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Thursday, March 02, 2006

On Eric Milton

This article was originally posted at RedsZone, but I thought I'd post it here to give it a more permanent place.

On Eric Milton

Loss of effectiveness

With his move to Philadelphia and also in Cinci, Milton had a huge increase in his HR rate, and this has had a dramatic negative effect on his effectiveness (see FIP below):

Team Year ERA FIP* BABIP** K/9 BB/9 HR/9 lgERA***
MIN 98-03 4.76 4.59 ~0.273 6.5 2.5 1.4 ~4.80
PHI 2004 4.75 5.51 0.263 7.2 3.4 1.9 4.36
CIN 2005 6.47 5.62 0.311 5.9 2.5 1.9 4.44

*FIP - Fielding Independent Pitching; think ERA after you control for variation in hit rate.
**BABIP - Batting Average on Balls in Play
***lgERA - Park adjusted ERA from baseball-reference.org

His Philadelphia and Cincinnati performances were essentially identical (see FIP), except that he was quite lucky in Phily (low BABIP) and quite unlucky in Cinci (high BABIP). In Phily, he struck out more and walked more than in Cinci. I'm be inclined to conclude, as many others have, that the drop in effectiveness is stadium-related (see lgERA above), although his home/away splits for '05 don't completely support that notion:

Split ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Home 6.22 5.66 5.8 2.4 2.0
Away 6.74 5.36 6.1 2.6 1.8

FIP was lower in away games, but it was still unreasonably high, as was his HR rate. I suppose it's possible, of course, that he was taking his troubles with him on the road...

And this year?

Looking forward to 2006, there's at least some reason to be hopeful. Look at his 1st half/2nd half splits:

Split ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 IP
1st 6.92 6.35 5.7 2.6 2.4 106 2/3
2nd 5.87 4.38 6.3 2.4 1.2 79 2/3

It didn't show up in his ERA (he was unlucky), but he was just about achieving at the level we'd all hoped he might in the second half (FIP=4.38...yeah, I'll gladly take that from him). The most dramatic difference was the drop in his HR-allowed rate, although his strikeout rate also got back up to near his career average in the second half. This was all after the much lauded (at the time) Gullett/Ruhle adjustment to his pushoff.

So best case scenario, with his motion improved, his reported work on his legs in the offseason, and maybe even this "improvement" by Tom Browning... Can we dare hope for a full year of FIP=4.38 from Mr. Milton? I have my doubts he can continue a 1.2 hr/9 allowed this year, but I'd sure be excited if he did. -JinAZ