Holy Diver: Gavin Floyd *UPDATED*

May 17, 2010

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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What The Hell Happened To Max Scherzer?!

May 16, 2010

There hasn’t been a more stunning fall grace in the early going of 2010, than the horrible start that Max Scherzer is off to pitching in Motown. An integral piece to the deal that saw Le Tigre receive Action Jackson. send Baby Grand to NY and Edwin Jackson out west to ‘Zona, Scherzer has been a massive disappointment so far and this angry fantasy owner has had enough! *stomps foot*

The former 11th overall pick of the 2006 draft posted impressive numbers in his first full season in the Diamondback rotation last year and just about everyone figured he’d at least take a lateral step this season, his first in the AL. Facing a DH instead of a pitcher never helps a pitchers numbers, but I figured that might be mitigated somewhat by the spacious dimensions of his new home ballpark in the Motor City. With a 3.87 FIP and 9.19/3.33 K/BB per 9 rate over 170 1/3 innings, Max’s peripherals were better than the modest 9-11 4.12/1.34 line he posted in his 30 2009 starts. With numbers like those, I was more than happy to drop $7 on the young fire-baller on auction day, in hopes of snagging a cheap strike out source with a ton of upside.

Fast foward a month and a half and I’ve just thrown Mad Max onto the scrap pile in the Big Ballers League, to let him be a headache to another fantasy owner. His numbers are eye-popping, toss the laptop across the room bad: 1-4 with a 7.29 ERA 1.67 WHIP and only 26 K’s in 42 innings. It’s hardly a matter of luck in spite of the unfortunate 58% strand rate and .327 BABIP against (last year he saw hits fall in at a .323 clip). He’s getting hit hard and often, to the tune of nine jacks and a 22% LD rate. With his BB/9 up slightly to 3.43, he isn’t walking many more batters, it’s simply a matter of him not missing bats: Down to only 5.57 K/9. Swallow that for a second. This guy had 9.19 K/9 last season. In what kind of god awful bizarro world do we live in, where a top prospect can turn into a heaping bowl of awful seemingly overnight? On a team flush with high K starters and needing an extra bench bat, I just couldn’t stomach his awful pitching anymore.

“I thought Max Scherzer was better.” – Jim Leyland

Me too skip. Well we need not look any further than the power pitchers sudden lack of power. After averaging 93.6 MPH on his heater last season, that number has dropped to a below league average 91.7 MPH through his eight starts this year. Suddenly that plus heat is getting smacked on a regular basis as his contact rate has jumped to 81.1% from 76.9% and his percentage of swinging strikes has fallen to 7.4% from 10.6%. A further investigation of his PitchFX data tells us that his secondary pitch, a slider, has fallen in velocity as well but it has also been markedly straighter, breaking markedly less than last year. This is particularly troubling in light of the reservations that the D-Backs had about his history of arm problems. Sliders are said to be the most arm-damaging pitch that a pitcher can throw and it seems that there is a fair amount of evidence to believe that Scherzer is pitching through some arm problems. I’ll quote David Golebiewski, who’s quoting himself.

The most likely reason is that Arizona doubts Scherzer’s long-term health and viability as a starting pitcher. To recap his extensive injury history since 2006: shoulder and biceps tendinitis in ‘06, shoulder inflammation in 2008, shoulder fatigue and tightness in 2009. His health certainly bears watching, especially considering that Scherzer’s innings total increased from 109 in 2008 to 175 in 2009 (major league innings plus one rehab start).

When asked if Scherzer’s rotation spot is in jeopardy, Leyland responded, “That’s nothing I’d discuss on television after a tough loss. But it’s a good question, a legitimate question.” Armando Galarraga, who’s been pitching well at AAA Toledo (4-2/38K/3.92ERA/1.20WHIP in 41.1 IP) was just called up to the big club and will start today at home against the Red Sox.

NOTE: Shortly after finishing this piece early Sunday morning, I read on Rototimes that Scherzer was sent down to AAA.

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