In an otherwise-insane article for ESPN (Insider required) in which Jim Bowden suggests as a trade that "makes sense for the Cubs" the swap of Jeff Samardzija for Kevin Gausman straight up, Bowden talks a little about Gausman's goals for the off-season:
I talked to Gausman Monday and was very impressed with his desire to improve. He set goals this offseason, which include trying to gain 20 pounds of weight strength, and hopes to pitch 200 innings next year. He also told me he understands he has to improve his fastball command in the future to reach his potential.
It would be nice if the Orioles plan to let Gausman pitch 200 innings next year.
The comment about weight gain is an interesting one. Gausman obviously doesn't need the extra weight to increase his velocity or anything like that, but perhaps he thinks the extra strength would improve his stamina for starting at the professional level. Presumably, the O's and Gausman came up with this plan together, although you never really know.
It's hard to get excited about players talking about getting in shape or staying in shape, because they always talk about that stuff in glowing terms, even when they aren't in great shape. The phrase "best shape of my life" receives mockery when uttered in spring training for this reason.
I remember standing there at Fanfest in 2012 listening to Brian Matusz talk about his workout regimen with Brady Anderson and how that was going to help him be a new pitcher. It didn't. He stunk as a starter and now is OK as a left-handed specialist. His face looks like he's just run a marathon after he throws like seven pitches. That's not the fate you want for #4 overall picks. It would be best if Gausman and Matusz never have more in common than that they were drafted in the same spot by the Orioles.
It's not a question of work ethic, but whether the work that is put in translates to results on the mound. For Matusz, it never did. Jake Arrieta never quite got the hang of the whole pitching thing even once he had the ping pong ball-sized growth removed from his elbow, either. He, too, stood there at Fanfest in 2012 talking about how he was going to have his best season ever. It was his worst season ever.
Was a lack of stamina something that hurt Gausman? Only he would know, but he did have a .631 OPS allowed with pitches 1-50 and a 1.356 OPS allowed from pitches 51-75. Note that his relief outings are counted in the 1-50 pitches category. Maybe that means he got tired, but it could also mean that he needs to adapt his arsenal towards succeeding with the third time through the order as a starter. It could be some of both.
If you just look at Gausman's stat line, you might not realize how important the fastball command is going to be for him. He is not a wild pitcher in the sense that he had a BB/9 of 2.5, which is more than respectable. That means he is not just flinging pitches in the vicinity of home plate and hoping they come close. However, missing targets within the strike zone with his fastball cost him at times. You could watch him and see why he might be great.
Hopefully, Gausman can put it all together. He should be good enough to be worth having in the major league rotation all of next season. If he can manage to hold down a spot, that's one fewer question mark facing the O's.
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