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What should you expect from Framber Valdez

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Texas Rangers v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Like most of my articles, this one will be poorly timed after giving up 8 runs across 11 hits a few days ago. But Framber Valdez is starting to show some serious signs of being the strong rotation piece that some hoped he could be.

You may have seen Cody’s article highlighting red flags on Valdez, in which regression hit Valdez hard, from a sub-2 ERA to a mid 3’s one.

As of today, Framber is rocking a 3-3, 3.61 ERA, 8.60 K/9 and 2.41 BB/9 across his 52 IP this year. Those numbers are impressive in their own right, but don’t tell the full story of how great of a start to the season he has had, and while it’s still small sample size, it seemed worthwhile to take a look at his 2020 to date.

Who is Framber Valdez?

Last Year’s Scouting Report from our own Jimmy Price:

Still a prospect despite making appearances in Houston last year, Valdez is a lefty who throws a heavy ball, working with a sinking fastball and vertical curveball. He had great success against minor league hitters and held his own in the bigs, but saw his walk rate balloon as more selective big league competition laid off his stuff. Valdez doesn’t have great location, and will need to find a way to drop pitches other than his four seamer for strikes more frequently to find big league success. At 25 years old, it is difficult to forecast a command jump, and his most likely roles look like middle or long relief, where he does project well.

Framber has not had the best run in the MLB yet, but the tools are still there. Here was a quote from Brent Strom:

“I never forget what (Mike) Trout said when he faced Valdez that it was some of the best stuff he’d seen in baseball.”

Arsenal:

Interestingly, Valdez has seemed to buck the trend and has actually continually expanded his usage of a Sinker / 2-seamer - up to 55.1%. This is particularly surprising as the pitch has been crushed to a .402 xwOBA.

His curveball though, is a thing of beauty. Juan put together a whole article appreciating this pitch. With a jaw dropping 2,965 rpm - it comes in at the 96th percentile in regards to curveball spin. Hitters, as highlighted in Juan’s article have been extremely ineffective against it, hitting a meager .212 xwOBA against the pitch.

Regression in the Future?

At the time of Cody’s article, all of the advanced analytics were pointing to regression coming for Valdez. Now? Let’s take a look

FIP? 3.03

xFIP? 3.26

SIERA? 3.55

Technically all three point to positive regression on a pure ERA standpoint. Which makes sense as the .317 BABIP and 66.9% LOB both point to some poor luck. With that said, his xERA (Calculated from xwOBA) is a much uglier 4.34 xERA.

If you’re wondering why there is such a large disparity between the advanced analytics such as FIP/xFIP/SIERA vs xERA - it’s largely based on the type of contact. And quite frankly, when Valdez has been hit, he’s been hit extremely hard. He is one of the lowest ranked in the MLB on hard hit balls, although he has minimized the damage largely through ground balls.

Interestingly, Valdez had a much lower (57%) Groundball percentage for the 1st half of the season when he had a 1.72 ERA compared to the second half of his season where his improved groundball rate (65.6%) has resulted in an ugly 6.43 ERA.

Conclusion

I was hoping for a much more definitive answer as we started the analysis. The “traditional advanced stats” (is that a thing?) point to positive regression coming. The newer age xwOBA based stats still see foresee a negative regression ahead for Valdez.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll have as clear cut of an answer. xwOBA is a more experimental and less accepted of a stat- but whereas FIP-style stats are based on the three true outcomes, xERA is based on how balls were batted. This gives a whole new ability to evaluate batted balls without considering them all equal.

2 years ago, I would have been really encouraged seeing the numbers listed for FIP/xFIP/SIERA - and that the “luck” driven stats (LOB %, BABIP, etc) - all point to him being the recipient of poor luck. He has held down his walk rates and has continued to show off just how dominant his curveball could be.

At 50 innings, we’re honestly still too early to make much in the way of conclusive decisions, but admittedly, I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m not thinking that Valdez will be a 3.00 ERA type pitcher, but somewhere between the 3.55-3.90 seem within reason, which is a far better result than most could have asked for just a few months ago. (There was only 31 qualified pitchers who had a 3.90 or below ERA). I could be under-estimating the impact of the hard hit balls as I’m generally a bigger believer in the xwOBA type stats than most, but I’m going to go with the under.

What are your thoughts? Where will Valdez end the year ERA wise?

Poll

Where will Framber’s ERA end the year?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Sub-3.00
    (12 votes)
  • 39%
    3.01-3.49
    (51 votes)
  • 41%
    3.50-3.99
    (53 votes)
  • 9%
    4.00+
    (12 votes)
128 votes total Vote Now