|Kevin Correia threw eight shutout innings Sunday and|
has now had more starts of seven or more innings (five) than
he had all of 2012 with Pittsburgh (three).
Correia's superb April, in turn, has not convinced me that he's a pitcher worthy of a multi-year commitment.
I doubled down on my skepticism about him in the Monday print column, in which I traced his early success to a very high double-play rate, a very low home run rate, and a very low walk rate and concluded that the first two factors were probably unsustainable. No pitcher can consistently have a league-average groundball rate and a very high double play rate; no pitcher can have a league-average groundball rate and almost no home runs allowed.
But that's what Correia had done through his first four starts — and now through his first five starts.
The stats I cited in Monday's column were garnered from Correia's Baseball Reference page on Saturday, before his eight innings of shutout ball Sunday against a very good Texas Rangers lineup. How the relevant stats changed with that start:
Walk rate: Dipped from 1.3 walks per nine innings to 1.2. (As I said in the column, this may be a sustainable improvement; history says pitchers who have good control working for other teams have even lower walk rates pitching for the Gardenhire Twins.)
Strikeout rate: Dropped from 4.1 K/9 to to 3.7. Both numbers are red flags.
Strikeout/walk ratio: Dropped from 3.25 to 3 strikeouts for each walk. Still very good, and obviously based more on not walking anybody than on striking hitters out. (In fairness to Correia, his one walk allowed Sunday should have been his third strikeout. But even if the home plate umpire hadn't blown that 3-2 call, Correia's stats would still be lopsided.)
Double play rate: Fell from a lofty 42 percent to 28 percent, still more than twice the league average.
Ground ball/fly ball ratio: He now is at 0.88 grounders to fly balls, slightly higher than league average (and his own career average, which is a close match to league average).
Percentage of fly balls that become home runs: Down to 3.6 percent, less than half the league average (and his own career average, which again is a close match to league average).
And therein lies my unwillingness to buy into the idea that Kevin Correia is truly a better pitcher now than he has been. His groundball/fly ball tendencies remain essentially as they have been for years; it's the results that are out of the ordinary. And at some point, those results will snap back to normal as well.