During the period of fandom in my life that I can remember well one thing has always been true about the Orioles. The starting pitching sucks. The Orioles have by and large failed to develop quality starting pitchers. This has come under multiple regimes at the top and bottom of the organization.
Save for Erik Bedard and Chris Tillman, all other major Orioles starting pitching prospects have flamed out either in the major leagues or in many cases before they even reached the top level.
Most Orioles fans will remember the Cavalry of years past. Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton were going to lead to the Orioles rotation for years to come. One turned into a starter for the Orioles, the other turned into a specialist reliever, the other turned into a very good releiver, and the last one won a Cy Young award for another team.
Before that were the likes of Hayden Penn, Matt Riley, and Adam Loewen, names that belong on a memorial wall somewhere. The Orioles have been bad at this and bad for a long time.
The last person to try and fix this was Rick Peterson. Peterson’s contract was not renewed over the off season. What started out as an amicable relationship soured quickly over the last couple of years. Peterson had some early success turning the Orioles young pitchers around, especially Chris Tillman who salvaged his career after Peterson arrived.
However, the failures started to mount up. Jake Arrieta and Eduardo Rodriguez being two examples of pitchers who left the organization and made leaps forward almost immediately.
Peterson’s approach was a one size fits all. He used bio-mechanical data to form what he liked to call a “major league” delivery. The organization essentially banned the use of the cutter due to the belief that it sucked away velocity from the traditional four seam fastball. While I have no earthly idea how to develop major league pitching, this approach did not seem to garner the best results. The relationship with Peterson turned ugly and he left.
In comes the new minor league pitching coordinator John Wasdin. Wasdin played in parts of 12 major league seasons. He appeared in 328 games and started 65 of them. His last season in the majors was 2007 with the Pirates. He pitched in 26 games for the 2001 Orioles.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jon Meoli recently sat down and spoke with Wasdin and it was a great interview that you should go read.
To summarize Wasdin’s basic thoughts, he believes the opposite of Peterson. He believes in an individualized approach to each and every pitcher. He was a pitcher for ten different organizations along the way and during that time he received a lot of coaching. What he came to realize is that every guy has a different body, different habits, and a different way of learning.
The early quotes coming out of Spring Training from people in the organization appear to pretty positive, as they were with Peterson. The worm has not had time to turn on this pitching guru quite yet.
The article also focuses on the recent draftees of the Orioles the importance of the Orioles hitting on those draftees. The likes of Cody Sedlock, Keegan Akin, Mathias Dietz, Garrett Cleavinger, and Ryan Meisinger need to realize their full potential if the Orioles in 2018 and beyond are going to be any good. Wasdin at least recognizes this fact in his interview with Meoli.
This was an interesting interview with a guy who theoretically knows something about developing pitching with a view towards that appears to be very different from his predecessor. If Wasdin is able to realize what he hopes for, that will be good for the organization. However, do not be surprised in the next few years to hear rumors of infighting and disagreements. That has been the Oriole way over the last 20+ years. Read the interview and come to your own conclusion.