Kevin Gausman, former number two prospect in the Orioles organization, is entering his fifth season with the club, and he’ll be looking to carry his 2016 second half momentum into the 2017 season.
Gausman, who will turn 26 in January, pitched to an 8-6 record in 15 starts after the All-Star Break last season. His ERA during that stretch was 3.10 in 93 innings, and he struck out five or more in 12 of 15 starts, reaching as high as nine strikeouts twice.
During the first half of the season, he gathered a 1-6 record, with a 4.15 ERA. Remember that first half? He didn’t win his first game until June 25, against the Rays, 13 starts into the season.
The Orioles weren’t the kindest to him during that stretch either; in terms of run support, of course. While Gausman only allowed three runs or less eight times in the first half, the Orioles only scored more than three runs four times in that span. Even through the unfortunate first part of the year he had, he finished the season with an ERA of 3.61, through 179.2 innings (the most he’s pitched yet).
Gausman’s 2016 season was an overall improvement from the year prior, where he went 4-7, pitching 112.1 innings, and finishing with an ERA of 4.25.
So, what did Gausman do differently, to become more effective?
Well, he threw more two-seam fastballs in 2016 than in years past, and he located it more effectively as well. In 2015 he threw 29, and last season he threw 144. His zone % rate was 17.2%, and 39.6% respectively.
He was also able to place his fastball outside of the zone more adequately, having opposing hitters chase 46.4% of the time, compared to 45.6% in 2015. Contact on pitches outside of the zone was down this past season as well, going from 49.3% in 2015, to 47.5%.
Gausman didn’t have good luck with his slider though, allowing a .352 batting average to opposing batters, compared to the .203 average allowed when throwing his four-seam fastball, and a .226 when tossing his two-seamer.
While working with new pitching coach Roger McDowell, all of Gausman’s pitches should see improvement. McDowell prided himself on arm angle, and the ability to sink a fastball like no other.
Just imagine what Gausman’s 97-mph four-seam fastball would look like with a bit more movement on it.
Another thing Gausman can build on in 2017 is his ability to strand runners in scoring position. In 2016, while facing 154 batters with men in scoring position, Gausman was able to hold opposing batters to a .196 batting average. For 2017 though, FanGraphs projects Gausman to regress just a bit, back to a 4.00 ERA, with an 11-10 record, and with a slightly improved WHIP of 1.24 (from 1.28 in ’16).
Fans of Gausman have labeled him as “the future” for quite some time now, and if Gausman can continue his superb 2016 back half run, the future may just be here sooner, rather than later.