From the perspective of a person that watches their fair share of Rockies games, the Rockies 2013 season, up to this point, has a lot in common with the season of rejuvenated Twins pitcher Kevin Correia. The Rockies record has been greeted by much skepticism from Colorado natives, while Correia’s performance has been seen as mirage of hope for many Twins fans.
The Rockies and Correia have both posted unexpected numbers, but the sustainability of these numbers is the question at hand.
This is where we’ll leave the Rockies at the curb and focus on Kevin Correia because, unlike the Rockies, Correia has made some adjustments that make his performance seem arguably more sustainable than random. Although, that is not to say I am entirely sold on Correia.
Fantasy or Reality: Kevin Correia
In 2013, Correia has posted a 2.23 ERA (compared to a 4.47 career ERA), a 3.72 K/9, and a 1.24 BB/9. While Correia’s 2013 ERA is still far from reliable, due to its small sample size, it makes sense to see whether or not Correia has received a proverbial nod from the baseball gods, and gotten “lucky” from randomness in 2013.
Correia has posted a 3.30 FIP and a 4.17 xFIP. The inflated FIP is due to the fact that he has received luck from batted balls with a low .269 BABIP and a LOB% of 82.9%. The BABIP and LOB% suggest that he has received some luck this year, but the xFIP is where he has received most of his luck. Through four starts Correia has a 4.8% HR/FB ratio that is well under the league average benchmark of 10%.
While Correia has created an aberration of success for Twins fans to speculate at, he, at age 32, has not solely benefited from luck, but has made fundamental adjustments to his approach that have directly correlated to his success this year. From 2005, when Kevin Correia broke into the MLB, to 2011, the right-hander chose to throw his cutter on 9% of his pitches, while last year, he tippled the frequency with which he threw his cutter to 28%. This year, Correia has relied more than ever on his cutter and thrown it 35% of the time. Since 2010, when he began to throw his cutter with more regularity, Correia has seen a drop in ERA each season (’10: 5.40, ’11: 4.79, ’12: 4.21, ’13: 2.23).
Hitter’s plate discipline numbers against Correia are consistent with years past, but there is some reason to believe that hitters have made weaker contact as a result of the increased use of his cutter. Correia has thrown more cutters for strikes this year (64%) than ever before, while batters have also hit more fly balls and infield fly balls than years past.
Target Field has generally been, with last year as an exception, a pitcher-friendly ballpark, as opposed to Correia’s previous residence from 2011 to 2012 in Pittsburgh. The combination of Correia’s ability to induce weak contact on fly balls, with an increased use of his cutter, in a pitcher-friendly ballpark could be a reason for the success he has seen.
What to Do With Kevin Correia?
Given all that has been said about Correia’s sustainability, Fantasy owners would still be wise to move the right-hander while the time is right. Because, even if the cutter has allowed Correia to improve his overall ability as a pitcher, there is no inclination that these improvements will continue to their current degree; he still musters a messily 3.72 K/9. And, while strikeouts are not the only statistic you should care about in Fantasy Baseball, they, along with walks, are most representative of what a pitcher’s future performance in other categories will be.
You most likely picked Kevin Correia up off the waiver wire in deep mixed and AL-only leagues, so any reliable value you could get in return would be icing on the cake for your investment. Turn on the market before it turns on you.