Expectations were high for Bud Norris coming into last season as he was coming off of a solid 2011 campaign, and hopes were he would be able to build off that season and take another step forward. Unfortunately for Bud that did not end up being the case and he ended up showing flashes of the pitcher that he could be while also showing the inconsistency that has plagued him throughout his major league career.
Norris struggled out of the gate last season and ended the first month with a 5.46 ERA in 31.1 innings pitched. The strikeout and walk numbers were strong (29K/9BB), but he was too hittable, and allowed 36 hits in April. The batting average against him for the month was .281/.343/.425. He rebounded in May and struck out 35 batters in 32.1 innings, but he also allowed 16 walks as well. Still the ERA was a nice 3.62 which was a nice improvement.
Norris incurred an injury towards the end of May in Colorado that would eventually land him on the disabled list. Norris pitched decent initially upon his return, but ran into trouble towards the end of June and had an unexcitable July and August as well. On a positive note he did rebound well to end the season and posted a 3.00 ERA in September while striking out 28 batters in 30 innings.
Overall Norris posted a 4.65 ERA in 168.1 innings pitched. He posted an 8.82 K/9 and a 3.53 BB/9 which are both very close to his 2011 totals where he posted an 8.52 K/9 and a 3.39 BB/9. His groundball percentage also remained almost identical at 39.2% in 2012 and 39.7% in 2011. The difference in performance from his solid 2011 season and last season seem to be attributed to his luck, or lack thereof on batted balls in play, which gives a little hope of a rebound occurring this season.
The good news is that according to ZIPS, Bud Norris will be the Astros best pitcher next year. The bad news is that the Astros best pitcher will post an ERA of 4.54 and an FIP of 4.2, which is only a marginal improvement over his last season’s ERA of 4.65 and FIP of 4.23. He’s still projected to be a high strikeout guy, and still walk slightly more batters than we would like him to. He’s also projected to throw 168 innings, which is almost identical to the 168.1 innings pitched last season. In short, the Bud we’ve seen last season, and the last three seasons for that matter is the same Bud that we are projected to see next season.
It seems like Astros fans have been waiting for Bud to have a breakout season ever since he broke into the majors in 2009 with his 6-3 record and 4.53 ERA in 55.2 innings. Unfortunately for Bud it just hasn’t happened. Granted he did show improvement in 2011, but his ERA has fluctuated from 3.77 (low - 2011) to 4.92 (high - 2010) in the three seasons since 2009, and his FIP has consistently remained in the low four’s at 4.02 (low - 2011) and 4.23 (high - 2012) while averaging 169.1 innings pitched a season.
Still, there is at least a decent chance that Bud can improve this season. As Clack has mentioned here and in several other articles and comments, Bud looks to be a good candidate to show some positive regression and improve upon last season. With any luck hopefully 2013 is the year that we see Bud Norris take that big step forward.