Holy Diver: Gavin Floyd *UPDATED*

In memory of the passing of Metal God Ronnie James Dio, I’m going to discuss another pitcher who’s career has taken a holy dive this season. The White Sox, fans and fantasy owners alike had very high hopes for Gavin Floyd coming into 2010. After a highly successful 2008 campaign, his first as a full-time starter in the majors, Floyd’s results took a dip last season, as he finished 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.23 WHIP and 163 K’s in 193 innings. Looking deeper at his numbers however, we see his peripherals actually improved, as his FIP went down from 4.77 to 3.77 from 08′ to 09. His 2.76 K/BB ratio was also a dramatic improvement over the 2.07 rate he posted the year before. Down as well were his HR/9, going from 1.31 to .98. So inspite of a drop in Wins from 17 to 11, Floyd actually pitched better, leading me to believe we’d see a solid year out of Floyd in 2010.

1-4 7.00 ERA/1.71 WHIP and 7.2K/3.4BB per 9 over 43 innings in eight, mostly miserable starts. That’s what fantasy owners like me have gotten for thinking Floyd was actually a good buy. The ERA and WHIP are ghastly to say the least, but a K/BB rate like that would lead one to believe that he should be seeing more success. More puzzling is that he’s actually given up less jacks at .8 HR/9, down from .98 and less line drives: 18.2% versus 22.4% last year. In fact his contact rate overall is down from 77.8% in ’09 to 75.7% in ’10. So what’s happened to Gavin Floyd?

This isn’t a matter of a guy facing tough competition. Floyd’s been given a laser show by Cleveland, Seattle and K.C. twice now. If a pitcher’s not going to get fat off of those bums than who’s he supposed to get right against, the Twins? Floyd’s been the unfortunate recipient of a .381 BABIP, tied for third highest amongst all starters. Couple that with a 57.2% strand rate, fifth worst in the game, and you’ve got a very very sad pitcher. I don’t care how many bats you miss, you’re not going to succeed if the hits are falling in like that. Why has Gavin Floyd suddenly become so hittable?

Unlike our last case study in futility Max Scherzer, the problem here isn’t due to a loss in fastball velocity. Floyd has maintained the pitch speed on his hard stuff. He is throwing his four-seam fastball only 29.6% of the time however, leaning on his two-seamer for 19.2% of his pitches, up from only 2% last season. What about his breaking stuff?

From Yahoo: After Sunday’s lost to the Royals, manager Ozzie Guillen was asked if there is a chance the struggling pitcher could be replaced in the rotation, especially with top pitching prospect Daniel Hudson not disappointing in the minors, and Guillen said not yet. “As long as Gavin is healthy … he’s got only one problem, throwing strikes,” Guillen said. “I think (Sunday) he threw only two or three breaking balls for a strike. You’re not going to win that many games doing that.”

Last season, Gavin Floyd’s slider was a very effective pitch and he threw it 16.3% of the time for a Pitch Value of 7.5 Runs Above Average, according to Fangraphs. This season, that value has dropped to -2.9. His curve, which was downright filthy, has also lost a good deal of effectiveness it seems, slipping from a 14.1 RAA in ’09, down to 1.9 this season. Looking at horizontal movement, we’ll note that his slider which was arriving at -.3 inches off of the X-axis is now coming in at +.7 inches. The curve has flattened out a good deal too from 7.3 to an even 5, below the league average of 5.3 inches. So it seems that Floyd’s lost some feel for his breaking pitches and has tried to compensate with a below average two-seam fastball and change-up combination, which he’s thrown a lot more this season than last.

I wish I could look into the future and say with certainty that Floyd will turn his season around. With every start, those prospects seem to grow dimmer. We seem to have a case of a very mixed up pitcher who also happens to be pitching behind a poor fielding team, with the 6th worst UZR in baseball. Another strike against Floyd is that the ChiSox are not hitting and it never helps a pitcher to constantly feel that he’s walking a tightrope without a net. Chicago’s .313 wOBA is 7th worst in the game and there have been few signs of this team snapping out of it. Changes are in order and how those changes will effect Floyd are anyone’s guess.

As for my stake in Floyd in fantasy land? The clock is ticking on the once promising South Sider and it’s almost time to cut bait. I’m going to try my best to move him via trade in the coming days, which might buy him another start on my team. He could be on waivers in exchange for bat soon, since Nick Swisher’s been day-to-day with a bicep injury and I’m thin for bats as it is.

NOTE: I got so sick of seeing his cancerous name in the Ham Fighters rotation, that I dumped him for San Francisco speedster Andres Torres. I couldn’t even bring myself to mention him in a trade. Let someone else worry about when he’s going to bounce back. In H2H you gotta play the hot hand.

While you contemplate Floyd’s fate, enjoy a performance from the man who popularized the devil horns…

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