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Baltimore Orioles

Oriole of the Day: Mike Baumann’s predictable pitch mix led to up-and-down results in majors

Orioles pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Sarasota, Florida, for the start of spring training within the week, but as long as the owners’ lockout of the players continues, that won’t happen.

Under a lockout put in place by the owners after the expiration of the previous collective bargaining agreement, players on teams’ 40-man rosters are unable to participate in club activities. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters Thursday that the plan remains for spring training to begin on time, but as of the most recent negotiations between the league and players’ union to construct a new CBA, the sides were far apart. A delay of the 2022 regular season is certainly possible.

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In the meantime, The Baltimore Sun will continue to evaluate each member of the Orioles’ 40-man roster, looking back on their 2021 seasons and looking ahead to a 2022 campaign that hopefully begins not too long from now.

An elbow injury delayed the start of Mike Baumann’s season, but he reached the majors in September with a handful of relief appearances.

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Quick hits

2022 Opening Day age: 26

2021 stats: 9.90 ERA, 10 innings, five strikeouts, 1.900 WHIP, 10.0 K%, 12.0 BB%, minus-0.2 fWAR with the Orioles; 3.44 ERA, 70 ⅔ innings, 71 strikeouts, 1.146 WHIP, 24.7 K%, 11.8 BB% across three minor league levels

Under team control through: 2027

2021 in review

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Number to know: 90.8%. Baumann, a starting pitcher throughout his climb to the majors, made each of his four appearances for the Orioles as a reliever, and he was largely a two-pitch pitcher during that stint. More than 90% of Baumann’s offerings were either his fastball or slider. A return to starting will require mixing in his curveball and changeup, as well.

What was good: With the injury, it took awhile for Baumann’s season to get going, but he clearly got into a rhythm a couple of months into the year. Across his final 10 minor league outings — four starts in Double-A and six in Triple-A — Baumann posted a 2.02 ERA, allowed fewer than one base runner per inning and limited opposing hitters to a .483 OPS. He followed that with a major league debut in which he didn’t allow an earned run over 3 ⅔ innings.

What wasn’t: Another aspect of Baumann’s predominant use of two pitches is the predictability of his location. Of the 34 pitches Baumann threw in the upper third of the strike zone, 29 were fastballs, and opponents hit .300 with an .800 slugging percentage against them, according to Statcast. Likewise, almost three of every four pitches he threw to the bottom of the zone or below it was a slider. That rate was highest in his two worst outings.

Looking ahead to 2022

Likely 2022 role: Rotation and relief candidate

What’s projected: Unlike the rest of the Orioles’ starting candidates entering spring training, Baumann has yet to make a major league start. Baltimore will give him the opportunity to make the rotation, and if he doesn’t end up in it, he figures to start at Triple-A. But he might up in the Orioles’ bullpen anyway. Steamer projects him to mostly pitch in relief for Baltimore in 2022, while ZiPS estimates his work will mostly come as a starter. The early portion of Baumann’s season could go a long way in determining his future role.

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A step forward: A healthy spring could set the tone for Baumann. It would not only allow him to work on a regular schedule leading into the season, but also deploy each pitch in his repertoire. The combination could allow him to contend for a spot in the Orioles’ season-opening rotation.

Three up, three down

This series is ordered based on the WAR, as measured by FanGraphs, each member of Baltimore’s 40-man roster produced in 2021. The past three players featured in the series were Joey Krehbiel, Bryan Baker and Alexander Wells. The Orioles due up next are Dean Kremer, Ryan McKenna and Cionel Pérez.


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