Washington Nationals: Erick Fedde heading towards career crossroads
By Blake Finney
Washington Nationals starter Erick Fedde is the latest to get the 2018 Report Card treatment. He’s quickly heading to a crossroads in his career.
2018 was supposed to be the year that Erick Fedde would finally make strides and secure a big league rotation spot. But even despite the Washington Nationals starting pitching problems, he wasn’t able to capitalize.
After a spot start against the San Diego Padres in May, the right-hander looked to be up for an extended period after an injury to Stephen Strasburg. But then Fedde suffered an injury of his own on July 4th and didn’t return until September.
Fedde finished the year with a 2-4 record, a 5.54 ERA and a 1.530 WHIP in 11 major league starts. Despite the lackluster stats and missed games due to injury, there were some positives to take from his rookie season.
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The Positives for Fedde
After returning from his shoulder injury in September, he was able to noticeably step up his strikeout rate. He had a 10.9 K/9 rate in his five September starts, and that could be one of the keys to his progression moving forward. With his electric arsenal, it was surprising that it took a little while to tap into his K potential, now he’ll need to carry that over to next season.
Some of Fedde’s advanced metrics point towards some bad luck last season that could end up rectifying itself in 2019. He finished the year with a FIP of 4.71 and an xFIP of 3.83 as well as a high BABIP against of .333 which all indicate he’s due for better outings. The xFIP is particularly interesting, as this accounts for home runs on 10.5% of fly balls, where Fedde’s HR/FB% was way up at 22.2%, so if some of the home runs he gave up become routine fly balls, he could see a drastic drop in his ERA.
Areas for Improvement
Those home runs are easily the most peculiar thing about Erick Fedde at the major league level. In parts of four minor league seasons, he has a 0.5 HR/9 rate, and in 2018 he had a rate of 0.4 HR/9 in Triple-A. But in his major league career that spikes all the way up to 1.8 HR/9 and he had a 1.4 HR/9 in the majors in 2018. That almost excruciatingly high HR/9, as well as the unsustainably high HR/FB%, show that if he can limit the hard contact next year, he’ll be due a big rebound.
Another area that Fedde has struggled in throughout his MLB career is putting hitters away when he has two strikes on them. After getting to two strikes, hitters slashed .224/.280/.313 against him, when the major league average is significantly lower at a .176/.247/.277 line. Towards the end of the year, he was able to use his slider as an out-pitch more often, but he’ll need multiple ways to get hitters out at the highest level.
The Final Grade
With an underwhelming year in the books, 2019 is gearing up to be something of a now-or-never year for Erick Fedde. He will only have one option remaining, and if that gets used next year then he’ll need to make an impression to stick beyond then.
There were positive signs as well as the indication that he pitched better than some of his high-level number indicate. But based on his 2018 performance, it’s tough to give him a high grade. D+
Remember to keep an eye out for more Washington Nationals 2018 Report Cards during the upcoming weeks here at District on Deck.