An 11th-round selection in the 2014 MLB draft, few expected pitcher John Means to make the Orioles opening day roster this season. After all, Means had pitched just three innings in the majors last year and gave up six hits and five earned runs, including a home run.
Means has long flown under the radar. He began his baseball path at the community college level before transferring to West Virginia University. Means spent roughly the past four years in Baltimore’s farm system and experienced some ups and downs.
Last night, he represented the Orioles and American League in the MLB All-Star game.
— John Means (@JMeans25) July 9, 2019
After squeaking onto Baltimore’s roster at the beginning of the season, Means has far exceeded expectations and has been the team’s most consistent, impressive pitcher throughout the year. Means has appeared in 18 games, starting 14 of them, and pitched a total of 82.2 innings.
For the season, he holds a strong ERA of 2.50, the lowest on the Orioles roster by a significant margin. He’s struck out 69 batters, limited opponents to a batting average of .22o and OBP of .281, and posted a WHIP of 1.08. Compared to years prior, Means simply looks like a different player. He’s also increased his fastball velocity from 90 MPH to 94MPH, which has made him a more potent all-around pitcher.
Unfortunately for Means and Orioles fans, he didn’t get the opportunity to showcase his skills in the All-Star game last night. Still, however, the fact that he was nominated for the honors is both improbable and unforeseen. Few could have envisioned Means becoming an All-Star in what is essentially his rookie season, let alone ever.
Yet, here we are. Means has put together an impressive campaign and in addition to his individual success, the Orioles are a far better team with him on the mound. Means has won seven of his eleven starts and in games he’s appeared in, Baltimore is 8-10. This may not be a great win percentage but two games under .500 is significantly better than their record for the season (27-62).
While he’s improved his fastball capabilities, it’s been Means’ changeup that’s perhaps been his bread and butter pitch.
John Means has been throwing an awesome changeup (that counts as a money pitch so far)
– 43.1% chase rate
– 40.9% zone rate
– 24.6% SwStr rate
– 33% CSW pic.twitter.com/tYQ6wBZo8T
— Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) April 24, 2019
The question now becomes, can Means continue to play this level for the rest of the season and going forward, and how much better he can become? The answers to these unknowns remain to be seen but if Means can maintain this type of play for the forseeable future, the Orioles will reap the benefits for years to come.
Baltimore’s pitching struggles over the years have been well-documented. They’ve struggled to find and develop young pitchers in the farm system and have similarly had difficulties landing productive veterans, too. Many expected Dylan Bundy to develop into a star after showing promise early in his career, but he’s posted an ERA above 4.0 in each of the past three seasons.
This season, Bundy’s ERA is 4.65 and he’s allowed 86 hits in 91 innings. Bundy still has potential and strikes out batters at a relatively high rate, but it’s Means who now looks like the future of the Orioles pitching staff. If Bundy can improve, however, and the Orioles find a few more solid arms, Baltimore may soon have a potent, capable rotation.
Means has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy season. We knew the Orioles weren’t going to be good this year, but we didn’t know a potential long-term fixture at pitcher would emerge. John Means has looked the part of exactly that, and Baltimore can only hope this is just the beginning of a long and impactful career for the talented 26-year-old.