Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Monday, December 18, 2006

Rotation Thoughts, Part II: Adam Eaton 

Along with Freddy Garcia, the subject of tomorrow’s post, Adam Eaton is the Phillies major acquisition of this off-season. As everyone who has watched the Phillies over the last several seasons has probably sensed, this team needs some help with its starting pitching. Eric Milton, lord of the two-run home run, was not the answer. Ryan Franklin, lord of the three-run home run, was not the answer. To bolster the rotation the Phillies have made some hard choices, choosing to allow Randy Wolf to walk to the Dodgers rather than re-sign with the Phillies, and making deals to acquire guys like Garica and Eaton. Is Eaton the answer? What are the Phillies getting with Eaton?

For $24 million dollars over three years the Phillies are either getting an experienced starter with a nice track record of success, or they are getting a total dud of a pitcher.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
HR/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

There isn’t a whole lot of recent data for us to consider. Eaton only hurled 65 innings for the Rangers in 2006. Here is how he did:

ERA: 5.12
FIP: 5.43
HR/9: 1.52
BB/9: 3.32
K/9: 5.95

Naturally Adam Eaton wasn’t 100% that season, so these numbers are a little off in terms of what his talent level is. Eaton threw just 128 & 1/3 innings in 2005, but he threw 199 in 2004. Check out his stats from ’04 & ’05:

2004 / 2005
ERA: 4.61 / 4.27
FIP: 4.12 / 3.84
HR/9: 1.26 / 0.98
BB/9: 2.34 / 3.07
K/9: 6.91 / 6.99

The wildly differing home run rates from ’04 & ’05 as compared to ‘06 are probably a product of the differences between Petco Field in San Diego and the Ballpark at Arlington, the former being a pitchers paradise and the latter a pitchers nightmare. So evaluating Eaton is a little tricky. Will the Phillies get the guy who gave up eleven home runs in 65 innings with the Rangers? Or the guy who gave up just fourteen in 128+ innings with the Padres in 2005?

I frankly don’t know. As I looked through Eaton’s stats it struck me that he’s generally done an o.k. job at not surrendering home runs, even prior to 2004 when the Padres moved into Petco Park. He’s a bit of a strikeout artist and reminds me a lot of Brett Myers, whom he’ll be joining in the Phillies rotation. I like that the Phillies are replacing guys who controlled the game with off-speed stuff with guys who get strikeouts like Eaton: the fewer balls the Phillies pitching staff allows to be put into play, the better. The Phillies defense suffered a breakdown in 2006 and Citizens is unforgiving to pitchers who make mistakes.

Of course, Eaton has never thrown 200+ innings in a season. In his seven major league seasons he threw 140+ innings just twice (183 in 2003, and 199 in 2004). So durability is a concern.

Another concern is Eaton’s groundball/flyball ratio. In order for the Phillies to succeed they need groundball-oriented pitchers who don’t issue free walks in order to survive at Citizens Bank Ballpark. I’m not sure Eaton is a good fit for those needs:

G/F ratio
2003: 1.26
2004: 0.89
2005: 1.13
2006: 0.98

I’m not saying that Eaton will be Eric Milton, The Sequel, but he could get lit up.

I think Eaton will be a good starter for the Phillies, but a wildcard at times. I don’t think he’ll be as dominant as Cole Hamels or Myers, but he’s got good stuff and will help the Phillies out by getting strikeouts and keeping runners off base. I look at Eaton’s signing as a positive move and definitely a decision that upgraded the Phillies rotation. Tomorrow we’ll talk a little about Freddy Garcia.

Scope out The Bird Blog today for my thoughts on the Eagles-Giants game.

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