(This continued series focuses on how players performed this season with a look to 2019.)
20 ING, 3.60 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 32.5% K-rate, 4.8% BB-rate, 0.4 fWAR
2018: The sidearmer from Utah began this year much like the last six. By throwing a lot of strikes and getting outs. Over the first three months of the season, he was one of the Orioles’ few dependable options. That was until he slipped off the mound in late June after a grounder. In the process, he re-aggravated the strain in the hamstring muscle in his left leg. Later, he opted for season-ending surgery to correct it. He also missed time in May with a hyper-extended elbow. At first, it seemed like his injury might keep the Orioles from finding a trade for the right-hander. The Braves were willing to take him, however, in the Kevin Gausman trade at the deadline.
Contract Details: Owed $8 million in 2019 with an additional $1M deferred until 2023. It is expected that Atlanta will be on the hook for that extra million. O’Day also has a limited no-trade clause. He can block trades with up to seven unknown ballclubs. He will be a free agent after 2019.
Previewing 2019: There are a few key points to keep in mind with O’Day. First, he may never pitch for the Braves. O’Day has yet to update his twitter or facebook profile to represent his new team. He still refers to himself as “a submarine pitcher for the Orioles.” It should be said that not everyone updates their social media profiles with regularity. There are unconfirmed reports that he has, indeed, been around his new team. With former teammates like Gausman, Brad Brach, Ryan Flaherty and Nick Markakis around, he shouldn’t have trouble feeling welcome. Nevertheless, it’s a tough situation for any injured player to come into. It’s hard to contribute, there’s a bunch of new faces, and something special is happening without your help.
But provided he does return to the Braves for the final year of his contract, O’Day could be a big addition. By opting for surgery to fix his hamstring, he should be completely healed and ready for spring training in February. His game was never velocity, but movement and control. O’Day works off a few different high-80’s fastballs along with a slider. You’ll see O’Day throw a two-seamer and a sinker, but he’ll also throw a riseball where he elevates a four-seamer high in the zone for a number of swinging strikes. His former teammates used to call the pitch the Finch, after the famous softball pitcher, Jennie Finch.
Despite the lack of velocity, O’Day routinely has sported the kind of strikeout numbers we expect out of pitchers with triple-digit ability. O’Day also has very good control, though it wavered some from his more elite numbers of 2015 (5.5% walk rate that season followed by 10% the next two years). He also doesn’t fit the mold as a groundball sidearmer like we usually expect to see with a career rate of about 40%. That makes him a bit vulnerable to home runs, though the frequency of those should fall now that he’s not pitching in the AL East.
O’Day isn’t quite as dominant as he was in 2015, but he should be a solid addition in 2019 for a team with plenty of questions remaining about good their bullpen can be.
Did you know? Since his days in the Texas Rangers’ system, a soccer-like chant of his last name has often followed his appearances. Here’s a version of the chant shot on a bad camera during the 2010 ALDS.
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(Photo Credit: Apr 29, 2018; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitcher Darren O’Day (56) throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)