always have some question marks in your head. But it's been an easy transition."
In that same span, most of Gausman's rate stats have improved drastically. His walk rate before the change was 4.4 per nine innings, and it's been 3.1 since. After striking out 6.1 batters per nine before the alteration, he's fanned 10.3 per nine since. And his swinging strike rate went from 8 percent before the switch to 13 percent since then.
Part of that, Gausman said, is an improved belief in his splitter, his best off-speed pitch.
"I think the biggest thing is now I'm throwing it for strikes when I want to and throwing it for balls when I want to," Gausman said. "I think a lot of teams, I think their scouting report is to just kind of not swing at my split until I show I can throw it for strikes. Throwing those first couple innings, throwing a couple for strikes definitely helps later on in the game."
That the change came after Gausman last faced the Yankees, his opponent in Thursday's rescheduled series finale, is particularly fitting considering perhaps no team further illustrates the 26-year-old’s prior success and his desperate struggles in the first half.
He entered this season with a 1.57 ERA (12 earned runs in 69 innings) as a starter against the New York Yankees, with 58 strikeouts and just 12 walks over 11 starts. By the end of last season, Gausman was being lined up to face the Yankees just so he could further toy with them. This year, something changed. He faced them four times in the first half, and the Yankees tagged him for 18 earned runs on 32 hits, with 16 walks and 11 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings, good for an 8.38 ERA.
Against the rest of the league this year, Gausman has a 4.29 ERA, meaning the Yankees account for a half-run on his season mark of 4.79.
After a fourth miserable start against them in June, something in his delivery changed, and his season along with it. He’s had tough starts since, but Gausman sees plenty of evidence that the tweak he made midseason is paying dividends.
“The plate looks bigger,” Gausman said. “That's a good thing.”