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.

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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.

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

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.

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18 comments

  1. bubba0101

    May 16, 2016 02:27 PM

    Thanks. Youve convinced me to give him a few more fantasy starts.

    Will he finish in the middle of this and last year, or do you think he’ll be closer to one or the other? Is he a 3? a 4? or a 5?

    • Michael Schickling

      May 16, 2016 04:50 PM

      To my untrained eye, he looks like a present day 4 or 5 with 3 potential.

  2. SJ Haack

    May 16, 2016 02:38 PM

    I think you’re underselling how poor a pitcher Kyle Kendrick is pretty hard. He has a K:BB under 2, has never hit 20% K in any season regardless of innings pitched, and certainly never had a pitch as valuable as Eickhoff’s curve has shown and has the potential to be going forward.

    Jerad has a 4 K:BB ratio. If he keeps the ball from leaving the yard at a reasonable rate his ERA will reflect it soon enough.

    • whiskey Tango Foxtrot

      May 16, 2016 03:25 PM

      Are you referring to the Kyle Kendrick who never posted a FIP or xFIP under 4 in his ML career (ok, 3.99 FIP in 2008). Kendrick was at most servicable as a swingman.

    • whiskey Tango Foxtrot

      May 16, 2016 03:26 PM

      I couldn’t resist adding on.

  3. Romus

    May 16, 2016 03:44 PM

    Perhaps the change in his numbers could be reflected by one noticeable change I see for him from 2015 to 2016 is his percent of FB selection.
    Though still SSS, however in ‘15 he threw his 4Seamer 47% of the time, almost half the time, while this year it is down to 33%.
    And his 2S/sinker is now doubled……thrown at a 22% clip vs ‘15’s at 11 percent.
    Have to assume they have him pitching to contact apparently to gear up for a full season of work.
    Understand they plan on shutting Velasquez down at some point ths season, however Eickhoff will go the distant barring any injuries.

    • Steve

      May 16, 2016 05:18 PM

      VV will definately be shut down, probably between 120 and 140 innings. Eickhoff should absolutely be shut down, probably between 160 and 180 innings. I wouldnt be shocked if Nola’s work load is restricted at some point this year.

      • Steve

        May 16, 2016 05:54 PM

        Didnt realize Eick threw 180 innings combined last year, im sure they would like to see him get close to 200 this year. I dont see them wearing out any of the young arms late in the year though, when we are out of contention.

      • Corinne Landrey

        May 16, 2016 05:57 PM

        Eickhoff is 25 years old, has no notable injury history, and pitched 174.1 innings last season. He is not facing an arbitrary limit between 160 and 180.

      • Corinne Landrey

        May 16, 2016 06:08 PM

        Beat me to it! And I fully agree that the team is likely to carefully manage starter workloads. No reason not to.

      • Romus

        May 16, 2016 06:30 PM

        Eickhoff may not be shut down.
        Have not heard anything about him, just Velasquez.

    • Romus

      May 16, 2016 06:29 PM

      Steve,
      ViVe probably goes to 150/160 innings, since 125 has been his max in the past.
      Maybe 15/17 more starts.
      TJ in 2011…..five years out now, but do not know what they feel about that.
      Unofficial shelf-life use to be 600-800 innings for starters after their TJ.
      Rarely do starters go over 180 anymore, except maybe the ace…..180 seems to be the old 200.

      • Steve

        May 16, 2016 09:19 PM

        Yeah, definately agree about Eickhoff, i had no idea he logged that many MiLB innings last year. I think a lot depends on how the three youngsters perform. If any of them hit the perverbial wall in august/september, i just dont see any reason to continue marching them out, assuming we are not in contention. I have also heard references to pitch limits as opposed to inning limits, and im not sure what kind of pace any of them are on, but that could play a factor as well.

      • Steve

        May 16, 2016 09:31 PM

        My concern with VV is 2 fold.
        1) he only threw about 80-90 innings last year. A jump of more than 50/60 innings is a lot. Id rather him be at his best in 2017 than september of 2016.
        2) the fact that he has bounced around as a starter and reliever. Even the year he threw 125 ip, they werent all as a starter. I believe pitching 6 innings once every 5 days puts a different strain on your arm then pitching 1 inning every over day. Generalization, i know, but you get my point. If he can be effective for 140 innings, solely as a starter, id be more than satisfied.
        Im probably being over cautious because of the TJ history.

      • Romus

        May 17, 2016 09:27 AM

        Steve…good point….I missed that…..his latest innings pitched, 2015, should be the barometer by which to measure this seasons capping point. So it could be well less than the 150 inning mark.

  4. Munchma Quchi

    May 17, 2016 12:52 PM

    They forced him to use his slider a lot in yesterday’s game. The book and video are out on his curveball, and he can’t just rely on 2 pitches (he used FB/CB 88% of the time coming into the game).

    Seems like it was basically a minor league start where they force a pitcher to develop his arsenal.

    • Munchma Quchi

      May 17, 2016 01:01 PM

      adding onto my previous post: after Atlanta lit him up last week using the “book” by laying off his curve and murdering his FB (and loading the lineup with lefties), clearly, a change was needed. the rest of the year is going to basically be developmental in nature for him so i’m not go overboard scrutinizing the numbers.

    • Michael Schickling

      May 17, 2016 01:46 PM

      FWIW, Eickhoff’s vertical movement on his Curve against the Braves (-7.92″) was an inch less than his average over the season (-8.93″) according to brooks baseball. Ditto horizontal movement (4.71″ vs 6.02″)

      Not sure if that indicates he didn’t have his usual “stuff” that game. But that might show why Braves hitters were able to pick it up and lay off it.

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