Hey! Hey, Mychal Givens! It’s been a while, but it’s really good to see you back in these parts. What’ve you been up to in the last couple of years, besides raising two adorable daughters, coaching a travel U14 baseball club for inner-city kids, and just generally being awesome?
Quick refresher: the Orioles signed Givens this offseason to a one-year deal, but before that, he’d had a lengthy track record with the team. Ten years, in fact. It was an Andy MacPhail-led Orioles that drafted Givens in 2009—as a high school shortstop! While at Delmarva, Givens kind of struggled with the bat—grinding out just a .247 average—but someone must have noticed, on all those throws to first base, that he had a wicked arm. After 2013, Givens was converted into a full-time reliever.
As a minor leaguer, Givens posted a 3.12 ERA over five seasons while striking out almost 10 batters per game (9.7 K/9) and allowing a stingy 0.3 home runs. He also walked about four hitters per game, a total Fangraphs defines as “Awful” (not kidding, they use that word). Well, yeah, it must be hard to suddenly start pitching as a 23-year-old.
Debuting in the big leagues in 2015, the nasty right-hander with the funny “give ‘em the cold shoulder/half-sidearm” delivery became a bullpen fixture for the Orioles between 2016 and 2020, making more than 60 appearances in every season except one. Part of a close-knit unit that included Richard Bleier, Shawn Armstrong, Paul Fry, and Tanner Scott, Givens dominated during that stretch, with a 3.32 ERA, 1.137 WHIP, and a K/9 rate of 10.7 and a 3.5 BB/9 (not great, the walks, but better than as a prospect).
So come August 2020, it was tough to hear that Givens had been shipped off to the Colorado Rockies for a passel of prospects: Tyler Nevin, Terrin Vavra and Mishael Deson. (Nevin is now off the team and the 20-year-old Deson still hasn’t hit in Delmarva, but now Vavra and Givens are teammates, so I guess chalk that one up as a win for Mike Elias.)
After the trade and before resigning here in Baltimore, Givens pitched for four NL teams: Colorado, Cincinnati, Chicago, and New York. The results were mixed.
Over 41 games in Colorado (2020-21), Givens’ ERA rose slightly (3.69), the strikeouts dropped (9.2) and the walk rate jumped back up (4.2). He was dealt to Cincinnati in mid-2021, and put up career-worst numbers: over 23 games his ERA jumped to 4.22, his strikeouts dropped (8.4 K/9) and his walks ballooned (5.5). Givens spent most of 2022 as a Chicago Cub, and whoever their pitching coaches are, credit them: he hit career highs in ERA (2.66) and strikeouts per game (11.3). A post-All Star break trade sent him to the Mets, allowing Givens a reunion with his old manager, Buck Showalter. But it wasn’t his best stretch, either: he put up a 4.79 ERA and 8.7 K/9 rate in 19 games.
What can we expect from Givens this year in his return to Baltimore? Here are three 2023 projections we consulted.
- ZiPS: 4.17 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 3.62 BB/9 over 52 games
- Steamer: 4.06 ERA, 9.09 K/9, 4.00 BB/9 over 62 games (both from FanGraphs)
- Marcel: 3.69 ERA, 9.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 over 61 innings (from Baseball Reference)
The consensus isn’t flattering: all three projections expect Givens to have a below-par year compared to his career totals (3.40 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 3.6 BB/9). What Give(n)s? (Sorry.)
The case for the over
Givens was excellent in Baltimore over parts of six seasons, but has not been as great since. Let’s take walks and hits: Givens’ WHIP as an Oriole was 1.137, but a meh 1.333 in Colorado, and a bad 1.452 in New York and in Cincinnati (though he had a pretty good 1.254 in Chicago).
Maybe, at 32, his best days are behind him.
We also don’t yet know what the ban on the shift will do to pitchers’ numbers this season, but it can’t help.
The case for the under
All three projections pin Givens as a slightly below-average value reliever. This is a bit of a surprise, because whether we look at ERA+ or WAR, Givens has only been a below-average pitcher in parts of two seasons—that is, he’s been a better-than-MLB-average reliever for 6.5 of 8 seasons.
The projections are also worse across the board than his career averages. But Givens’ strikeout numbers aren’t declining consistently: he managed a fine 10.4 K/9 in 2022, for example. Besides, Walltimore will be a help for him, since he put up excellent numbers in a far smaller Oriole Park.
Mychal Givens was never named an All-Star, but he was long valuable for this team. Over six seasons, he was a really good reliever. Will he slide right back to form?
Vote in the poll and let us know in the comments.
Will Mychal Givens go over or under his Steamer projected 4.06 ERA in 2023?
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