Strop finding success with Orioles

Strop finding success with Orioles

Strop finding success with Orioles
BALTIMORE -- Pedro Strop has completely changed his game in his first full season with the Orioles, and the results have been nothing short of dominant.

After three years of limited playing time and limited success with the Rangers, Strop has stopped trying to simply overpower hitters, instead using his two-seam fastball to induce as many ground balls as possible.

The setup man's 1.29 ERA is the best among Orioles pitchers. The only reliever in the Majors who has thrown as many innings as Strop's 48 2/3 and posted a better ERA is Tampa Bay's Fernando Rodney, who has an 0.71 ERA in 50 2/3 innings.

"I became a sinker pitcher," Strop said. "Trying to get a ground ball every time out there. I used to get strikeouts, and every time I was working with 30 or 25 pitches per inning, just trying to get strikeouts and trying to be perfect and this kind of stuff.

"But now I simplified pretty much everything I can, as much as I can. Just throwing my two-seamer right in there. Just trying to get ground balls as soon as possible."

More than half of Strop's pitches this season have been two-seam fastballs, a pitch he used just sparingly with the Rangers.

The sharp, sinking action of the pitch has led to a career-best ground ball rate.

"I didn't trust in it before, but now I trust in it," Strop said of his two-seamer. "Before I used to trust in velocity. I would throw 100 [mph] and then just strike them out with a slider or split-finger. This year I don't even focus on it -- velocity is good -- but I'm focused on locating my sinker where I want it. Down and away, down and in to righties, and get a ground ball as soon as possible."

Strop is striking out a career-low 6.84 batters per nine innings, but that shift has had a largely positive impact.

The right-hander had never thrown fewer than four pitches per plate appearance before this season, when his mark of 3.83 is about league average.

"When you're young, you're always hearing, listening to people talking about velocity," Strop said. "You never listen to people talking about, 'Oh, you get a ground ball on two pitches.' You know, you always hear velocity, 'He throws 100, he throws 100.'

"In your mind, that's what I was thinking: Just throw 100 and get a slider for a strikeout. But now I'm not on that anymore. I'm trying to get outs in three pitches. That's my goal."

If that means ditching the 100 mph four-seamer, then so be it. Strop isn't sure he still has that kind of gas in the tank either way.

"I don't know, especially kind of late in the season," Strop said. "But I don't even want to think about it. I just want to focus on keep getting these quick ground balls."