First Pitch: Why I’d Remove Correia From the Rotation, Despite the Good Start

Earlier in the week I wrote that the Pirates should take the first excuse they get to remove Kevin Correia from the rotation. My focus was mostly on the options that the Pirates had to replace Correia, with those options being Brad Lincoln, Rudy Owens, and Jeff Locke. I didn’t feel like breaking down why Correia should be removed from the rotation, as I felt calling him “a fourth or fifth starter at best” and “a sixth starter/bullpen option for most teams” was enough.

Tonight, Correia gave up three runs on six hits and two walks, with all of his damage coming off of two homers in the sixth inning. After the second homer, I tweeted that this was the excuse to make the switch to Rudy Owens. Or Brad Lincoln, if that’s who you prefer. I’d go with Owens, only because I see their upsides as the same, and Owens fits PNC Park better.

I was met with a few responses asking why I’d remove Correia after a good start. This is kind of funny to me, since I’ve had one Twitter follower getting on my case all week for pointing out the fact that Correia’s numbers have been good. Apparently mentioning that made me sound like I was hyping up Correia, in the middle of an article about how the Pirates should remove Correia from the rotation.

Correia’s numbers have been good this year. That’s just fact. Heading in to tonight he had a 3.38 ERA in 29.1 innings. He saw a slight bump in those numbers, now with a 3.47 ERA in 36.1 innings.

If you want to break that down, Correia has been lucky. He’s not this good of a pitcher. He doesn’t strike out a lot of batters, with a 3.2 K/9 on the season. To his credit, he doesn’t give up a lot of walks either, with a 2.7 BB/9 this year. He’s limited hits this year, but that’s come from a very unsustainable .208 BABIP. In his career, Correia has a .295 BABIP, which is a normal range for pitchers.

Correia has been lucky, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s put up good numbers so far this season. They might be good because of good luck, but they’re still good. Nothing changes the past. When you start talking about luck, you’re talking about future performances. Correia has had a .214 BABIP this year. That will go up. He’s got a 77.1% strand rate. That will go down. Combine the two and you’ve got more base runners and more runners scoring. The only bright side is that his 16.1% HR/FB ratio is unlucky, and should go down.

Basically Correia is a right handed version of Zach Duke. He’s a 4th or 5th starter on a bad rotation, and a sixth starter or a bullpen option in good rotations. I liked the signing of Correia prior to the 2011 season, but that was coming off a year where the Pirates had one of the worst pitching rotations in the majors. They had a bad rotation, so it made sense to add Correia.

Now the Pirates have a good rotation. They also have three good options who will be under team control for the long haul. Brad Lincoln has five years of control remaining after the 2012 season. Rudy Owens and Jeff Locke have six years of control remaining after the 2012 season. All three could at least match the upside of Correia, and I feel that all three could be better than Correia.

Correia has put up good numbers this year. Tonight was a good start. That all might be due to luck, but it doesn’t change the fact that it happened. But going forward, you can’t rely on that luck. In fact, odds are the luck will run out, and Correia will regress. That’s why I feel the Pirates should use whatever excuse is needed to make the switch to Lincoln, Locke, or Owens. It only makes sense to go with someone who has more upside and who is under team control beyond the 2012 season. I’m not saying get rid of Correia. I think he has value out of the bullpen and as an emergency starter. I’m just saying move him out of the rotation before his regression kicks in, rather than waiting for that start where he sees a normal amount of balls dropping in for hits, and a normal amount of base runners scoring.

Links and Notes

**Don’t forget to join the Draft Street fantasy baseball free roll. It’s a one night fantasy baseball contest that takes place Friday night. The contest is FREE to join, and you compete for part of a $250 prize pool. Plus, you help the site out in the process. CLICK HERE to enter.

**The Pirates lost 4-2 as Stephen Strasburg struck out 13. Game story here.

**Prospect Watch: Jameson Taillon throws six shutout innings in Bradenton’s 16-3 win.

**Daniel McCutchen was called up after Joel Hanrahan was placed on the Bereavement List. McCutchen returns with sharper pitches.

**Erik Bedard is feeling better after exiting Wednesday’s game with back spasms.

**My weekend draft prospects preview, with a look at the probability of the Pirates landing one of my top seven guys, and why Lucas Giolito is my favorite for the pick.

**Baseball America releases their first mock draft.

**Don’t Hold Your Breath on Instant Replay.


  • Could the canard of Correia’s good numbers give him some trade value with a team that is desperate for a starter? Is there a GM out there who doesn’t care about FIP? Correia’s is 5.09, which is much more in line with his actual performance than is his 3.47 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.

    Correia may have been unlucky with his 16.1% HR/FB ratio, but even with a 10% HR/FB, his K:BB numbers and BABIP would still portend a big increase in runs allowed. His xFIP of 4.39 (adjusting HR/FB to normal), though much better than his FIP, is still .92 higher than his ERA.

    A fifth starter with an ERA of 4.39 would be a significant improvement for some teams, but the Pirates have better options in Lincoln and – when he returns – Karstens.

  • Honestly, I think the only issue I have with this is the idea that Correia’s start tonight was good. About the only thing he did well was get ground balls at a reasonable clip. 7 IP, 1 K, 2 BB is just abysmal, though–that’s not a line that a Major League pitcher should throw. He was lucky that only 6 of the many balls in play against him went for hits, and he was even more likely that outside of one inning they all were evenly spread and hence didn’t turn into runs. You’re right to say that this start demonstrates why Correia should be replaced not despite it being good, but because it was BAD.

    (As a note, I think the most telling stat for Correia isn’t his awful K/9 or his BABIP, but his 4.2% swinging strike rate. He isn’t fooling anyone; even on pitches out of the zone, batters are making contact over 80% of the time [which actually might be contributing to his low BABIP]. I’m not at all convinced his HR/FB is going to come down; it’s in line with the last two years, and it seems like he’s just teeing it up out there and getting crushed for it.)

    I have to believe that the FO is smart enough to see that Correia is basically done. There are only two questions remaining, I think:

    1) Is moving to the bullpen going to do any good? If Correia’s just going to keep serving up meatballs–and I’m not convinced he has the stuff to do otherwise anymore–I’d rather cut him loose. It’s not like we’re hurting for long relief options, between Lincoln, Dan McCutchen, and the Altoona Four.

    2) Who replaces him? In part, this depends on the answer to #1: if Correia moves to the ‘pen (and assuming Bedard doesn’t go on the DL, which changes the whole calculus), then bringing up Owens or Locke (presumably Owens, especially with Locke’s outing today) would require sending someone down. This could be Jared Hughes, but a) I think it’s really questionable whether Correia is better than Hughes at this point, and b) that ends with us either forcing Brad Lincoln into short-inning relief (and hence essentially giving up on him as a starter) or having two guys with the exact same role, one of whom is clearly worse than the other.

    So I think you’re definitely correct that it’s time to remove Correia from the rotation (even if Bedard hits the DL, in my opinion). I think we should either cut him and give Rudy Owens a spot, or swap him and Brad Lincoln.

    • I completely agree with your assessment. Add in the fact that he’s gone after this year, then its a no brainer. Which means Clint won’t do it.