Thursday, March 09, 2017

Young Reliable: 2017 Player Preview for Jerad Eickhoff

Jerad Eickhoff doesn't have an arm you dream on. He has an arm you rely on.
A former 15th round draft pick who was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade, Eickhoff wasn't expected to be the ace of the staff. He didn't have a live arm. He didn't have a dazzling repertoire of pitches. He didn't have an insane frame. His minor league stats were far from dominating. At best, people saw him as a fifth starter.
Meanwhile, Eickhoff is the only pitcher in camp other than Jeremy Hellickson with a chance to start on Opening Day. This is the fourth in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. The previous post profiled Maikel Franco. While we won't dream of Eickhoff taking the hill on Opening Day, we can expect him to take his spot in the rotation every day thereafter.

Recapping a reliable starter's first full season.

Eickhoff has proven to be a horse. In his first big league season, he tossed 197 effective frames over 33 starts.
He went at least seven innings in seven (21 percent) of his starts. He made it through six innings in 23 (69.7 percent) of his starts.
To put that in comparison, Madison Bumgarner is universally considered one of the best pitchers in baseball. He made it through seven innings in 15 (44 percent) of his 34 starts. He went at least six frames in 29 (85 percent) of his starts.
Here are a few other examples.

John Lackey made it through the sixth in 25, and the seventh in 11, of his 29 starts.
Ian Kennedy made it through the sixth in 20, and the seventh in 6, of his 33 starts.
Noah Syndergaard made it through the sixth in 19, and the seventh in 11, of his 31 starts.

Those are three very different pitchers. They're all considered good pitchers. Eickhoff's numbers compare nicely.
The right-hander was remarkably consistent in 2016. After his fifth start, his ERA never went below 3.36 or above 4.44.
At the end of the year, he had compiled 167 strikeouts, against 42 walks, 30 homers and 187 hits. He finished with a 4.15 FIP, a 1.130 WHIP, and per nine rates of 8.5 hits, 1.4 home runs, 1.9 walks and 7.6 whiffs. He ended up with a 3.5 WAR.

What to expect in 2017

If Eickhoff stays healthy, he should be able to top 200 innings. That would be a big deal for the Phillies, who haven't had a pitcher do that since AJ Burnett and Cole Hamels pulled it off in 2014.
Eickhoff has good command, so we probably won't see a huge spike in his walks, but it is unlikely he'll match his superb 2016 numbers of 1.9 walks per nine innings. His hits allowed probably won't change that much.
The area he could see a ton of improvement in is home runs allowed. Giving up 30 bombs in 33 starts isn't awful, but it's far from great.
If he can increase his innings to 205-210, but drop his home runs allowed to under 28, he'll likely have taken a next step in his career.
If he pulls off something like 208 innings of 8.8 hits, .9 homer runs and 2.0 walks per nine on 7.9 whiffs, the Phillies will have made out very well in the Hamels trade.