ROSS OHLENDORF
RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
  Born: August 8, 1982
Height: 6′ 4″
Weight: 235
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 4th Round, 116th Overall, 2004
How Acquired: Trade (for Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte)
College: Princeton
Agent: Williams & Connolly

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

Ohlendorf came to the Pirates from the Yankees along with OF Jose Tabata and RHPs Jeff Karstens and Dan McCutchen, in exchange for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. The Yankees had acquired him from Arizona in the trade for Randy Johnson.  At the time they acquired him, the Pirates thought they were getting a power pitcher who threw in the mid-90s.  Ohlendorf threw that hard when he first reached the majors pitching in relief for the Yankees, but as a starter he’s been more of a finesse pitcher.  There was a stretch late in 2009 when he was throwing 93-94 and topping out a little higher, but since then he’s averaged about 91 and usually topped out at 93.  He also throws a slider and change.  He’s a flyball pitcher and has struggled with left-handed hitters in the majors, allowing them an .891 OPS, 140 points higher than right-handed hitters.  Like most Pirates’ pitchers, he’s a very bad hitter.  He’s struggled increasingly with back and shoulder problems.

2004
A-:   2-3-0, 2.79 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 29 IP, 5.9 BB/9, 8.7 K/9

Debuted with seven starts in short season ball and pitched well except for control problems.

2005
A:  11-10-0, 4.53 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 157 IP, 2.8 BB/9, 8.3 K/9

Spent the year in the low A rotation and made progress with his control, but got hit hard.  Opponents batted .286 against him. 

2006
AA:  10-8-0, 3.29 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 177.2 IP, 1.5 BB/9, 6.3 K/9
AAA:  0-0-0, 1.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 5 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 7.2 K/9 

Got on the prospect map with a strong season in AA.  His control was outstanding but he was fairly hittable, with a low K rate and .271 opponents’ average.  He made one start in AAA.

2007
R:  1-1-0, 3.94 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 16 IP, 0.6 BB/9, 9.6 K/9
AAA:  3-3-0, 5.02 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 66.1 IP, 3.3 BB/9, 6.5 K/9
MLB:  0-0-0, 2.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 6.1 IP, 2.8 BB/9, 12.8 K/9 

After the trade to the Yankees, Ohlendorf struggled with back problems and pitched poorly in AAA.  He moved to the bullpen after missing part of the season.  He threw in the upper 80s to low 90s as a starter, relying on a sinker and slider to produce grounders.  In relief, his velocity improved to 94 and occasionally better.  The Yankees called him up late in the year and he pitched well enough in relief to make the playoff roster.

2008
AAA (NYY):  1-1-0, 4.03 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 22.1 IP, 2.0 BB/9, 10.1 K/9
AAA (Pgh):  4-3-0, 3.47 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 46.2 IP, 1.5 BB/9, 7.7 K/9
MLB (NYY):  1-1-0, 6.53 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 40 IP, 4.3 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
MLB (Pgh):  0-3-0, 6.35 ERA, 2.12 WHIP, 22.2 IP, 4.8 BB/9, 5.2 K/9

Ohlendorf struggled in the Yankees’ bullpen and got sent to AAA.  He didn’t pitch especially well in five starts there.  After the trade, the Pirates made it clear they considered Ohlendorf a potential starter and sent him to AAA to get stretched out.  He put up good numbers there, including outstanding BB and K numbers, but had some trouble with gopher balls, allowing more than one every seven innings.  He joined the major league rotation in time to make five starts.  He pitched very poorly, allowing lots of hits and walks.  His velocity wasn’t as advertised.  The Pirates said he was throwing in the mid-90s, sometimes harder, in AAA, and was maintaining velocity late into games. In the majors, he sat around 91.

2009
MLB:  11-10-0, 3.92 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 176.2 IP, 2.7 BB/9, 5.6 K/9

Won a rotation spot with a good spring.  Ohlendorf had a strong season, finishing 24th in the league in ERA and making especially large strides late in the year.  His ERA from the beginning of August through the end of the season was 2.73, compared to 4.43 the rest of the year.  He also made progress with his ability to produce swings and misses:  his K rate after August 1 was 7.0, compared to 4.0 previously.  One negative was gopher balls, as he allowed 25.  These improvements probably resulted from improvements in his stuff.  His fastball was generally in the 89-92 range for the first four months, but during the last two months was consistently in 90s and often reached the mid-90s.  The Pirates were careful with Ohlendorf all year, seldom letting him reach 100 pitches until August.  Even when he was pitching so well in the last two months, he reached 100 pitches in only half his eight starts and topped 109 only in one early season game.  The Pirates shut him down the last two weeks because he was already well over his previous high innings total.  This approach was clearly preferable to some of Jim Tracy’s foolishness, such as bringing Paul Maholm back from an injury for a last couple disastrous starts when he clearly wasn’t 100%, or sending an obviously worn-out Tom Gorzelanny out for a couple chances at a 15th win.

2010
AA:  0-0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 4 IP, 2.2 BB/9, 13.5 K/9
MLB:  1-11-0, 4.07 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9, 6.6 K/9

Ohlendorf garnered some attention in the 2009-10 off-season by spending time doing research as an intern at the Department of Agriculture.  A Princeton graduate, he’s regarded as one of the more intelligent players in MLB.  On the field, his 2010 season didn’t go as well as 2009.  He went on the DL after his first start due to back problems.  He returned in May and pitched well except for one bad start, then struggled through June.  He pitched well throughout July and August, with a 3.02 ERA in ten starts.  He ended up with the atrocious W/L record due to horrific run and bullpen support.  He gave the team a scare when he came out of his last start with shoulder pain after two batters, but the problem turned out to be a muscle strain.  With the season already long down the drain, the team seemed almost relieved to shut him down.  Overall, he wasn’t as effective as the previous year.  His velocity also was down to early 2009 levels, mostly upper-80s to low-90s, although it increased a little in his last half-dozen or so starts.  He seemed to be affected in 2010 by Ryan Doumit’s throwing problems, possibly being more anxious about baserunners.  He picked off six runners in 2009, but none in 2010, and runners stole successfully on him at a 94% rate in 2010 after succeeding only 60% of time in 2009.  He committed four errors in 2010, all on pickoff throws, after committing only one in 2009.  His CS% returned to 78% in 2011, although that still isn’t good.  Ohlendorf drew some ridicule in the off-season when he won his arbitration case and got a $2.025M salary.  The ridicule focused on his W/L record wasn’t fair, because his record was less a product of his pitching than of the terrible team he was pitching for.

2011
A+:  0-0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 8 IP, 1.1 BB/9, 6.8 K/9
AA:  0-0-0, 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 4.2 IP, 1.9 BB/9, 5.8 K/9
AAA:  1-1-0, 3.33 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 24.1 IP, 3.0 BB/9, 4.4 K/9
MLB:  1-3-0, 8.15 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 38.2 IP, 3.5 BB/9, 6.3 K/9

Ohlendorf pitched poorly in his first two starts, coming out of the second in the third inning.  He ended up spending most of the season on the DL with a shoulder strain.  He returned to start a rehab program in mid-July and the Pirates ultimately optioned him to AAA to extend the rehab.  He returned to the majors in late August, making another seven starts.  Except for one outstanding start against the Dodgers–he even hit a 3-run HR, his first career RBIs–and one good start against the hapless Astros, he got bombed consistently.  The pummeling included a HR nearly every four innings.

Ohlendorf’s problems in late 2011 probably don’t mean much, given how much time he missed.  Still, there are significant reasons for concern with him.  One, obviously, would be the recurring back and shoulder issues.  Another is the fact that, except for one two-month stretch, he’s never shown the kind of stuff as a starter that the Pirates expected.  A move to the bullpen makes sense for several reasons.  It might help with the health issues and it might help him get his velocity back to the mid-90s.  His repertoire might also be better for relief, as he has a good slider but his change isn’t that good, as shown by the problems he’s had with left-handed hitters.  The problem is, Ohlendorf will be eligible for arbitration for the second time and, given the irrationality of MLB’s arbitration system, will probably get a small raise.  The Pirates aren’t likely to want to pay over $2M for a reliever and it’s hard to have much faith in him any longer as a starter, so they may non-tender him.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2011: $2,025,000 (Super Two eligible, won arbitration, $2,025,000-$1,400,000)
2010: $439,000
2009: $413,500
2008: $391,425
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: $280,000
MiLB Debut: 2004
MLB Debut: 9/11/2007
MLB FA Eligible: 2015
Added to 40-Man: 9/9/2007
Options Remaining: 1 (USED: 2008, 2011)
MLB Service Time: 3.139
TRANSACTIONS
June 7, 2004: Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 4th round, 116th overall pick; signed on July 9.
January 9, 2007: Acquired by the New York Yankees from the Arizona Diamondbacks along with Alberto Gonzalez, Steven Jackson, and Luis Vizcaino in exchange for Randy Johnson and cash.
September 9, 2007: Contract purchased by the New York Yankees.
July 26, 2008: Acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the New York Yankees along with Jose Tabata, Daniel McCutchen, and Jeff Karstens in exchange for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte.