20 June 2011

Cup of jO's (June 20, 2011): Britton taking his lumps

Game Wrap
Nationals 4, Baltimore 7
Box Score / Play-By-Play / AP Summary

JJ Hardy and Mark Reynolds made the front office look good today, as the left side of the infield (acquired this offseason) led the way with a combined 5-8 with two doubles and two homeruns. For the second straight series the O's avoided a sweep by salvaging the final game of the set. The team heads to Pittsburgh for the final third of their road trip. Jake Arrieta takes the hill opposite Charlie Morton.

Of interest...
Of interest to me this morning is Zach Britton's game log. It shows that over his last five starts he has posted a line of 28 IP, 34 H, 21 R, 16 ER, 12 BB, 18 SO and 3 HR. Britton's BB/9 currently sits at 3.2. With his SO/9 still below 6 (he has brought it up to 5.3), that is a lot of batted balls and probably too many baserunners between the walks and the balls that find their way through the defense. In early April I published up a brief scouting report on the young starter (original article here), noting the following:

[T]here could be some not insignificant growing pains as he finishes his development at the Major League level...The hard-throwing southpaw has a higher ceiling than any arm in the organization, though his proximity to that ceiling is still a ways off.
This wasn't exactly stepping out on a limb -- young arms often take their share of lumps while learning to make adjustments at the Major League level. Still, I received a fair number of challenges to my "take" on the young hurler, with the highest degree of umbrage being taken with my statement that Britton was "a ways off" from his ceiling. Today's writing may seem like an "I told you so," but that couldn't be less the case. Rather, it's meant to be a reminder that these sorts of rough patches are to be expected, and fans have no reason to feel any less excited about having Britton as a fixture in the O's rotation for the foreseeable future.

Prospects will always excite a fan base, and the proliferation of prospect blogs and websites have grown into an echo chamber adding to the hype machine. As we touched on last week in discussing Major League deals for top draft picks, we need to keep in mind that the path through prospect development is seldom linear. That holds especially true for the final jump from AAA to the Bigs. With an immense talent like Britton, O's fans simply need to show a little patience and enjoy the ride.

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