Scott Feldman held the Tampa Bay Rays to two singles and a walk in six innings of work on Tuesday night. Does that mean anything in the Rangers' grand scheme of things? Should it? All those are interesting questions as the Rangers forge ahead toward their second straight division title (if they can hold off the Angels, that is). Feldman has gone from 2010's Opening Day starter to non-existent since the trade deadline of last year. But his performance opens some thoughts.
First off, Feldman probably wasn't quite as good as his 2009 season indicated. He did go 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA and that looks pretty darn solid. But his batting average on balls in play indicate a bit of luck in the process. His low strikeouts per nine combined with that BABIP of .273 meant that Feldman's FIP was +23 of his actual ERA. Conversely, Feldman wasn't quite as bad as his 7-11 record last year with that alarming 5.48 ERA. In that case, his BABIP was unlucky at .327. His strikeouts per nine went even lower, but in this case, his FIP was actually -75. His FIP seems to indicate that he wasn't that much worse in 2010 than he was in 2009.
It seems pretty obvious looking at everything that Scott Feldman wasn't overly healthy last year. His velocity dipped two MPH from 2009 to 2010. His two-seam fastball still had lots of movement, but with less velocity, he didn't get away with as much as he did the previous season. Feldman had off-season knee surgery so it is reasonable to assume that his loss of velocity was due to a bad wheel. Further evidence of that seems to be in the lowest ground ball rate of his career and 30 point rise in his HR/9.
Feldman's sample size is extremely small this season, so it's hard to build a great case here. But his velocity is back where it was in 2009. His ground ball rate is back in spades. You wouldn't expect him to be able to maintain a ground ball rate of 68.2 percent! His career average is 47 percent and that is a realistic number. You also can't expect him to continue with the lowest line drive and highest infield popup rates of his career either. But the small sample size does seem to indicate that the guy can still pitch.
So what do the Rangers do with him? He's signed to make another $6.5 million next year and has a $9.25 million option for 2013 (with an albeit really cheap buyout). That's pretty pricey for a pitcher that the Rangers don't seem to have much use for. Perhaps a trade will be likely. After a successful couple of outings toward the end of this year, a lot of teams might have their interest piqued by a guy who has won 17 games before.
But let this writer make a bold statement. Scott Feldman is a better bet than Colby Lewis. Don't get this writer wrong. Colby Lewis is loved here for his story and what he did to get back in the majors. But he's homer prone and his BABIP is not sustainable. Thus his performance is inconsistent. Lewis had a brilliant run in the post season last season and you can't take that away from him. But going forward, if you have an infield of Beltre at third, Andrus at short and Kinsler at second, wouldn't you rather have a ground ball machine pitching than a fly ball pitcher like Lewis?
If this writer was in charge of the Rangers, Feldman would get another couple of starts. Rest your starters who have been toiling in the heat all summer. If nothing else, you build trade value for Feldman. Or perhaps, you can see a fresh pitcher who might actually be a better option going into the post-season.