Free Agent Target: Gavin Floyd

Gavin FloydIt’s that time of year again: the Baltimore Orioles are expressing an interest in free agent and hometown guy Gavin Floyd. The Mount St. Joe’s product is available after earning $9.5 million and receiving elbow surgery with the Chicago White Sox in 2013. Seeing a pitcher marked “30 years old, decent pitcher available for less than market value” screams Baltimore to everyone that has followed the team for a few years. Is Gavin Floyd the kind of guy we want to pick up for 2014 and beyond?

Discuss Gavin Floyd on the BSL Forums here.

Since 2013 was pretty much a wash in terms of statistics, predicting Floyd’s ability to contribute moving forward is a little tricky. He started just 5 games in 2013, pitching 24 and one-third innings to an ERA+ of 84 and a WHIP of 1.603. His well-below-average ERA+ for 2013 would be a career anomaly and Floyd would probably have regressed to something around 100, which is perfectly league average. He has an ERA+ of 99 in both 2012 and 2011, but the previous three years were all above 105 and as high as 119. Floyd has struck out about 7 batters per nine innings over his career, just above league average for starters.

Sticking with the theme, Floyd is pretty much average in all of his rate measurements. Over his career, Floyd has walked 7.6% of batters, but this number has been trending up over the last few seasons. He leaves a league-average percentage of men on base, but I’m sure would be glad to let that drop below average if it meant walking fewer players. He strikes out about 20% of batters which is above average, but not by much. The former Gael pitches to a career 20% LD%, which is – you guessed it – about league average.

In recent years, Floyd has maintained an above-average ground ball rate at just under 50% (league average is 44%), which is better than Matt Garza:
2009: 44.3%
2010: 49.9%
2011: 43.7%
2012: 47.2%
2013: 50.0%

That’s important for a pitcher entering Camden Yards and hoping to contribute. Floyd was also pitching in front of a White Sox defense that doesn’t measure up to the squad taking the field in Baltimore. Since 2011, Chicago’s AL team has clocked in at a whopping -63 defensive runs saved for an average of -21 runs saved per season and a UZR of -21.0. The Orioles defense saved a collective 17 runs in 2013 alone and posted a UZR of 39.9. Floyd’s ERA+, which is only park-adjusted and not defense-adjusted, might fare better in Baltimore than it did in Chicago, especially if he can maintain his decent ground ball rate.

Floyd’s FIP oscillates around 4.00 in most years and has usually been below his measured ERA, likely as a result of the poor defense lining up behind him. The Orioles defense has actually kept Tillman’s and Gonzalez’s ERAs below their FIPs for the past two years (noted in baseball history as years 1 and 2 After Machado) and kept Chen’s ERA below his FIP in 2013. Some might argue that this trend is due for regression, but the Orioles defense is one of the best in the league and seems prepared to continue playing as such, pending the return of Manny. Floyd has the potential to look very good as he goes from an incompetent defense to a very good one.

Floyd throws five pitches. Which five seem to be the subject of debate, since FanGraphs lists him as a two-seam, cutter, slider, curveball, and change-up pitcher, while Texas Leaguers shows four-seam, two-seam, cutter, curveball, and change-up. He has a tightly bunched release point, shown below for all pitches:

Release Point

via PitchF/X and Texas Leaguers

It’s difficult to tell which pitches are which in this graphic, which is exactly the way the pitcher wants it to be.

Since 2012, he has only thrown his change-up 5.2% of the time and this pitch all but disappears against righties. As a right-handed pitcher, the change-up is mostly useful against left-handed batters since it breaks away from them, and Floyd throws his change-up 7.8% of the time against lefties. I was particularly interested in this pitch because the Yankees continue stocking up on left-handed hitters and any tool that the Orioles can use against them is a plus. 60% of the time against lefties, Floyd’s change-up ends up being a strike. Batters whiffed on 7.4% of change-ups thrown, with another 20.6% being knocked foul. 20.6% of his change-ups resulted in a batted ball that entered play. Ignoring a disastrous 2011, Floyd’s change-up has worth about 1 run above average and I think it’s a pitch that would be worth a little more were he in Baltimore.

His fastball has maintained velocity over the course of his career:

fastball velocity

via PitchF/X and Texas Leaguers

Of course, having elbow surgery is a warning sign here. His fastballs already move slightly less than league average in most cases. Taking a few miles per hour off of these pitches will almost certainly cause an increase in balls in play and runners allowed.

Floyd is not a top-of-the-rotation arm, and the thought of continuing to add #3s and #4s might make some fans squirm. He doesn’t have the resume to ask for #1 money though, and is probably preparing to be underwhelmed by contract offers following Tommy John surgery. Because of his injury, he’s probably interested in a short-term deal to prove his value, and Dan Duquette hates giving pitchers more than 3 years. CBS Sports had an agent predict 1 year/$4 million and a GM predict 2/$18 million. For the Orioles’ sake, I sincerely hope that the agent polled is Floyd’s agent.

To this point in his career, Floyd has been a thoroughly league-average pitcher by most metrics. His strengths tend to play well with the Orioles team and would serve to make him more valuable as a part of the franchise than away from it. The opportunity to nab a league-average pitcher at a below-average price might be too good for Dan Duquette to pass up.

I think that Gavin Floyd projects to be worth about 2 WAR in 2014, which is actually below his career average. Scott Kazmir is projected to get two years and $17 million. If the Orioles can get Floyd for less than $7 million per year or as low as $4 million as some have estimated, he’s a deal in today’s free agent market and one that would pay off with just league-average performance. Getting him for a few years at something below market value is probably better for the team; if he recovers fully from Tommy John surgery, Floyd may be a terrific buy-low proposition, and if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t cost the team that much anyway. As it stands, he’s kind of a coin flip, and it’s hard to predict how different guys will handle elbow surgery and rehab. The O’s don’t seem to be in the business of making waves but love a good gamble, so Floyd is right up the team’s alley. Similar to his across-the-board average production, I think a Floyd signing would be met with a collective “meh.” He might prove to be worth a lot more than the fans give him credit for.

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About the author

Patrick Dougherty   

Orioles Analyst

Patrick is the co-founder of Observational Studies, a blog focused on the analysis and economics of professional sports. The native of Carroll County graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Loyola University Maryland. Patrick works at a regional economic development and marketing firm in Baltimore, and in his free time plays lacrosse.

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