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Baltimore Orioles

Oriole of the Day: Tanner Scott will try to return to top form, diminish damage in 2022

In less than a month, Orioles pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Sarasota, Florida, to mark the start of spring training. Yet, there remains uncertainty as to whether that will happen as planned with the league’s owners continuing to lock out the players as the two sides plod toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

But as the lockout marches on, so too does Oriole of the Day, The Baltimore Sun’s series examining each member of the 40-man roster’s 2021 season and what’s ahead for them in 2022, assuming the league and the players’ union eventually come together.

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With this series’ order based on players’ Wins Above Replacement for 2021, it’s perhaps a surprise to see Scott featured so late, given he was a go-to late-inning reliever for manager Brandon Hyde in most Orioles victories. But a left knee sprain — as well as his continued control problems — flared up throughout the season to leave his final numbers looking rough.

Quick hits

2022 Opening Day age: 27

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2021 stats: 5.17 ERA, 54 innings, 70 strikeouts, 1.574 WHIP, 27.9 K%, 14.7 BB%, 0.4 fWAR

Under team control through: 2024

2021 in review

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Number to know: 8.70. Entering the day of the trade deadline, Scott was one of the Orioles’ prime candidates to be dealt. He had a 3.07 ERA and had struck out nearly a third of all batters he faced. But after Baltimore kept him through the July 30 deadline, he faced four batters and retired none in his next outing, the start of his downward spiral. The sprained knee prompted two injured list stints soon after, but when on the active roster, he posted a 11.77 ERA, and his strikeout rate dropped by half.

What was good: Before the knee injury seemingly spoiled his year, Scott was one of baseball’s most dominant relievers, ranking as one of nine with at least 40 innings who had struck out at least 30% of batters faced while holding them to a sub-.200 average through July 29. His slider was particularly involved in that success, holding hitters to a .194 average and .215 slugging percentage. When batters swung at it, they missed 52.2% of the time, the seventh-highest whiff rate for any pitch thrown at least 100 times in that span.

What wasn’t: Even before Scott’s ERA started climbing, he was walking batters too frequently. By the end of the year, no pitcher who threw at least 50 innings with a strikeout rate as high as his had a walk rate as close or a WHIP as high, and only two had higher ERAs, according to FanGraphs. He walked or hit 31 batters over 41 innings entering the deadline, then had 12 batters reach that way in his final 13 innings. Once he couldn’t prevent hits, those free bases came back to bite him more often.

Looking ahead to 2022

Likely 2022 role: Left-handed setup man

What’s projected: Projection systems have long been enamored with Scott, likely thanks to his success in the upper minors and strikeout potential. That remains the case this year, with both Steamer and ZiPS projecting him as Baltimore’s most valuable reliever in 2022. Both see him potentially cutting his walk rate down to the level he had it in his excellent — but short — 2020 season while maintaining a high strikeout rate. An ERA in the mid-3s, as both systems estimate, would be welcome.

A step forward: During his successful runs in 2020 and 2021, Scott threw his fastball as much as or more than his slider. In his troublesome two months to close this past season, he went to the breaking ball nearly twice as often as his fastball. That seemed to potentially make it an easier pitch for opposing batters to pick up or sit on, as they hit .385 and slugged .718 against it. Scott’s knee certainly could’ve played a role in the slider’s effectiveness, but a balanced approach might help him complete a full season with strong numbers.

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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 Jorge Mateo, Dillon Tate and DJ Stewart. The Orioles due up next are Bruce Zimmermann, Tyler Nevin and Zac Lowther.


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