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  • Jun
    13

    Moving on from Pedro Strop

    Written by Kerry Leibowitz

    A bit of personal background:  I’m sure I get as frustrated as the next person when an Orioles player fails to perform, but I think I’ve typically done a pretty good job of avoiding rash judgments about what, if anything, should be done in response to poor play.  In other words, I’ve tried to avoid relying on small samples.  More than any other sport, baseball’s season is a test of endurance and mistaking the trees for the forest can be fatal.

    With that in mind, I don’t make the suggestion that it’s time to remove Pedro Strop from the 25-man roster lightly, though the timing of this statement might make it seem otherwise.  Yes, today’s game plays a significant role, but not for the obvious reason (the awful results).  There’s a lot more to it than that.

    Performance is a factor here, obviously.  If Strop had been performing well, I wouldn’t be writing these words.  But the point is that Strop hasn’t simply had a bad outing or two.  From the middle of August last year to the present, Strop has appeared in 43 regular season major league games and has put up the following numbers:

     

    G

    IP

    H

    R

    ER

    BB

    SO

    ERA

    8/15-end of 2012

    19

    13.2

    20

    11

    11

    12

    15

    7.24

    Thru 6/15 2013

    24

    19.0

    18

    17

    16

    15

    19

    7.58

    Total

    43

    32.2

    38

    28

    27

    27

    34

    7.44

     

    Take a moment to absorb all of the data in the above table, because it’s arguably even worse than it appears at first blush.  Strop’s WHIP over this period of time is approximately 2.  The K/BB ratio is 1.26.  Strop is averaging well below an inning per outing over this stretch, bringing to mind the old joke about how the food is awful…and the portions are so small.

    So, there’s no denying that Strop’s performance over the past 4 ½ months of regular season action has been, in a word, atrocious.

    But what happened today, beyond a lousy performance?  Two things.  The first ran through my mind when Strop was shown to be the lone pitcher warming up in the bullpen as Jason Hammel ran into trouble in the seventh inning.  My reaction when I saw Strop throwing was “what’s Showalter doing?  Is he really prepared to bring Strop into a close game with runners on base?  Where’s O’Day?  Where’s Hunter?”  In fairness, maybe there was a reason that O’Day and Hunter weren’t available in this game (though if so I heard nothing about it before or since).  And I thought to myself, maybe this will be a game where Strop really has it and strikes out the side.  But then I paused and asked myself:  what if Strop does strike out the side here?  If that happened, would you feel any more confident about him the next time he was brought into a game?  There was no hesitation—absolutely not.  And that’s really the thing about Strop; he’s been so inconsistent for so long that a great outing basically means nothing as one projects forward.

    Of course Strop didn’t  strike out the side—far from it—and that ultimately leads to the second thing.  Strop took the mound with runners on first and second and kind of bollixed Hank Conger’s potential double play chopper, leaving the bases loaded.  Then he fell behind Erick Aybar who tripled into the right-center field gap and when the relay throw to third got away, Strop was backing up home plate, so Aybar waltzed home with what was, in a practical sense, a grand slam.  In one play the Orioles’ two-run lead had become a two-run deficit.  Jim Palmer chewed on Strop but good for backing up the wrong base—and technically Palmer was right.  Strop should have been between third and home until he saw where the relay throw was likely to be.  Had he done that, Aybar might not have scored.  At least Strop backed up something. 

    The wheels came off completely after that.  Though Strop retired Mike Trout on a groundball, I noticed that he had completely lost his composure and was rushing his delivery.  He went on to walk J.B. Shuck on four pitches.  The problems continued when Albert Pujols came to the plate; Strop could easily have been called for a balk on each pitch to Pujols, because he didn’t pause in the stretch at all.  Remember, despite the four-run rally at this point, it was still only a two-run game.  The Orioles have overcome much bigger deficits this year on multiple occasions, so the game wasn’t out of reach.

    Still, somehow, Strop got ahead of Pujols 0-2, but in his haste, he laid in a fat 0-2 pitch for a two-run home run (an 0-2 home run!) to make it a four-run lead.  That was pretty much the ball game.  Strop’s immaturity on the mound had essentially done the club in.  That’s not to say that the Orioles necessarily would have won the game without the meltdown that led to the Pujols home run, but...it was, in any event, the end of Strop’s day.

    Let’s face facts.  Pedro Strop is a 28-year-old converted infielder with electric stuff and a notable inability to regularly command it.  He’s out of options, so the Orioles can’t demote him to the minor leagues without subjecting him to waivers, which he very likely won’t clear.  But if the Orioles really fancy themselves as a contender this year, it’s time for them to come to grips with the notion that carrying a pitcher like Strop is a luxury they simply can’t afford.  Teams not contending for anything—clubs like the Marlins, Astros, Cubs and Mariners—can and probably should take a flyer on Strop; there’s always the possibility—however unlikely it is—that he’ll figure out a way to harness his stuff and become a consistently effective pitcher.  (Note that this is essentially the reason that the Orioles could—and should—have acquired Strop as a player to be named later in 2011.)   But it’s pretty clear that the first four-odd months of last year are the exception and what we’ve seen since is the rule.  There’s a reason why Strop was a bit player at the big league level from 2009-2011.

    Who should replace Strop?  In terms of role, over the short term at least, Strop’s role as the top right-handed setup option has been taken over by Darren O’Day.  Tommy Hunter has supplanted Strop as the second choice as well, so any roster replacement for Strop would really be serving as the third right-handed option (excluding the closer, Jim Johnson) out of the bullpen.  In fact, this is one of the most worrisome aspects of Strop’s recent struggles—for the most part (there have obviously been a few exceptions) he hasn’t been asked to perform in high pressure situations and he’s still having all kinds of problems repeating his mechanics.

    In any event, I would be inclined to give Jake Arrieta a shot at the last-righthander-in-the-pen assignment.  He certainly has the arm for the job and the Orioles have had some success (Hunter, Brian Matusz) moving starting pitchers to bullpen roles lately.  Adam Russell is another in-house option (though I find his command-control issues more than a tiny bit worrisome).  Moving outside the organization for a right-handed relief arm is another possibility.  But whatever the move is, the Strop option has been spent.  It’s time for the Orioles to move on.


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