Baltimore Orioles Trade Rumors: Team Should Steer Clear of Bud Norris


Jul 9, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris (20) throws to a St. Louis Cardinals batter during the first inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Deadline Day has arrived, and the Baltimore Orioles are still in pursuit of a pitcher to the surprise of, well, no one who has been paying attention.

In case you haven’t, Baltimore’s starting rotation has been in flux for quite some time now. Their starters’ ERA checks in as the seventh-worst in baseball, and per nine innings, only the Toronto Blue Jays have yielded more home runs.

If you really want to dig deep, the Orioles’ FIP–an ERA estimator that essentially measures only what a pitcher can control–ranks last in baseball, and their xFIP–another ERA estimator with an emphasis on home runs– is the third-worst mark in baseball.

What those two figures confirm is that Baltimore’s problems can’t be chalked up to luck.

Scott Feldman, who the O’s acquired on July 3 from the Chicago Cubs, was and still is supposed to offer some stability. But he’s been the opposite of consistent, compiling a 5.12 ERA in five starts with Baltimore.

So, you get the point. The Orioles need all the rotation help they can get.

With that in mind, the team’s interest in Houston Astros right-hander Bud Norris has picked up steam. Brian McTaggart of reports that the Orioles are one of three teams “in” on Norris. On Wednesday, ESPN’s Jim Bowden confirmed that they are still interested in Norris. The Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates, according to McTaggart, have also shown interest in the right-hander.

Now, here’s the question for the Orioles regarding Norris: Is he really worth the haul of prospects that it would take to pry him from the Astros?

May 13, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) runs the bases after he hits a home run off Houston Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris (20) fourth inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about Norris, and it can be summed up in a few words: He’s a controllable starter (under control through 2015) who’s entering his prime (he’s 28 years old). These types of guys have plenty of appeal, thus explaining Houston’s lofty asking price.

As for Norris’ numbers, well, they’re OK. That’s about a good as a review that I can generate. His 3.93 ERA is “meh,” and his FIP of 3.87 is decent. However, his xFIP, which, if you’ll recall, puts a greater emphasis on home runs, sits at 4.49 (seventh-worst mark in baseball).

The thing with Norris is that these numbers are hardly out of the ordinary. In his first four years in the league (98 games, 97 starts), he compiled a measly 4.42 ERA, and in each of those years, his FIP was north of 4.00.

The thing that is a bit shady is his strikeout numbers, which have taken a bit of a tumble this year.
(Measured in strikeouts per nine innings, or K/9)

2009: 8.7

2010: 9.3

2011: 8.5

2012: 8.8

2013: 6.4

The fall from 2012 to 2013 is not a mere decrease. Rather, it’s a decrease that makes you jump to his velocity readings, though those haven’t drastically changed.

His normally excellent slider, however, has waned in the effectiveness department. As FanGraphs’ pitch value will show, his wSL is 5.7 this year. Last year, it was 13.2, and in the previous year, it was 14.9. Sure, he still has a few more starts to bring his 2013 total up, but one of his best weapons has been, well, not a big weapon in 2013.

All of the numbers above, combined with the fact that he has a 4.81 ERA over his last seven starts, doesn’t suggest that Norris is worth a couple of top prospects and a few mid-level ones–not exact, but a potential swap would have to feature at least two top prospects, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

Furthermore, one has to question his fit with the Orioles, and specifically, the hitter-friendly Camden Yards.

May 13, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris (20) pitches against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll start by saying this: Camden Yards doesn’t suppress many fly balls from finding the seats. Per ESPN Park Factors, it’s the fifth-best park for home run hitters, and as you’ll find if you ponder ESPN’s nifty feature, that’s nothing new. It’s indeed what we call a hitters’ park, and always has been.

Meanwhile, most would classify Norris as a fly ball pitcher, and FanGraphs would concur. His FB% (fly ball percentage) of 40.1 percent registers as the 12th-highest mark in baseball, and again, Norris has always been a fly ball pitcher, sporting a career 39.6 FB%.

Hopefully you’re sensing what I sense. If you don’t, well, it’s very simple. Norris’ habits to induce fly balls might not bode him well in Camden Yards. Pretty obvious stuff. Of course it’s just speculation with numbers, but the trends wouldn’t favor Norris.

So, let’s sum this all up. The Orioles would be getting a Norris, a 28-year-old, who has yet to have a breakout year, in exchange for a pair–at least–of their best prospects. Not to mention that his style of pitching, as we just covered, doesn’t seem to fit well in Camden Yards.

Does Bud Norris to Baltimore deal sound intriguing now? You can have your opinion, but I think you know very well what I think.