June 5, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Luis Ayala (38) pitches during the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: Aye Yi Yi Ayala


Hearing Wednesday night that the Washington Nationals had released Luis Ayala, my first fear was that the Baltimore Orioles would look to pick him up. With a 13.50 ERA in spring training, why do that?  But it is happening.

After being traded away by the Birds early last year, Ayala went on to post a 2.90 ERA for the Braves. He had a 2.64 in 2012 for the Orioles, after 2.09 for the Yankees in 2011.

Those numbers look reasonably good, but one needs to dig a bit deeper.

A crack in the statistical foundation can be seen when looking at his WHIP (walks/hits per 9 innings). Last year it was 1.545, which is a terribly high number. And even with the Orioles in 2012 it was 1.267, which is far from great, especially for a reliever.

Our anecdotal memories of 2012 are that Ayala would come into games and too often give up hits that allowed inherited runners to score. Those earned runs would not go against his record, but rather against the pitcher preceding him. And then he would go to work and pitch out of the inning after the damage was done. To his credit, he did well when coming in to pitch an inning on his own, and got through a lot of transitional innings that way until the Orioles could score a run to win a game.

But I was surprised to see, when digging deeper into the “splits” in 2012 that the batting average against in first-batter situations was only .245 — again, not great, but not horrible — would have honestly expected it to be higher.

But here are the scariest numbers… The batting average against him by first players he faced in games last year was .361; and the average against by leadoff batters in an inning was .452.  This is not a recipe for relief pitching success. It is actually pretty impressive that he limits the damage against his own record as well as he does. But he does not seem to be able to come into the game and get the first batter out. This is not a fireman.

The terms of the signing are to be announced this morning (Friday), but as I write this the evening before and time it to post at 10:00 a.m., the report is that it will be a minor league deal. Even so, I’m not sure why the Orioles need more pitching clutter. How are the Birds going to be able to find places for everyone? As I’ve written before, Josh Stinson has to be kept because he is out of options; and he is pitching well. The Orioles may well want to retain Alfredo Aceves. This does not leave room for Evan Meek who has been lights out, or Brad Brach who has also pitched well.

Simply stated, it will cost next to nothing, but still seems a waste of time on an older player with troublesome and deteriorating statistics, not to mention a short-arm style that is extraordinarily odd, yet not particularly unhitable.  Opponents batted .295 against him last season. Here are his stats for the past three years, along with career totals …

Year ▴

Age

Tm

Lg

W

L

ERA

G

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

WHIP

H/9

HR/9

BB/9

SO/9

2011

33

NYY AL

2

2

2.09

52

56.0

51

17

13

5

20

39

1.268

8.2

0.8

3.2

6.3

2012

34

BAL AL

5

5

2.64

66

75.0

81

27

22

7

14

51

1.267

9.7

0.8

1.7

6.1

2013

35

TOT MLB

2

1

3.27

39

33.0

38

12

12

2

13

22

1.545

10.4

0.5

3.5

6.0

2013

35

BAL AL

1

0

9.00

2

2.0

4

2

2

1

0

2

2.000

18.0

4.5

0.0

9.0

2013

35

ATL NL

1

1

2.90

37

31.0

34

10

10

1

13

20

1.516

9.9

0.3

3.8

5.8

9 Yrs

38

47

3.34

534

554.1

581

233

206

54

139

367

1.299

9.4

0.9

2.3

6.0

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