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Don’t Give Up On…Gavin Floyd

As the fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft, Gavin Floyd fell well short of expectations with the Philadelphia Phillies. The 6-5, 230 pound righty compiled -0.4 Wins Above Replacement with the Fightins from 2004-2006, then posted a 0.1 WAR season with the Chicago White Sox in 2007 following a December ’06 trade that landed Floyd and Gio Gonzalez on the South Side for Freddy Garcia.

Over the next two seasons, however, Floyd made marked progress. He managed a 4.56 expected FIP (xFIP) in 206.1 innings pitched in 2008, with 6.32 K/9 and 3.05 BB/9. He really emerged in 2009, improving greatly against left-handed batters while authoring a 3.69 xFIP in 193 IP. Floyd whiffed 7.6 batters per nine innings and walked 2.75 per nine.

Unfortunately, the 27-year-old’s 2010 campaign hearkens back to those nightmarish Phillies days–Floyd’s ERA during his first 45 innings is an even seven. Those who spent an early pick on Gavin are probably cursing enough to make Ozzie Guillen blush. Many have severed ties altogether, as Floyd’s Yahoo ownership rate has dipped to 55 percent. Look a little closer, though, and you’ll see a talented pitcher primed to bounce back.

It’s true that Floyd isn’t throwing as well as he did during his career-best ’09 season. But, he’s still showing the skills of a solid starter. Floyd has 7.6 K/9, and he has issued 3.4 BB/9. His ground ball rate is a career-high 50 percent, a positive development for a guy who has been plagued by the long ball in the past (career 1.33 HR/9)

Gavin has been plagued by a .381 batting average on balls in play, compared to a career .298 BABIP. Grounders generally have a higher BABIP than fly balls, but that 2010 mark is obscenely high and will drop.

He’s also stranding far fewer runners than usual. Floyd’s left on base rate is just 57.2 percent. During his big league career, he has stranded 68.3 percent of base runners. That’s below the 70-72% major league average, but even if Floyd struggles a bit from the stretch, that LOB rate should be closer to 70 percent than 60 percent moving forward. His 4.19 xFIP is much more appealing than that appalling ERA.

Floyd’s getting a few more swings on pitches off the plate (28.1 O-Swing% in 2010, compared to 27.5% in ’09; 25-27% MLB average), and his contact rates are largely unchanged. Batters are connecting 77.7 percent of the time this season, after making contact 77.8 percent last year (80-81% MLB average). Floyd is getting swinging strikes 9.4 percent, which is less than 2009 (9.9 percent) but still above the 8-8.5% major league average.

One facet of his game that Floyd could stand to improve is his control–his first pitch strike percentage, 60 percent in 2009, is down to 55.8 percent (58-59% MLB average). And, after hitting the strike zone with 48.2 percent of his pitches last season, Floyd has placed 45.1 percent of his offerings in the zone this year (48-51% MLB average). His cut fastball appears to be the biggest culprit, as he threw it for a strike 70.1 percent in ’09 but just half of the time in 2010 (66.7% MLB average).

He might not be an ace, but Floyd is a quality option in AL-only leagues and is worth a roster spot in most mixed leagues. If possible, snag him off the waiver wire or send a trade offer to a frustrated Floyd owner.