Baltimore Orioles: David Hess Continues His Historic Pace
By Nick Stevens
Starting pitcher David Hess continues to struggle for the Baltimore Orioles? Are his days on the major league roster numbered?
I want Keegan Akin. You want Keegan Akin. We all want Keegan Akin. We aren’t getting Keegan Akin, yet. The Baltimore Orioles need David Hess to work his way through the 2019 season, but his struggles aren’t just troubling, they are historic.
At his current rate, David Hess is well on his way to breaking the major league record for home runs allowed per game. His is currently allowing 2.95 HR/9 IP. The record is held by former MLB All-Star Jose Lima (rest in peace) who gave up 2.2 HR/9 IP back in 2000 with the Houston Astros.
Dylan Bundy came close to breaking the record last season, allowing 2.15 shots per game, but his teammate David Hess is making a strong case to better that. Remember when we were all upset over Brandon Hyde taking Hess out against the Toronto Blue Jays with a no-hitter intact? Seems like five years ago, doesn’t it?
After last week’s loss to the Texas Rangers, Hess is now 1-8 with a 7.08 ERA and 1.51 WHIP with 61 innings under his belt. He leads all of major league baseball in losses and home runs allowed (20). Hess may be producing more strikeouts this season (18% strikeout rate, compared to 16% last season), but his walk rate is up and many of his numbers have skyrocketed.
Opponents are finding the barrel 14% of the time against Hess, leading to an average exit velocity on balls in play of 91.0 mph. The league average mark is 87.4 mph. Both numbers rank in the bottom 5% of all pitchers in baseball. Hitters aren’t making any more contact against Hess than they did last season, it’s just been driven in the air at an alarming rate. His groundball rate has dropped from 34.5 % to 30% this season (that’s up from 27% before his start against Texas).
Looking at his Baseball Savant numbers, Hess is using his four-seamer a little less, mixing in his deep repertoire just a bit more. His spin rates are a touch higher than last year and his velocity is noticeably up, adding a tick on his fastball (92.8 mph), three ticks to his slider (83 mph), and more than five mph to his curveball (77.6 mph). Hess claims to be happy with what he sees behind the scenes, unfortunately, the results have been far from impressive.
There doesn’t seem to be any extreme changes in Hess that have led many of these extreme results. It’s just another aspect of the 2019 Baltimore Orioles where you throw your hands up, shake your head, and pray for better times.
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A few days ago, we took a deep look into just about every pitcher on the Norfolk Tides’ roster and it wasn’t pretty. Mike Elias has already stated that he wants Akin to log more AAA innings before earning a call-up and the left-handed pitcher isn’t beating down the door like DJ Stewart and Chance Sisco were.
After back-to-back starts of at least six innings (1 ER, 2 BB, 15 K), Akin failed to reach the sixth inning in each of his last three starts and has given up eight earned runs on 18 hits. His stuff is there and he could likely hold his own in the majors right now, but why rush him?
Alex Cobb (Ubaldo Jimenez 2.0) and Nate Karns are currently on the 60-day IL and are pretty much lost causes at this point. Gabriel Ynoa is hanging in there from start to start and there simply is no one else to climb the mound for the Baltimore Orioles.
Maybe a familiar foe will help David Hess find some footing and start trending upwards. Hess gets the nod tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays, the one team he has defeated this season. However, the Jays have added a few notable names to their lineup since the last time these two squads paired up (Vladimir Guerrero Jr.and Cavan Biggio).
His next two starts after Toronto will likely come against the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s on the road. The Mariners lead all of baseball with 126 home runs, while Oakland ranks fifth with 102. If Hess is going to turn anything around, it’s going to be extremely difficult.