Heading into the 2012 season there were three pitchers that were headed to the starting rotation after spending the 2011 season in the bullpen. Those pitchers are Neftali Feliz, Chris Sale and Daniel Bard. The results have come with mixed success. One of the pitchers has been dominant, striking out 25% of the batters that he’s faced, one has had control problems, and the other has gotten extremely lucky.
When C.J. Wilson left to go to the Los Angeles Angeles, the Texas Rangers were in need of a number one pitcher. It was no secret that they would be one of the serious contenders for Japanese sensation Yu Darvish, and eventually get him, but in the past they had played with the possibility of moving Neftali Feliz to the starting rotation.
Ever since Neftali Feliz’s rookie year in 2009 his stats across the board have slowly been decreasing. In 20 innings in 2009 Feliz struck out 33% of the batters he faced, and walked less than 7% of the batters he faced. He looked like he would be a dominant reliever, and being a solid starter in the minors he also had the chance to succeed in the rotation if a spot ever opened up.
In 2012 he finally got his chance to show what he can do as a major league starter. In short, he hasn’t lived up to expectations. His command has continued to be a problem, he’s walking 14% of the batters that he’s faced, while striking out 17%, slightly below average. He does have an 89 ERA-, which looks good at first, but if we look at his FIP-, and xFIP- we can see that he’s not as good as he appears. His FIP- is 123, meaning his FIP is 23% worse than league average. His 125 xFIP- doesn’t predicts that Feliz should see a spike in his ERA eventually.
The Rangers will most likely give Feliz a pretty long leash, but if ERA ever reached the 4.8-5 zone then they may decide to remove Feliz from the rotation, and give Scott Feldman or even Alexi Ogando a chance.
The Boston Red Sox also decided to move relief pitcher, Daniel Bard, into the rotation. Before joining the rotation Daniel Bard was one of the better relievers in baseball. During his time in the bullpen he struck out over 25% of the batters he faced, while doing a good job limiting walks.
After a few starts in the majors he’s had a couple of noticeable struggles. Like Feliz, Bard is also struggling with the decreasing strikeouts. Bard has always walked roughly 10% of batters that he’s faced, but this year he’s seen his strikeout percentage drop from around 25%, all the way to 17%. One factor could be that he isn’t using his fastball as often as he should. So far this year he’s using it 53%, compared to previously using it between 67-72% while in the bullpen. His FIP- is solid, 83, but his 112 xFIP leads us to believe that there are some struggles around the corner.
The Red Sox need Bard to be a reliable starter, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz have been off to slow starts, and John Lackey had off-season elbow surgery. If needed Aaron Cook could be called up, but the Red Sox will give Bard every chance to remain in the rotation.
Our third and final player we will look at is Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. Sale was taken in the first round of the 2010 draft, and made his debut that same year. In 23 innings that year he was extremely impressive.
In five starts so far this season Chris Sale has been everything that White Sox expected and more. He’s striking out less batters, but his control is much better, walking 6% of batters he faces. He had a little trouble with home runs in 2010 and 2011, but so far this year his HR/FB% is 6.5%. Another positive sign is that even with a 67 ERA-, his xFIP- is 81. Even if he regresses a little, he still looks like he could be a dominant starting pitcher.
With Mark Buehrle leaving in the off-season Chris Sale will have to do his part to help the White Sox’s rotation remain one of the best in baseball.