There’s Nothing Wrong With Jerad Eickhoff
This headline could make me look foolish depending on the outcome of tonight’s game, but despite his relative struggles (4.43 ERA this year vs. 2.65 ERA in 2015), there’s nothing to indicate that Jerad Eickhoff has been a worse pitcher this season than last.
First things first, let’s take a look at Eickhoff’s underlying stats this year versus last.
As you can see, his HR/FB% and BABIP have both increased since last year, while his rate of runners left on base plummeted almost 15 percentage points. However, his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA have hardly changed, despite the roughly 2 run difference in ERA.
This year, Eickhoff’s ERA-FIP differential is 16th highest in the MLB out of 103 qualified pitchers; last year, if he qualified, he would have had the 9th lowest differential out of 79 qualified pitchers. In 2015, his LOB% would be 4th highest in the league, while his LOB% this year would have ranked tied for the second lowest. This paints the picture of a guy who was a little lucky last season, while being a bit unlucky this season.
Digging a little deeper, his velocity is down a little, but that’s relatively common in the early months of the season. His overall fastball usage has been pretty consistent, though his use of his excellent curveball (+12.2 percentage points) has shot up at the expense of his serviceable slider (-8.5%). Not much significant change there.
Eickhoff’s strikeout rate is down a little (24.1% to 20.9%), but his walk rate is also down (6.4% to 4.7%), which means his K/BB is actually higher than last year. He’s allowed more home runs (0.88 per nine innings to 1.11), but a lower rate of fly balls (0.95 GB/FB to 1.31), and his line drive rate hasn’t changed. He’s allowed a higher BABIP, but his hard hit rate has actually declined by 5.5 percentage points. Each superficially negative indicator has a positive indicator which seemingly renders it moot.
I know it’s unsatisfying to continually see analysis that urges patience due to small sample size, but that’s what we’re really seeing here. Eickhoff pitched a small sample of innings last year, and he’s pitched even fewer this year. We just haven’t seen enough of him to get a strong read on his ability or his future.
So there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is Eickhoff is probably not the ace he looked like last year; the good news is he’s probably not the Kyle Kendrick he’s looked like this year either.