Jerad Eickhoff has been an enigma this season looking like a different player for the most part for the Phillies this year.
Jerad Eickhoff had one of his best starts for the Phillies Saturday, allowing just one run in six innings of work on five hits and three walks. He had the chance to get his first win in 14 starts, but the bullpen allowed four runs after Eickhoff left the game.
Saturday was a positive sign for Eickhoff, but for the most part this season he has struggled mightily. He has a 4.81 ERA, more than a run higher than his total last year. His 18.8% strikeout rate, 8.7% walk rate, and 1.51 WHIP are all worse than last year.
You could say that Eickhoff has dealt with some bad luck, and that argument has some traction. Opposing hitters have a .321 batting average on balls in play against Eickhoff and his 4.18 fielding-independent pitching is almost exactly the same as last year’s.
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However, there are some inherent issues that show Eickhoff’s struggles are worth worrying about. As noted, his walk rate is up as well as his expected fielding-independent pitching. Eickhoff has also induced soft contact on five percent fewer of batted balls and his ERA is still quite high despite an average home run per fly ball rate.
Perhaps the most concerning issue is the lack of movement on Eickhoff’s pitches. Taking a look at his Brooks Baseball spray chart, you can see where his pitches compare to his previous two major-league seasons. You can see a distinct difference between his curveball, slider, and changeup.
Eickhoff’s curveball drops about six fewer inches and moves to the right three and a half fewer inches. His slider barely moves at all horizontally and drops five fewer inches. Eickhoff has almost abandoned his changeup entirely this season, and its movement is diminished as well.
Without as effective pitch movement, Eickhoff has been missing fewer bats and getting fewer strikeouts overall. Eickhoff’s breaking pitches were his bread and butter last season, and without them, he has struggled this year.
2017 was the year we expected Eickhoff to cement himself as a key part in the Phillies rotation, but he has done anything but that this year. He hasn’t been the same pitcher as last year, and at this point its time to ask which Eickhoff is the real one.