Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It Could Be Worse: Kevin Millwood

It sounds strange to say that a team with the worst record in baseball and a team that can't seem to get above the .300 mark could be worse off. But they could be (and that's the scary part). I'll be doing a mini-series this week on Oriole players who are giving better than they are getting during this lost season.

When the Orioles acquired Kevin Millwood for Chris Ray this offseason, I was hoping that he would serve a role similiar to that of Rick Sutcliffe in 1992; he didn't have to pitch like and ace, he just needed to eat some innings and provide stability to a young, inexperienced rotation. And he has done that and more. As of June 1st:

Millwood 3.89 58 17 74.0 1.27 12 4.47 0-5

Millwood is well on his way to pitching 200 innings one-third of the way through the season. He is giving up a lot of home runs but not with men on base; 10 of the 12 homers he has surrendered have been solo shots. His 3.41 K/BB ratio is 2nd among AL starters.

He's done everything I had hoped and more. Although he is still winless on the season, that is due far more to the weak offense than to his effectiveness. Millwood is a big reason the Orioles were able to keep Chris Tillman in Norfolk for 2 months to work on his control and his cutter, send Brad Bergesen down to AAA to get his sinker back and why Jake Arrieta is having to kick the door down to get to Baltimore instead of being rushed to the majors (like Tillman and Matusz were last season). This is a good thing.

Millwood's FIP suggests that he may regress as the season wears on but his impact will be felt long after he is gone, either by free agency at the end of the season or by trade at the deadline. He is allowing the young staff to develop at it's own pace and may bring back prospects or draft picks as well. He is one of the bright spots in a dark season.

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