With all of the Brian Roberts doubles record hoopla, I didn't even realize that Jeremy Guthrie tied an Orioles record in yesterday's season finale. The righthander surrendered three home runs to the Blue Jays; the last of these was his 35th, the most in Baltimore history. The previous pitchers to reach this lofty mark were Sidney Ponson (1999), Scott McGregor (1986), and Robin Roberts (1963). Of course, giving up longballs wasn't no thing for Roberts, who was taken deep a record 505 times in 19 seasons. He was still a Hall of Fame pitcher, largely because he had the skill to challenge hitters with the bases empty. It just so happened that he didn't give up many runs in other ways. McGregor was running on fumes near the end of his career, and Ponson was...well, you know all about him. But Guthrie's season to forget was one of the more baffling developments of 2009.
It's never a good thing when the one starter in your rotation who was presumed to be reliable (3.66 ERA in 2007-2008) completely falls off of a cliff. Jeremy didn't look right from the World Baseball Classic onward, as he paced the American League in homers and losses (17) and saw his ERA jump to 5.04 while his strikeouts dipped. What was strange about it was that Guts was completely healthy; he threw the ball as hard as ever and reached 200 innings pitched for the first time in his career. But he just didn't have that same touch on the ball. He got beaten from pillar to post by the best (7.23 ERA vs. Boston, including a blown 7-0 lead in Fenway) and the worst (18.56 ERA vs. Oakland, including a 6 ER, 2/3 IP disaster). He had flashes of his previous good form, but couldn't build momentum; he never posted an ERA under 4.50 in a single month of 2009.
It would be premature to declare Jeremy Guthrie washed up; he will be 31 next year and does not have as much mileage on his arm as most pitchers his age. The O's certainly won't cast him off so soon; no other projected starter currently under contract has more than 24 starts at the major league level. He'll get another chance to be a stabilizing veteran force in the Baltimore rotation in 2010, and I am hoping against hope that he'll show us that those 17 losses and 35 home runs were a fluke.