The Evolution of Scott Feldman

What if I told you that Scott Feldman has had the most effective cut fastball in all of baseball this year — more so than Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay‘s, would you believe me? At least according to the numbers, Scott Feldman has. I have to be honest, I knew next to nothing about Feldman until I found myself goofing around on the Pitch Value leader-boards yesterday afternoon. As a refresher, the pitch values use linear weights by count and by event and then breaks it down by each pitch type so that you can see in runs the actual effectiveness of each pitch. (You can read more about how they work here).

Getting to the fun stuff, Scott Feldman‘s cutter has been worth 22.6 runs, making it the third-most effective offering in baseball among starting pitchers. The only pitch that has been more effective has been Tim Lincecum‘s change-up at a ridiculous 28.2 runs, and Clayton Kershaw‘s fastball, at 23.5 runs. What makes this development a little more interesting is that Feldman just started using the pitch a year ago — throwing it 13.4% of the time. He’s honed his craft and is now throwing the pitch 30.4% of the time. Only three other starting pitchers throw the cutter more often, and those pitchers are Brian Bannister, Doug Davis and Roy Halladay.

Just two seasons ago, Feldman was a frequent rider of the Oklahoma City – Fort Worth shuttle. A former 30th round pick, he was just a so-so side-arming, sinker/slider ROOGY. He completely remade himself last year, throwing from a 3/4 arm slot rather than sidearm, mostly working with the sinker. The results were less than spectacular — a 5.35 FIP over 25 starts. In continuance with that remaking, this year Feldman started leaning heavily on the cutter to compliment his sinker and help him counterbalance southpaw hitters. Check out his crazy reverse platoon splits that have come as a result:

6283_P_season__lr_blog_5_20090810

The overall results have also have been good; Feldman has 11 wins and an ERA of 4.01. Alright, so those baseball card numbers are a bit deceiving. His FIP is 4.57 and he’s still striking out less than 5 batters per nine. That’s still good for 2 wins above replacement so far this season. Whether or not this is something sustainable is very questionable given the low K totals, but I find it fascinating that a Quad-A reliever can transform himself into a half decent starter. It’s amazing what a willingness to learn can do for a pitcher.




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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.


12 Responses to “The Evolution of Scott Feldman”

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  1. philkid3 says:

    So what you’re saying is, when Feliz, Holland and Perez are all in their primes, you could do worse than Scott Feldman as your 4th or 5th starter?

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  2. cory says:

    Him and Randy Wells are two pitchers it’s easy to root for, since they both seem to be benefitting solely from hard work, instead of the entitlement to greatness that someone with overwhelming talent seem to project. Will either last? Maybe, but at the moment, it’s tough not to hope.

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  3. blalock says:

    Scotty certaintly has made himself into a solid rotation piece. His style fits well with the Rangers because of his GB tendencies and pitch to the defense behind him stuff. I will say that i think as has curveball develops some more his K-Rates should climb some. He’s got some decent velocity and away from the zapped radar gun at RBiA he pops 94 pretty consistently. Hopefully he continues to develop his swing and miss stuff to go with the strike throwing groundball tendencies.

    Also, I do find it interesting the number of pitchers that seem to be picking up this trend. Cutters usually seem to mean more GBs and can remake a pitchers entire outtlook. Other Ranger’s pitchers have adapted the cutter with good success so far, Tommy Hunter namely (although it might be listed as a slider under his pitches thrown, but he calls it a cutter and throws it like a cutter) has been helped alot by adding this pitch

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    • t ball says:

      Feldman’s GB rates have declined since he became a starter.

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      • ACWNS09 says:

        He also stopped throwing submarine/sidearm when he became a starter.

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      • t ball says:

        Stopped throwing sidearm, what’s your point? That is stated in the article, and my groundball comment was in response to blalock’s assertion that Feldman’s success might be due to more ground balls from the cutter.

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      • ACWNS09 says:

        His fastball doesn’t sink as much from 3/4 was my main point. He’s a completely different pitcher, so it only makes sense to compare it to years with the same arm slot, and disregard the ratios when he threw that way.

        This is his first year as a starter to throw the cutter. Last year his GB/FB was 1.12. This year it’s 1.32. Not a huge difference, but with a better defense behind him, it’s enough to make a difference.

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  4. mrreggie says:

    Good article, but I unless you’re talking about strictly fastball-type pitches (2-seamer, 4-seamer, cutter, sinker), I’m pretty sure Lincecum’s changeup is the best offering among starting pitchers at 28.2 runs.

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  5. Jamesian says:

    Scott Feldman is the new Mike Smithson, an old 80s pitcher that no one remembers but used to pitch for the Rangers and was about the same size and same age and was a late developer. He’ll probably have the same type of career.

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  6. Matthew says:

    kershaw and lincecum …. picked 3 spots from each other in the 06 draft… and in 09 they have the 2 most effective pitches in baseball… wow

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