Signed last year to a 3 year $12M contract with a club option for 2015, Wei-Yin Chen begins his 2nd year in the Major Leagues, with his spot in the Orioles rotation secure.
When you look back at the reasons why the Orioles were able to exceed expectations in 2012, one important reason was the production received by Chen. Not that his overall numbers were overwhelming or shocking (his season corresponded to the projections of many), but his 32 starts and 192.2 innings provided stability to a rotation that was often in-flux around him.
In 2012, Chen was going through numerous adjustments. He had to move across the world and assimilate to a new culture, and team. He went from facing the AAAA talent of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, to dealing with the best of the best in the Majors. Also, having spent his previous professional career in Japan, the Taiwanese import was used to pitching on an additional day of rest. 2013 should be more about continuity for Chen, as opposed to further adjustments. Of course other teams will have spent more time reviewing their scouting reports on Chen, but it is not like opposing AL East teams did not see plenty of Chen last year (13 of Chen’s 32 starts were against Baltimore’s Divisional foes, and he faced the Yankees for a 5th time in 2012 during the ALDS).
Based on that, I’m not expecting a high degree of volatility in his 2013 performance over what we saw from him last year. Further to that point, he turns 28 in July. He had 631.1 innings in his career in Japan. He came here experienced. I don’t know if there is reason to believe he has additional ceiling to reach. Which is fine, I’ll gladly take a replication of 2012.
Chen’s 2012 numbers:
12-11, 4.02 era, 4.34 xFIP, 192.2 ip, 186 hits, 29 homers, 57 bb’s, 154 k’s, .729 OPS against (.682 OPS vs. LHB, .747 OPS vs. RHB), 37.1 GB%
First Strike: 59.8%
Swinging Strike: 9.1%
K percentage: 18.8%
BB percentage: 7%
Line Drive: 20.8%
Four Seam Fastball: 59.6% (Average velocity 91mph)
Two Seam Fastball: 5.9%
Change-up: 12.8% (Average velocity 84mph)
There has been some talk that he tired out in the 2nd half, with people pointing to his poor September (0-3, 5.90 era). That might be fair, but overall his post All-Star numbers were pretty much in-line with his 1st half:
Before the AS Break: 103 ip, 98 hits, 15 hr’s, 33 bb’s, 78 k’s, 3.93 era
After the AS Break: 89.2 ip, 88 hits, 14 hr’s, 24 bb’s, 76 k’s, 4.12 era
His HR/IP ratio increased after the break, but you would expect that in the warmer weather as a fly-ball pitcher. If those homers concern you, you have to be encouraged that his K/IP ratio also increased as the season went on.
While I expect that Chen’s first start of 2013 will be Game 2, April 3rd in Tampa Bay, I probably lean against the idea that he will end 2013 looked at as the O’s 2nd best starter. What I do believe is that if the O’s again contend this year, one of the reasons why, will be that Chen was again a reliable member of the rotation. I think it is fully within reason – and should be the expectation – for Chen to again be productive. I think it is also fair to say that if there is major regression from the O’s, Chen failing to meet expectations would likely be a significant factor.