To the surprise of many, Kevin Gausman has started the 2015 season as a member of the Baltimore Orioles bullpen. I believe he should be in the O’s starting rotation.
Coming in relief of Wei-Yen Chen for his 2015 debut, Gausman threw flames. He topped out at 101, according to the Tropicana Field radar gun. BrooksBaseball.net’s PITCHf/x tool clocked Gausman’s fastball at an average velocity of 98.2 MPH against the Rays. In a 2014 start, Gausman averaged 96.3 MPH.
Big difference, right?
Coming out of the bullpen, a pitcher can throw harder than he would as a starter because he doesn’t have to conserve his energy for later innings.
Like most pitchers, Gausman has better stats for coming out of the bullpen, like a 20.5 strikeout percentage, and 16.4% whiff rate. However, that could translate into a dominant starter.
In 2014, Gausman was average in his starting role, posting a 3.57 ERA and a 3.41 FIP, but he dominated in the playoffs posting a 1.13 ERA over eight innings of relief.
The bullpen domination contrasted against the average starts can be explained by one word: development.
Gausman has an extremely dominant fastball and changeup, and has not had a good enough third pitch that a starter needs. However, this third pitch has gotten better as he has gotten older. In the start referenced earlier, the slider had a vertical break .2, according to PITCHf/x. In game two of the ALDS, the slider vertically broke -.48, and his 2015 debut, the pitch broke -1.92.
As Gausman has pitched more, the better his stuff has become, with his third pitch being able to be major league quality.
All the stats in the world cannot show one thing however: mentality. Whether Gausman is more comfortable in his current bullpen role or a starting spot will only be shown by time.
Right now though, Gausman should have a starting spot, where he could potentially breakout as the star starting pitcher the Orioles need.
Image Credit: Keith Allison