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Who's responsible for Gavin Floyd's pitch selection?


Gavin Floyd is why we can't write nice things.

About a month ago, we were talking about Floyd's fine first six weeks. He led the staff in ERA while Jake Peavy and Chris Sale overshadowed his press, for better or for worse.

Since then, it's been a vastly different story:

  • First seven starts: 3-3, 2.53 ERA, 46.1 IP, 31 H, 4 HR, 13 BB, 42 K
  • Last six starts: 1-4, 10.38 ERA, 30.1 IP, 49 H, 11 HR, 9 BB, 30 K

It's the worst six-start stretch of Floyd's White Sox career by far. The second-closest took place in 2010, and even then, his stats don't come close (7.91 ERA, four homers allowed).

That post from May 16 focused on his unprecedented heavy workload, and that facet has also experienced a reversal. After Thursday night, Floyd has failed to throw 100 pitches in any of his last six starts. That is also a first for his White Sox career.

The Sox haven't pointed to fatigue being an issue specifically, although that could always be an underlying cause of the mechanical tweaks Floyd said he needed to make. But Robin Ventura says his stuff isn't lacking, and at least by velocity, it seems slightly down, but not in an unprecedented fashion.

So that pretty much leaves pitch selection, and here's where the dialogue gets hazy.

Hawk Harrelson said that Floyd has been getting beat on his fastball and cutter. The cutter is a surprising development, but the fastball, not so much. It's always been a setup pitch for Floyd, and he's seemed to realize that over the years. He's thrown it less and less often since really taking to the breaking version.

But looking at Thursday night in isolation, Floyd certainly threw a couple of weird pitches. For instance, he threw a 3-2 cutter to Jake Westbrook, which resulted in a walk to the pitcher. Then he throws a 0-1 fastball to David Freese, and that led to the chilling sound of Floyd's doom.

Harrelson was right to raise the issue, but he did so without mentioning Floyd's partner in crime.

A.J. Pierzynski gets a healthy share of the credit when a pitcher executes a terrific sequence. It's more than that -- Harrelson likes to say that he's the best catcher in baseball when it comes down "putting down numbers." That could very well be true, as independent studies have suggested that he seems to help the cause a considerable amount.

But it's odd that Pierzynski doesn't get any of the blame when his pitcher gets way too cute with the pitcher at the plate, and way too direct with a middle-of-the-order hitter. I didn't see Floyd shaking off any signs (at least that I could tell -- CSNChicago's broadcast Thursday night was WGN-like in its ability to miss live action with inessential replays).

It's odd, but it's not unexpected. Floyd is an easy target for everybody (Space cadet! Mental midget!), whereas Pierzynski is like family to Harrelson, and receives favorable treatment from just about everybody else around the team.

But maybe they aren't a good pair. I'm going to wait for to update the whole splits lines, but here are two numbers we can update easily -- Floyd's ERA and homers allowed by catcher:

  • A.J. Pierzynski: 6.36 ERA; 13 HR over 52 1/3 innings.
  • Tyler Flowers: 4.07 ERA; 2 HR over 24 1/3 innings.

Granted, Flowers has only caught one of Floyd's last six starts, so maybe his numbers would suffer just as much if he were catching the current Stink Floyd model. But if Floyd's problems stem from poor pitch selection, then changing catchers would probably be the best way to test that theory.

Ventura has the opportunity to give it a shot, because the Sox are scheduled to face lefty Travis Wood during Floyd's next start against the Cubs. Then again, maybe the Cubs aren't the best test case for this experiement. Shutting down the that lineup isn't a tall task on paper, so if Floyd has a nice outing, it's not going to say a whole lot regardless of who's behind the plate.


In other pitching news

*Jose Quintana fans might be able to relax for another week, because John Danks is battling abnormal soreness after his rehab outing.

"I obviously didn’t expect to feel quite this sore," said Danks, who hasn't pitched in a major league game since May 19 against the Cubs. "I’ve never had this before, so I really didn’t know what to expect.

"So I knew I’d be sore. I was just hoping I would bounce back a little better than I have. It’s part of it, and it’s kind of like spring training. You kind of go without throwing, it’s going to be sore.”

*Chris Sale pitches against Clayton Kershaw tonight. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.