The Baltimore Orioles have been one of baseball's best teams all season long. They are currently 30 games over .500 (77-47) with the best record in the American League and the second-best record in baseball. They have accomplished this through a true team effort with many players making headlines over the course of the season.
Early in the season, it was Jorge Mateo carrying the load with an incredible start to the season. Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O'Hearn and Anthony Santander have all been focal points of the Orioles offense for periods. Adley Rutschman and Cedric Mullins have given steady production while being team leaders. Veteran role players like James McCann and Adam Frazier have had big moments, and then there's that Gunnar Henderson kid.
The pitching staff has also shared the glory this season. Tyler Wells was the star early in the season and showed potential to be an ace. Mike Baumann has had a historic season in the bullpen while Yennier Cano and Felix Bautista also took part in the all-star game and have been two of the best relievers in the game. But a new name has surfaced as the ace of the Orioles pitching staff; Kyle Bradish.
Stats are prior to beginning of play on August 22
Is Kyle Bradish developing into a rotation ace?
Bradish got off to a painful start to the season, literally. In his first start of the season, Bradish took a comebacker off the foot and was forced to leave the game after only 1.2 innings. The ball that knocked him out of the game was the only hit he allowed and two of the five outs Bradish recorded were via strikeout.
After a brief stint on the IL, Bradish returned triumphantly, giving up only five hits and zero runs in 6.0 innings. He faltered after that and allowed 10 runs in just 7.0 combined innings over his next two starts to close out the month of April.
Kyle rebounded in May and has been very good ever since. He made five starts in each of May, June and July posting ERA's of 2.76, 3.54 and 2.25 respectively. On Sunday, Bradish made his fourth start in August and has a sparkling 1.90 ERA for the month so far. Kyle has now pitched 127.2 innings for the season in the Orioles 124 games. In order for a pitcher to qualify for those awards, he needs to pitch at least one inning per game played, so he is not qualified yet.
Bradish might not have the totals of some of the other pitchers due to his time on the IL, but we have seen a change in recent years in the stats that are most looked at for Cy Young voters. Less weight is put on wins and more is put on ERA, WHIP and K/9. Here are Bradish's numbers that will be most considered in Cy Young voting:
Strikeouts: 122 (8.6 K/9)
The number of wins could very easily be higher, since three of the quality starts that Bradish has made this season ended in Orioles losses, while the offense scored one combined run in those games. The case for Kyle comes from the stats that he has more control over starting with his ERA.
Now that Bradish has pitched enough innings, he entered the ERA list at the very top, tied with Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees for the lowest ERA in the junior circuit. An ERA title does look nice when looking for a Cy Young candidate.
While Bradish might not be a dominant strikeout pitcher, he does possess very good control. His K/9 is above average and his WHIP is tied for seventh in the AL and only getting better. Bradish's last four months of WHIP have been 1.02, 1.04, 1.03 and 0.93.
Kyle's ability to pitch to contact and allow his gold glove caliber defense to work behind him has allowed Bradish to keep his pitch count lower and pitch deeper into games. He has also held opposing hitters to the fourth lowest BAA in the American League.
If the Birds continue with a six man rotation, Bradish should make six more starts in the regular season. Only one of the teams that he would potentially face (Tampa Bay Rays) is currently in position to make the postseason.
He would also potentially pitch against the division rival Boston Red Sox twice, Cleveland Guardians, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. Even though those teams aren't currently in playoff positions, only the Rockies are out of the playoff race, so it won't be easy sledding for Bradish the rest of the way.
Altogether, Bradish has made 13 quality starts to date, is tied for the ERA lead, top five in WHIP and top 10 in BAA. He is not in the AL Cy Young conversation at the moment, but if he can pitch well in September like he has for the last four months, he will force himself into the conversation.