2009 O’s Retrospective: Jason Berken

In part thirty-one of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at rookie right-hander Jason Berken… THE FIGHTIN’ WINLESS STREAK!

Berken was not considered one of the O’s top pitching prospects, but the 25 year-old was one of the most ready for the big leagues and so when a spot opened up in the rotation at the end of May, he was given a chance. Berken won his first start – defeating the Blue Jays with 5 innings of decent work – and then proceeded to suck… a lot.

He wouldn’t win another game for 13 more starts (at which point he was 1-9), again beating Toronto. His 6-12 record was ugly, and the 6.54 ERA was even uglier – only Kansas City’s Luke Hochaver at 6.55 had a worse ERA in the majors amongst pitcher with at least 100 IP (and at least he had a start with only 80 pitches in a complete game and another with 13 K’s). Things weren’t really all that bad though.

Berken showed decent control with a 3.3 BB/9 rate, though his 5.0 K/9 was below average. There was a lot of hard contact as well, with 1.4 HR/9 and a 24.1% line drive rate. Still, a 5.31 FIP in 119.2 IP made Berken a 0.7 Wins Above Replacement player, and his expected FIP from The Hardball Times was even a little better at 5.29 (they had a 5.36 FIP, so I guess it would be like 5.24 at FanGraphs, to compare to the 5.31). The 6.16 tERA tells a scarier story though, and it’s probably best to consider Berken a very slightly above replacement level pitcher last year, and likely going forward in large part as well.

Looking at Pitch/FX info., it seems that Berken’s stuff is pretty average. His fastball velocity (92.2 mph), movement, and how often he threw it (53% of the time) are all almost exactly league average. His slider had a little more drop; his change-up and curveball a little less. He’d even mix in an occasional two-seamer. Overall, it’s an underwhelming but full repertoire. Going by the run values per 100 pitches thrown, the fastball was his least-bad pitch at -0.80 runs relative to average, followed by the slider (-1.23), curveball (-2.43), and change-up (-3.10).

As of now, Berken doesn’t have a spot in the rotation for 2010. He might make a decent long-man and could fill in if injury strikes, but I don’t think he’s going to be an important piece the next time the O’s are competitive.

Photo by Jim McIsaac.