The Great Floyd-Danks Swap

Last offseason, I repeatedly advised drafters to avoid Gavin Floyd and instead draft John Danks. Although the surface numbers say I was right (Danks has a 3.69 ERA and 13 Ws compared to Floyd's 4.06 ERA and 11 Ws), the peripherals disagree.

Last season, Gavin Floyd struck out a below average 6.32 batters per nine, walked a decent 3.05 per nine and a gave up a sustainable 1.2 longballs per nine (given his neutral GB/FB tendencies) -- good for a 4.77 FIP and one of the largest ERA-FIP splits in the league (going in the bad direction, that is). John Danks, on the other hand struck out a slightly above average 7.34 batters per nine, walked a very quality 2.63 per nine and only gave up 0.69 HR/9 (slightly low, given the 1.20 GB/FB rate) and showed a lot of potential, posting a 3.44 FIP in his age 23 season.

This season, Danks and Floyd have essentially flipped numbers. Floyd's posting a 7.60 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 0.98 HR/9 (1.34 GB/FB rate), taking all of the right steps in the right directions. His FIP fell a full run to 3.77. Danks, on the other hand, regressed across the board. The strike out rate fell to 6.82, the walk rate ballooned half a batter per game to 3.18 and he became less groundball oriented (1.06 GB/FB) and saw his HR/9 rate spike up to 1.20. Danks' season FIP currently stands at 4.44

I have to admit I was entirely wrong in my judgment of these two player's abilities. Floyd had the first round pedigree and I was entirely too quick to dismiss him. I still believe in Danks, but looking at his HR/FB rates per season, which have been lucky so far in his career, and his big step back in K/BB this season, I no longer have the strong belief I once did that he was to be, as I once called him, "the future of the White Sox rotation" (especially now that the Sox have Peavy).

Going forward, however, what can we expect? Floyd has posted a sustainable HR/FB rate each of the past two seasons and unless he gets extremely unlucky next season or if it turns out the gains in K and BB per nine he made in 2009 we flukes, Gavin Floyd should be poised to have a big 2010 season. A 1.25 WHIP, sub-4 ERA and double digit wins season are entirely plausible. He may provide great fantasy profit next season if his ADP doesn't balloon too high.

Danks, on the other hand, might be a candidate to avoid. The regressions in GB tendencies, walks and strikeouts are more than a bit concerning. Its not implausible to expect some regression towards his 2008 numbers in these areas, but there is still HR/FB regression looming. The league average HR/FB rate amongst pitchers is 11% and a lot of studies have shown this figure to be beyond the control of the pitcher. Couple this with the home run happy Cell and you may share some of my concerns about what John Danks does going forward.

Regardless, it will be interested to see how the White Sox rotation develops for 2010.


Sexy Rexy said...

I don't know that I would immediately write off Danks, but you make valid points. It's never a good sign to see a young kid like Danks regress like he did, but I also think you're a bit hasty to jump on him.

A lot of your conclusions seem to be based after a fantasy baseball perspective and from that stand point, yes, I may avoid him in the upcoming 2010 draft, but I don't think that's fair to dismiss Danks from this perspective

First of all, I wouldn't say this step back means he's on the decline and thus he will suck next year. I just think Don Cooper or whoever will have to work with the young kid to fix his mechanics up a bit. I refuse to believe that after the great year he had in 2008 that, based after one year, he should be completely avoided. Maybe this year is the outlier. Maybe he is on the decline. I don't know. I just don't think you could have come up with the conclusion you did on Danks about his career based after one season.

It is obviously a great shame that he took such a huge step back and I'm not pleased with that as a Sox fan, but I'm confident he can rebound.

Also, keep in mind Danks will be the fourth starter. Even if he does regress or become unlucky, I'm sure realistically, many teams would love to have him as their 4th guy

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

My concern is this: Danks was a FB neutral/slightly FB pitcher in the minors. He took some steps forward in 2008, but cut the difference between his 2007 and 2008 numbers last season. He'd be a great option in the bottom half of the rotation, no doubt, but he's not the ace stud most chicago fans believe him to be

Furthermore, I'm not saying Danks is "on the decline" but rather that he regressed to his normative rates. i foresee a 4ish ERA with a 1.3 WHIP next season. Fine numbers, but nothing ace like

Sexy Rexy said...

But perfectly fine 4 starter numbers, which is all people expect him to be

I think most White Sox expect him to do that and those who don't are probably people like Adam Herstein