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Bruce Chen Battles Regression


Everyone is aware of the Bruce Chen story. For a couple of seasons, it was kind of fun. There was a sense he was overachieving, but for the commitment from the Royals, the results felt pretty good.

Beginning in 2009, he pitched on three consecutive one year contracts (the first two were minor league deals). He provided the Royals with a 0.1 fWAR, a 1.2 fWAR and a 1.7 fWAR. Overall, given the outlay of cash from the Royals for those three seasons, that was some decent collective production.

He was rewarded with the multi-year deal he was so desperately seeking.

Cue regression.

Chen's ERA the last two seasons was a solid 3.96. Yet his xFIP hovered around 4.75. That's a fairly large difference to carry between two seasons and almost 300 innings.

This season, Chen sports a 4.56 xFIP. That's pretty close to what he served up in 2010 and '11 combined. Yet his ERA has jumped to 5.36 in 30 starts. The pendulum swings.

For the lefty, his strikeout rate has been fairly stable and his walks have improved. This year, what's doing the damage are the balls he can't keep in the park. His current 1.68 HR/9 is the "Old Chen." The guy who scuffled from team to team to team in the early part of the millenium. The Chen we saw the last two seasons... The one with the HR/9 under 1.1... That guy is the exception.

Chen has always been a fly ball pitcher and those pesky fly balls clear the fence from time to time. Chen dodged some bullets the least two years. Some of that had to do with his home ballpark. Kauffman Stadium hasn't been as kind this season.

In this last two starts, he's coughed up seven home runs. And they come in all varieties.

The home runs he surrendered to the Rangers earlier this month came on a change-up, a curve, a fastball and a slider. In his next start the bombs came on a sinker, a fastball and another sinker. He's an equal opportunity pitcher... Everything is hittable.

Actually, it's his fastball that has been his worst pitch this season, according to FanGraphs, Chen's weighted fastball (wFB) is worth a -22.3. Negative. 22.3. The only pitcher with a more destructive fastball (to his own club) is Ervin Santana.

Chen faces a strong lineup tonight as the Los Angeles Angels roll into town. He could surprise and put together a solid start, but it could be another big night for the fans who are sitting in the fountain seats.