Austin Voth has never been a consistently good pitcher. If you’ve followed him at all, or if you’re a Nationals fan, you’ve seen it. Aside from a good year in 2019 when he pitched to a 3.30 ERA over 43.2 innings, Voth has had some rough seasons. Like, a 6.34 ERA in 2020 and a 5.34 ERA in 2021 rough.
And for the first couple months of this year for the Nats, it was even worse. Through May 30th of this year, Voth was in a bullpen role and was really bad, posting a 10.13 ERA and 2.14 WHIP through 18.2 innings.
Given, you know, everything about his career to that point, it’s not really a surprise the Nats—a team now in full-on rebuild mode—would elect to DFA the 30-year-old pitcher. But it was a bit more surprising (at least to me, an Orioles fan) that the Baltimore Orioles would claim Voth on waivers and toss him into the rotation.
But turning other teams’ trash into treasure has sort of been a specialty for the Orioles of late. Jorge Mateo was a waiver claim who’s now posting 2.5 WAR on the season so far, Ramón Urías was the same, he’s got 1.8 WAR on the year, and Anthony Santander was a Rule 5 pick and he’s got 1.9 WAR so far this year.
So I guess it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Orioles have been able to tweak things with Voth, but I can’t say anyone expected what he’s been doing since coming to Baltimore, as he’s posted a 2.72 ERA with a 3.68 FIP and 1.14 WHIP in 12 starts.
So what exactly is going on with Voth?
What’s changed with Voth in Baltimore
There’s been one main thing Voth has changed since coming over to the Orioles—his pitch mix. Specifically, two things have happened with Voth’s pitch mix.
First, he’s got a new pitch:
That’s Voth’s slider, it’s a new pitch he hasn’t thrown at any other point in his career. So far, he’s only thrown it 33 times on the year, but I’d say it’s working pretty well, considering hitters haven’t hit it at all yet.
Alongside the new pitch, Voth has also switched up how he’s utilizing his arsenal. Take a look at how his pitch mix has changed throughout this year:
Voth is using his curveball more, and if Voth has one major strength, it’s definitely this curveball:
The pitch has an average spin rate of 2,985 RPM, good for 96th percentile in all of baseball in spin rate for curveballs, and it works really well. So far this year, opposing hitters have a .299 wOBA against the pitch with a 28.1% strikeout rate, a 29.7% chase rate, and a 29% CSW. Those aren’t ace numbers, but they’re rock solid and the best Voth has in his arsenal.
Since Voth joined the Orioles, he’s increased his curveball usage a decent bit, from 27.9% before he joined the team to 31% since he joined the team.
And even more, he’s adjusted where he’s throwing the pitch, more consistently locating it down and away for right-handed hitters (this year before joining the Orioles on the left, since joining the Orioles on the right):
So what’s he throwing less of? His fastball, a little bit, dropping its usage from 43.7% to 41.7%, but it’s still his primary pitch and honestly that’s fine. So far this year, hitters have a .328 wOBA against the pitch, you can definitely live with that from your fastball, especially considering the pitch averages just 94 MPH.
But what he’s really stopped using as much is his cutter:
That pitch has been pretty rough so far this year, as opposing hitters have a .354 wOBA against it, so it makes sense that Voth would cut down how much he’s using it. Unsurprisingly, when you throw a bad pitch less, good things tend to happen.
So can Voth keep this up?
If you’ve been skeptically starting Voth in your fantasy leagues just waiting for him to blow up, I get it. The guy doesn’t exactly have a proven track record of success and if you thought this has been a Vargas Rule situation, I wouldn’t blame you at all.
But here’s the thing—Voth has made some noticeable, significant changes to his pitch arsenal, and if you’ve been paying attention to baseball long enough, you know how often pitchers can move the needle of their fantasy relevance with changes to their pitch mix. They learn a new curveball or a slider or amp up the spin rate on one of their pitches or change their delivery, it happens a lot.
So is that what’s happening with Austin Voth? It just might be.
Take a look at his peripherals and you’ll see regression is likely in store (I don’t think anyone was under the illusion Voth was a sub-3 ERA pitcher), but that regression might not be as bad as you think.
Since joining the Orioles, his 2.72 ERA has come with a 3.68 FIP, which is encouraging. Now, if you’re looking at his stats and you want to say “sure, but he’s got a 4.24 SIERA and 4.20 xFIP,” I think that’s a fair argument. My counter to that would be his 8.1% HR/FB rate may be sustainable given how much Camden Yards has changed and how much more pitcher-friendly it is than it used to be.
And on top of that, his contact against stats all seem pretty legit. Here’s a look at his actual stats vs. his expected stats so far this year since joining the Orioles:
They’re all pretty darn close. So yeah, while I think there’s definitely some regression in store for Voth coming down the stretch, he’s earned himself a consistent spot in the rotation going forward and I don’t think he’s going to necessarily blow up.
And as of this writing, he’s available in 89% of Yahoo leagues and 95% of ESPN leagues. He won’t wow you with strikeouts, but I think in deeper leagues, he could definitely be a solid pitcher for you down the stretch.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Mark Goldman / Icon Sportswire