Stop Hammel Time, Go Zach To The Future?

Stop Hammel Time, Go Zach To The Future?

Posted Saturday July 6, 2013 at 7:33:45 pm in Real Sports

Jason Hammel

At the start of the season the Orioles were hoping that the 2012 season for Jason Hammel was not a fluke and that he was ready to take the staff ace designation by the horns.

But it's 2013, and the numbers for Jason Hammel just haven't been there. But before talking about 2013, let's talk about 2012.

Hammel had a breakout year for the Orioles in 2012 posting the following numbers:

  • 3.43 ERA
  • 8.6 SO/9
  • 3.2 BB/9
  • 7.9 H/9
  • 0.7 HR/9
  • 1.237 WHIP

These were standouts from his career numbers prior to 2012:

  • 4.99 ERA
  • 6.2 SO/9
  • 3.1 BB/9
  • 10.1 H/9
  • 1.1 HR/9
  • 1.470 WHIP

Upon first glance it should be obvious that his strikeout rate went up and the number of hits have dropped off. Consequently his ERA plummetted more than a run and a half.

But what's going on with Hammel in 2013? Through 17 starts here are his numbers:

  • 5.19 ERA
  • 6.5 SO/9
  • 3.0 BB/9
  • 9.7 H/9
  • 1.6 HR/9
  • 1.401 WHIP

Those are very much inline with his career numbers. What really stands out is that the strikeout rate has dropped. And the homeruns allowed have went up.

But is there hope for Hammel to turn it around? His last 6 starts don't give much hope. In those 6 starts he has put up the following numbers:

  • 5.55 ERA
  • 5.8 SO/9
  • 2.8 BB/9
  • 8.8 H/9
  • 2.5 HR/9
  • 1.290 WHIP

With a slash line of 254/322/500 - 822 OPS

The homeruns allowed is alarming. Everything else actually looks pretty decent (walk rate, strikeout rate, hit rate). Hammel's homerun rate prior to June was only 1.1, which was exactly his career rate. His numbers prior to June:

  • 4.98 ERA
  • 6.9 SO/9
  • 3.0 BB/9
  • 10.1 H/9
  • 1.1 HR/9
  • 1.460 WHIP
  • 287/346/453 - 799

Hammel has been making adjustments. His WHIP is down due to less hits. The problem is that he's allowing way too many homers.

Regardless, with Wei-Yin Chen coming back, the Orioles rotation is running into an overcrowding problem. As it stands without Chen:

Jason Hammel, 5.19 ERA, 1.401 WHIP in 17 starts

Chris Tillman, 3.92 ERA, 1.344 WHIP in 18 starts

Miguel Gonzalez, 3.63 ERA, 1.208 WHIP in 15 starts

Scott Feldman, 3.43 ERA, 1.134 WHIP in 16 starts

Zach Britton, 4.03 ERA, 1.552 WHIP in 5 starts

Just for reference, Chen has a 3.04 ERA and a 1.204 WHIP in 8 games.

The weak link appears to be Hammel. With Chen coming back, the obvious choice is to option Zach Britton to the minors. But is it the right choice?

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Zach Britton started 11 games in the minors in 2013 going 3-2 with the following numbers:

  • 3.28 ERA
  • 1.459 WHIP
  • 6.6 SO/9
  • 3.4 BB/9
  • 9.7 H/9
  • 0.3 HR/9

The biggest problem above being the WHIP. But the groundballs are there. According to Minor League Central, Britton had a GB% (ground ball percentage) of 63.7%. And the homerun rate is superb (0.3). That kind of combination plays well in Baltimore with the Orioles defense.

But I want to dig a bit deeper into Britton's numbers. If you've followed Britton's appearances for the Norfolk Tides, you'll know that he was getting hit around.

From April 13th through May 14th (5 starts), here were Britton's numbers:

  • 27 1/3 IP
  • 38 hits, 8 walks
  • 17 strikeouts
  • 14 earned runs
  • 4.61 ERA
  • 1.683 WHIP
  • 5.6 SO/9
  • 2.6 BB/9
  • 12.5 H/9

Not good. But since then? Well, I'll just let the numbers do the talking:

  • 5 starts
  • 31 IP
  • 25 hits, 11 walks
  • 26 strikeouts
  • 7 earned runs
  • 2.03 ERA
  • 1.161 WHIP
  • 7.5 SO/9
  • 3.2 BB/9
  • 7.3 H/9

Now that's more like it. Phenomenal numbers. And real good reason why Zach was called up back to the majors.

As for Zach in the majors this year? Aside from his clunker on April 29th where he went 6 innings and allowed 6 runs on 10 hits and 2 walks, he's put the following together since he was called up:

  • 4 starts
  • 23 IP
  • 23 hits, 10 walks
  • 10 strikeouts
  • 7 earned runs
  • 2.74 ERA
  • 1.435 WHIP
  • 3.9 SO/9
  • 3.9 BB/9
  • 9 H/9

So, the hits are solid. The ERA is solid. The walks are bad. As are the strikeouts. But very encouraging. He also needs to go deeper in games (only averaging 5 2/3 IP a start).

Cumulative starts since May 14th (majors and minors)

  • 9 starts
  • 54 IP
  • 48 hits, 21 walks
  • 36 strikeouts
  • 14 earned runs
  • 2.33 ERA
  • 1.278 WHIP
  • 6 SO/9
  • 3.5 BB/9
  • 8 H/9

Averaging 6 IP per start. 

By comparison, here are Hammel's last 9 starts:

  • 9 starts
  • 55 IP
  • 59 hits, 15 walks
  • 41 strikeouts
  • 33 earned runs
  • 5.40 ERA
  • 1.345 WHIP
  • 6.7 SO/9
  • 2.5 BB/9
  • 9.7 H/9

So, what are your thoughts?

It's a difficult situation. Where would Hammel go? Barring a trade, the only place that makes sense for him is the bullpen. And I just can't see that happening right now.

Chances are Britton is optioned and Hammel sticks around. But it's not the right move.

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view