Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/15/14
Brandon McCarthy is a popular guy in sabermetric circles. He’s a good pitcher who reads FanGraphs and looks at PITCHF/x data, and in his spare time, interacts with fans on Twitter. McCarthy’s also a free agent this winter, and his ability to throw strikes and get hitters out is going to make him a popular guy with teams looking to upgrade their rotation as well. Outbidding everyone for the popular guy doesn’t always lead to great results, though, and there are teams who will be looking for a rotation upgrade who won’t be able to afford McCarthy. So, to those teams, I present Scott Feldman, a free agent starter with none of the publicity who might be able to do a pretty decent impression of McCarthy next year. While McCarthy’s had a lot more success than Feldman, the two are probably more similar than you might think. Let’s start with their pitch types, and because McCarthy overhauled his repertoire in 2011, we’ll focus on just the last two seasons. Name FB% FBv CT% CTv CB% CBv Scott Feldman 34% 92 32% 90 22% 77 Brandon McCarthy 41% 91 38% 90 18% 80 Those are their pitch classifications from just their starts, by the way – Feldman’s also worked out of the bullpen, but I’m excluding those outings because that’s a totally different animal, and we’re only concerned with Feldman as a starter going forward. As you can see, they’re both fastball/cutter/curveball pitchers, and according to the breakdowns at Brooks Baseball, both throw mostly two-seam fastballs. Feldman throws it almost exclusively, while McCarthy will use his four seam fastball when he’s behind in the count and wants to get a strike, but primarily pitches with his sinker and cutter. Feldman throws his fastball slightly harder and his curve slightly slower, but for the most part, they’re similar in velocity as well. This sinker/cutter/curve skillset is notable because it features two pitches that are generally effective against opposite-handed hitters. The cutter and the curve are both pretty good weapons to combat against large platoon splits, while the two-seam fastball is very effective against same-handed hitters. We’d expect pitchers with this kind of pitch-mix to post fairly neutral platoon splits, and indeed, that’s exactly what we see. McCarthy’s wOBA vs LHBs was 11% higher than his mark against RHBs, but Feldman actually posted a reverse platoon split of the same size – he was 11% better against lefties than righties. Given the sample sizes, you shouldn’t expect Feldman to continue posting a reverse platoon split, but this pitch mix does show that he can be effective against hitters from both sides of the plate. Of course, just having the same repertoire doesn’t mean that they’re the same pitcher, so let’s shift over to the results side of things, starting with plate discipline numbers. Same deal as above; 2011-2012 data, relief appearances excluded. Name O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% Feldman 30% 61% 48% 71% 89% 84% 58% McCarthy 28% 60% 44% 67% 90% 83% 50% McCarthy’s been in the strike zone more often, which has resulted in more swings, but other than that, pretty similar across the board. Both are contacted oriented pitchers, but since Feldman lives out of the zone a little more, we’d expect his walk rate to be a little higher. And that’s exactly what we see when we look at the core outcomes data. Name BB% K% GB% Scott Feldman 6% 17% 45% Brandon McCarthy 4% 17% 44% A better walk rate with the same strikeout and same groundball rate makes McCarthy a better pitcher, but we also have to keep each pitcher’s environment in mind. McCarthy spent the last two years in pitcher-friendly Oakland, knowing that he could get away with catching too much of the plate and the park might bail him out. Feldman, on the other hand, had to deal with the heat and humidity in Texas, where the ball absolutely flies in the summer months. Oakland also has the vast expanse of foul territory, which leads to more in-play outs on pop-ups, which can be a significant benefit to a pitcher. So, while Feldman didn’t live in the zone as often as McCarthy, their approaches might have been different had they switched home parks. While the samples are too small to draw any conclusions from the data, here’s how opposing hitters did against McCarthy and Feldman on the road the last two seasons. Name AVG OBP SLG wOBA Brandon McCarthy 0.262 0.300 0.421 0.311 Scott Feldman 0.253 0.315 0.363 0.299 McCarthy posted a 5.6% HR/FB rate in Oakland, while Feldman ran a 13.4% HR/FB rate in Texas. On the road, it was 8.4% for McCarthy and 8.5% for Feldman. You don’t want to assume that a player’s road performance is his true park neutral level, but it’s worth noting that park factors are probably a pretty big deal in this comparison. Of course, if Feldman was perceived to be similar to McCarthy in all these areas, his price would be a lot higher, and I wouldn’t be able to call him a “poor man’s” anything. So, why is Feldman’s price likely to be deflated this winter? Simple – he’s been absolutely atrocious at stranding runners the last couple of years. Since the start of the 2011 season, Feldman has made 23 starts. In those 23 starts, he’s posted a LOB% of just 59.8%. Of the 190 starters who have thrown 100 or more innings over the last two years, that LOB% ranks 189th – only Tim Wakefield has been worse at allowing runners on base to come home. As you’re probably aware, LOB% isn’t very predictive from one year to the next, with just a .18 year-to-year correlation over the last decade. LOB% is determined in part by how good a pitcher is — a bad pitcher will allow more hits with men on base than a good pitcher, because he’s more likely to allow hits in general — but Feldman is a clear outlier in terms of his context-neutral performance and his strand rate. Feldman’s never stranded a ton of runners — his career LOB% was 68.1% through 2010 — but part of his early career struggles were related to the fact that he wasn’t a very good pitcher. His 4.73 ERA/4.70 FIP/4.71 xFIP over his first 78 starts show that his results were more bad pitching than bad luck. Over the last couple of years, however, Feldman’s peripherals have gotten a lot better while his strand rate has gotten a lot worse. If you’re betting on one of those two to continue in the future, you’re better off betting on his improvements in BB/K than his decline in LOB%. In a vacuum, you’d definitely prefer McCarthy to Feldman. His track record of success is longer, he’s shown better command, and his improvements after overhauling his repertoire led to solid results in terms of run prevention. With Feldman, you’re betting on regression to the mean and hoping that he’s able to carry a starter’s workload without wearing down. However, Feldman’s going to come at a much lower price than McCarthy, and most of the markers that project future performance suggest that Feldman’s not that far off from McCarthy in terms of talent. He’s the kind of pitcher you can almost certainly land on a one year deal, and in a better environment for a pitcher, Feldman may very well thrive. He’s not likely to develop into an ace, but for a team looking for value at the back end of their rotation, Feldman might be one of the best buys on the market.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Tim Tebow agrees to terms with Eagles

Report: Tyreke Evans a game-time decision for Game 2

Phillies GM: Asking price for Cole Hamels has not dropped

Could Ohio State really use all three quarterbacks?

Report: Florida CB arrested following armed robbery

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Celtics looking to make LeBron's life difficult in playoff series

WATCH: Luke Rockhold chokes out Lyoto Machida

WATCH: Masai Ujiri fires up Raptors fans with expletive

Andre Johnson: Signing with Colts not about revenge

Pete Rose joining FOX as baseball analyst

Josh Hamilton filed for divorce around time of relapse

WATCH: Royals-A's game filled with more ejections

WATCH: David Ortiz ejected for arguing over check swing

WATCH: The trailer for the new Allen Iverson documentary

WATCH: Jon Lester flips glove to first for out

Scout compares Mookie Betts to Deion Sanders

WATCH: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. tells his corner to stop fight

Mets pitcher Alex Torres wears massive protective hat

Report: Todd Gurley's knee checks out well in evaluation

WATCH: All 286 3-pointers Steph Curry made this season

WATCH: Devan Dubnyk makes great save while leaving net

Sabres GM not happy about losing draft lottery

Yordano Ventura ejected for plunking Brett Lawrie

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Royals-A's game gets heated again

Report: Tim Tebow signing with Eagles

David Ortiz ejected, throws tantrum

WATCH: Allen Iverson's documentary trailer

Alex Torres wears protective hat

Josh Hamilton filed for divorce from wife

Report: McHenry's coworkers want her fired

WATCH: Raptors fans taunt Paul Pierce

Five things to watch in NBA Playoffs

Jarret Stoll busted for drugs

CJ Wilson: Hamilton is 'ready to go'

Leaked Clippers jersey redesigns

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.