Obtained in late 2011 from the Texas Rangers as the player to be named later in the Mike Gonzalez trade, Pedro Strop was an important cog in the Baltimore Orioles excellent 2012 bullpen.
However, a poor September had O’s Manager Buck Showalter showing some reluctance to use Strop in the critical situations he had routinely been used during April through August. Some of his September difficulties were attributed to being mechanically out-of-whack, with general fatigue sited as a factor for the mechanical issues. After being used in the regular season final October 3rd, Strop was not used again until Game 4 of the ALDS October 11th.
Strop’s 2012 numbers:
5-2, 2.44 era, 4.00 xFIP, 3 saves, 24 holds, 7 blown saves, 66.1 ip, 52 hits, 2 hr’s, 37 bb’s, 58 k’s, .613 OPS against (.674 OPS vs. LHP, .556 OPS vs. RHP), 64.3 GB%
First Strike: 53.4%
Swinging Strike: 10.2%
K percentage: 20.5%
BB percentage: 13.1%
Line Drive: 15.9%
Four Seam Fastball: 15.6% (Average velocity 96.4mph)
Two Seam Fastball: 53.3% (Average velocity 96.9mph)
Change-up: 2.9% (Average velocity 88.9mph)
Before the AS Break: 4-2, 3 saves, 1.67 era, 37.2 ip, 25 hits, 1 hr, 20 bb’s, 32 k’s
After the AS Break: 1-0, 3.45 era, 28.2 ip, 27 hits, 1 hr, 17 bb’s, 26 k’s
An axiom you hear often in sports is that ‘You can’t teach size, or strength, or speed.’ Similarly, you can’t teach ‘stuff’. In 2012, Strop repeatedly showed off his electric arm; combining not only a power fastball, but good movement as well. He overwhelmed RH hitters, and induced an extremely high GB%, made up mainly of weak contact.
Those were the positive attributes of Strop’s 2012, and there is little reason to believe there will be any difference of significance in that regard in 2013. His stuff is not going to change, and he is still going to get a high percentage of grounders.
The primary negative about Strop’s 2012 was obviously the walks. I doubt that there is going to be any discernible difference there either.
So what could change for Strop in ’13?
In 2012, Strop’s K rate was solid enough; but it was not elite. With his stuff, there is sentiment from many that Strop should do better with putting away hitters on his own. I think there is a higher percentage chance of Strop increasing his K rate, than a reduction occurring with his GB rate; but overall I’m inclined also believe his strikeouts per IP will not change much in ’13 either.
One area which could see a negative jump in Strop’s numbers is his homers allowed. After allowing just 2 in 66.1 ip in ’12, it would not be shocking to see that number increase this year. If it does, Strop could generally be pitching similarly to last year overall, but see a jump in ERA. Hitters slugged just .283 against Strop in ’12. It will be interesting to watch that number in ’13.
While relievers collectively tend to be highly volatile, Strop just does not strike me as a guy likely to have a high degree of volatility. Generally, I think we know what we have. He’s a weapon out of the pen which can help shorten games, and bridge the gap (with O’Day) to Johnson. In 2012, Strop accumulated 0.7 in fWAR (FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement), and had a Win Probability Added (WPA) of 1.23. If his peripheral numbers have the limited movement I anticipate; those fWAR and WPA numbers may very likely be similar as well.
If I’m wrong about Strop, and we see an implosion in his 2013 performance, I think that would have a far-reaching impact on the Birds as a whole. Most relievers are extremely replaceable. I don’t think Strop is one of those ‘dime-a-dozen’ guys. I believe when you factor in his limited contract, that the soon to be 28 year old (June 13th) is one of the O’s more valuable overall commodities.