Gavin Floyd is one of the newest Braves, and his acquisition was greeted by many Braves fans with a decided lack of enthusiasm. (It wasn’t just Braves fans; Notgraphs’s David Temple headlined a post “Gavin Floyd? More Like GavYAWN FloYAWNd!“)
In and of himself, there’s nothing with Floyd. But as a headliner, he lacks a bit of oomph. The Braves fell short in the first round of the playoffs yet again last year, and Braves fans were understandably hoping that the front office would make a splash in the offseason. Instead, they traded for a perfectly, precisely league average guy coming off Tommy John surgery. Remember, the last time that they traded a TJ guy to a team in Chicago, they sent Arodys Vizcaino over, and he had so many complications that he had to have another surgery; he still hasn’t pitched since the trade occurred, two and a half years ago.
How average is Gavin Floyd? High Heat Stats put it this way:
Gavin Floyd–the most average pitcher of our generation. He has a 70-70 career record, 100 ERA+, and has allowed 1150 hits in 1151 innings.
— High Heat Stats (@HighHeatStats) December 16, 2013
In fact, Floyd has been better than that since becoming a full-time starting pitcher in 2008, after four years of struggling to establish himself in a rotation. Since 2008, he has the following line:
That K/BB number is quite creditable, and as you can see from his ERA+ and FIP-, he has been solidly above-average since becoming a full-time starting pitcher, notwithstanding the 24 1/3 poor innings he tossed last year before going under the knife.
In fact, over the past years, Floyd’s performance has been virtually indistinguishable from that of John Danks, who is in the middle of a five year, $65 million deal and will earn $14.25 million this year. We got Floyd for a third of the price of Danks, and if he earns all of his performance incentives he’ll still only cost about half as much as Danks.
It does bear mentioning that Danks has had markedly worse performance over the last three seasons than he did over the first three: 3.61 ERA, 125 ERA+ in 608 1/3 IP from 2008-2010, followed by 4.69 ERA, 92 ERA+ in 362 1/3 injury-plagued innings from 2011-2013. Floyd’s performance gap is not quite as wide: 3.99 ERA, 113 ERA+ in 586 2/3 innings from 2008-2010, 4.38 ERA, 98 ERA+ in 386 injury-plagued innings from 2011-2013.
Like Danks, Floyd is a former first-round pick. Floyd taken fourth overall in 2001 by Philadelphia. Danks was taken 9th overall in 2003 by Texas. Each was selected one pick after a pitcher who wound up having a worse career: the third overall pick in 2001 was Dewon Brazelton, and the 8th overall pick in 2003 was Paul Maholm.
As fate would have it, the player selected after Floyd in the draft was a childhood friend of his older brother, who went to the same high school, Mt. St. Joseph in Baltimore: Mark Teixeira. (Floyd was drafted straight out of high school; Texeira is three years older, and was drafted out of Georgia Tech.)
Floyd did reasonably well in the minor leagues, but he didn’t blow hitters away. His minor league numbers are not much different than his major league numbers: 812 2/3 innings, 45-43 record, 3.69 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 2.13 K/BB. Though he spent two and a half years at the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he was never able to dominate minor league hitters.
Finally, in 2006, the Phillies traded Floyd along with Gio Gonzalez to get Freddy Garcia, a horrible move. While Garcia only pitched 58 innings before leaving in free agency, Gio was traded for Nick Swisher, and Floyd became a rotation mainstay for the Sox. After a good year in Triple-A in the White Sox system in 2007, Floyd finally broke out, winning 17 games in 2008. He’s been in the rotation ever since.
He’s got a fastball in the lower 90s and a hard curveball he throws in the low 80s, and since he’s a White Sox pitcher, he also has a cutter that he throws a lot. (Don Cooper, the longtime White Sox pitching coach, is well-known for favoring the cutter.)
He doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, as his major league K/9 is equal to his minor league K/9 of 7.1. There isn’t anything that he does brilliantly. He’s basically the epitome of a league-average innings eater, except that he’s coming back from Tommy John surgery, which means that the Braves won’t be able to rely on him to eat innings immediately. Howard Bender of Fangraphs suggests that the Braves are stashing him for second-half depth:
You almost have to cast aside the entire first half of the season and hope that he comes back strong after the All Star break.
Perhaps that’s actually the plan for the Braves overall. By the time Floyd can be trusted on the mound, Wood will have his innings capped and rather than go out onto the trade market for a starter, the team will already have a veteran arm in-house.
I think that’s about right, except that I see the glass as half full. It is exceptionally hard to find an extra league-average starter when you don’t have one waiting in the wings, as the Braves discovered in 2007, the nightmare year that they gave 96 starts to Buddy Carlyle, Kyle Davies, Jo-Jo Reyes, Lance Cormier, Mark Redman, Anthony Lerew, and Jeff Bennett. Depth is something you don’t realize you need till it’s gone.
That’s what Floyd is: depth. And that’s how he’s being paid, since his $4 million salary means he’s being paid more like a bullpen arm than a starting pitcher. If Frank Wren doesn’t make any bigger acquisitions than Floyd, then fans will have a right to feel disappointed about the offseason. But they shouldn’t be disappointed about Floyd himself.