Many things in life don’t make sense, and the same is true in baseball. Why does the best team rarely win the World Series? How is Clayton Kershaw not already on the All-Star team? For that matter, why does the All-Star game still decide home field advantage in the World Series?
But one thing in baseball makes the least sense of all. There is one player who defies all logic: Drew Hutchison.
Hutchison was picked by many to be a breakout stud this year, an under-the-radar Cy Young candidate who would be a rock in an otherwise shaky looking Toronto rotation. Then we was pegged to start Opening Day and pitched very well in Yankee Stadium, and more people started buying in.
However, very little has gone right since then, and without a doubt the most frustrating thing has been how erratic he has been. Very little (if anything) makes sense about the season he has put together thus far.
How can he be so good at home yet so bad on the road? How can he be dominant one start and terrible the next? Hell, how can he be dominant in one inning and terrible the next?
Seriously, both literally and figuratively, nothing about Hutchison makes sense. Look at these numbers and try to figure things out.
First here are his Home / Road splits:
Obviously, as has been well documented, Hutchison is terrible on the road. His 8.81 road ERA is the worst in the American League (by far), as his 1.98 WHIP. Much of that can be attributed to just horrendous luck, as evidenced by his astronomical .426 BABIP. But look at that bottom number. According to Fangraphs, 30.7% of batted balls against Hutchison on the road are classified as hard hit balls. At home, 32.2% are hard hit, yet his BABIP is substantially lower. So batters hit balls harder against Drew in Toronto, yet get on base less. Confusing.
Next, look at his AL rankings:
He is a top-10 pitcher in Wins and Winning percentage, but horrendous everywhere else. There are 48 pitchers who qualify for the ERA title in the AL, and Hutch ranks 45th in ERA, 46th in WHIP, 43rd in Batting Average against, and 43rd in OPS against. However, once again that incredibly high BABIP (.343, highest in the league) is to blame. According to FIP (fielding independent pitching) Hutchison is a top-20 pitcher. In fact, the difference between his FIP and his ERA is the greatest in the entire AL. So how do you explain this? Once again looking at his hard hit %, those numbers seem to make sense. At 31.4%, he is the 11th hardest hit pitcher in the league. For context, guys like Colby Lewis and Nate Karns are hit harder, while pitchers like Dallas Keuchel, Sonny Gray, Chris Sale, and Felix Hernandez give up the fewest hard hit balls. But Hutchison also ranks 3rd in soft hit %, right in line with Keuchel, Sale, and Chris Archer. The numbers say he is as bad as Lewis but also as effective as Sale. Weird.
Comparing his performance to last season shows just how erratic Hutchison has been this year. In 2015 he is giving up fewer hard hit balls and more soft hit balls, a sign of a better pitcher, yet his overall numbers are way down. Then take a look at his ERA by inning: it is like a roller coaster and much wilder than last year. He is getting hammered the 3rd time through the lineup, which explains why he can’t get through 6 innings.
The bottom line is this: according to the underlying numbers Drew Hutchison should be a top-20 pitcher this season, but unfortunate luck on balls in play is preventing that from happening – especially on the road. Logic says that his BABIP should regress to the mean by season’s end, and once that happens his overall numbers should improve dramatically.
But as shown above, logic doesn’t seem to mean anything when it comes to Hutchison.
Nothing about him makes sense.