Mike Wright has all of the component parts of a good pitcher. He is listed at 6’6” 215 lbs. He is a big hulking right handed pitcher that can hit 99 mph on the gun while having four other pitches in his arsenal.
To top it all off he has the stamina and endurance to maintain his stuff as the game goes on. Yet, Mike Wright has a career 5.62 ERA and none of his peripheral statistics indicate anything other than he is a bad pitcher. He does not strike enough batters out, he walks too many, and he cannot keep the ball in the ballpark. All of this is due to lack of command and lack of consistency.
I would say that this is mostly anecdotal, but from what I can tell from watching the games. Command and consistency are hard to quantify. Yet, we can try. To try to put it simply, the lowest Isolated Power (ISO) allowed on any of Mike Wright’s pitches during his career is his sinker at .162.
A .162 is an above average power hitter in the major leagues. That is his best pitch from a results standpoint. His four seam fastball sits a .186 ISO. All of his breaking pitchers are at or above .200. While his pitches have good velocity and decent movement they all get hammered by opposing batters.
From my eyes, he struggles with repeating his delivery in particular on his breaking balls. Some look sharp, others are flat. On his change up, he can at times telegraph his delivery by slowing his whole body down to release the pitch slower.
All of these pitches flash enough to get the job done, but at this point, in his age 26 season, the time for Wright to learn how to be an effective major league starter is waning. The Orioles, while certainly lacking for other quality fill in candidates, cannot afford to keep Wright in the rotation for long.
Even if he is sent to AAA with the idea towards starting, I have doubts that anything can be changed this late in the game. So what can be done, let’s change Mike Wright into a reliever.
Most quality relievers are failed starters. In the bullpen, going only one inning at a time, the game can be simplified. The times through the order penalty goes down. A pitcher can more of a thrower. While converting Mike Wright to the bullpen we are going to scrap some of his pitches as well.
Let’s make the game as simple as possible. All of his fastballs are going to be sinkers now. For the off speed, were keeping the slider and throwing everything else out. A sinker/slider right handed reliever. I picked those two pitches for two reasons.
First, those have been his best two of his throughout his career. While neither have gotten good results, both are his best. Opponents are only hitting .254 on his slider, and while they are hitting .338 on his sinker, it gets ground balls. Mike Wright gets ground balls on 11.59 percent of his sinkers.
For comparison, Zach Britton gets ground balls on 15.29 percent of his sinkers. Give me that kind of ground ball rate and I have got something to work with as a reliever.
Furthermore, Wright gets Whiffs on those two pitches the most. He actually gets Whiffs on his change up more often than his other pitches, but his change up is also crushed to outer space a good deal more. Whiffs and ground balls are what we are looking for.
Second, Wright appears to command these pitches better than other ones. These pitches are consistently down in the zone. This year, only his curve ball has been on average located lower than his sinker and slider and it's only by .01 feet lower than his slider. Not only that, last year the curve ball was located much higher in the zone, again a lack of consistency with the pitch.
When Wright throws his sinker and slider the pitches are located better, get better results, and still have the velocity and movement that he needs to be an effective pitcher. A sinker/slider starter rarely works, but coming out of the bullpen it could be lethal.
Mike Wright currently averages a tad under 94 mph on his sinker and 84 mph on his slider. While only being asked to work one inning a time, it is possible—if not likely—that his velocity could go up. The ground balls and whiffs those two pitches have been able to get thus far are impressive.
Sending Wright down to AAA and giving him only two pitches to work on, two pitches to command, two pitches to repeat, and two pitches to be consistent with gives him a chance to succeed where he has failed. Otherwise, the Orioles are going to keep finding themselves trying to work out of big deficits.