First Pitch: Correia Isn’t to Blame, But His Pitching Style is Responsible

I’ve talked a lot about Kevin Correia this year, and how I feel the Pittsburgh Pirates should replace him in the starting rotation. I don’t have anything against Correia, and I actually think he’s a good pitcher for his role. I think that role is a 4th/5th starter in a bad rotation, and a 5th/6th starter in a good rotation. When the Pirates signed Correia, they had a bad rotation. It made sense to start him. For the majority of the 2012 season they’ve had a good rotation. And for the last few months, they’ve had guys who are not only better options than Correia in the short-term, but options that will actually be around for the long term.

In the 11-0 loss to the Dodgers, we got a glimpse of why I would remove Correia from the rotation. He gave up six runs, five earned, on seven hits in six innings. The stat line looks bad, but the start really wasn’t Correia’s fault. He didn’t receive any help from his defense, with a lot of sloppy plays and bad breaks leading to some big innings.

That’s not Correia’s fault, but he is responsible for that taking place. Correia doesn’t strike out a lot of batters. This year he has a 4.41 K/9 ratio. That’s the lowest in the rotation this year.

The less strikeouts you record, the more balls you’re going to put in play. The more balls in play, the more likely you are to give up hits or be impacted by an error or a fluke play. Correia doesn’t take the game in to his hands very often. Because he relies on his defense, he’s prone to outings like tonight. Those outings aren’t his fault. He shouldn’t be blamed for poor defensive play behind him. Correia didn’t make the bad plays on the field, but his lack of strikeouts provide more chances for those bad plays to take place.

I mentioned this on Twitter during the game and received a split response. Some agreed with me that Jeff Locke should be getting starts, rather than Correia. Others felt I was placing too much blame on Correia, and that he’s been pitching well this year.

On the season, the right-hander has a 4.63 ERA and a 4.50 xFIP. He’s the right-handed Zach Duke. He’s been a bit lucky this year with a .269 BABIP, but he’s also been a bit unlucky with a 13% home run per fly ball ratio (probably due to pitching in PNC Park as a right hander). Typically starters put up a BABIP around .300 and a home run per fly ball ratio of 10%. In his career, Correia has a .294 and a 10.8%. His home runs have been up in each of the last two years, which again could be due to PNC Park. Last year he gave up 15 homers in 65.1 innings at home, with nine in 88.2 innings on the road.

His xFIP normalizes the HR/FB ratio to the league average. If we assume the HR/FB ratio is legit because of PNC, then we’re only looking at a regression for his BABIP. His FIP of 4.72 shows what that regression would look like. We’ve seen Correia benefit from luck this season. Tonight he was a bit unlucky. But that’s a risk he takes by putting the ball in play so often. If he could find a way to increase his strikeouts when it mattered, it would make sense to leave him in the rotation. Until then, the Pirates have better options, and should turn to them for available starts.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost to the Dodgers 11-0.

**Pirates Notebook: No Quitting in the Bucs During Rough Stretch.

**Prospect Watch: McPherson Has Another Good Start in AAA; Garcia Hits 16th Homer.

**Indianapolis Indians Player Notes 8/14/12: Kyle McPherson and Bryan Morris.

**Hanson Returns, Kingham Leaves Early for West Virginia.

**As Pirates Address Playoff Roster, Justin Wilson Could be Second Lefty from ‘Pen.

**Minor League Schedule: 8/15/12.

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About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • BlueBomber72

    Correia’s K rate is embarrassing. Right handed Zach Duke is the perfect comparison. No need for him to make anymore starts. I’m a bit confused by the need for a 6th starter anyway. Who does that in the middle of a pennant race?