Fernando Abad took his 4th loss of the season last night, walking two batters, giving up a hit, and the winning run to the Braves. His WHIP is 1.95, ranked 218th out of 244 National League pitchers. There are only ten pitchers with a worse WHIP who have thrown 10+ IPs. Of course, two of those pitchers are Nelson Figueroa and Brandon Lyon, and we see how their seasons have gone so far.
What's going on with Abad (who dominated as a starter in Winter Ball this past off-season)? A big part of it is the fact that he's just not missing any bats. Dating back to April 26, Abad has thrown 117 pitches in 10 appearances, and has generated five swings-and-misses (according to Baseball-Reference).
He hasn't been particularly unlucky - giving up a .313 BABIP. His FIP (adjusting ERA so as to make it independent of fielding) is a stout 6.53. Abad just can't find the strike zone - walking batters at a rate of 5.4 per nine innings.
According to FanGraphs, Abad is throwing just 43% of his pitches in the strike zone, 74th out of NL relievers with 10+IP (other Astros pitchers qualifying for this stat throwing their pitches for a worse percentage in the zone include Wilton Lopez - 38.6%, Enerio Del Rosario - 40.6%, and Brandon Lyon - 40.9%). Hitters are making contact with 84.2% of Abad's pitches, ranking 80th out of those 97 pitchers.
Abad just isn't fooling anybody - batters are only swinging at 42.3% of his pitches - 83rd out of 97 pitchers. And they're only missing 6.4% of the ones they swing at.
(For the record, we could have a separate post on Enerio Del Rosario, who has less favorable statistics in almost every case).
Amazingly, Abad ranks 51st - pretty high for him - in getting the first-pitch strike at 59.4% of plate appearances. The issue is holding the batter after that 0-1 count. In 37PAs following an 0-1 count, opponents are hitting .323/.405/.452. Abad only has seven PAs with a batter down 0-2. Seven of his eight walks have come with two strikes on the board.
Fernando Abad just isn't fooling anyone. He still has options left, and he's currently an accessory to murder of the 2011 Astros season - of 22 appearances, the Astros have been worse off when he's exited the game (and this doesn't count inherited runners who have later scored) eight times.
Meanwhile, Ryan Rowland-Smith is down in Oklahoma City, where RHBs are hitting .290 against him (Abad vs. RHBs: .379, with a 1.259 OPS). Rowland-Smith is currently a starter, but he could fill a 2010 Figueroa type-role, spot-starting and appearing in relief. I know Abad's a young guy, and he's figuring things out. Maybe this season is a lost cause, anyway, so you just let him make his mistakes. But if the Astros are going to attempt some sort of comeback, it needs to happen with another lefty in the bullpen...like Ryan Rowland-Smith.
Update: Zach Levine published a post three minutes apart from this one, where Brad Mills is quoted on Abad:
We’ve had some discussions about that, and we’re still coming to that conclusion. We’ve gone over mechanical issues, we’ve gone over ‘does he need more time out there.’ Here’s a guy who’s been a strike thrower really his entire life and then all of a sudden he comes out last night during a big game and throws four straight balls. There’s all kind of things, mechanical things, mind things, game situation things that we’re discussing.”