21 September 2013

Mike Wright at Norfolk

Going into the 2013 season, Baseball America ranked Mike Wright as the number 8 prospect in the Orioles' organization. He pitched half of 2012 at Bowie, and wasn't impressive. He returned to Bowie for 2013, and I happened to be in Bowie for what may have been anyone's most disappointing start in the year. Given a 7-0 lead in the seven-inning first game of a doubleheader, he gave it all back by the fourth inning and Bowie lost 11-8 in nine innings. What made the start more disappointing is that the doubleheader took so long that, per usual Bowie practice, the scheduled fireworks show had to be cancelled.

Mike Wright is one of the Orioles' better pitching prospects. (Elaina Ellis / Norfolk Tides)
Wright rebounded considerably after that game, and finished 11-3, with a 3.26 ERA. There were a few concerns - he allowed thirteen unearned runs, which means that his Run Average is 4.07; and he allowed more than one hit per inning pitched. Still, he was promoted to Norfolk to make the start in the Tides' final game of 2013.

Normally, the last game of a minor-league season, typically held on Labor Day, is taken somewhat less than seriously. The crowds are small; many of the players are recent arrivals; and almost all of the players want to get the game over with and go on. However, 2013 was different. The Tides needed to win to qualify for the International League playoffs, and were playing slightly harder than usual. Durham, on the other hand, had wrapped up its division title and had nothing else to play for. So Wright's performance may not mean as much as a normal start.

Wright pitched a good game. His basic boxscore line was 6 2/3 innings pitched, 6 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, and 2 strikeouts, for a game score of 64. Since Durham was not interested in working the count, Wright probably was able to pitch longer than usual. His walks and strikeouts may also be lower than typical. Nevertheless, it was a good start.

Wright faced 26 batters:

Ground balls: 8
Fly balls: 11
Line drives: 5
Strikeouts: 2

This includes base hits, so the G/F ratio is different from the published totals, which only include outs. Wright wasn't a groundball pitcher in this game, which doesn't appear to be his usual pattern.

His pitches:

Balls: 31
Swinging strikes: 6
Called strikes: 17
Foul balls: 18
In play: 19

Wright didn't demonstrate swing-and-miss stuff. Below are the number of pitches he threw with various counts:

0-0: 26
1-0: 11
0-1: 13
2-0: 2
1-1: 11
0-2: 6
3-0: 1
2-1: 3
1-2: 10
3-1: 1
2-2: 7
3-2: 2

Because of the game circumstances, I wouldn't read too much into this data. He generally worked ahead of hitters and only made four pitches with a three-ball count. Three of those four pitches were in the same at-bat; he fell behind 3-0, worked the count to 3-2, and then the batter put the ball into play.

This game fits the classic profile of an innings-eating #4 or #5 starter. Mike Wright got ahead of batters without swing-and-miss stuff. He showed good control and worked efficiently. The best pitchers of his type will have one or two good years in the rotation before becoming injured or ineffective. Others are Josh Stinsons, who spend years in AAA starting rotations hoping for and occasionally getting a few big-league innings. Wright will likely start 2014 at Norfolk and we'll see what happens next.

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