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Jeremy Guthrie's slow start is cause for concern

We had the warning signs in the spring, when Jeremy Guthrie went to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and didn't look so hot.

The O's wanted him back before Team USA's run was even over, as Guthrie wasn't scheduled to pitch and something seemed amiss -- get him back in camp, with his coaches, and let's fix it for our season was the prevailing thought. And given that Guthrie has outperformed all projections for two years running, I don't think anyone was truly concerned.

It's time for concern.

Nine starts and just over 50 innings into the season, Jeremy Guthrie, ace of the Orioles, still hasn't come around. After yesterday's loss to the Yankees which included back-to-back-to-back homers off of the beleaguered righty, Guthrie's ERA now stands at 5.37. It's not too hard to see the changes in his numbers.

Year Innings ERA WHIP HR BB/9 K/9 BAA
2007 175.1 3.70 1.21 23 2.42 6.32 .249
2008 190.2 3.63 1.23 24 2.74 5.68 .242
2009 53.2 5.37 1.43 11 3.21 5.24 .275

It's bad news across the board. The homers are up, the walks are up, the strikeouts are down again, and he's just plain getting hit a lot harder. Generally things like this don't resolve themselves through side sessions and pre-game work, though we're cycling closer to the point where Trembley and Kranitz regale us all with the tales of how great Jeremy Guthrie looked throwing in the bullpen, and that he "has it sorted out." We've heard this with any number of pitchers over the years, and so has every fan of every other team.

Something is wrong with him -- be it physical, mental, mechanical or just good ol' fashioned not being good enough right now.

Guthrie was good every month in 2008, one of the most consistent years you'll ever see (OK, his lone starts in March and September weren't so hot). His ERAs month-by-month went 3.66, 2.97, 3.23, 3.45 and 3.86. He was a rock. 2009 has not gone right at all, from spring training until now. There is legitimate cause for concern, because we're not talking about Roy Halladay or Johan Santana here, a guy with natural talent so great he can turn it on at any moment. The further into the hole Guthrie gets, the harder it might be to get him back out.