Austin Voth has not had a storied pitching career.
… so far!
Two months into his time with the Orioles, it’d be hard for the 30-year-old righty to be doing any better. In 14 appearances totaling 48 innings with Baltimore, Voth has a 2.81 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and a .223 average against. Eased into a bullpen role at first, then appearing as an opener, Voth is now giving the Orioles length as one of the team’s (unexpectedly) most effective and efficient starters. He’s made 10 starts, and the Orioles have won eight of them. On Tuesday, he shut down one of the AL’s best offenses in the Blue Jays, holding them to two hits and one walk over six shutout innings.
It’s not uncommon for baseball players, especially pitchers, to make sudden turnarounds in their career (ahem, Kevin Gausman ... sigh), discovering a new pitch, tinkering with their pitch ratio, refining their delivery. It is more unusual, though, for a player to switch teams mid-season and suddenly turn it around.
Austin Voth appeared in 19 games for Washington between April 7 and May 30, 2022, and was, frankly, very bad. He had a 10.13 ERA and allowed almost twice as many hits (34) as innings pitched (18.2). Batters were shellacking him, with a .386 average and a .994 OPS. Basically, Austin Voth was making every MLB hitter look like Paul Goldschmidt.
Waived by the Nationals on May 31 and claimed by the Orioles a week later, Voth has unlocked something with his new team. What?
One thing he’s not doing: striking more hitters out. It’d be cool to credit Orioles coaches with making Voth better in every conceivable way, but we have to be honest. His strikeout rates were a tick higher with Washington, albeit not in a clearly significant way (8.68 K/9 vs. 8.25 K/9).
But Voth is giving up drastically fewer hits as an Oriole‚ having cut his H/9 rate in half, from 16.39 hits per nine innings with Washington to an excellent 7.69 with Baltimore. He’s walking fewer batters, although the difference isn’t as marked, about 15% fewer.
It is clear Baltimore has tinkered with Voth’s stuff. One big difference is pitch selection. Voth seems to be a relentless tinkerer, by disposition or by necessity. Since debuting in MLB in 2018, he’s messed around with (or maybe the coaches did) his arsenal basically every season. As you can see, Voth toyed with, and phased out, a changeup-slider combo in 2018-19, and also brought in a split-finger pitch in 2020 before mostly getting rid of that, too.
Now, here’s the same pitch chart, but just for 2022. Recall that Voth joined the Orioles in early June.
For one thing, the Orioles have started letting Voth throw the changeup again—just a little. Only against lefties. Here’s the last chart—OK, pair of charts—which show how the Orioles have given Voth a different approach based on batters’ handedness. The changeup has gradually worked its way back into Voth’s arsenal against left-handers. Each month he’s thrown it more often, up to 3.7% of his total pitches against lefty hitters in August. So far, lefties are hitting .000 against it. Keep it up!
More significantly, Orioles coaches have made Voth way more reliant on his curveball, which, no secret, may be his best pitch and, if you go by spin rates, possibly one of the best hooks in the game, with the tenth-highest RPM of any curveball thrown in MLB. Voth now throws 33% curveballs (versus 51% fastballs) to lefties, and even more curveballs than fastballs against righties (37% vs. 34%). This seems to be working, as right-handers cannot hit the curveball (.222 average), whiffing on it 36% of the time.
The Orioles have also dramatically decreased Voth’s use of the cutter. He still throws it a lot against righties, but it’s his third pitch, not his first or second. As a National, he tried making the cutter his primary pitch against right-handers, but that didn’t work very well, as they hit .444 against it. In July, they hit .273 on the pitch. Less is more.
The Orioles have also apparently worked on Voth’s delivery. Like his pitch mix, if you watch Voth throw through the years you see a lot of changes, from a longish wind-up with a big leg kick in 2020 to a short, quick and simpler one in 2022. Compare 2020 Voth with 2022 Voth, below:
This may be helping him to become more accurate, too. Voth’s strike percentage with the Nationals this year was 59% and with Baltimore it’s up to 63%.
The 2022 Orioles are on an incredible run as a team right now, and one of the most incredible things about it has been how they’re getting top-tier starting pitching contributions from very unexpected places. Put Austin Voth at the very top of that list, and let’s keep it rolling.