Perhaps the conclusion of this title is as self-evident as it gets after his last game.
Gavin Floyd’s particularly cruddy start Friday to blow an early 4-run lead was like a shot in the back to a White Sox squad that felt blessed to have accumulated 5 runs as is. Will Ohman returned the favor by throwing a 3-run HR to Luke Hughes to boost Floyd’s earned run total on the night, but it would hard to argue that Gavin didn’t deserve it. In his last 7 starts, beyond the the ERA over 6.00, Gavin has averaged just 4.99 K/9 IP. There have been a lot of weak-contact guys that have succeeded at such a rate, but something makes me feel like Gavin Floyd isn’t up for making a Freddy Garcia-like switch in approach just yet.
If you scroll through the White Sox uh…web-o-sphere? The suggested causes for Gavin’s struggles are everywhere. Because Sox fans like fixing things…or just diagnosing things. Therefore I think I can reasonably conclude that I am the only White Sox fan who is neither a doctor nor a building superintendent. Anyway, the possible explanations.
-He’s a mental midget
-He’s got no heeaaaarrttt!
-He’s tipping his pitches
-Opponents don’t respect his ability to throwing his breaking stuff for a strike
If I could offer a theory about why Floyd is not viewed as being mentally tough, it’d be centered around his fastball. Floyd relies predominantly on a feel for his curveball and his cutter/slider (it keeps changing classification). If he doesn’t have his ‘good stuff”, he’s kind of hopeless out there. Floyd’s straight heater doesn’t quite scream “hit me”, but it at least whispers it, and most major league hitters are open to suggestion of a pitch that’s been rated as below average every year of his career. So it’s hard for Gavin to power through off-nights, which lends itself to the perception that he falls to pieces when he’s in trouble. He managed to drag through a rough night just last week in Colorado, where he went 7 IP, gave up two earned, and didn’t have a strikeout. So there.
The perception that he made be tipping his pitches comes from the likes of Luke Hughes and Rene Tosoni (not known for hitting brilliance) laying of a few snapping curveballs while behind in the count in crucial at-bats on Friday night. That’s pretty curious behavior, and would seem unique to the Twins given that Floyd struck out 8 batters in his previous outing.
The Twinkies only offered at a 1/3 of Floyd’s curves, but that’s only down 5.6% from how often his curves have been swung at since the start of 2009. A bigger difference is that since 2009, Floyd has thrown his curve for a strike 56.3% of the time, but only landed 5 of 12 on Friday. While Gavin was certainly off on Friday and there’s a good chance that weak hitters like Tosoni and Hughes were instructed to err on the side of caution, any advance scouting reports on Floyd concerning his recent troublesome stretch would have told them that the strike and whiff rates for all of Floyd’s offerings were either normal or above-average. I’d say this is all pretty inconclusive.
Which brings the discourse to speculation of Floyd’s makeup, because there’s no smoking gun as to why he’s getting knocked around of recent to dismiss all the forays into amateur psychology people take with Gavin (Also, because he’s always making this face in the dugout). Just like with Alexei Ramirez, when Floyd avoided the slow start that plagued him his past two seasons, there was optimism that he could have a career year, and now it’s beginning to appear that the real trends were the slump themselves, and not the timing of them.
Floyd has, and just might continue to be a streaky guy, capable of mimicking Cy Young for months in a row, and capable of looking adrift against meager lineups at other times…which tends to average out to 190-200 IP, with an ERA in 3.80-4.10 range. It might not be what we dream of, but it’s damn fine work for his contract, even if the lulls–like this one–aren’t fun.