Posted December 16, 2013 02:20 pm

Braves add depth in form of Floyd

The Braves finalized what has been expected since last week when ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweeted they're in agreement with Gavin Floyd on a one-year deal worth $4 million, including $4.5 million in incentives. The Braves later announced the signing. There is no option year.


To put it simply, Floyd is a league-average pitcher who gives the Braves much-needed depth. Prior to the signing, Atlanta was looking at Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood to round out the rotation, which is normally a good proposition. But Beachy is returning from elbow surgery and a slow rehab process that required additional cleaning of the elbow, so there are no guarantees of success in his return. Wood has 77 major league innings and would be a full-time starter for a contending team for the first time. It's good to have insurance for both these cases.


Floyd himself is no guarantee of success in his return from Tommy John surgery, and he won't be available until possibly May or June. But a $4 million base salary is low enough to eat in the event of rehab complications or collapse. When a team has several starters who are a little higher on the risk level, it's good to have options, and this provides a few.


Floyd is a league-average starter who struggles with platoon splits. He has allowed a career .310 wOBA vs. RHB and .342 vs. LHB. The difference in xFIP is 4.00 to 4.27.


Viewing some video and going through data, it appears Floyd struggles spotting his stuff against left-handed batters more than righties. He's either off the plate arm-side to lefties, or he catches too much of the plate at times, and he gets knocked around because it. The result is a higher-than-normal HR/FB rate and walk percentage against lefties.


It doesn't help that Floyd has pitched in an extreme hitter's park at Chicago, but as several pointed out to me on Twitter, his numbers on the road aren't any better. Platoon splits seem to cause him more trouble than anything.


Viewing video shows what is typical for many pitchers who struggle against opposite-side hitters - their off-speed is inconsistent to those hitters. In a 2013 start against the Twins, Floyd threw an outstanding changeup to Joe Mauer that showed excellent arm-side fade and tumble, but Mauer, being the hitter he is, laid off it. An almost-identical pitch was offered to Ryan Doumit, who swung and missed before whiffing on a curveball at the shoe tops.


Floyd's changeup flashes plus, but it's not always there. When it misses, the result is a hard secondary pitch with no movement. The speed separation isn't enough to fool hitters on velocity alone. So Floyd only throws the pitch 3-5 percent of the time.


Floyd throws his fastball around 50 percent of the time, and it's a solid one. He comes at a relatively low angle for his size, creating arm-side run that generates a career 44 percent ground ball rate. He keeps it low and away to lefties and runs it both sides to righties.


Floyd's curveball and slider have similar success. The slider has tighter break and averages around 5-6 miles per hour faster than the curve. Both are solid secondary offerings thrown around 20-30 percent of the time each.


As I mentioned, Floyd's release angle is pretty low for his 6-6 stature. He has a long body, so he doesn't repeat his release as well as some. This hurts when he leaves the fastball up over the plate at 89-93 miles per hour without movement. So if he's struggling spotting his stuff on any given day, the outcome more often than not would be failing to get on top of the ball. His arm path is a little short, but he gets fairly good momentum toward the plate for his size. He finishes pretty well.


So Floyd's command may waver at times because of his long body, but his control has remained at a solid rate throughout his career. He's the typical league-average arm who struggles with platoon splits but gets ground balls and strikeouts at a respectable clip. If he responds to surgery and rehab well, he should give the Braves a win or two in 2014. That would be worth the contract.