Stop me if you have heard this before. Scott Feldman is struggling and needs to be taken out of the rotation.
Yep, it’s that time of the year again. After struggling mightily early on, Feldman seemed to turn it around and now he is on the road down. The funny thing is, Feldman has pretty much been the same pitcher all season long. The up and downs he has been experiencing have been mostly based on luck.
Let’s go back to last season. Feldman was a serviceable swing man. He pitched in 11 games, started two and sported a nice 3.94 ERA (and 3.99 FIP which is based on other peripheral stats). What helped him to that mark was a well-below average .239 BABIP and a LOB% of 70.1% which is slightly above average. Basically, those numbers were unsustainable at the best of times.
So what happened this season? Feldman was again a swing man left out of the rotation mix until injuries started to hit. And Feldman struggled. He now had an above-average BABIP (over .300) and things were not working out. Despite this, Feldman actually became a better pitcher. His FIP this season is 3.78. The problem is, led by his very high BABIP (and hence, bad luck) his ERA ballooned to .314 (75 points higher than last year) and his strand rate dropped to an average 59.7%.
Feldman is actually a slightly better, if not different, pitcher than a year ago. His strikeouts increased, walks decreased and while he’s allowing more fly balls than a year ago, less of them are leaving the ball park. Believe it or not, but Feldman is a better pitcher than a year ago with a lot worse luck.
Looking at his numbers from month-to-month, Feldman has been remarkably consistent in terms of his controllable stats. Strikeouts and walks are pretty even, except for an increase in walks in May. The things that changed the most? His BABIP. In his horrible month of June, the BABIP was .385. Once he got things settled down in July? Down to .282. Since July, it shot back up above .300.
Considering not many pitchers can control the impact the bat gets on the ball, BABIP is mostly considered a stat that fluctuates but stabilizes over a longer period of time. In fact, over the last two years, Feldman’s is just about average. The problem? Last year’s was better than average due to luck and it showed in his numbers. Regression has hit him this year, and although he is a very similar pitcher, he looks to be struggling because of the BABIP going back up towards the middle.
So does Feldman deserve to be in the rotation compared to say, Roy Oswalt or Martin Perez? The answer isn’t as easy as saying no. Eventually his luck will go back to normal or, like it did in July, turn around completely. It’s a roll of the dice but one thing you can count on is Feldman. Despite how the ups and downs due to luck make it seem, he has been remarkably consistent and actually pretty darn good.