Impressive Gausman Silencing Critics

As the Orioles stumble their way through their worst season since 2011, there’s been a number of stars – both young and old – who have felt the wrath of Orioles fans and writers alike.

J.J Hardy’s season has been so poor it will likely be his last in Baltimore, Chris Davis’ $154 million contract continues to cause unrivaled frustration, and Chris Tillman’s failures have seen him demoted to the bullpen for the first time in his nine-year major league career. Others, like Manny Machado and Ubaldo Jimenez, experienced significant struggles early however in recent times, appear to have turned their seasons around.

Another who received his fair share of criticism early was Kevin Gausman, who just a month ago owned a 5-7 record with a 6.39 ERA.

That was July 14, following a horrendous outing against the Chicago Cubs where he allowed four long balls and eight runs total, in just three miserable innings of work. While the 26-year-old’s spot in the rotation was never truly in jeopardy, management and fans were perplexed as to the cause of his demise in 2017, a year which was expected to see continued development following a breakout 2016 season.

Gausman’s issues predominately related to the command of his fastball – he was falling behind in counts, only to come back with a heater straight down the pipe. He was missing his spots and hitters feasted, mashing him to all parts of the field and far too often into the stands. It was a far cry from the outcomes expected from one of the organization’s brightest young stars.

Seemingly at a loss for answers, Gausman entered his next outing against the Texas Rangers low on confidence, yet constantly reassured by the ever-calm Caleb Joseph behind the dish. An early lead would have helped settle the nerves further, and suddenly, things appeared a whole lot brighter. That night, he went on to pitch six innings allowing just four hits and one run – a solo shot from Joey Gallo in the 5th. While far from his sharpest or most efficient outing, he struck out eight and threw 60% of his 97 pitches for strikes. His command was better and the results backed it. The O’s went on to win 10-2, giving him his sixth win of the season. Since then, he’s been brilliant.

In his last six outings, Gausman’s 4-2 with a 1.80 ERA. Five of those six outings have been quality starts, while he’s struck out 44 hitters in 40 innings of work. He’s walked 12, however just four in his last three outings, and his WHIP over this six game stretch is just 1.13. His control and command have returned, getting ahead in the count more frequently and controlling the at bat thereafter. During the six game stretch, 65.4% of the pitches he’s thrown have been for strikes.

With just 43 games remaining on the season and the O’s currently sitting two games out of playoff position, Gausman’s resurgence will need to continue if the team plans on returning to the postseason for the fourth time in six years. If they do manage to snag a wildcard and force a one game playoff, potentially against the Yankees in New York, if rested, the fate of the 2017 may rest on his shoulders – something which would have filled O’s fans with fear just a month ago. Baseball sure is a funny game.