San Diego Padres: Jerad Eickhoff needs to change

So far, Eickhoff has returned to his 2016 form. Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.
So far, Eickhoff has returned to his 2016 form. Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. /
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Former Phillies RHP Jerad Eickhoff has had some solid seasons in the rotation. Last season was Eickhoff’s worst ever so its time for him to do something different with the San Diego Padres this upcoming season.

Jerad Eickhoff had been a mid rotation fixture for the Philadelphia Phillies since 2015. Unfortunately for Eickhoff, his productivity has decreased every year since 2016, with WAR totals of 3.0, 2.0, 0.2, and a 2019 career low of -0..4. Now in camp with the San Diego Padres, Eickhoff could make some changes to contribute to the Padres rotation.

Eickhoff’s 2019 was disappointing, to say the least, with a  final line of 58.1 innings with a 5.71 ERA and 6.51 FIP. More problematic was his career high fly ball rate of 46% and HR/FB rate of 2.76. Another problematic area for Eickhoff is his career low fastball velocity of 89.5 MPH. That velocity probably contributed to Eickhoff throwing the least amount of fastballs in his career (>50% career vs 39% in 2019). Not to continue to pile on, but Eickhoff also had one of the worst Barrels/PA% at 7.8% which was one of the worst marks in baseball.

Eickhoff was the pitching equivalent to Victor Robles as he had the largest difference in his exit velocity on the ground verse in the air at 15.1 MPH. Basically, when hitters squared him up they did serious damage. That is supported by the fact that Eickhoff had an expected weighted on base average (xwOBA) of .637 when hitters put the ball in the air. That mark was one of the worst in all of baseball and proves that Eickhoff needs to get more ground balls to be successful.

More Padres. Padres rotation breakdown. light

So, how do we get Eickhoff to generate more ground balls and avoid bad contact? To start, he should throw more curveballs as that was his best pitch by ground ball rate at 47%. Next, he should ditch the slider as hitters teed off on that pitch, recording an 87.9 exit velocity and .345 xwOBA. For context, hitters were Fernando Tatis Jr. against Eickhoff’s slider which is not a great place to be.

Lastly, Eickhoff retained elite spin (84th percentile) on his fastball despite its lack of velocity. Looking at his heat map, Eickhoff should get every fastball he can to the upper part of the zone as he could generate more swings and misses. That would pair his high spin fastball and curve ball together to create a better group of pitches. Since he’s not an ace, Eickhoff could survive with two effective pitches going through a lineup twice before turning things over to the bullpen.

The Padres are going to need every player on their team to step up to complete with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies. Eickhoff isn’t an ace but the Padres could hand him the ball plenty of times in important games. Eickhoff has proven that he can be a strong option in a competitive rotation.

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With a few changes, Eickhoff can be the difference between a competitive start and a bullpen mop up day for the San Diego Padres.