2016 Phillies Report Card: Jerad Eickhoff
I’m going to begin this report card of Phillies’ young right-hander Jerad Eickhoff with an instance of the semi-popular Baseball Twitter game, “Guess The Statlines”. This is more rhetorical than a genuine attempt to stump readers, because your first guess at each of the below statlines will likely be correct.
Player A: 284.1 IP / 79 ERA- / 92 FIP- / 15.0 K-BB % / 48.7 GB % / 4.3 fWAR
Player B: 248.1 IP / 84 ERA- / 95 FIP- / 15.9 K-BB % / 40.1 GB % / 4.0 fWAR
To give everyone a hint, the time periods for these lines are the same – from the 2015 trade deadline to the end of the 2016 season. If that’s not enough of a hint, Player A, while clearly a bit better across the board (WARP and rWAR both like this player better as well), is almost seven years older than Player B, has only three years of team control remaining (versus Player B’s five), and cost about $31 million more than Player B over this time period.
Really still not figured it out yet? Player A and Player B were actually traded for each other at the 2015 trade deadline. Not only did Player A cost so much more than Player B in terms of salary, but the team acquiring Player A even gave up three no-doubt top 100 prospects in addition to Player B in order to acquire him (in many places, Player B was even considered a bit of an afterthought in the deal). Really really not figured it out yet? Those three top 100 prospects were Jorge Alfaro, Jake Thompson, and Nick Williams, the teams were the Phillies and the Rangers, Player A is Cole Hamels, and Player B is Eickhoff.
I feel good about that trade, and I’m a fan of Eickhoff.
Eickhoff has quickly become the stabilizing force in the Phillies’ starting rotation, and outperformed expectations since his first day in the Majors. What was supposed to be a fringe starter with an decent fastball, decent curveball, and OK command has developed into what looks like a mid-rotation workhorse with a four pitch mix and a whiff-inducing breaking ball.
During a 2016 season that saw Charlie Morton leave for the year after four starts, Aaron Nola‘s season end in July, and Vincent Velasquez check out early, Eickhoff’s presence was vital. On the day of his Major League debut, the idea that he would hit 250 innings in his career as a starting pitcher was relatively unlikely, but the idea that he’d basically do it within 14 months of the Hamels trade is pretty crazy.
With regard to expectations entering 2016, I like to take a look back at the preseason ZiPS projections. ZiPS expected significant regression from Eickhoff’s debut, to the tune of a 122 ERA-, 116 FIP-, and roughly replacement level production overall. Needless to say, Eickhoff far exceeded these projections without any obvious “fluky” stats to indicate his performance is unstable. He performed like an above-average starting pitcher, and there’s not an obvious reason to expect something different moving forward.
Relative to expectations, he’s been an absolute steal, and considering he was snuck into Philly as the fourth piece in a larger deal, he’s been the transactional equivalent to a steal as well. Between Eickhoff and Odubel Herrera, Texas might to start hanging up when Philadelphia calls about their “spare parts.”