Great things were expected of Gavin Floyd when the Philadelphia Phillies popped him with the fourth overall selection in the 2001 amateur draft. A strapping 6-5, 230 pounder, Floyd showcased mid-90’s heat while dominating the competition at Mount Saint Joseph High in Baltimore.
Floyd performed fairly well as he moved up the organizational ladder, punching out about seven batters per nine innings and issuing around 3 BB/9. However, he failed to impress in three different trials with the Phillies from 2004 to 2006. In 108.2 combined innings, Floyd allowed 90 runs and 20 home runs, and he appeared to be stagnating at AAA as well. He posted a grisly 6.36 RA at Scranton during that three-year period, with 7.1 K/9 and 4 BB/9.
The Phillies jumped at the opportunity to convert the club’s disappointing prospect into a proven and productive commodity, shipping Floyd and southpaw Gio Gonzalez to the Chicago White Sox for right-hander Freddy Garcia in December of 2006.
Neither team got much of a major-league return on the trade in 2007, as Garcia’s shoulder gave out and Floyd posted a 5.27 ERA in 70 innings for the White Sox, serving up an incredible 17 long balls. However, 2008 brought much improved results for the Sox and Floyd, as the big righty tossed 206.1 frames, posting a 3.84 ERA and 17 wins. So, has the soon-to-be 26 year-old finally broken out, making good on those lofty expectations that led to a $4.2 million bonus from the Fightin’ Phils back in ’01?
Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons to think that Floyd’s 2008 campaign was more the product of good fortune than great pitching. Floyd’s ERA was a shiny 3.84, but he surrendered 19 unearned runs- pitchers bear some responsibility for those tallies as well. His strikeout rate was pretty ordinary, as he punched out 6.32 batters per nine innings, while serving out 3.05 free passes per nine. With a 2.07 K/BB ratio that was actually below the 2.12 AL average, Floyd’s Fielding Independent ERA (FIP) was a mundane 4.77. The 0.93 run difference between his ERA and FIP was the fifth-largest among all starters. Floyd’s .268 BABIP is going to rise, and with it, so will his ERA.
While Floyd’s 91 MPH heater, mid-80’s slider, high-70’s curve and low-80’s change worked pretty well against right-handed batters (.226/.279/.380), he continued to surrendered hits aplenty to southpaws (.259/.340/.485). In his major league career, Gavin has been pummeled by lefties to the tune of a .280/.364/.515 line. Floyd’s diverse repertoire (a five-pitch mix when you include his four-seam fastball and sinker) gives him plenty of weapons to go after righties, with a couple of different breaking balls at his disposal. However, those breakers don’t work near as well moving down and in to lefties, and Floyd has always been reticent to throw his changeup (6 percent of the time during his career).
In addition to his issues with left-handers, there’s also the matter of Floyd being a flyball pitcher (41.2 GB% in ’08) in a park that harshly penalizes such tendencies. According to the 2009 Bill James Handbook, U.S. Cellular Field has increased HR production by 28 percent over the past three seasons. Even with a league average HR/FB rate last season (11.8%), Floyd coughed up 30 long balls, or 1.31 per nine innings. Flyball pitcher + The Cell = fireworks.
Floyd’s prospect pedigree, superficial improvement in ERA and big win total might trick some people into believing that he has taken major strides toward becoming an ace-level starter. However, there just isn’t any evidence to suggest that’s really the case. Floyd is worth selecting in the later portion of most drafts, but don’t be the guy that takes him really high and then spends the season wondering why his ERA went up by a run.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at email@example.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.