Kevin Gausman is not part of the Orioles' current woes. He's part of the future solution.
Looking at his stat line from last night's start, the untrained eye may look at 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB's and 4 K's and tweet "Yet again the Orioles can't develop starting pitching". It was disappointing yes, but for Gausman, his issue was not a lack of explosiveness, but mistakes with his secondary stuff.
After surrendering a leadoff double to Jacoby Ellsbury in the bottom of the 1st (the result of a hanging 0-2 changeup), and an RBI single to Brett Gardner,scoring Ellsbury, Gausman had a chance to really limit the damage. Working in a 1-2 count to Mark Teixeira, Gausman gifted Tex with a floating changeup that ended up in the right field bleachers.
The changeup, a pitch that Gausman is still getting a feel for, was probably the right call in the situation given the hope for a double play, but the execution was poor.
Gausman then cruised for the next three innings.
He retired six-consecutive batters through the 2nd and 3rd innings, flashing his overwhelming power fastball on the inner-half. Really good hitters like Ellsbury and Gardner had no chance to hit 96-98 MPH on their hands, resulting in a lot weak contact. Gausman even managed to craft through a Carlos Beltran leadoff double in the 4th without surrendering a run.
Bad pitch, bad result became a theme once again in the bottom of the 5th, as Alex Rodriguez blasted a middle of the plate changeup 450-feet into the left-center seats. As is the case for all big-league starters, failing to keep the ball down, especially 85 MPH changeups, is going to get you burned, but take away three or four pitches, Gausman looked pretty good, considering he made his first start of the second-half at Yankee Stadium on national television, against a first-place team, with trade rumors and the oh-so annoying yoyo from Triple-A to Baltimore likely impacting his routine.
Speaking of trade talks, Gausman has been a favorite subject among the national media world, most notably coming from Buster Olney.
The Orioles appear to be willing to talk about former first-round pick Kevin Gausman in possible trades,as they look for ways to get better.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 22, 2015
Mr. Olney even went out of his way to play ESPN general manager (a job Jim Bowden does bad enough for everybody), tweeting the following:
SD needs some imaginative deals to get younger, shed payroll. One idea (speculation): JUpton, T. Ross for Gausman, 1 other lesser prospect.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 23, 2015
As much I love to hear "Justin Upton" and "Orioles" being mentioned in trade talks, especially when your left field production is non-existent, trading Gausman for a Upton and an underrated Tyson Ross doesn't make sense, nor will it ever. Gausman is part of the future of this Orioles team, and forfeiting all that talent for a chance to "maybe" make the postseason in 2015 is simply bad business.
Solely in terms of "stuff", Gausman has everything the new era of baseball wants. We all know he throws very, very hard, but velocity doesn't matter unless you have Zach Britton-like movement, which is one-of-a-kind. The fastball needs friends, like a slider and changeup, but all the while, it looks like Gausman's fastball command is slowly but surely improving. The implementation of the chest-high fastball seems to be coming along, as does his presence on both sides of the plate. Though his secondary stuff is still a work in progress, it's the nature of his off-speed pitches that make him so special.
Gausman's changeup, as mentioned before, is not a finished product, but the sheer uniqueness of the pitch is what's so enviable. According to Fangraphs, Gausman's average fastball velocity sits at a ridiculous 95.5 MPH, but with a changeup averaging 85.3 MPH, that 10 MPH difference is a tremendous asset, even for a pitch still making strides. The movement. Oh the movement...
Imagine having the ability, and the confidence, to throw that pitch down and in to right-handers? Or in a 2-0 count? Hamilton swings at that pitch because he has to respect the fastball on the outside corner, something Gausman did very well setting up in his 6.1 innings of scoreless baseball against the heavy-hitting Rangers. Instead, he gets a swing full of air because he put the 95-99 MPH fastball in the back of Hamilton's mind, but most of all, that pitch is summer heat trapped in a port-o-potty kind of nasty. This is one example of the kind of pitching Gausman has yet to put together on a more consistent basis, but that's because, to no fault of his own, we still don't know what we have.
You think the yoyo-ing back and forth from Triple-A to Camden Yards and vice-versa is frustrating you? Can you imagine how ticked off the Gaus must be? I personally never understood the supposed team benefit from keeping an arm such as his from learning every day at the big league level. Unleash him. Let him take his lumps.
There is a talent here that is on the brink of being figured out, and a year after tossing 113.1 IP with a solid 6.99 K/9 and respectable 3.57 ERA, the Orioles crushed the chance of that talent blossoming in a season where some growth could have done wonders. You want to pay Jay Bruce, an above-average National League hitter $25M over the next two seasons? Is the offensive boost of acquiring Justin Upton worth the strong likelihood he cashes in with someone else this winter, especially with Gausman being the only means to bring him to Baltimore?
None of it makes sense. The current left field debacle was an issue that was built on hopes and dreams, but instead turned to hindsight and nightmares. Sacrificing a piece such as Gausman for the chance of MAYBE providing enough offense shouldn't even be considered, and in all likelihood, Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter are probably thinking the same thing.
Our fearless leader Mark Brown is right when he says that "appears to be willing to talk trade" pretty much means nothing. It likely means nothing is going to happen, but for no reason other than personal angst, the idea of trading Gausman falls into the same boat with Adam Jones and Manny Machado. Game-changing talent shouldn't be denied. It should be embraced.
If the Orioles are going to reach the postseason for the third time in four seasons, it will be a result of a more balanced lineup not leaving opportunities on the basepath. The starting rotation will be good, not great, but just good enough for five or six innings. The bullpen will continue to hold leads or keep the O's in games. The Orioles will stay on pace with the home run ball.
It will not include trading Kevin Gausman.