Scott Feldman: Playoff Relief Ace

The Rangers have had their fair sure of playoff heroes this year. After all, it takes more than one player to facilitate a 6-2 run against two of the league’s best teams. But there have been a select few players keying the Rangers’ success in October. Nelson Cruz has been the guiding light so far, with the walk-off grand slam in Game Two and the throw to nab Miguel Cabrera at the plate as well as the three-run home run to bury the Tigers in Game Four. Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando have been fantastic in relief, throwing nine combined innings with only one run allowed and a whopping 13 strikeouts. Mike Napoli had the game-winning hit on Wednesday.

Those are all names people expected to propel the Rangers to victory. But with the exception of Cruz, one could make the argument that Scott Feldman has been more crucial to the Rangers’ ALCS success. His 5.1 innings pitched trail only Colby Lewis, who had a very mediocre start in Game Three, the Tigers’ only victory so far. Feldman also has a stellar +0.45 WPA in this time, trailing only Feliz among pitchers and actually outpacing Cruz’s contribution with the bat (+0.37), only falling behind after we add in Cruz’s fantastic throw, which was worth roughly +0.36 WPA according to The Hardball Times’s WPA calculator.

Scott Feldman was a 17-game winner two years ago (for all that matters), but he failed to make an impact in 2010 and spent much of 2011 injured. How is he now the relief ace pacing the Rangers through the ALCS?

Feldman is not simply a case of excellent luck on balls in play. In his 5.1 innings in the ALCS, Feldman has five strikeouts against no walks and just one hit. Going back to his ALDS appearance, three innings of shutdown mop-up work against the Rays in Game One, Feldman has a total of 8.1 innings pitched with nine strikeouts, three hits, and zero walks. He has been a legitimate shutdown reliever in the postseason, despite his mediocrity in 2010 and through his only 32 innings of 2011 (3.94 ERA, 3.99 FIP).

Although we certainly can’t count on Feldman to continue to pitch like Mariano Rivera with the ability to go multiple innings, it’s not altogether surprising that he is able to succeed in this role. He has regained his fastball velocity as a reliever — back up to 91.9 with the fastball and 90.3 with the cutter, similar to 2009 and 1-1.5 MPH higher than 2010. His peripheral numbers were already better as a reliever, as he struck out 16 batters against five walks in his 21 innings in the regular season.

Such is a fate for many mediocre starting pitchers — for whatever reasons, their stuff works better in these shorter bursts. Now Scott Feldman, instead of defining the number five starter, has made two fantastic appearances for the Rangers and is making a difference out of the bullpen. Surely, somebody will hit him by the time this postseason comes to a close, whether it’s the Tigers, the Cardinals, or the Brewers, but for now, Scott Feldman can revel in his postseason glory, as his two appearances in the ALCS are a big reason the Rangers hold their 3-to-1 lead going into tonight’s Game Five.



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Purple_Haze
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Purple_Haze
4 years 10 months ago

So… is Fangraphs ever gonna write about the NLCS?

Telo
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Telo
4 years 10 months ago

Don’t be ridiculous, Purple_Haze. There are at least a dozen more stories about American League middle relievers and other mediocre-but-overachieving players that haven’t been written yet. Just wait your turn, and the national league will get some attention once they’ve lost the World Series in 4 games. Sheesh, you must be new around here.

Telo
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Telo
4 years 10 months ago

But seriously, I’m not feeling a huge AL bias on FG recently, but maybe I’m just not noticing it. But I did think this article was a bit… I dunno. It can be summed up in one sentence:

Sometimes average dudes are good in an 8 inning sample size.

Now, I’m not saying that a story like this is categorically not worth writing (or reading), it’s just that… I didn’t learn anything about the “how” or “why”. We know the “who/what/when” in about two sentences. He has been really good in 8 IP, and thus has a good WPA. But it doesn’t paint me a picture of anything more than a dude having a randomly good postseason. Just constructive thoughts.

(There was a sentence about velocity… but it said his velocity was up all year as a reliever – and this year he’s been pretty meh)

Normally a filler article like this is whatever, just filler, that’s cool, but we’re down to 4 teams in October, and there a large handful of way awesomer non-analysis story lines than some average guy throwing 8 good innings.

IvanGrushenko
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IvanGrushenko
4 years 10 months ago

I don’t think it’s completely fair to call Feldman’s contribution “some average guy throwing 8 good innings”. By WPA he is second on the team, so his unexpected awesomeness has been instrumental in the narrative. It may not be statistically significant, but it has been important in the outcome and, to the extent that it’s not been widely discussed, it’s a valid subject for an article.

Bob R.
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Bob R.
4 years 10 months ago

I visit the site every day and haven’t been aware of any AL bias. Do you have data to support the view there is? Just looking at the 12 articles in the box at the top of the page, 3 are AL focused, 3 are NL focused and the other 6 are general. Of the 16 recent stories in the box when commenting, 5 are AL and 4 NL and in recently commented, 7 are NL and 6 are AL.

Brady
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Brady
4 years 10 months ago

I think his success has more to do with the fact he’s been sitting 93-94 with great location, actually hitting 95 his last pitch of yesterdays ballgame. An excellent cutter, unhittable at times, around 91, coupled with an above average curveball and the occasional change-up that if nothing else keeps hitters off his fastball. That said I doubt he’ll continue his fun of a K per inning, no walks and no runs allowed.

Colin
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Colin
4 years 10 months ago

I think his success has more to do with the fact that almost everybody in the Tigers lineup is either hurt or slumping big time and all Rangers pitchers including Feldman look better than they are as a result.

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