Gavin Floyd has been getting mediocre results for a while now. As league-wide run production has gone down the past few years, Gavin’s ERA has gone up. ERA isn’t a stable or even consistently fair measure of pitching talent, but since Floyd hasn’t skewed the numbers in his favor since 2008, good luck arguing that point during a conversation about him.
Especially since Floyd has been worse than ever recently. His control and command slipped to the point where he posted his highest walk rate in a White Sox uniform last season, along with tossing 22 gopher balls in 168 innings, which was low enough for him to average under six innings per start in 2012 for the very first time since he started getting issued White Sox uniforms.
A somewhat erratic pitcher has become even moreso, his lapses with his breaking stuff are prominent and man, are they ever costly. Specifically, Floyd has had no command of his slider/cutter so far in this new season. It’s been on display primarily in the three home runs he’s allowed in 15.2 innings.
MLB.com isn’t allowing the video to embed right now, but Floyd’s first inning slider Monday to J.P. Arencibia doesn’t look that bad upon first glance, tucked away on the absolute outside edge. But it was the fifth pitch in a sequence that saw Floyd work Arencibia exclusively low and away, and hung up belt-high to a hitter primed for anything drivable on the outer half instead of diving out of the zone. Arencibia can be easily fooled, but four straight giveaways at the location followed by a mistake slider isn’t the way to do it.
Maicer Itzuris’ home run was just a confluence of awful things. An 86 mph floater that eased into the inner half of the top of the zone. Slow enough for Izturis to get on top of and high enough for the middle infielder to get the torque to elevate it out. To top it off, it had been preceded by two letter-high offerings to set Itzuris up.
These are all better pitches than what Floyd threw Bryce Harper last week, another 86 mph slider that hangs rather than snaps, floats into the absolute optimal driving location for a left-hander and has, ahem, violence inflicted upon it.
Every pitcher makes mistakes, so raking Floyd over the coals for three pitches can’t be the point, but the breakdowns with his slider have been readily apparent the past two starts. Have three bad sliders crushed, and chances are you threw a few more. Sure enough, Floyd’s struggled to throw the pitch for a strike (16 for 29, per Brooks Baseball) in addition to tossing gophers with it, suggesting a general lack of feel after an encouraging opening outing of the season.
There’s no reason to think all necessary parties aren’t aware and informed and that it won’t be corrected–we’ve been here and back before. Which is probably the most frustrating element for everyone, how normal it feels to watch Gavin try to negotiate his way through lapses and struggles in his should-be plus breaking stuff and how much of a revelation a sustained stretch of precision would be.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan