Baltimore Orioles 2022 Report Card: Félix Bautista

Aug 25, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Felix Bautista (74) picks up the ball as he enters the game against the Chicago White Sox in the tenth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 25, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Felix Bautista (74) picks up the ball as he enters the game against the Chicago White Sox in the tenth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports /

After a stint with the Miami Marlins, Félix Bautista was signed as a minor league free agent in the summer of 2016, just as the Baltimore Orioles were competing for what is currently their most recent postseason appearance.

The behemoth reliever, listed at 6’5” seemingly through a comedy of errors, progressed to higher levels of the Orioles minor league system but was never regarded as a top prospect whom fans should keep an eye on – the highest he made it in Fangraphs’ organizational list was 34th in their 2022 preseason edition of the list.

2021 was Félix Bautista’s crossing-the-Rubicon moment. Not only did his fastball experience an uptick in velocity that turned it into the triple digit missile we see today, but Bautista began to remedy command issues that had plagued him during several stages of his career.  Bautista’s hard work shone so brightly in Spring Training that the Orioles had no choice but to include him on their Opening Day roster and from there, the legend of Big Félix was born. It’s time to send in The Mountain…for his official Birds Watcher report card.

Félix Bautista began the 2022 season as a relative unknown and ended it as the dominant Baltimore Orioles closer known by baseball fans around the world.

As a reminder, the grading system for pitchers is broken into the following categories: overall results, batted ball quality, and an “elective” category of my choosing.

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Overall Results: A

With his newfound fastball velocity and a splitfinger that won’t quit, Félix Bautista stupefied hitters from the jump and was universally considered best suited to assume the closer role after Jorge López was dealt to Minnesota.

The extra velocity is no doubt nice, but his improved command was arguably the backbone of his dominance. Bautista has struggled with command throughout his career, walking more batters than he struck out in two of his first three professional seasons. A brief respite from 2017 to 2018 saw his walks per nine innings plummet to acceptable marks, but Bautista’s command yet again betrayed him and sent his walk rate shooting back towards previous levels. Bautista managed to shave his BB/9 down to 4.42 when he got to Triple A last year, but would that translate to the majors?

Yes, to say the least.  Bautista exhibited command of three different pitches to the tune of a 3.15 BB/9 – a career high at any level!

Félix Bautista’s pitch arsenal deserves its own hardback novel. The triple digit fastball is the star of the show, making even the quickest of bats look like they’re treading through mud.

Bautista’s fastball was in elite company, it’s 99.2 MPH average velocity 7th highest in the majors and in the company of other elite relievers such as Edwin Diaz and Emmanuel Clase.

Baltimore Orioles closer Félix Bautista dominated hitters with two of the best individual pitches in the majors.

Bautista’s splitter is frantically waving its arms begging for recognition and I would be remiss not to oblige.

Run Value measures the value of a pitch based upon the outcomes each time a pitch is thrown and how it relates to run expectancy.

It is contextualized by comparing the pitch – for example, Felix Bautista’s splitter- to other splitters thrown within 2 miles per hour and with a similar (within six inches) release point. Bautista’s splitter had a Run Value of -6, meaning it reduced his team’s run expectancy by 6 runs more than the average splitter of similar properties. By this metric, it was the fifth best splitter in all of Major League Baseball.

With two pitches that rank near the best of their contemporaries, it’s no surprise that Bautista finished with a 2.19 ERA and struck out over twelve batters per nine innings. The only thing resembling a blemish on his record was a slight proneness to allow home runs shortly after he became closer, but Félix Bautista’s results were nothing short of spectacular.

Batted Ball Quality: A

Besides the occasional homer, batters had immense difficulty making quality contact on anything Bautista threw their way, allowing an 86.8 MPH average exit velocity that was nearly two miles per hour slower than league average and in the 84th percentile of qualified pitchers.

The rest of Bautista’s StatCast data is a sea of red, so much so that his HardHit% *only* being in the 60th percentile seems pedestrian when it’s actually very good!

Expected wOBA? 91st percentile. Expected batting average and expected slugging? In the 94th and 92nd percentile, respectively. It turns out that when batters face a guy with a three-digit fastball and a splitter that could drill a hole to the other side of Earth, they have a hard time hitting him. Who knew?

Entrance: A

Félix Bautista. Edwin Diaz. Macho Man Randy Savage. The British dude Michael B. Jordan fought in Creed. What do these four have in common, you ask?

Dope entrances, that’s what! A well-crafted entrance can enhance the ambiance of any stadium or arena and with the innovation of mammoth LED boards and programmable light systems, modern relievers are in a unique position to make their run from the bullpen to the mound.

The Orioles have done just that with Bautista. When #74 is called upon, the lights in Camden Yards dim. Omar Little’s whistle permeates the speakers. Visitors beware: Félix comin’.

Final GPA: 4.0

2022 was an unmitigated success for the Baltimore Orioles and for Félix Bautista and yet another feather in the cap of the O’s Player Development department. The López trade caused concern throughout the fanbase as many wondered if the bullpen could sustain their success without the All Star, but Bautista assuaged those concerns immediately. The bullpen should largely remain the same next year, so expect the lights at Camden Yards to dim plenty – maybe even in the Postseason.

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