Jerad Eickhoff: Hidden Gem of the Cole Hamels Trade
The Phillies ended months of conjecture at the end of July by sending ace Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers in a trade that also involved reliever Jake Diekman and brought six players back to Philadelphia. One of them, Matt Harrison, offset some of Hamels’ salary and three were highly-touted prospects — pitcher Jake Thompson, outfielder Nick Williams, and catcher Jorge Alfaro. They currently rank as the Phillies #2, 3, and 4 prospects, according to MLB.com.
Appreciated but mostly overlooked in the deal was pitcher Jerad Eickhoff, a 25-year-old who posted a 4.25 ERA in 101 2/3 innings with Triple-A Round Rock this season. His numbers throughout his minor league career are mostly unimpressive, but the Phillies — in need of rotation help at the time — called him up in August to make his major league debut. Eickhoff’s success through his first eight starts is something even the Phillies likely never saw coming.
Eickhoff dominated the New York Mets on Thursday afternoon, tossing seven shutout innings on four hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts. He’s reached double-digit strikeouts in back-to-back starts and has gone seven innings in four consecutive outings. Overall, he’s carrying a 2.65 ERA with a strikeout-to-walk ratio approaching four-to-one, punching out 24.1 percent of batters and walking them at a 6.4 percent rate.
Featured prominently in his repertoire of late is his curve ball, which Matt Winkelman of Phillies Minor Thoughts wrote about today. Half of his 10 strikeouts on Thursday came on the curve. In his previous start, on September 25, eight of his 10 strikeouts came via the curve. Overall, 29 of his 49 strikeouts (59 percent) have been on curves. Winkelman noted that Eickhoff’s release point is the same for his fastball and his curve, which you can see in this chart from Brooks Baseball:
Corinne Landrey, in her column on Eickhoff last month, noted that he was having trouble getting used to the smaller seams on major league baseballs. He appears to have overcome that hurdle.
I am obligated to mention that his sample size of 51 innings in the big leagues is small, and there’s nothing too definitive we can draw from that. However, there are some heartening trends that lend themselves to future success. His 3.77 K/BB would be 27th-best of 86 pitchers among those who have tossed at least 150 innings. His 24 percent strikeout rate is four percent above the average for National League starters and his 6.4 percent walk rate is a percentage point below the league average as well. And while he has a large disparity between his 2.65 ERA and ERA retrodictors, FIP, xFIP, and SIERA each paint him in an excellent light, pegging him at 3.26, 3.61, and 3.56, respectively.
If Eickhoff is able to maintain his curve as an at-bat finisher going forward, the way Hamels used his change-up, the Phillies don’t have a back-of-the-rotation starter or mop-up man; they have a mid-rotation starter and potentially better.