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The problem with Brandon McCarthy

Hear that?

It is the sound of silence...silence from those who were going berzerk back in April and May about the Danks/McCarthy trade, from those who claimed that the deal was a bust for the Rangers, that Jon Daniels and his staff couldn't evaluate talent, that the ChiSox fleeced the Rangers in this deal.

Randy Galloway called for Daniels to be fired in May, and included this blurb:

Otherwise, all of Jon Boy's trades were a mistake, including the one that will get him fired: John Danks for Brandon McCarthy.

Of course, Galloway was just echoing what a lot of folks in the media, and what a lot of fans, were saying at the time (although I think someone might want to email him and ask if he still thinks that trade is getting Daniels fired).

Now? John Danks has a 5.22 ERA and an 88 ERA+ on the season, including a 6.15 ERA with opponents hitting .295/.361/.556 against him in his last 13 appearances. Nick Masset is back in AAA, after posting a 7.09 ERA in 27 outings for the ChiSox, although he does have a solid 2.96 ERA since being sent down.

And Brandon McCarthy, of course, has a 4.79 ERA and a 97 ERA+. Since that lost April, he has a 3.41 ERA in his last 14 appearances, with opponent's hitting .245/.324/.394 against him.

It is still too early to judge this trade -- it will probably be 2009 or 2010 before we can really determine that -- but the performances of the players the past few months has certainly resulted in a lot less heat on Jon Daniels.

Nevertheless...I think there is definitely reason for concern in regards to Brandon McCarthy right now.

Let's look at McCarthy's peripherals...on the season, he's averaging 5.2 Ks per 9 innings, versus 4.2 walks per 9 innings. Both numbers are by far the worst of his (albeit brief) major league career, and neither comes close to the sterling K and walk numbers he put up in the minor leagues. And both fall well below the major league averages.

And those numbers are actually worse during his recent run of that 14 game stretch, McCarthy has struck out only 5.1 batters per 9, and walked 4.1 per 9.

Despite this, however, McCarthy's DIPS ERA on the season -- the ERA he'd be expected to have, given his peripherals -- is 4.67. His ERA is actually higher than what would be expected, given his peripherals, despite his poor K and walk rates. His BABIP is right at the major league average.

How? Because McCarthy has been outstanding at the one area of his game that was thought to be his weakness when the Rangers traded for him...keeping the ball in the yard. McCarthy's home run rate has been well above average this season, at .77 HR per 9 innings, and that has dragged his ERA up to close to league average (park-adjusted), despite his K and walk rates. Since allowing 3 homers at Safeco early in the season, McCarthy has allowed only 5 homers in 80 innings, a rate of .56 HR per 9. Despite being a flyball pitcher, McCarthy has allowed just 5.4% of his flyballs this year to turn into homers, almost half the league average of 10%.

Now, what does this mean? I don't know. McCarthy has a reputation as a guy who thinks a lot, is very analytical, sometimes to his detriment. Did McCarthy come to Texas and, knowing that it is a homer-prone park, adjust his pitching style, so that he'd nibble more while leaving fewer balls in the hitters' wheelhouses? Or is this just a statistical fluke?

I don't know. But I do think that, if McCarthy's percentage of homers allowed on fly balls goes back to where it would normally be, that would double his home run rate...and that would make him a very below-average pitcher, unless his K and walk rates improve.

And realistically, for McCarthy to be the type of pitcher the Rangers expect him to be, he's going to have to improve his K and walk rate, anyway. The strange thing is, he had impeccable control throughout the minors...his great K/BB ratio was one of the things that made him such a hot prospect in the eyes of statheads and scouts alike, with his home run rate being the one red flag. His situation this year has been reversed.

I don't have an answer here. McCarthy is going to have to miss more bats to be the type of front-of-the-rotation starter the Rangers thought he could be when they got him (and, I believe, still think he can be). If he doesn't get his strikeout rate up to about 7 per 9 IP, he's not going to be more than a decent #4 starter, a guy who can give you 5-6 innings per game with 2-3 runs allowed, but who isn't going to be able to anchor your staff.

But how McCarthy evolves in the next year or two, whether he becomes that legit top of the rotation guy or not, is going to have a huge impact on the Rangers' fortunes down the line.