The Houston Astros’ rotation is one of the best in baseball. This much is true. A top five rank in xFIP and FIP support the premise and a staff ERA in the top-half of the league does little to falsify it. Yes, that same rotation features Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Bud Norris, and Felipe Paulino. If their plan is to fingerprint and lock up any doubters like twin Foxes then so far everything is going on schedule.
Myers leads the team in innings pitched and while his 3.02 ERA is over his head, he must be considered one of the best offseason signings in the league. Rodriguez the mainstay of the group and Happ is the anti-Wandy. Norris and Paulino are products of the Astros’ system, with Norris being the breadwinner of the pair. Paulino is interesting in his own right, though, and that is whom I choose to focus on here.
Paulino’s stuff is majestic from the scope of a radar gun. His fastball averages 95.5 miles per hour and tops every starter in baseball that qualifies except Ubaldo Jimenez. Nevertheless, Paulino’s fastball holds a negative run value. This is startling for one reason in particular: Paulino is giving up a home run on less than 2% of his flyballs. That percentage is the clone on the other side of the mirror to his homer rate in 2009 which was out of this world ridiculous. The fastball run value being so horrid without balls clearing the fence is concerning.
Still, Paulino misses bats, gets a fair amount of grounders, and otherwise is pitching almost identical to his 2009 stats. The gopher ball is the difference between his FIP (3.24, down from 5.11) and why his xFIP has jumped. I do not think Paulino is a true talent five-run average pitcher. Instead – and perhaps sheepishly – I would expect him to be somewhere in the middle of those two xFIP. That’s mighty fine for a back-end starter in the National League Central.