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May 22, 2012

Fantasy Beat

Examining Felipe Paulino

by Jason Collette

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An 11-32 record with a 5.11 ERA in 89 career games that includes 57 games started. Traded to the Rockies for Clint Barmes in 2010 and then outright sold to the Royals for cash in 2011. That is what Felipe Paulino had to show for his career heading into his start last night against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.  On March 19, I wrote this piece about pitchers with BABIP and LOB fortune and misfortune. That story included this graphic that divided pitchers into four quadrants:

I also added this comment:

When pursuing pitchers in Quadrant I, some will come at a discount because people fear regression, but the bigger names often find their way into that quadrant because they are simply that good. Conversely, Quadrant IV present bargains in the form of pitchers coming off rough seasons thanks to worse-than-average BABIP and LOB%.

The 12 best ERA-FIP differences in that group of Quadrant IV pitchers last season:

That list alone has several of 2012’s most pleasant surprises, including Peavy, Lowe, Nolsasco, Morrow, and, last on the list, Paulino.

Last night’s effort by Paulino gives him a rather nice stat line in his career with Kansas City. He has now thrown an even 150 innings as a Royals pitcher and has a 3.66 ERA and a 3.28 FIP to show for it. In those 150 innings, he has allowed 145 hits, just 11 home runs, and has posted an 8.9 K/9 and a 3.3 BB/9.

Here is how Paulino’s numbers in Kansas City stand up against his efforts with his two previous teams, Houston and Colorado:

TEAM

ERA

FIP

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

HOU/COL

6.34

4.57

223

8.1

3.9

1.3

KC

3.66

3.28

150

8.9

3.3

0.7

Pitching in the kind of run environments that Houston and Colorado provide certainly did not help, but Paulino only threw 14 2/3 innings in Colorado, and Houston isn’t nearly the hitter’s paradise that is Coors Field. Paulino’s time in Houston was cycled between the bullpen and the rotation from ages 23 to 26, and that was sandwiched around him missing the entire 2008 season with a pinched nerve in his pitching shoulder. His player card also shows him missing 72 games in 2010 due to a rotator cuff strain.

Paulino got off to a late start this season due to a forearm strain, but last night was his third scoreless outing in his first four starts, and they have come against the Yankees (twice) and the hot-hitting Orioles. His only home run this season came off the bat of Adam Dunn, and there’s no shame in that anymore.

His player card at Brooks Baseball helps tell some of the story. Paulino’s pitch mix has changed rather noticeably so far this season.

Felipe Paulino Pitch Usage 2007-2012

Felipe Paulino Pitch Usage 2012

In the past, Paulino would feature his four-seam fastball and slider 84 percent of the time while sporadically mixing in other pitches, but he is now throwing a number of two-seam fastballs, such as the one he struck Alex Rodriguez out with last night (jump to the 26 second mark). While that was his first recorded swing-and-miss with the pitch this season (according to his player card at Brooks Baseball), the pitch is getting a ridiculous 63 percent groundballs.

The two-team fastball is one reason for the success, but so is his ability to throw his breaking pitches for a higher percentage of strikes:

Pitch

2007-2012 Ball Rate

2012 Ball Rate

Fastball

38%

37%

Slider

35%

33%

Curveball

40%

28%

Changeup

37%

38%

The rest of his pitches are holding their career rates, but his breaking pitches are finding the zone with more regularity. In that same linked video from last night, you can even see how several of his strikeouts against the Yankees came on those pitches.

There are several Royals players that are disappointing fantasy owners in 2012, but Paulino is not one of them. Four starts into the 2012 season, he has announced his presence with authority and is only continuing to build off the success he demonstrated last season after being sold by the Rockies.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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