Writer’s Note: Feldman ranked 56th on Zach Sanders’ starting pitching rankings.
Hello friends, just thought I’d chime in with a few notes before the weekend on Scott Feldman as he moves back into the division in which he cut his teeth as a Texas Ranger.
There are a number of things to like — not love, but genuinely have an affinity for, I’d say — about Feldman’s approach. In Feldman’s early years as a reliever, he was more of a low-strikeout, groundball type of specialist. In light of what we’ve seen in recent years with relievers, a bit of an odd trend, actually.
But in recent years, he’s forsaken those groundballs for strikeouts — never a bad tradeoff — while still maintaining a grounder rate healthily above league average. In essence, he’s not far off league average in either respect (slightly above in GB rate, a little below on the whiffs).
The drop in grounders coincides with the forsaking of a slider in favor of a cutter. However, the groundball rates are almost identical on the offerings over his career — 43.5 percent on the cutter, 43.4 percent on the slider — so it would appear it likely had more to do with the transition from reliever to starter — and the sample size increases that go with it — than anything else. The development of Feldman’s curve, which was largely a sub-10.0 percent SwStr% kind of pitch, into a mid-teens whiff rate sort of pitch seems to have had the biggest factor in the jump in strikeouts. For his career, Feldman has healthy groundball rates on all his offerings (43.4 percent on the low end (slider) and 48.6 percent on the high end (sinker)).
And you’d almost get the sense that he could tailor his approach to the surroundings around him — at least as far as his talent will allow. Moving to the Astros all but ensures he’ll have a worse defensive infield than he did with the Rangers or the Orioles, both of whom would be jockeying for position among the best units in the game, in my view. The same could probably be said for the Cubs too, as Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, and Luis Valbuena are all solid defenders.
Matt Dominguez‘ reputation is that of a very good defensive third baseman, but none of the other in-house options appear to hold a candle to the Feldman’s counterparts elsewhere. That could make for a bit of a messy transition.
And that’s before considering that the Astros, while continuing to be an up-and-coming bunch, aren’t especially likely to be good quite yet in 2014. Granted, Feldman has never been much of a win hog, with just two seasons of 10-plus win out of five seasons as a big league starter.
My sense with Feldman is that, while he’ll likely be a perfectly useful pitcher, he’ll likely not be much of a fantasy play due to his surroundings. He’ll have plenty of real-life utility to the Astros, not just in terms of innings but quality innings, but it just won’t be enough to roster him outside of deeper and NL-only leagues.
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