In part eight of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at rookie right-hander Brad Bergesen… THE FIGHTIN’ SINKERBALLER!
Bergesen entered the year without any of the hoopla of the O’s more heralded pitching prospects. John Sickles had him ranked 16th in the organization, and I didn’t think he’d spend much time in the majors or be too successful, projecting 75 IP and a 5.18 ERA.
Well Bergy got a very early call-up, making only two starts in Triple-A before facing (and beating) the Chicago White Sox in his major league debut on April 21st. He was the O’s most effective starter for much of the year, before taking a line-drive off the leg that ended his season at the end of July.
Bergesen finished with a 7-5 record and 123.1 innings of 3.43 ERA ball. He didn’t strike out many batters (4.74 K/9), but showed good control (2.43 BB/9) and got a lot of groundballs (50%) which limited the home runs (0.8 HR/9). His 4.10 FIP may be a bit lower than it should be given his 8.3% HR/FB rate, but even adjusting for that his expected FIP according to The Hardball Times is a solid 4.54. That’s not Ace level work, but it looks really good coming from an innings-eating 4th starter. On this club though, Bergesen’s 2.3 Wins Above Replacement (worth $10.3 M according to FanGraphs) easily led the pitching staff this year.
True to his scouting report, Bergesen worked mostly with a sinking fastball that averaged about 89 mph. It had a lot of tail on it, and a ton of sink – not quite Brandon Webb like, but in Derek Lowe territory. His slider had pretty good movement, and occasionally he would throw one with really sharp bite, but it wasn’t that effective as a strike-out pitch. He also worked in a change-up that – much like his fastball – had good tail and sink. Not a spectacular repertoire by any means, but one that I think might allow him to actually increase his groundball rates towards the 54-63% range we saw in 2007 and 2008.
Bergesen was one of the very pleasant surprises of 2009, and if he hadn’t gotten injured he might have been a top contender for the Rookie of the Year award. Even if he doesn’t quite post a 3.43 ERA again, I think Bergy will definitely be a contributor to Orioles rotations in the coming years.
Photo by Rob Tringali.