After a pronounced postseason where Yusmeiro Petit went 12.2 innings giving up just 2 runs, the world caught a glimpse at what he could do. In game two of the NLDS in Washington, the late blooming right-hander went 6 shutout innings in extra innings striking out 7 and giving up just one hit. His postseason performance comes off as a shock for most people, but he was exceptional in the regular season as well.
In 117 innings in 2014, Petit posted a 2.78 FIP, 3.69 ERA, and a 1.7 FWAR. He struck out almost 3% more batters than the MLB average and his walk percentage was one percent below the MLB average.
2013: 48 IP, 3.56 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 0.8 fWAR, 24 K%, 5.6 BB%, 73.9 LOB%, 44.1 fly ball% (34% MLB average)
2014 as reliever: 49 IP, 1.84 ERA, 1.66 FIP (6th best among MLB relievers), 0.9 fWAR, 31.7 K%, 5.9 BB%, 78.8 LOB%, 41.4 fly ball% (35% MLB average)
2014 as starter: 68 IP, 5.03 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 0.8 fWAR, 26.9 K%, 4.0 BB%, 59.1 LOB%, 44.7 fly ball% (35% MLB average)
Now in a relatively small sample size of 68 innings pitched as a starter, Petit had a 5.03 ERA, but a 3.59 FIP while having a very unusual LOB% (left on base percentage) of 59.1%. League average is around 73%. Unless Petit changes his mechanics or has mental issues when runners are on base, one could assume that his LOB% will move towards the mean with more innings pitched causing his ERA to drop.
This is a big mistake. Lincecum has been a poor pitcher for the last 3 seasons, about 540 innings. He has a combined fWAR of 2.1 over that span, a FIP of around 4, and an ERA of 4.75. His walk percentage has been 10.9%, 9%, and 9.4% (all higher than MLB average) while his strikeout percentage has decreased every season. Zips projects Lincecum to have a 4.25 ERA, 4.00 FIP, and an fWAR of 0.3.
Petit averages 88.7 MPH on his fastball, but he should be in the rotation over Lincecum in 2015 for the Giants. Petit has four pitches (fastball, curveball, slider, changeup) that are above average according to Pitchf/x on FanGraphs. Eno Sarris of FanGraphs wrote this piece on Petit’s deceptiveness in October.
"Sure, Petit doesn’t have much velocity. But the Giants focused on what he did have — fastball command and a good change. And the coaching staff worked on what Petit didn’t have by improving his curve. But it was also what batters couldn’t see that ended up making Petit what we see today."
Lincecum doesn’t have a pitch that he can rely on or is even an above average pitch. It doesn’t help that Lincecum is in the strike zone 41.7% of the time and only throws a first pitch strike 54.5% of the time while Petit is in the zone 43.5% of the time and throws a first pitch strike 69.2% of the time.
Right now, Petit is the better pitcher and a very good pitcher while Lincecum is an easily replaceable major leaguer who happens to have a contract that earns him $17 million more than Petit in 2015. Petit will be making a reasonable amount until he can file for free agency in 2017.