After going 2-0 with a 0.44 ERA in his first three starts as an Astro, Scott Feldman was making Jeff Luhnow look like a genius for signing him to a 3-year contract for $30 million. Since then… not so much.
In his fourth start, Feldman ran into trouble against Kansas City. The veteran right-hander was touched up for four earned runs on nine hits in six innings of work against the Royals. After that start, Feldman was placed on the disabled list with right biceps tendinitis.
After a three week absence, Feldman would return to the mound with an outstanding six inning performance against Baltimore. The big guy induced 12 ground balls and notched a season high six strikeouts while throwing 60 of his 88 pitches for strikes. But, he didn’t figure in the decision.
The next four outings, however, turned out to be disappointing for Feldman. Opponents racked up 38 hits in 20 & 1/3 innings against him. In his next outing, Feldman lasted only 1 & 2/3 innings. His two subsequent outings have been better — but nothing to get overly excited about. Feldman enters tonight’s start against the Braves looking to recapture the magic he exhibited in early April.
After the great start, Feldman has gone 1-4 with a 5.56 ERA in his last nine starts. Those aren’t exactly the numbers of a $10 million per year pitcher. Granted, the sample size is small, but a trend seems to be developing.
Keeping the ball on the ground has always been the key to Feldman’s success. Scott has actually produced a higher percentage of ground balls this season than he has in either of the last two seasons. He has also been able to limit the homeruns. A .265 BABIP against Feldman suggests that things could get worse before they get better. But, surprisingly, that number is right in line with his career average.
A struggling Braves lineup (with the exception of the red-hot Evan Gattis) could be just what the doctor ordered for Feldman. If he can keep the Braves at bay for six or seven innings, it could be the beginning of another hot streak. But, if Feldman struggles, we may be asking ourselves if he is worth that $30 million price tag.
The interesting thing about Feldman’s contract is the fact that it is front-loaded. He will make $12 million this year, $10 million next season, and $8 million in 2016. That set-up should make it easier to trade Feldman should the Astros determine that he is not part of their future.
Feldman has been a streaky pitcher for much of his 10-year career in the majors. The Astros are counting on him to get the momentum headed back in the right direction tonight.