UPDATE: Never mind...
Check those time stamps. 1:20 on the article, 1:22 on the tweet. Guys, I just don't know sometimes...
To survive in Fenway Park, a pitcher needs to do one of two things. They can either strike a lot of batters out, or they can induce a lot of ground balls.
To be fair, this is true of pitchers in general. Those who give up fly balls give up homers and don't get the benefit of double plays. Those who don't strike batters out run the risk of a hit with every ball in play. These are not the ingredients for success. But Fenway is a unique beast, and the Monster makes it uniquely difficult to get by in this town without these core elements of a successful pitcher.
So how do you find a potential trade target for the Red Sox? Well, high-strikeout pitchers tend to be pretty high-profile as is. You don't need me to tell you that Felix Hernandez would be a great addition to this rotation, or any other for that matter (no, Felix Hernandez is not being traded), and you don't need me to tell you that the cost of that sort of player is, generally speaking, prohibitively high. Maybe the Red Sox do trade for Cliff Lee, for instance, but it's entirely likely that no agreement can be reached.
In that case, the key is to be on the lookout for the other type of pitcher. The ground ball pitcher. For our purposes this year, the Scott Feldman.
Photo Credit: Mike McGinnis
It's taken Feldman a long while to really find his place in the major leagues. He's bounced back and forth between success and mediocrity. At the earliest, we can trace his "arrival" back to 32 decent decent innings in 2011. And, rankly, when you consider that he proceeded to put up a 5.09 ERA in 123 innings of work for the Rangers in 2012, well, it makes it even harder to really say that Feldman has been successful for more than the first 91 innings of his 2013 season, during which time he's put up and ERA of 3.46 with the cubs.
However, there is more to this story. For one thing, there's the 61% strand rate and 3.87 xFIP in 2012, which leaves his last three years looking largely consistent peripherally-speaking. There is a fairly clear difference between the pre-2011 Feldman and the Feldman of today, who has increased strikeout rates and slightly lower walk rates. The key: mixing in a cutter with his sinker.
As you might expect from a pitcher who relies heavily on a sinker, Feldman gets his fair share of ground balls. He's at 50.7% on the season, and his career total of 46.9% is above average. It's also worth noting that his home run rates have never been out of control despite pitching in Arlington for much of his career. That would suggest that he's the type of pitcher who can handle Fenway without falling apart.
The question is: at what price. The Cubs know they have a decent commodity on their hands here in Feldman, but they also might be tempted to get what they can out of him. After all, Feldman's contract runs out at year's end, meaning the Cubs would have to extend Feldman a qualifying offer, and some team would have to forfeit a draft pick for them to get anything out of losing him in free agency. We saw this past winter that teams were reluctant to do that, with Kyle Lohse nearly winding up on the scrap heap.
Only the Cubs know what their internal arithmetic looks like. Only the Cubs know if they feel comfortable making that qualifying offer, or if they feel comfortable taking the risk of getting nothing come the offseason. But there's a good chance that Feldman is going to be that quietly affordable option flying under the radar as clubs focus on the likes of Cliff Lee, and even Chicago's own Matt Garza. The Doug Fister option, if not quite so extreme.
Hopefully if that does prove to be the case, the Sox won't let the opportunity pass them by this time.
Read more Red Sox:
- Is Boston's bullpen overused? Or are we all just crazy?
- Red Sox scouting Matt Garza before trade deadline
- Red Sox trade targets: Cheap relievers
- The Celtics, the Red Sox, and two franchise-saving trades
- John Lackey finally living up to his contract