Rookie Review: Bud Norris

Bud Norris once struck out two batters from Tal's Hill.

Bud Norris doesn't throw the baseball it runs away from him in fear.

Bud Norris bulks up before a game by eating a bag of baseballs.

Bud Norris Facts you know them, you love them, and you can create your own. and because he's our next Rookie Review subject, I get to come up with some more.

He's another rookie who is technically not a rookie. In 2009 he pitched 55.2 innings, meaning he went over the minimum 50 IP that take a players rookie status away. This is however his first full year in the Bigs so I get to look past technicalities.

Norris in 23 starts has a 5.16 ERA. Compared to a 4.14 fielder independent pitching (FIP), which measures what a pitcher is solely responsible, Norris has pitched better than his ERA would indicate. His 4.03 Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), an experimental statistic that normalizes the home run component, also confirms Bud has pitched better than his ERA would indicate. His .335 batting average on balls in play (BABiP) also tells us he has been rather unlucky this season.

But let's not totally exonerate Mr. Norris of any fault. The recurring theme for Bud has been too many pitches two few innings. He has a problem. Typically by the time he's through the fifth inning he's racked up a tremendous amount of ptiches. In 2009 he threw 954 pitches in 55.2 innings, that's 17 pitches per inning, meaning by the fifth inning he's already racked up 85 pitches on average. He also has the habit of falling off at about 90-100 pitches. So that many pitches in that many innings does not bode well for the young Norris.

Never the less let us explore whether he can change that trend.

Spring Training

Bud Norris came into Spring Training with a guaranteed spot in the rotation, there were just not many other alternatives.  Good thing for Bud because his spring was not pretty. An ERA of 10.00 to go along with 27 hits and 20 earned runs in 18 innings is hardly impressive. He was able to strikeout 18, so there was some positives and less face it, it's only Spring Training.

 

April

The regular season was not much kinder to Bud. In four April starts he posted an ERA of 5.60 in 17.2 innings failing to go more than five innings in all four starts. He struck out 23, while walking 13. He also allowed 19 hits, but was unlucky in doing so with a .396 batting average on balls in play (BABiP). The offense was surprisingly able to put enough runs on the board to win two of his starts, one of those being against *gasp* the St. Louis Cardinals. In three of his four starts Bud went exactly five innings. The one other start he had, the first start of the season, he went only 2.2 innings throwing 82 pitches in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. Not the most disastrous month, but not something you want to see from a pitcher many consider a future bullpen candidate.

Highlight: Norris strikes out nine Red Birds.

 

May

The next month was even worse for Bud. He did manage to go 8 innings against...yup you guessed it the Cardinals, whom he has a career ERA of 2.27 against. His other four starts he did not make it past five innings pitched, three of those he failed to get out of the fifth inning. May was his worst month of the season posting a 7.62 ERA in 26 innings. It was also his unluckiest according to a .409 BABiP. He did struck out 31 batters while walking 13, so there were some positives to take away from the month. Unfortunately or fortunately however you want to look at it at the end of the month Norris was placed on the disabled list with bursitis and bicep tendinitis.

Highlight: He does it again to the Cardinals.

 

Disabled List and June

The workload had finally caught up to Norris. Only once before going onto the DL did he go more than five innings. However two good outings against the Cardinals, while struggling against everyone else, is hardly promising. Unless of course you really hate the Cardinals that much and can deal with him being bad against everyone else. Bud was on the DL for 32 days so he was out of commission for most of June. He would return on June 28th to face off against the Milwaukee Brewers. In that game he went five innings allowing five runs, four earned, striking out six and walking only one batter in a 9-5 Astros win.

 

July

Bud's luck was about to change. If you go by ERA he had his best month posting a 3.73 ERA in five starts. He lowered his ERA from 6.84 to 5.62. The most promising thing though is he went six innings or more in four of his five starts. His BABiP also started regressing with a .269 average for the month. It was however the first month that he did not strikeout more batters than innings pitched.He struck at 25 batters and walked 12. A promising month after coming off the DL, especially for those of us who feel his future is in the bullpen. The Astros lost four of his five starts.

Highlight: Too good not to be a highlight


August

Though his 4.23 ERA doesn't reflect it, Norris probably had his best month of the year and arguably the best of his career. He made six starts, going at least six innings in all but one, with the Astros winning all but one of his starts. He got his strikeouts back up with 36 in 38.1 innings. His .269 BABiP was exactly the same as it had been in July. There is a catch 22 though. While he did go deeper into games he still continued to rack up the pitch count. In five of his starts he went over the 100 pitch mark, the one that he didn't was a 97 pitch performance. You can look at this two ways. He is finally starting to put it together, previously he would struggle at the 90-100 pitch mark. Going past a 100 pitches with good results is a good sign of his development as a pitcher. On the other hand those of concerned with his already high workload will continue to have doubts about his future as a starter. The best start of his career came in this month against the Pittsburgh Pirates going 7 innings, allowing 2 runs and striking out 14.

Highlight: Norris strikes out 14 Pirates

 

September

The Astros have continued to win in Bud starts. In two games this month Bud has had one good start and one bad start. In the bad start he went 4.2 innings allowing 5 earned runs, and striking out 5. His good start, the most recent, he went 6 innings allowing 1 earned run,  and striking out 7. The Astros winning both games. It's hard to tell how Bud will end the season, but if he can put together a solid final month it would be a good step in the right direction. Easing some of our concerns about his effectiveness.

Highlight: Bud's good start

 

Final Thoughts

Count me as one of those who believes Bud's future is in the bullpen. I think the Astros jumped his inning to quickly in the minors. It also takes way too many pitches for Bud to make it through even an inning let alone an outing. In a little under half of his 23 starts he's been able to get through the sixth inning, of those only seven are quality starts (6IP 3ER). His effectiveness and durability have certainly been lacking.

I do however have good news. Six of those seven quality starts have come in the second half of the season after coming off the DL. Granted that's still only six quality starts in fourteen, but four of those starts happened in the last month. It appears Bud Norris may of turned a corner in his development, questions still remain about his health, but there is some optimism for next season.

On a side note, for the season Norris has thrown 2303 pitches in 129 innings, that's about 18 pitches per inning. Which is an increase from the previous season. However I decided to look at the pitches per inning after the DL as well. In 86.1 innings after coming off the DL he's averaged about 17 pitches per inning. He's improved his efficiency from the first part of the season, it's still high, but further reducing his average pitcher per inning would go a long way towards improving his chances as a starter.

I still think he'll eventually be in the bullpen, but I'd love to see him prove me wrong and allow me to come up with some more Bud Norris facts.

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