May 8, 2013 by Ryan S
In Scott Feldman’s first three starts in Cubbie blue this spring, he pitched 14.0 innings, surrendering 9.64 hits per nine innings pitched (H/9), 6.43 walks per nine innings pitched (BB/9), allowed an opponents batting average (OBA) of 0.263, surrendered five home runs and 14 runs overall.
He only had a 4.50 ERA though, as an alarming seven were unearned, though that is more a reflection of the Cubs defensive struggles through the early part of the season than anything. However, I would argue that he should have had a 6.43 ERA since it was his own defensive error that ultimately led to three unearned runs in his start at Milwaukee on April 21st, but I digress.
Since then, Feldman has had a bit of a resurgence, pitching three quality starts in a row. During that stretch, he’s pitched 22.2 innings allowing just four runs and has surrendered only 4.76 H/9 and 1.59 BB/9, which combined with a 0.154 OBA would result in a 1.59 ERA and three victories for the veteran pitcher.
Now, I just threw out a lot of numbers, the key point being– which of those numbers are for real, and which ones are likely just a very hot stretch in the early season for Feldman? Well, looking at his career numbers, one would see that he has given up 9.6 H/9 throughout his career. Last season alone he gave up more than 10 hits per nine innings pitched. That number sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Oh yes, that’s right, that’s almost exactly the average he posted through his first few starts.
Alarming that he’s done that for the entirety of his career. In a logical next step, his career OBA is 0.268, much closer to the 0.263 OBA he posted during the first few games. I fully expect Feldman to end up much closer to these numbers than the one that he’s posted in the past few games.
On another note, he’s averaged 5.4 K/9 for his career. Over the past two years, he’s compiled a 6.8 K/9 rate, and this season he’s sitting at a 6.63 K/9 rate, so I would expect that number to either hover around there or drop slightly. He’s also compiled a lifetime 3.1 BB/9, which is somewhere between his horrendous 6.43 BB/9 from his first few starts and his 1.59 BB/9 from his past few, and I would expect him to land somewhere around that number as well this season.
Finally, his career WHIP is 1.412, and this season he is at 1.118, which has much to do with the tear he’s been on lately. That number is 100 percent related to walks and hits obviously, so should his hits and walks averages rise, so will WHIP. On a mostly pitching unrelated note, Feldman has also already made
With all of this said and done, I fully expect Scott Feldman to end the year outside of the Cubs rotation– with Matt Garza returning soon, someone will get bumped. Feldman will be safe then, and my hunch is that it will be Carlos Villanueva. Travis Wood, the lone lefty in the Cubs rotation, is still pitching great, and obviously you aren’t going to bench Jeff Samardzija, who has a 3.09 ERA and four quality starts in seven total starts thus far.
You also can’t bench Edwin Jackson, who just signed a lengthy four-year, $52 million dollar contract with the Cubs. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to right his problems, and I’ll be writing about that in the near future as well.
The odd man out seems to be Villanueva, who started out very hot, but has cooled down considerably and allowed eight earned runs over 11.2 innings in has past two starts. Garza will likely have two more starts down in AAA before returning, so maybe Villanueva can salvage his job. However, I believe that Feldman will ultimately lose his spot in the rotation if he cools off like I predict he will.
Scott Baker was placed on the 60-day disabled list on Apr. 1, and that should expire May 31. He’ll obviously make some rehab starts, and may be able to return to the club by the middle part of June. That could leave Feldman the odd man out when Baker returns.
Obviously, I’m rooting for the Cubs here, and if Feldman could make 25 more starts pitching like this, then great. I would like nothing more than to see the Cubs score some runs and hand it off to the bullpen with a big lead every fifth day when Feldman pitches. I just don’t see it happening. Good luck, Mr. Feldman, and as always, go Cubs!