When Austin Voth made the trip up 95 last season and traded Ben’s Chili Bowl for crab cakes and Natty Boh, to say expectations were low is probably an understatement. After all, how could there be expectations for a player sporting a 10.13 ERA and a WHIP over two? At first, Voth seemed like just another innings eater—a desperate Hail Mary from Brandon Hyde and his coaching staff as they tried to patch an overly-injured rotation.
What the Orioles got instead was the best Austin Voth that anyone had ever seen. After making all but one of his appearances out of the bullpen in 2021, 17 of Voth’s 22 appearances for the O’s came as a starter. An adjustment to his pitching mix, which saw him lean much more heavily on his curveball, turned him into an effective starter. His HR and walk rates dipped dramatically and Voth became a source of dependability that hardly anyone in Birdland could have seen coming. For an organization that at times seemed overly reliant on the pitchers they had developed, Voth showed the merit of bringing in outside talent.
Voth also brought a much-needed veteran presence to a clubhouse that was relying on rookies to carry them during a surprising stretch run. His five best starts of 2022 all came after the All-Star break, with the Orioles squarely in playoff contention. His 2.88 ERA in the second half of the season was three and a half runs lower than his first-half ERA, and up there with the very best pitchers in the American League.
The question facing Voth is not whether he’ll get the chance to make an impact again in 2023. Any Opening Day roster projection you find floating around out there on the internet will surely feature Voth’s name among the selected pitchers. No, the question surrounding Voth this year is what exactly his role will look like moving forward.
This uncertainty bears itself out in Voth’s projected numbers for this upcoming season. Just looking at the two different projections offered by FanGraphs, you’ll notice a wild variance in the number of starts Voth is projected to make. While the ZiPS projection system sees Voth maintaining his role as a hybrid starter/reliever, the Steamer projections envision a Voth that operates almost exclusively out of the pen. With the additions of Kyle Gibson and Cole Irvin in the offseason, as well as the presumed promotion of Grayson Rodriguez, a regular spot in the rotation does seem to look like a long shot for Voth.
- ZiPS: 83.2 innings, 4.62 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 1.36 WHIP, 14 starts
- Steamer: 63.0 innings, 4.21 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 1.28 WHIP, 3 starts (Both from Fangraphs)
- Marcel: 91.0 innings, 4.45 ERA, 1.37 WHIP (from Baseball-Reference)
The case for the under
From an Orioles fan’s perspective, these numbers will perhaps appear a bit harsh. After all, Voth put together a 3.04 ERA over 83 innings in Baltimore last season. After all, why should a potentially reduced workload—which should all but eliminates the chances of him facing batters for a second or third time—make Voth into a worse pitcher?
Orioles optimists will look at the success the organization’s pitching coaches have had with Dillon Tate, Bryan Baker and Jorge Lopez and find reasons to hope for Voth. Between him, Keegan Akin and perhaps DL Hall, the Orioles could heavily feature relievers that are consistently called on to go multiple innings.
Given his success as a starter, it’s easy to imagine Voth taking over games in the 5th or 6th and consistently providing a two-inning bridge to the dominant arms at the back end of the bullpen. The change in his role shouldn’t make a difference. The O’s have proven they know how to get the best out of Austin Voth. Chris Holt and Co. will come up with a new plan to get the best out of him again—and we have plenty of proof of just how good Voth is at executing those plans
The Case for the Over:
Perhaps these projections are leaning into the fact that Voth was noticeably worse as a reliever last year, with his ERA spiking by more than five runs when he was not starting. Defenders of the 30-year-old righty would counter with the fact that a vast majority of those relief innings came with the Nationals—and that in 7.2 relief innings as an Oriole, Voth sports a 2.35 ERA. However, that is a very small sample size and the larger sample from Voth’s time in Washington suggests he should be closer to 4+ ERA forecasted by the projections.
Others could view these projections as just a simple regression to the mean. After all, Voth’s FIP and BABIP numbers last suggest that there was a certain element of luck driving the righty’s career year. Relief pitching by its very nature tends to lead to volatile stats, as pitching fewer innings tends to magnify a pitcher’s flaws when they pop up.
The truth is that as good as Voth was in 2022, he is by no means a dominant pitcher. Only his slider pitches in 2022 had a negative Run-Value (negative runs are good for pitchers), and he only threw his slider 5% of the time. Put into a relief role, and that lack of dominating stuff could make for a rougher-looking stat line by season’s end.
Let’s not let me have the final say over which Voth we’ll see in 2023. Tell us your thoughts and vote in our poll! Will Voth continue where his career left off or revert back to his old form?
Will Austin Voth go over or under his ZiPS projected ERA of 4.62?
This poll is closed