Wind: 0 m/h
Stephen Strasburg will finally return from the IL tomorrow.
We’ve long assumed that once that happened, Erick Fedde would be removed from the rotation, and at the moment he will be, since he was placed on the IL Wednesday.
But does that mean his role in the starting rotation is gone?
Fedde has seemingly been destined for the bullpen for the last two years, but there’s always been something – usually an injury to someone above him – that’s kept him in the rotation. He’s been viewed as a sufficient Band-Aid, but one who had a 50-50 chance to pan out long term, despite being a former first-round draft selection.
This year has been different, though. Sure, an injury and an illness are what’s given him the initial opportunity, but he’s done something with it this time.
His ERA, which sits at 4.35 through eight starts, is very similar to where it’s been for the past few seasons. The difference, however, is his dominance from hitter to hitter. The batting average he has surrendered (.217) is 52 points lower than his career average, and his strikeout rate has nearly doubled compared to 2019 and 2020.
Fedde has generally been decent in terms of run prevention, but he often left everyone sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting for an implosion. That fear for the worst has virtually disappeared this season.
Aside from his first start of the year, Fedde has only allowed more than three runs in one appearance, and he hasn’t given up more than five hits nor three walks in any of them.
Perhaps the most pleasant sign is that he’s going deeper into games. He lasted five innings or fewer in five of his eight starts in 2020, while also briefly being demoted to the bullpen – even without Strasburg. This year (again, aside from his first start), he’s stayed in the game for at least four and two-thirds all seven times, at least five innings in his last six appearances, and seven innings on Sunday.
Not only is this the best Fedde has looked in the major leagues; it’s also the most confidence Dave Martinez has ever shown in him. That certainly bodes well for him and his odds to stick in the rotation.
Conversely, Joe Ross has taken a step back recently. Although he looked great early in the year, he’s allowed 12 runs in his last two starts (including Thursday’s loss to the Cubs) and hasn’t gotten through six innings since April 24 – almost a month ago. Oh by the way, his start prior to that was the 10-run dud against the Cardinals.
There’s nothing overwhelmingly apparent that has gotten worse, except Ross’ command has gotten spottier. He isn’t walking more batters, but he’s hit a couple, and his pitches have been more elevated in the strike zone – which leads to them getting hit harder, more frequently, and with more elevation, as often happens to pitchers who don’t have elite velocity or a wide arsenal of pitch types.
So, when Erick Fedde returns from the IL, should he keep his job over Ross?
If you had asked this question at any point before now, the answer would’ve been a pretty adamant “no.” But now, it might actually be the smart call.
The tricky part to consider is the reason why Fedde was placed on the IL: a positive COVID-19 test. He is reportedly asymptomatic and has been vaccinated, but it’s a rare situation with no clear answer as to how quickly he’ll recover.
Davey’s shown confidence in Fedde when things have gone well this year, but he’s historically been very cautious with him when adversity has struck.
We’re about to see whether that’s changed.