Jerad Eickhoff Update: Going One-for-Two

In my season preview for Jerad Eickhoff, I suggested that there were two things us amateur baseball analysts should watch for from him this season. From that piece:

So, for Eickhoff, there are two things I’ll be watching for this season, especially early. One, will he start using his changeup more (and consequently, will it continue to get rocked)? He’s already shown the ability to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher, but with an improved changeup, he could take a serious step forward.

The other thing I’d like to see Eickhoff do is throw his curveball more often. He threw it 24% of the time last year, with a contact rate of just 62%, allowing a .462 OPS. That is fantastic, and so he should feature his curveball more prominently in his repertoire.

At the end of the piece, I promised to keep you updated as the season progressed, and at the risk of ruining the suspense, that is exactly what I’m doing for my dear readers. Let’s start with a graph from Brooks Baseball:

Overall, Eickhoff has essentially abandoned his changeup and thrown his curveball more. His curveball usage is up to nearly 30% (T-4th among qualified starters), while he’s thrown just 5 changeups through three starts. He’s also increased his two-strike curveball usage 6 percentage points from last year to over 52%. Curveballs have accounted for 12 of his 18 Ks (67%) after accounting for 63% of his strikeouts last year.

This continues a trend seen at the end of last year where Eickhoff threw his changeup less than 2% of the time in September (including his lone start in October), while throwing his curveball about 27% of the time.

Whether this shift has helped his overall profile is still inconclusive. Eickhoff has struck out 2.2% more hitters, but also walked 2.4% more. That’s expected, as most pitchers don’t control their breaking pitches as well as their hard stuff. However, in two of his three starts, Eickhoff has walked just 1 hitter while striking out at least 5. Against the Mets on April 10, he walked four in what looks like an outlier, as the right-hander walked four hitters in only one other time in his 44-start career.

That should serve as a reminder that it’s not very productive or relevant to analyze anything too closely at this point in the season. I know that it’s annoying to constantly hear this refrain, but it’s still April; one start, or even one pitch, can dramatically alter a player’s stat line or perception.

However, we can say with confidence that Eickhoff is using his curveball more and his changeup less. If I had my druthers, the changeup would be a larger part of his repertoire. Whether this is part of a conscious effort by Eickhoff and the coaching staff or just due to a lack of comfort with his changeup at this time is unclear. What is clear, though, is that Eickhoff is using his best pitch more often, and I think that’s a start.

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  1. Mike Fassano

    April 19, 2017 11:02 AM

    At this point of the season the only pitchers that I have complete confidence in are Hellickson and Eickhoff. Nola and Eflin have had good starts, but I need to see more. That leaves Velasquez, who I have little confidence in as a starter, but great confidence as the future closer. I wondering if it might behoove the Phillies to re-sign Hellickson after this season because Jake Thompson is getting hammered lately. It’s still way too early to speculate, but I think that Klentak will start wheeling and dealing sooner, rather than waiting for the deadline.
    One thing is certain. We are going nowhere with Franco, Joseph, Rupp, and Galvis all hitting below the Mendoza line. We need to play Nava, Knapp, Blanco, and Altherr for a couple of games, and have the regulars take a seat next to Matt Stairs on the bench.

    • Sam

      April 19, 2017 06:53 PM

      Valesquez games are long and boring to watch, to boot. 3 true outcomes baseball is ruining the game more than 3+ hour games, as Kenny Mane pointed out a couple nights ago – a play ends in one of the true outcomes a whopping 1/3 of the time. zzzzzzzz

    • Sam

      April 19, 2017 06:55 PM

      Franco has been enduring some terrible luck so far. His batted ball profile is not bad at all.

    • Ryan D

      April 20, 2017 11:51 AM

      Nava’s start is probably smoke and mirrors but I’m with you, I’d still play him more while his bat is hot. How Altherr isn’t getting more time is beyond me.

      I’m also hoping/expecting a Saunders break out month coming up. He’s been a fairly streaky player for the past few seasons and this year he’s just kind of hovering at a just below average pace. If he can get a few starts against lefties that could definitely jump start his bat.

      I can’t tell why I’m rooting for Saunders to heat up, whether I’d want him to be a trade piece or because this team could easily be 7-7 with a positive run differential if two or three home runs were just deep flies.

  2. Romus

    April 19, 2017 03:49 PM

    Hard to believe, but since the July 2015 trade.
    Hamels bWAR is 6.8 and Eickhoff’s is 5.8.
    I would have never imagined that ever occurring.

  3. Edwin

    April 20, 2017 07:02 AM

    1 for 2??? Hell, put him in the heart of the order.

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