Carl Pavano: Waiver-Wire Fodder or Ace with Bad Luck?

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Carl Pavano: Waiver-Wire Fodder or Ace with Bad Luck?
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Do you remember in the winter in 2004 when Carl Pavano was being courted by many teams after the Florida Marlins decided to just cut ties, and the prize ace free agent landed in pinstripes after George Steinbrenner wined and dined him and outbid all other suitors?

Well luckily for the other teams the Yankees got stuck with paying $30 million over three years for a total of $4.2 million in production. Pavano came off a season where he was worth $13.6 million in wins in 2004.

Now its 2009 and Pavano got a one year flier with the Cleveland Indians. How is this working out? In seven starts Pavano has a 3-3 record, 6.45 ERA, 26 strikeouts against 8 walks, and a WHIP of 1.54.

On paper that looks plain bad, and in 5x5 fantasy terms he has no business being on any team. However is there potential for sleeper status here? Let’s take a look.

First according to fangraphs.com his Fielders Independent Percentage (FIP) sits at 3.98, which is quite a bit lower than his 6.45 ERA and shows some promise.

Also balls put into play against Pavano have counted for hits at an average of .364, which screams regression to the mean potential. So far his K/9 sits at 6.21, BB/9 1.91, which works out to a K/BB of 3.25. He’s allowing a HR/9 of 0.96, and leaving just 60.7% on base.

When comparing Pavano to himself before the Yankees his K/9 sat around six except in 2001 when it was 7.59. His BB/9 is a career 2.48, so either he has found some serious control or he has gotten some good calls.

Over his career his HR/9 sits at .98, which is nearly spot on, and K/BB at 2.32, which is lower than it, is now so the truth remains to be seen.

In Pavano’s case we can tell these few things. He’s pitching much better than his 6.45 ERA is showing. There has however been two differently distinct Pavano’s pitching in 2009. In 2008 his fastball velocity was sitting around 87 MPH and in 2008 he has had three starts where his fastball velocity is sitting at 87, and four starts where it’s a tick over 90 MPH.

If you wonder if that is making a difference lets look at this:

Start 1: 1 IP, 1 K, 3 BB, 2 Homers (Fastball 86 MPH)

Start 2: 6 IP, 8 K, 0 BB, 1 Homer (Fastball 90 MPH)

Start 3: 6 IP, 4 K, 1 BB, 0 Homers (Fastball 86 MPH)

Start 4: 5 IP, 3 K, 1 BB, 1 Homer (Fastball 90 MPH)

Start 5: 7.1 IP, 3 K, 0 BB, 0 Homers (Fastball 86 MPH)

Start 6: 6 IP, 4 K, 3 BB, 0 Homers (Fastball 90 MPH)

Start 7: 6.1 IP, 3 K, 0 BB, 0 Homers (Fastball 90 MPH)

It doesn’t seem to make a huge difference for Pavano whether or not he has his velocity. He’s mixing his pitches extremely well. Forty-eight percent Fastballs, 36 percent Change Ups, seven percent Sliders, seven percent two-Seam Fastballs, and about one curve ball a game according to PitchFX.

Carl Pavano has always been a volatile pitcher and he’ll likely never reach ace status ever again; however, he is showing that he has the tools to be a very good major league pitcher, if he holds out health wise. In deeper leagues or AL-only leagues, I recommend at least putting him on your watch list.

The ERA is a combination of poor fielding, bad luck, and small sample size. He’s striding in the direction to be able to get you some wins, help in strikeouts, and not let walks hurt you. Next time you need a start and you see his name come up in the probable starters list, you now know that he is due for some attention.

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