Coming into the 2012 season, fans were wondering if Brandon Beachy could repeat his great 2011 K/BB ratio while gaining some efficiency. Unfortunately, he did neither, but he managed to get off to a tremendous start before his UCL gave out, needing TJ surgery in June.
After posting a 4.5:1 K/BB ratio in ’11 after excluding IBB, he couldn’t even hit 2.5:1 in ’12. His walk rate rose from 6.3% to 8.8%, though he threw the ball in the zone more and had just as many first-pitch strikes. Even more concerning was his drop in strikeouts, going from 28.6% to 21.3% with a Contact% that correlates to that change. While walks and strikeouts aren’t everything for a pitcher, this magnitude of change is usually troubling.
Something that got a lot better was his batted ball profile. He allowed over 3% less line drives and his groundball rate rose 7.5%. However, this bit of improvement does not explain why his BABIP dropped to .200. All three types of batted balls saw huge drops in BABIP, most notably flyball BABIP dropping to .023. Since we’re only talking about 81 IP, there is a lot more room for noise, but BABIP was the biggest reason for his 2.00 ERA.
Another thing everyone wanted to see from Beachy was more efficiency, hoping to improve on his 4.08 pitches/PA. As noted above, that rate actually went up to 4.17 pitches/PA, a bit alarming considering the drop in strikeouts. Again, the low BABIP masked a negative trend that won’t sustain success over the long haul.
Beachy has one more season before he starts arbitration, so he will be making near the minimum one last time. While he did start throwing short distance last week, it is unlikely he will be able to pitch at the major league level by April. Look for some command issues early, along with less sliders, so his GB rate will probably drop back towards his ’11 figure. His 2011 xFIP was near ace level, similar to Max Scherzer‘s 2012 season, while this past year’s xFIP was more like a #3-4 guy. If he’s closer to the midpoint, an ERA right around 3.60-3.70, that would be great coming off major surgery.