Star of the Game – Scott Feldman – .271 (WPA)
by Holden Clark
Scott Feldman earns this one with his work horse effort today. Although his peripheral stats suggest he is just getting lucky, when watching him pitch you can see a man that is doing a great job of making his pitches. Stats in baseball are interesting; everyone assumes that you will regress back to the mean. In Feldman’s case he is “due” for a regression. Yet, as he showed again today, his stuff continues to keep his head above the proverbial waters.
A lot of stat heads will tell you that baseball is a game of cycles. Yes a particular pitcher or batter is seemingly dominating, but wait; he’ll come back down to earth. On the other side of the argument you have the fan boy (I am admittedly one) who watches the game through “holy crap” goggles. With the two views seemingly at odds, we find Scott Feldman standing on the corner of the crossroads at an early point in the season.
Watching Feldman pitch today it was rare to see him labor through any batters. He got in to a couple jams but never appeared to shake from his confidence or command. Scattering seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, Feldman didn’t give up an earned run. He struck out six and walked one in the game. His current advanced statistics suggest he has been good but not great, with a FIP of 4.33 on a BABIP .218. Yet, to the untrained eye he has been dominant of late.
So, did Feldman just figure something out and become an excellent starter by simply flipping a switch? Did he finally live up to the dominant pitcher that his ominous frame on the mound would suggest? I’m not sure that he flipped a switch but he has been getting harder breaks on his breaking balls and more life on his fastball. He has had more control and more confidence. Simply stated, he has taken the ball with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he deserves a spot in a pretty darn good Chicago Cubs starting rotation. He was not going to the pen for anybody, there was never even the suggestion he be booted.
So as I watched the game with my “holy crap” goggles on, I began to wonder if we were going to see this the rest of the season. I know the stats say he will come back to earth, but when you watch you can see it. I am fairly confident I loathe the next word I am about to use to describe his presence more than anybody. He appears, on the mound (and at the plate as shown by him breaking down that back leg and digging a low pitch out and hammering it for a double), that the man has gone to the store and bought himself some “swag”. I apologize to everyone for using that term. I was going to go with mojo but I didn’t think that was an accurate description.
The confidence is coming from building on the last great start, using the same stuff, and having the respect and confidence of a team that assured him he wouldn’t be looking over his shoulder when it came to a spot in the staff. So is that what built it up, Theo and Jed promising Scott that he was going to get his spot in the rotation if he signed with the Cubs? After his first few “meh” starts and he continued to get the ball, did he settle into his role and pitch up to his ability? Is he going to regress?
Who cares! The guy is on fire. The guy is pitching with confidence. Regardless if the stats say one thing or the other, right now the holy crap meter says it’s time to celebrate another raising of the “W” flag. He is building confidence across the board, just like Travis Wood whose peripherals say he has been more lucky than good. Right now, those advance stats don’t matter because both are pitching great and winning ball games.