Pick Up Felipe Paulino

Zack Greinke is currently starring in ‘The Peripheral Disconnect,’ but Felipe Paulino has been a worthy leading man for the role during most of his career. The 27-year-old righty, long a scouting favorite for his mid-90s gas and upper-80s slider, has nearly a run-and-a-half difference between his xFIP (4.06) and ERA (5.50).

Yet Paulino, now in his third different organization within the past year, appears poised to get off baseball’s D-list by matching process and results with the Royals. Given a chance to start in K.C before another wave of upper-echelon pitching prospects arrives, the former Astro and Rockie is making Dayton Moore look like a smart man.

Since the Royals acquired the 6-foot-2, 270 pound power arm from the Rockies for cash in late May, Paulino has made six starts and one relief appearance. In 42 frames, Paulino has 7.7 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, a ground ball rate around 48 percent and a 3.34 xFIP that matches up quite nicely with his actual ERA (3.21). Stuff-wise, Paulino is still sitting around 95 MPH with his fastball. But it’s the rest of his repertoire that provides hope for sustained success.

During his career, Paulino has predominantly been a fastball/slider pitcher with a large platoon split (1.8 K/BB ratio and a 4.56 xFIP versus lefty hitters, 2.8 K/BB and a 3.71 xFIP versus righties). With the Royals, he’s showing a more diverse arsenal. Paulino has thrown his fastball about 48 percent with K.C., while going to his slider 33-34 percent, his curve 10 percent and his changeup nine percent.

So far, more secondary stuff has led to better results against left-handed hitters. Overall in 2011, Paulino has a 3.13 K/BB ratio and a 3.47 xFIP when taking on opposite-handed batters. It’s generally not a good idea to make much out of a platoon split that consists of 25-26 combined innings, but Paulino could fare better against lefties over the long haul if he can spot his curveball and changeup.

The curveball doesn’t have much a platoon split, and the changeup has a reverse platoon split (meaning opposite-handed hitters perform worse against the pitch). Pitch F/X data from TexasLeaguers shows that Paulino has shown lefties his curve about 14 percent of the time, and his changeup 10 percent. He might want to go to those pitches even more and cut the slider usage to left-handers (currently at 27 percent), considering that offering tends to get hammered by opposite-handed batters. A pitching approach that relies more on curves and changeups is more conducive to getting lefties out.

Felipe Paulino has frustrated fantasy owners for years, posting intriguing fielding-independent numbers while ending up with a ghastly ERA. And his durability is a question mark, as he missed most of 2008 with a pinched nerve in his shoulder, hit the DL in 2009 with a groin strain and lost three months last season due to a rotator cuff strain. But even so, he has ample talent and opportunity to show it with the Royals.

If Paulino keeps working in his curveball and changeup while quelling lefty bats, he could end up being a waiver wire steal. Considering his minuscule ownership rates — 0.2 percent in ESPN leagues, and one percent in Yahoo formats — there’s still time to pick up Paulino before your buddies take notice of his progress.




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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

18 Responses to “Pick Up Felipe Paulino”

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  1. R M says:

    Thanks! I’ve had my eye on him for a long time, but definitely would have slept on him if I hadn’t seen this article….

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  2. Matty Brown says:

    I picked him up last night actually David!

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  3. choms57 says:

    Would you drop Jeff Karstens for him in a 16 team mixed league?? Thanks!

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  4. rotofan says:

    I picked him up days after he was traded to the Royals for my exceptionally deep AL roto league (480 players on rosters). Arms like his don’t appear often unclaimed.

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  5. Glenn says:

    Would you drop Gavin Floyd for him?

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    • Matt says:

      Only if your league is shallow enough that you can get him back just as easily. And be ready to drop Paulino once it gets ugly.

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  6. elgato7664 says:

    Paulino pitches solidly today 6 IP, 9 K, 2 BB, but alas… 8-for-17 on Balls in Play, raising his season BABIP to .357 & career to .345.

    He’s tied with Travis Miller & Dana Eveland for the highest career BABIP since 1920 (min. 200 IP).

    Looking at his batted ball data, his career BABIP on FB & LD is about 10% more than average but his BABIP on GB is about 40% more than average.

    His xBABIP is about .286.

    Using data since 2006 & Minimum 200 IP:
    BABIP divided by xBABIP trailers:
    406. Felipe Paulino +21%
    405. David Wells +13%

    90% between +7% & -7%

    2. Rafael Soriano -15%
    1. Chris Young -16%

    His career minor league BABIP is .292 (390 IP).

    I will continue to be intrigued by Paulino & hope for the best as we watch his career unfold.

    To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “I cannot forecast to you the future of Paulino. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: but perhaps there is a key.”

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  7. jim says:

    dude’s fastball is a straight as a pool cue, there’s the source of the disconnect

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    • Matt says:

      It’s the fallacy of babip. His pitches, while fast, don’t really go anywhere. If it’s a strike, it’s in a place to hit. It’s either a hittable pitch or it’s a ball. These are major league hitters, and eventually they figure that out. So much emphasis here is placed on ball-in-play luck when most of the skill of pitching is about pitch location. Halladay, Verlander, any top pitcher is so effective because his pitches are located in a place where if a hitter catches up to them, the ball will go straight down or straight up, and rarely be connected for a line drive. I’ll use Verlander as a comp since he’s another hard thrower. Look at Paulino’s heat maps:
      http://www.fangraphs.com/heatmap.aspx?playerid=3777&position=P&pitch=FA&size=14&inty=40&pal=2
      Not a huge variety of locations, and most of those fastballs are in a place that a hitter can connect with and drive. Now look at Verlander:
      http://www.fangraphs.com/heatmap.aspx?playerid=8700&position=P&pitch=FA&size=14&inty=40&pal=2
      With such a wide distribution of locations it’s harder for a hitter to square up to the ball. All of Paulino’s strikes are in the same place, and most (not all) hitters in the majors can tell a ball from a strike. But Verlander’s pitches move within the strikezone, and can end up in a wide variety of places and still be called a strike. Paulino only throws one or two fastball strikes for the most part. His secondary pitches are not very good, certainly not good enough to make up for that. It’s his first time through the AL, hitters will adjust and he won’t have a pretty second half. If he truly harnesses his stuff, he might be able to close for a non-contending team, but his future as a starter is dim (maybe if he’s lucky he’ll string together two good seasons and be another Ollie Perez). Sure, if your league is deep enough that any pitcher getting more than one consecutive start is worth a spec add, then ride the wave for another week or two. But don’t drop a useful piece for him, and don’t say you weren’t warned when he has a huge blow-up or four.

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      • Ray says:

        That probably has something to do with it..but why the high K rate if his balls are easy to hit? And high GB%? It’s true that his LD% is pretty high (21.3%) though

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      • jim says:

        the high K rate results because he can still mid-high 90s, and not everyone can catch up to his pitches all of the time

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    • rbt says:

      I watched him last night and must respectfully disagree.

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      • rbt says:

        Not disagreeing with Matt, but with Jim.

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      • jim says:

        i watched him blow every game he pitched in before the rockies let him go, and I must disagree with YOU, because you’re wrong, and the numbers back me up

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  8. Scott says:

    Picked up Paulino in my 20 team leagues the day he was shipped to KC. Great success for the lwts points league….not so much yet in the 5×5. I love this guy getting a chance to start and giving us such interesting FIP results to analyze over more innings. The K:BB ratios for his starts have been so excellent….

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  9. Jeff says:

    Any thoughts as to why Paulino’s LOB% is always so low? At this point, the sample size isn’t tiny anymore.

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