The Orioles' first trade of 2013 (well, their first important trade -- sorry, Eric Thames) has come and gone, and the fans have gone through their stages of shock, followed by exultation and/or grief, and now, newcomer Scott Feldman will take the hill for the Orioles tonight. But even though 2013 is Feldman's ninth major league season, he's not exactly a household name. So I thought I'd take a few minutes to organize some thoughts about Feldman for all of the Orioles fans who are just getting to know him, so that you can all impress/bore/annoy anyone who will listen to you dropping baseball knowledge at your Independence Day parties.
Scott Feldman's results alternate each year. If you take a simple look at the ERA+ stat, which weights ERA for parks, leagues and quality of opposition, Feldman has switched between below average and above average every year since 2008 (though one of those years, 2011, only saw him pitch 32 major league innings). The good news is that 2013 is a "good" year within this pattern, and Feldman so far this year has pitched to a 114 ERA+, good for a 7-6 record (even with lousy run support from a poor-hitting Cubs team) with a 3.46 ERA.
Scott Feldman is a good clubhouse pickup. Even though Feldman pitched for the Cubs this year, he came up in the Texas Rangers organization. If you haven't noticed, the Orioles have accumulated a lot of ex-Rangers now, and Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day and Taylor Teagarden all played alongside Feldman in his time there. According to Dan Connolly at the Sun, O'Day was even a groomsman at Feldman's wedding. Clubhouse chemistry is completely unquantifiable, but that doesn't make it worthless. The 2013 Orioles are a club who seem to genuinely like one another, and Feldman is a known quantity who won't tip that applecart.
Scott Feldman loves to induce groundballs. The major-league average groundball percentage for starters in 2013 so far is 45%. The Orioles' starters are at a rather lousy 39.3%. Feldman comes over with an outstanding 50.7% clip this year, and a 46.9% career rate even if he regresses a bit. This plays to the team's strengths, with outstanding infield defense that's well above league average by any measure. Anything that feeds more plays to Manny Machado is good by me.
Scott Feldman could easily be this year's Joe Saunders. Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter probably hoped to get five starters who were at least league-average from this year's pool. And scrap-heap pickups like Freddy Garcia and Jair Jurrjens were supposed to be the insurance policy. Unfortunately, that plan hasn't worked out at all, and now they're going to look to Feldman to provide stable, third-starter-like production. Give up a few earned runs each time out, don't expect dominance, but don't get shelled, either. Feldman hasn't given up more than 5 ER all year, and he hasn't gone less than 5 IP since mid-April.
Scott Feldman doesn't dig the longball. Again, Orioles starters are woefully awful relative to the rest of the league in terms of coughing up homers. MLB starters are currently giving up 1.06 HR/9, whereas Orioles starters are at an alarming 1.57 HR/9. Scott Feldman is having an outstanding 2013 in this regard, at 0.99 HR/9, not far out of line with his career rate of 1.01.
Scott Feldman might regress a little bit. 2013 is Scott Feldman's first year in the NL, and it may be no coincidence that it's been one of his best in many regards. The move from the NL Central to the AL East may bump Feldman's ERA a little bit, so if you're expecting him to maintain his exact performance from the Cubs, you may be disappointed. His BABIP is also pretty low so far, at .255. But there's no reason to believe he'll fall apart; it's still reasonable to expect him to turn in plenty of quality starts, even if there are more 3 ER starts instead of 2 ER starts, and maybe a few more balls find their way over the fence at Camden Yards instead of Wrigley Field.
If you can't tell, overall I'm pleased with the Orioles' acquisition of Feldman. The starting pitching this year hasn't panned out into five guys who are at least consistently average, and consistently average is exactly what Feldman has been for the most part. Feldman looks like a guy who can gel with the rest of the roster quickly and give this team a chance to win more often than not with the offense firing the way it has been. Considering that he's really taking innings away from Garcia, Jurrjens or Zach Britton, and that every game counts in this tight AL East playoff picture, I, for one, welcome our new Hawaiian mid-rotation starter.