At 28-years-old, and with a grand total of 36.1 Major League innings under his belt, Chaz Roe can only be described as a journeyman middle reliever. Roe has bounced around the minor leagues for the majority of his career since being drafted in the first round of the 2005 MLB Draft as a high schooler by the Colorado Rockies. He primarily spent the first seven seasons of his career as a starter, before converting to a reliever full-time prior to the 2012 season.
The switch to relief has been a good one for Roe, the one and only Chaz in Major League Baseball’s all-time roster. In 168.0 minor league innings since becoming a full-time relief pitcher, Roe has a 2.35 ERA and struck out 10.0 per nine. This role reversal has revitalized his career and finally got him to the Majors in 2013 for a cup of coffee with the Seattle Mariners. That season, he became the all-time Major League wins leader amongst human beings named Chaz.
This season, Roe found himself in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Since his Orioles’ debut on May 24, he has been outstanding in middle relief. Roe has allowed only one run in 12.0 innings and has not allowed an inherited runner to score. He has struck out 14 and walked only four. Last night, in the Orioles’ 1-0 win over the Boston Red Sox, Roe pitched 1.1 scoreless innings, struck out two, and earned his second career win.
Roe has certainly been a revelation for the Orioles in his short time with the team. He primarily relies upon a 94 MPH sinker that generates a high percentage of ground balls, while his slider has generated a high percentage of whiffs, nearly 18% according to Brooks Baseball. He has gotten nine strikeouts with that good, sweeping slider this season. Roe has also been dominant against both left-handed and right-handed batters this season, which makes him more than a platoon option out of the bullpen. He is basically a two-outcome type of pitcher — the ball will be hit on the ground, or it will not be hit at all. Can’t ask for much more from a middle reliever.
The seventh inning has killed the Orioles and their bullpen this season. The team’s seventh inning ERA of 5.14 ranks 27th in the league. That’s the crucial inning for this team, as Darren O’Day and Zach Britton have been among the stingiest relievers in the league this season. Having these two late-inning hammers, however, does the team no good if the middle relief corps cannot get them the ball with a lead. The likes of Brad Brach, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter, however, have not gotten the job done in middle relief. Hunter has been one of the biggest culprits, with a 5.19 ERA in the seventh inning this season. Brach has also struggled recently, and has taken two losses in the past ten games.
It’s time for the Orioles to start turning to Chaz Roe more frequently in the seventh inning. He is a better option than Hunter. Although Hunter throws harder, his fastballs are often flat and elevated. Roe’s sinker-slider combination are much more suited to middle relief. Unlike most pitchers who rely on a sinker, Roe has a strikeout pitch in his slider. The Orioles have seen Zach Britton ride the same combination to nearly unhittable status this season. Chaz Roe has the same type of arsenal, and can be the bridge to O’Day and Britton that the Orioles have so desperately been seeking this season. It may have taken a winding road, but Chaz Roe has finally found a role on a Major League roster.