Gavin Floyd coming into his own

As the Chicago White Sox continue their surge to the top of the AL Central, their staff is headlined by Mark Buehrle and Jake Peavy. But it’s one of their lesser known starters, Gavin Floyd, who is doing the heavy lifting in their very balanced rotation.

Ever since his first season in the Windy City back in 2007, Floyd has steadily improved each year. His K’s have trended up, his BB’s have trended down, his HR rate has gone down each season, and so has his FIP.

2008 was his first full season in Chicago and over 206 innings he had a 4.77 FIP, 4.56 xFIP, and 5.08 tERA to go along with a 6.32 K/9, 3.05 BB/9, and 1.31 HR/9. Not bad, but far from good- obviously surrendering 30 home runs doesn’t help any pitcher. In 2009, he threw 193 innings to the tune of a 3.77 FIP, 3.69 xFIP, 4.53 tERA, 7.60 K/9, 2.75 BB/9, and 0.98 HR/9. That is much better. He increased strike outs, walked less people, and allowed fewer home runs. When a pitcher does that, naturally they will have a better season. And in 103 innings this season, he has continued to get better.

His 7.47 K/9 and 2.78 BB/9 are consistent with 2009, but he has allowed even fewer long balls this season with a 0.61 HR/9. The result is a 3.37 FIP, 3.76 xFIP, and 3.62 tERA. For those keeping score, that’s three successive seasons where Floyd has lowered his FIP and tERA, while his xFIP has dropped more than half a run from 2008 to 2009 and 2010.

What’s the biggest difference for Floyd? The amount of fly balls he gives up. Back in 2008 when he was giving up a lot of homers, his FB% was 39.7%. That’s not exceptionally high, but his HR/FB% was 17.7%. Going back further, in 2007 his FB% was 40.9% and his HR/FB% was 19.7%. Ouch. In 2009 though, he lowered his FB% to 33.2% and naturally his HR/FB% dropped to 11.2%. This season his FB% is a career low 30.8% and his HR/FB is also a career low 7.3%. At the expense of fly balls, Floyd has got batters to hit more grounders the past two seasons (44.3% in 2009 and 51.3% in 2010), which can explain his solid numbers in 2009 and 2010.

Additionally, his uptick in K’s the past two years can be traced to the fact hitters make less contact off him. Back in 2008, his Contact% was 81.7%, but that number dropped to 77.8% in 2009 and 75.5% in 2010. The type of pitches that hitters were connecting on were pitches outside the zone, where Floyd gave up contact 62.3% of the time. In 2010 he gives up contact on pitches outside the zone 56.1% of the time.

The reason for Floyd’s emergence is clear- more strikeouts and less fly balls (and thus less homers). In other words, he has gotten better at the things a pitcher can control. When you do that, you’re going to become a good pitcher. And that is exactly what Floyd has become.

At just twenty-seven, Floyd is coming into his own. He might not be a shutdown ace- yet- but the White Sox have a very good pitcher entering his prime seasons.

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