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The Evolution of Scott Feldman

Posted By Erik Manning On August 12, 2009 @ 9:00 am In Busting Out | 12 Comments

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:

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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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