As a one-inning reliever in the middle of a bullpen, Troy Patton seldom has any part in a game as a pitcher of record. It's easy to forget about him, as the Orioles seemed to do early in his career, running out any number of scrub retreads while not giving him a chance. In 2012, he got his chance, turning in a performance as an unheralded part of an excellent bullpen. In 2013, he was a run-of-the-mill reliever in the middle of a run-of-the-mill bullpen. As Patton goes, so goes the bullpen? Probably not.
Since Patton throws with his left hand, he's automatically stereotyped as a LOOGY (lefty one-out guy), even though in his Orioles career, he has never been used in this fashion. He pitched in 56 games this season and threw 56 innings. In the process, he faced slightly more right-handed batters than left-handed ones. This is good for Patton, because a versatile reliever has more value. Unfortunately for the Orioles, Patton was not as good against either type of batter in 2013 compared to last year, which showed up in an ERA that ballooned from 2.43 to 3.70.
|2012 vs. RHB||102||.219||.265||.385|
|2012 vs. LHB||122||.212||.262||.292|
|2013 vs. RHB||128||.254||.328||.395|
|2013 vs. LHB||107||.289||.324||.474|
If he had been typecast as a LOOGY, that would have made 2013 an unfortunate year for Patton indeed, because he struggled significantly against lefties, which was not the case the year before. He was a bit worse against righties as well, but nothing so drastic.
Whoever the Orioles bring on board as their new pitching coach, hopefully he will be able to tackle the question of Patton and how to get him back towards the kind of performance he turned in during 2012. If something mechanical can be tweaked to return him to excellence, that would be helpful for the team.
It may be a fluke of small sample size, but a big problem for Patton in 2013 is that he was awful on the road. He had a 2.20 home ERA compared to a 5.27 road ERA. He faced a similar number of batters both at home and on the road - 116 at home to 119 on the road - but gave up six of eight home runs on the road, and issued 12 of 16 walks on the road. Is that a product of luck, or was there something that Patton was doing differently outside the confines of Camden Yards?
Whatever the reason behind it, you can see why Patton's numbers declined because of the way his peripheral stats declined. A strikeout rate of nearly eight per nine innings fell by about 15% to 6.75, with a walk rate of about two per nine innings increasing to 2.57. For good measure, his home runs per nine innings rate increased by about 50% to 1.29. All of that adds up to a higher ERA, though it doesn't tell us why that happened.
Is there anything to be read into Patton's usage? Patton appeared in only four games in the month of September, pitching to a total of ten batters in the month. If a nagging injury was affecting his performance, perhaps that's when the Orioles became aware of it and manager Buck Showalter shied away from using Patton. Darren O'Day was the reliever with the widely-reported lack of use in September, but Patton was used even less than O'Day.
On the other hand, it may have simply been that an ineffective Patton was squeezed out as rosters expanded and the O's wanted to look at other pitchers as they tried in vain to cling to the periphery of the playoff picture.
Patton made $815,000 for his 2013 salary, his first year of arbitration as a Super Two player. According to the MLB Trade Rumors projection released last week, Patton is due for a raise to about $1.2 million. Is Patton worth that? Used properly, even if he is dependably mediocre, he probably is.
With Brian Matusz in the bullpen, the Orioles could feel they don't need another lefty hanging around. As an inexpensive reliever with three years of service time still to come, he could have value to a team in need of lefty relief help, or the Orioles might want to get another season out of him themselves. A hypothetical trade partner would be aware of Patton's struggle against lefties in 2013, so thinking he has much trade value is probably an exercise in foolishness.
In the end, Patton was a part of the 2013 bullpen, if not an important part. The fact that he only had two decisions, both wins, the whole season shows that he was not used in a way that directly affected the outcome of games. Out of 56 games he pitched, he only entered into nine save situations, holding the lead in eight of those games and coughing up a lead once. He also allowed 12 of 31 inherited runners to score.
Tendering Patton a contract would be about a $1.2 million wager by the Orioles that he can recapture some of his 2012 success, or at least not get any worse. That would neither be the best nor the worst bet that Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette has ever made. In a perfect world, a farm system can churn out cheap relievers continually. We do not live in that world. Patton may not recover his magic from 2012, but he'll probably be in the 2014 Orioles bullpen all the same.