Pitcher preview: Jeremy Guthrie

Ed Zurga

Is calling a righty "crafty" like calling a non-Caucasion "scrappy?"

Jeremy Guthrie has made a career out of beating his peripherals. In every year that he's pitched a full load of innings, he's posted an ERA below his FIP, and in many of them he was nearly a full run below it. That's good for him, because most guys with a 4.75 career FIP don't get to have ten-year careers.

One of the more confounding things about Guthrie is that he doesn't do it with an exceptional groundball rate (41% is good but not elite), nor does he limit HRs especially well (10.8% HR/FB is higher than the average). And it's not as if his park has helped him. Camden Yards, where he played most of his career, is a hitters' ballpark. So if he doesn't strike people out, doesn't keep the ball on the ground, and doesn't keep the ball in the yard, what does Jeremy Guthrie do?

He mixes a bunch of pitches well, and he produces soft contact (.279 career BABIP, and below the average in every full season).

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via pitchfx.texasleaguers.com

That's his pitch mix from last season. His fastball averaged 93 mph, and he can sink it or cut it without losing velocity. His changeup, at 86 mph, lacks the velocity separation to be a put-away pitch, but it does give the batter something else to think about and Guthrie is comfortable throwing it early in the count. His slider, at 84 mph, is his preferred pitch in two-strike counts (relatively speaking; he still throws more fastballs) against hitters on both sides of the plate, but even it doesn't miss that many bats (18% whiffs per swing last season). His mid-70s curve is a show-me pitch that he throws most often early in the count against lefties.

And no, the legend does not deceive you. Jeremy Guthrie does occasionally air out an eephus. In this graph it's buried in the  movement of his regular curve, but it's 10 mph slower. It's like porn. You'll know it when you see it. This game may have a 2:10 start time, but I recommend turning it into a drinking game: one shot if he throws the eephus, two if it's a strike.

Guthrie has never had a big split in his peripherals, but his ability to produce a low BABIP has been dramatically better against righties than against lefties, and even moreso than usual in recent years. Last year, his BABIP against righties was .236, but against lefties it was .340. Could be worth getting Matt Joyce a bit higher in the lineup than the seven-spot.

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