FanPost

Anatomy of a Pitcher: Dana Eveland

Hello, this may be a bit of a cheap plug but I have a new blog up and today's article I profiled Dana Eveland and his great start to the season using PITCHFX data and some other stats. I thought it was interesting and hoped some of you might too. Since I'm an NRAF I've only seen one of Eveland's starts so the data is all I really have to go off of.

Any criticisms/comments are welcome and appreciated.

Thanks for your time.

http://oakas.blogspot.com/

Where Did He Come From?

Eveland was selected in the 16th round of the 2002 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers and signed a year later. After two years of starting in the minors the Brewers called up Smith in 2005 as a 21 year old and put him in the bullpen with not much success, posting a 5.97 ERA in 27 appearances.

He would be called up again in 2006, making 9 appearances and 5 starts but posting a 8.13 ERA. He was then sent in the 2006 offseason to the Arizona Diamondbacks as a minor piece of the Doug Davis-Johnny Estrada trade. He would only make 5 appearances for the Diamondbacks that year with a 14.40 ERA.

Eveland was then traded to Oakland as one the 6 players received in the Dan Haren trade (some would argue the sixth best) and was promptly inserted as the A's fifth starter this season.

 

What Do The Stats Say?

Statheads have always been enamored with Eveland's strikeout potential. He posted an insane 14.19 K/9 (strikeouts per 9 innings) as a 19 year old in 26 innings of rookie ball. He followed that up the next year with a 9.13 K/9 in A ball, and over his minor league career has posted an excellent 8.84 K/9. He also kept his walks down to 2.77 per 9 over his minor league career for a great 3.2 K:BB. In fact, taking a look at Eveland's career minor league line (413.2 IP, 2.61 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 403 K) one wonders why he hasn't been given more of a real shot until now.

While Eveland hasn't matched those impressive numbers in the majors this season, he has done fairly well, 6.65 K/9 (6.27 league average), 3.80 BB/9 (3.43), 7.42 H/9 (8.87). While most of these numbers are close to league average, Eveland's 3.23 ERA (4.15) is certainly not. Why is that the case?

 

Is He Lucky?

The first thing that probably pops into most people's minds after seeing his prior MLB history is that Eveland must be incredibly lucky so far this year. Looking at his rate statistics we can see that while he has been somewhat lucky in regards to his flyballs he's actually pitching very well.

One of the quick stats to highlight a pitcher's luckiness is his Fielding Independent ERA (FIP). This stat is based solely on a pitchers BB, K, and HR rates, which many consider the only stats a pitcher has true control over. Eveland's FIP is 3.51, which is a +.31 difference from his ERA. While .31 is certainly a relevant number it is not an extremely large difference and even if his ERA matched his FIP he'd still be a top level pitcher.

The problem that FIP doesn't show is that Eveland's been very lucky in regards to his home run rate. He has only allowed 2 HR on the season and is sporting a 4.2% HR/FB (home runs per a fly ball), with league average being around 10%. Since at least 1 run scores per a HR this has the largest effect on Eveland's low ERA. Now to be fair to Eveland, he does have a 0.37 HR/9 in the minors, but he probably isn't this good at preventing home runs. Normalizing his HR rate to 10% would result in a 3 HR increase, and increase his ERA to at least 4.00.

 

How Does He Do It?

First a look at Eveland's pitch data (the cutters are probably data errors and can be discarded as far as I can tell)

Pitch

Movement in x (in.)

Movement in z (in.)

Average Speed (mph)

Fastball

7.77

8.2

90.99

Curveball

-5.92

-7.68

79.58

Slider

-6.86

-1.17

83.96

Changeup

12.04

7.7

83.64

 

Like most pitchers, Eveland relies primarily on his fastball which averages 91 mph. While not an overpowering pitch, his fastball has a good break on it, almost 8 inches into left handed batters. He then favors his slider, throwing it 17% of the time. With a similar break to his fastball in the opposite direction, it is a good pitch to keep hitters off balance. His repertoire also features a curve and a change. Since the curve moves a similar amount in on right handed batters yet half a foot lower, hitters may have a hard time picking up the difference between the two. He actually hasn't thrown the changeup to a left handed batter (LHB) yet, maybe because it moves a whole foot to the left, probably too close to hitting a LHB. With about a 7 mph difference between his fastball and his change Eveland can keep righties off balance.

 

So Who Is He Really?

Clearly, Eveland is not a low #1 starter as his ERA currently shows. But he isn't a AAAA pitcher either. He's probably better than his weighted mean PECOTA projection, and I don't think he's the 54% groundball pitcher PECOTA says he is (though he probably isn't as low as his 46% currently is). I believe if he can increase his strikeout rate a bit and induce a few more groundballs while maintaining his walk and hit rates (I don't think this is too unreasonable), he'll end the year with an ERA somewhere in the 4.10-4.25 range.

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