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Paul Fry has been untapped

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The previous regime left a parting gift, and the new one has helped the lefty reach his potential.

Baltimore Orioles v Texas Rangers Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Employment as a big league reliever certainly has its perks.

For starters, you get to hang with your buds for like six, seven innings on a normal night and literally kick your feet up and chill. Nowadays when relievers are called upon for duty, most guys throw 20-30 pitches and call it a night. Then you get to hang out with the bros you hadn’t seen for six innings. And you probably get the next day off too!

As cushy as being a reliever can sound, its requirements are equally unrelenting.

I’ve seen firsthand how easy a target the bullpen is for the obnoxious genre of fan. People come up with some seriously messed up stuff to say to guys, and you’re just kind of a sitting duck. You could also have a rough two weeks and be back in Triple-A or seeking new employment. The job duties can roughly be described as thrusting yourself into the spotlight of a baseball game after doing what most fans do for nine innings; nothing. That’s a lot to ask as of anyone.

Some guys can handle it, and some guys can’t, and a team such as the Orioles has deployed pitchers that fit on both ends of that spectrum. For a while, Paul Fry fell on the side of the former. Since 2020 however, Fry has arguably been the best reliever literally NO ONE knows about.

In the middle of the 2017 season, the Orioles acquired Fry from the Mariners for “future considerations”, a synonym for international bonus money that the Orioles had no intention of using anyway. He started 2018 in Triple-A, but became more or less a permanent fixture in the O’s bullpen in the middle of that season.

Fry was more successful his first season than in his second, as he posted a 4.55 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and a 11.4 K-BB% in his first 95.0 innings. He was essentially a middle-of-the-road reliever that got plenty of chances because he was playing on bad teams. So, having acquired a lot of reps and undertaken the tutelage of the Orioles new and improved infrastructure, Fry started to cook.

Paul Fry’s Before and After

Split ERA K% GB% Average FB Spin Rate Average SL Spin Rate BABIP
Split ERA K% GB% Average FB Spin Rate Average SL Spin Rate BABIP
2018-19 4.55 22.0% 57.9% 2369 rpms 2700 rpms .303
2020-Present 2.20 29.6% 60.0% 2311 rpms 2806 rpms .342

Since the pandemic-shortened 2020 season began, Fry has been seriously good. An elite inducer of ground balls since his debut, the two-pitch lefty has evolved into someone who flashed his tools to someone who has better learned to harness them.

Paul Fry was sixth among all pitchers in baseball a season ago in terms of his average fastball velocity spike. The average velocity on his four-seamer rose from 90.7 MPH in 2019 to 92.8 mph in 2020, a 2.1 MPH jump that equaled John Means. That figure currently stands at 93.0 MPH in 2021.

Dan Duquette and his people didn’t implement the Orioles’ current means of evaluating players, but even watching on TV you knew Fry had a unique ability to spin a baseball. The Orioles have taken advantage of that and the evidence lies in the climbing spin rate of his slider.

I mean...dude. That slider is insane. That pitch spun at a rate of 2814 rpms, right around his new average. The entire idea around today’s video and analytical dissection is to help each player figure out what works best for them as an individual. The Orioles have helped Fry realize that his slider manipulates to more effect at a more vertical release point.

So far in 2021, Fry is throwing his fastball with a bit more frequency which may help to explain his exit velocity numbers being slightly high, but like they were was a season ago, his expected numbers are elite.

Credit: Baseball Savant

As they continue to do the fanfare of few, the Orioles are making pitchers better than they previously were. There was probably a time when most people deduced that Fry was nothing more than a filler guy for a rebuilding franchise. It’s truly a testament that the Orioles are capable of identifying points of improvement. Yes reinforcements are on the way, but the O’s are going to need players like Fry who have gone from “project” to “figuring it out.”

Right now, the evidence suggests that Fry is coming close to piecing his game together.