2015 Phillies Report Card – Jerad Eickhoff
The first of the Hamels Gang to make the majors, Jerad Eickhoff debuted to mostly good reviews in 2015 (Script idea: Blogger somehow winds up in a cool street gang with Cole Hamels, they dance and sing and throw wicked change-ups and otherwise mess up opposing gangs). But I have an important question for all of you: how exactly am I to pronounce his first name? It’s spelled Jerad, yet BRef only tells me how to pronounce his last name. Is it JAIR ad? JEH rid? Pretty sure it’s not JEE rad or jee RAD. Do you just kind of mush your mouth and say “Jared”? As in, “Hey, let me introduce to my friend *covers mouth a little and mumbles* Joarminsh.”
Or perhaps we should all start using his new nickname, The General, (I like Eick, don’t you?). (I promise not to push this one like I have pushed for Aaron Altherr to be The Rhineland Rocket. It’s not nearly as good and I’m bad at convincing people to use my terms anyway.)
In terms of on-field value, Eickhoff was the fourth piece in a six-piece deal that sent our beloved Cole to Texas in late July. He doesn’t have the upside of Jake Thompson on the hill, and C Jorge Alfaro and OF Nick Williams are also superior talents according to every evaluator I have read, but Eickhoff is more than a throw-in. He’s adding a little bit of extra certainty to an already close-to-the-majors package. Eickhoff likely gives you a bunch of decent or better MLB innings in 2016 and beyond, and if higher-ceiling arms below him eventually force him out of the rotation, he could become an attractive piece in trade. So do I give him a boost in his grade for being a good prospect?
Honestly, I don’t have to. He had a fairly remarkable debut for a young man pegged as a back-of-the-rotation talent. In his small sample of 51.0 IP, The General outperformed retrodictors, showing a 2.65 ERA versus a 3.25 and 3.60 FIP and xFIP, (FG), but still had a very strong K%-BB% of 17.7% off of an equally nice 6.4% BB Rate and 24.1% K Rate. FanGraphs gave him 1.2 WAR and BRef 1.8. So we simply multiply those by 4 to make the sample about the right size, and HOLY TOLEDO THAT’S LIKE A TOP TEN PITCHER! I can do that, right?
Corinne Landrey wrote about Eickhoff back in September, and pointed out that after a few starts, he finally started relying more on his best secondary pitch, his curveball, on September 15. (There’s a good FanGraphs piece she mentions as well, that describes Eickhoff adjusting his curve to the smaller seams on big league baseballs). From Sept. 15 to the end of the year, Jerad used the breaker more often, mostly at the expense of his mostly-ineffective change-up and less-than-dominant fourseam fastball. The split results below from BrooksBaseball.net, show a pitch that really helps him miss bats over these two very small samples, as he managed 16 of his last 25 Ks on the curve from Sept 15 through the end of the year, and 29/49 overall.
Hopefully the recognition that he wasn’t having a great feel for the curve, and his improvement thereafter gives us an indication that this is a player who can adjust on the fly, and correct issues over the short term. Whether the heavier use of the more effective curve is enough to make Eickhoff a perennial multi-WAR type pitcher remains to be seen, but for a first time through the league, he did pretty well managing his arsenal and showing what he can do to turn around a bad situation. I am sure I am not alone in greatly looking forward to his 2016.
Grade: A, but instead of a letter grade, perhaps I should grade him with stars. Four of them, for The General. (That’s a lot, really, for a General. And also pretty good for a supposed back-end starter).