The Orioles have taken the first step in moving on from Ubaldo Jimenez by moving him to the bullpen. His replacement in rotation has been Alec Asher who has pitched in 13 games so far in 2017 including 4 starts. In his last outing against the Red Sox, Asher went 6.1 innings striking out five and walking while allowing only two runs on a measly three hits. Asher has gone at least six innings in three of his four starts.
Jimenez over the past four seasons has often been given a very long leash. Sometimes, that has come to help the Orioles and sometimes it has hurt them very badly. Asher deserves that same long leash from Buck Showalter and he deserves it for a lot of reasons.
Asher has pitched to a 3.62 ERA in 37.1 innings. He sports a pedestrian 18.3 percent strike out rate and an excellent 5.2 percent walk rate. That 5.2 percent walk rate is the 16th lowest walk rate among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched (160 total pitchers).
Keeping those walks down is crucial for what the Orioles need, and what the Jimenez could never give them, an innings eater. If Asher can simply give them six innings and two to three runs in most of his starts he’ll be the best fifth starter the Orioles have had in years.
Going a level down, his batted ball data is also interesting. He is running a .257 BABIP which is likely to come up a bit to the league average of .292. The Orioles defense is not good enough to keep BABIPs that low. However, he is sporting a 22.9 percent infield fly ball rate (IFFB%). Infield fly balls are outs around 99.9 percent of the time. They are effectively strike outs. Asher is currently first in the majors among pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings in IFFB%. He is getting weak contact and lots of it.
All of his batted ball numbers need a bit of a larger sample to stabilize, but right now is ground ball rate is bit below average which surprised me because of the amount of sinkers he throws.
He is getting swinging strikes 9.4 percent of the time which is just below league average. He is not a wing and miss kind of pitcher, which is evident from his below average strike out rate. However, he is getting enough swings and misses to make it work and eat innings which the Orioles desperately need.
From an arsenal standpoint he throws primarily sinkers (33 percent) and cutters (31 percent, with a curve ball (13.8 percent) and change up (7.9 percent) as his secondary offerings. He gets his swings and misses and his ground balls from his change up and curve ball and gets his fly balls from his sinker and cutter. A little backwards, but still early and somewhat interesting.
His 3.62 ERA is likely to come up a bit as he gets some more innings under his belt. He currently has an ERA- of 82 (think of ERA- like you would OPS+ or wRC+, except the opposite. 100 is still the average, but the lower the number the better. Read more about it here) with a FIP- of 109. Still good, but not as good. He has been running a low BABIP, as stated before, and he has been great at stranding runners (a skill not likely to continue) with a left on base percentage of 82.9 percent.
There is not much more to say about Asher. He is a good, but not great pitcher, that the Orioles got for nothing. They got him for nothing most likely because when he was a Phillies he was popped last season for using a Performance Enhancing Drug, dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (an anabolic steroid) which sounds like it should be banned. However, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Asher, in his short time in the rotation, has certainly shown enough to given an extra long Buck Showalter leash like many others have before him. Asher has shown an ability to not walk batters, get some weak contact, and most importantly not pull the classic five and dive routine that so many Orioles starters seem all to willing to do.
Asher has shown the ability to give the Orioles dependability, which is what they need more than ever and something Jimenez could never give them. Bottom line, Asher deserves the same chance others before him have gotten and it looks like right now he may get that chance.