02 June 2015

Bud Norris' Norfolk Rehabilitation Start

Tonight, weather permitting, Bud Norris will make his second rehabilitation start with the Norfolk Tides. It will be his third overall rehabilitation start; his second game with the Bowie Baysox. His first rehabilitation start was in game one of the Tides' May 22 doubleheader against the Rochester Red Wings. The Orioles planned for Norris to make about ninety pitches to get himself into condition to rejoin the major-league team.

I was the milb.com Gameday datacaster for that doubleheader and thus saw Norris' performance from the press box. Like most Orioles' fans, I was disappointed in Norris' ineffective performance, in which he gave up nine earned runs and twelve hits in 2 2/3 innings. The Tides' radio broadcasters, trying to find something positive to say about his start, repeatedly emphasized that several of the hits Norris allowed were ground balls that found a hole between infielders. Is that true? Did he also surrender some hard-hit balls that were turned into outs? Just how well did Bud Norris pitch in his first rehabilitation start?

I don't have access to sophisticated video analysis tools to determine how much Norris' pitches broke. I don't even have radar-gun readings from the in-house pitch-speed display, which I can't consistently track because of my datacasting responsibilities. I did, however, record every pitch and the result of every pitch put into play. This article will review every Red Wing at-bat against Norris in more detail than the Gameday recap or the game stories. I will then follow with some general observations about his performance.

First Inning

Batter 1: Eric Farris -- Ball, Foul, Double to left
On the 1-1 pitch, Farris hit a medium-speed ground ball between third baseman Michael Almanzar and the foul line. Almanzar dove for the ball but missed it; left fielder Nolan Reimold retrieved the ball in foul territory and was unable to prevent Farris from coasting into second.

Batter 2: James Beresford - Ball, Ball, Called Strike, Called Strike, Error by second baseman
With a 2-2 count, Beresford hit a chopper to second baseman Derrik Gibson. Gibson got to the ball and fielded it, but dropped it before he could throw to first. Farris moved to third; he would have advanced even if Gibson had made the play. There was no controversy about the error; and as it turned out it didn't matter.

Batter 3: Josmil Pinto - Ball, Called Strike, Foul, Ball, Ball, 6-4-3 Double Play
On the full count, Pinto hit a tailor-made double-play ball to shortstop Paul Janish, who threw to Gibson to force Beresford. Gibson threw to first to retire the slow-moving Pinto. Farris scored on the play. Some people thought that if not for Gibson's error on the previous play, Janish might have been able to hold Farris at third before throwing out Pinto (which might have made Farris' run unearned); but that too didn't become an issue.

Batter 4: Kennys Vargas - Called Strike, Ball, Ball, Home Run to Left-Center
Vargas went the other way on the 2-1 pitch and hit a towering fly ball into the Rochester bullpen, about 385 feet or so from home plate. Although there was a wind blowing out, the home run was no fluke.

Batter 5: Danny Ortiz - Ball, Foul, Ball, Foul, Single to Center
On a 2-2 pitch, Ortiz hit a fairly hard ground ball back up the middle, just to the right of the pitcher's rubber. Norris was unable to catch it and neither Gibson nor Janish could get to it before it reached the outfield.

Batter 6: Wilkin Ramirez - Ball, Ground out to Second
With a 1-1 count, Ramirez hit a soft ground ball to the right side. Gibson charged the ball and threw Ramirez out at first.

Second Inning

Batter 7: Ryan Wheeler - Ball, Called Strike, Automatic Double to Right-Center
On a 1-1 pitch, Wheeler hit a deep fly ball between center fielder Julio Borbon and right field Dariel Alvarez. The ball hit the warning track on the fly and bounced over the outfield wall. The ball was crushed and traveled well over 380 feet on the fly.

Batter 8: Jose Martinez - Ball, Called Strike, Foul, Foul, Ball, Ground out to Second
On a 2-2 pitch, Martinez hit a routine grounder to the right side. Gibson fielded it and threw Martinez out at first, with Wheeler advancing to third.

Batter 9: Doug Bernier - Called Strike, Ball, Foul, Strikeout (Called)

Batter 10: Farris - Called Strike, Single to Right
On an 0-1 pitch, Farris hit a low line drive/ground ball that got past a diving Chris Parmelee on one bounce. Wheeler scored from third base.

Batter 11: Beresford - Ball, Ball (Stolen Base), Foul, Foul, Ball, Foul, Foul, Foul, Single to Center
On the second pitch, Farris broke for second and easily stole the base; the pitch was low and outside and catcher Steve Clevenger had no real chance to throw him out. After Beresford worked the count full and fouled off several 3-2 pitches, he hit a ground ball up the middle that neither Norris, Gibson, nor Janish could field. Farris scored as the ball wasn't hit hard enough to give Borbon a chance to throw him out at the plate.

Batter 12: Pinto - Single to Left
Pinto hit a hard ground ball to Janish's left. It wasn't that far from Janish but it was hit hard enough so that Janish's dive couldn't stop it. Beresford stopped at second.

Batter 13: Vargas - Called Strike, Ball, Home Run to Right Center
On a 1-1 pitch, Kennys Vargas hit his second home run of the game - a fly ball that sailed over the bullpen and eventually rolled / bounced into the Elizabeth River, 480+ feet from home plate. Press-box workers who have been working ever since Harbor Park opened in 1993 could remember only two other balls hit into the river - one by Jim Thome and one by Sam Horn

Batter 14: Ortiz - Foul, Ball, Fly out to Right Field
On a 1-1 pitch, Ortiz lifted a routine fly ball to right field that Alvarez caught easily.

Third Inning

Batter 15: Ramirez - Fly out to Right Field
Ramirez hit the first pitch into right center field. Alvarez came in a few steps and caught the routine fly ball.

Batter 16: Wheeler - Ball, Called Strike, Single to Center
On the 1-1 pitch, Wheeler hit a line drive over the infield that fell in front of Borbon. 

Batter 17: Martinez - Ball, Swinging Strike, Ball, Line Out to Left
On the 2-1 pitch, Martinez hit a hard line drive to left center field. Nolan Reimold raced into the gap and made a snow-cone catch. Wheeler was able to get back to first without a throw.

Batter 18: Bernier - Foul, Single to Left
On an 0-1 pitch, Bernier hit a ground ball between Almanzar and Janish. Janish wasn't able to get to it and it got through into left field. Wheeler stopped at second.

Batter 19: Farris - Ball, Swinging Strike, Single to Left
On the 1-1 pitch, Farris hit another ground ball between Almanzar and Janish that neither one could quite get to. Wheeler scored and Bernier stopped at second.

Batter 20: Beresford - Called Strike, Ball, Double to Left
Beresford drove the 1-1 pitch down the left-field line. Reimold was able to cut the ball off before it got to the wall, and was able to hold Farris at third, but Bernier scored easily from second.

Norris relieved by Steve Johnson

  • While a few of the hits off Norris could be said to be "lucky", most of them were well-hit balls that would have required extraordinarily good or extraordinarily lucky defense to turn into outs. 
  • Norris accumulated only two swing-and-miss strikes. When Red Wing batters swung at his pitches, they either hit them into play or fouled them off. 
  • Some of the hits were by hitters who are major-league quality hitters - Josmil Pinto and Kennys Vargas. But others were by non-major-league quality hitters - Eric Farris, James Beresford, and Ryan Wheeler.
It's dangerous to draw conclusions about a pitcher about only one start, especially if it's a rehabilitation start. Nevertheless, it's safe to say that Norris wasn't ready to help the Orioles on May 22.


Pat Holden said...

Only 2 swing and misses? Wow. Good stuff, Joe.

Philip said...

What a tedious excercise! Does it detract from your enjoyment of the game?
What are your thoughts on the benefit of just dumping Norris for whatever we can get? His value is low, his track record is average(although I love him as a fan) but he is worth a flyer to many teams. The Rangers, Bosox, Angels, maybe the Mariners, just to name a few teams in possible contention who would be happy to try Norris out.
And Hunter and Marusz as well, are horrible and expensive.
Would be interested in your thoughts on moving them.

Unknown said...

#Philip - to answer your first question, no, it doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the game. I admit that datacasting / scoring for BIS isn't for everyone. Perhaps Nate and I, on a future Camden Highball podcast, can share our experiences (I think Nate was a BIS scorer for awhile.)

On your second question, Norris has so little value right now that unless the roster spot is desperately needed (or the Orioles want to be nice to him) there's no point in dumping him. (There's an amusing line in Cesar Izturis' transaction history in the BA Super Register; "traded ... with cash for cash." That's about what we could get for Norris.) His chances of a rebound are equally good in Baltimore as elsewhere. So why not hold on to him and hope? Hunter and Matusz haven't been all that horrible and have had pretty good track records over the past seasons; unless the Orioles go into all-out sell mode no reason to dump them. If the Orioles do decide to write off 2015, and start selling, then it's reasonable to try to move all of them - but we wouldn't get much.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

If the O's are willing to eat some money if they move Norris (unlikely), they could possibly get a low- to mid-level prospect. Other than that, any salary relief and an open rotation spot would be the two benefits of moving him.

Matusz is basically being used in low leverage situations now and is still struggling. He's really nothing more than a LOOGY, though he's not being used in that role anyway. He doesn't have any trade value and is will be a non-tender candidate yet again if he's not DFA'd or traded.

Hunter probably has a bit more trade value, but not much. I don't see him returning next year either.

Davis and Wieters are popular trade candidates if the O's keep falling out of the race. Here's another one: O'Day.

Unknown said...

Joe, good stuff. I have scored for BIS. Found that it added to the game experience, although I could see an argument as to how it could detract. Very dependent on the individual.

Anonymous said...

If it were up to me, I'd replace the under-performing players who probably won't be back next year ASAP in a heartbeat... even if that means paying other teams to take them.

Why? Because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain when those players' salary is a sunk cost. By playing AAA call-ups instead, you would be helping the team in either 2015 (if they perform better than the replacement-level veterans now) or 2016+ (to prepare them for future seasons where the team might be in a better position to content).

Anonymous said...

Underperforming MLB players jettisoned and replaced with underperforming AAA players...that does not sound like a promising venture. It is not like there are kids on the farm who are being held back or big question marks who might explode on the MLB scene. Options B and C have not shown themselves to be good options.