Jeremy Guthrie is Thriving in K.C.

Last night, Jeremy Guthrie flirted with a no-hitter for 7 innings until he gave up a infield single to “speedy” Paul Korerko. Besides flirting with a no-hitter, he had gone 22 straight innings without giving up a run which ended a few batters later. This performance was from a pitcher who was traded away basically as a salary dump. Are there any signs that can lead a fantasy owner to believe that Guthrie has changed in his approach over the last month and the improvement can continue?

Guthrie started the 2012 season in Colorado after being traded by Baltimore in the off season. From the start, Guthrie struggled with the Rockies. With the Rockies, Jeremy had a 3-9 record, 6.35 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP. Much of his struggles was from pitching in Colorado. Here are his splits for when he was at home and on the road when with Colorado:

ERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9
On Road 3.68 5.0 3.5 1.3
At Home 9.50 3.9 2.6 3.0

While he did not pitch great on the road, his performance was remarkably worse at home.

The Rockies and the Royals exchanged poor performing pitchers right before the trade deadline with Jonathan Sanchez coming from the Royals. Guthrie had the chance to start his season over.

It didn’t start so well for Guthrie. He looked like he was going to pitch for Royals like he did for the Rockies. In his first 2 starts as a Royal, he lost both games and had the following stats:

ERA: 9.61
K/9: 7.0
BB/9: 2.6
HR/9: 0.0

It was not a good sign that he raised his 6+ ERA half a point. Since those first 2 games, he has been lights outs.

ERA: 0.94
K/9: 7.2
BB/9: 1.6
HR/9: 0.0

These stats are incredible. Looking a little further shows that there is little chance these numbers will hold up. Even with giving up no home runs, his FIP is at 2.01. His xFIP, 3.66, is even higher because of his 42% FB%. While he has been able to have a lower than average BABIP in the past (0.276 career), his 0.224 value over these last few starts is unsustainable. The low BABIP and non-existent HR rate has fuel some of his improved performance.

Even with some regression, he has been pitching quite a bit better while in K.C than he did with Colorado or even Baltimore. I went and looked for any possible changes to his approach that may be behind the change so that his fantasy owners can believe the new level of production will continue.

Trying to find any possible changing in his form is a little tough because of the effects of the thin air in Colorado. I noticed one key change. He has moved his release point to the center of the rubber a little and is maintaining a tighter release pattern. Here are 3 of his release profiles.

Note: Remember all veiws are from the catchers perspective.

7/8/2012 – The last long start he had for Colorado

7/22/2012 – First game with K.C.

8/19/2012 – last game with K.C.

Right before getting traded, his release points were all over the place. In his first start in K.C., the release pattern was tighter, but still clustered around the -2.0 horizontal mark. In his last start with the Royals, his release point has moved about a half foot closer to the center of the rubber. I could not find 100% proof if the change was from a new arm angle or placement on the rubber. Here are the best two images I could find of him in Colorado and Kansas City.

It seems that he has moved a bit to the center of the rubber, but because of the difference in angle, I am not going to make a call.

Guthrie has made some changes to his delivery since coming to Kansas City. For now, the changes seemed to have led to big changes on the field, all for the better. While he is not going to pitch as good as he has in the last 4 games, he looks to have made huge strides forward. Currently, he is owned in 7% of all Yahoo! leagues and 12% of ESPN leagues, the chance to pick him up may closing fast.

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Jeff writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first season in Tout Wars, he won the H2H league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Consider this: Supposedly Guthrie has always been a fly ball pitcher. He’s always pitched in Hitters’ parks noted for their propensity for the HR. In KC it’s the first time he’s been playing in a Pitcher-friendly park where it’s deep power allies tend to suppress HR balls. I don’t think anything has changed with Guthrie as much as context.