No one expected Yankees’ rookie starting pitcher Chase Whitley to pitch at this All-Star-caliber level when he was called up from Triple-A in May, especially with the fact that he had made only 14 career starts in the minors after being converted from a reliever, and 6 of those came this year. But it’s clear that the Yankees have found something special in Whitley. The question is, how special is Whitley? Is this what we can always expect from Whitley, or is he having a bit of beginner’s luck? Lets look into some stats that have factored into Whitley’s great season.
Is It Luck?
The Yankees are 5-1 in games that Whitley has started this year, and Whitley has an impressive 2.41 ERA, which is ranked in the top 10 in the AL this year among starters. One way to gauge Whitley’s true talent, is to look at his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play).
Chase’s FIP is 2.58, which is close enough to his ERA, so you know he’s not out pitching his numbers, And his BABIP is 291, only slightly below the league average of 300 so he’s not getting ridiculously lucky on balls in play either . This indicates that Whitley should be able to sustain a high-level of performance.
One thing that doesn’t seem sustainable, is that he has only given up one homer this year in 33 2/3 innings. Whitley’s homer-to-fly ball ratio is way below the league average of 10% at 2.5%, so expect Whitley to surrender a few more home runs in the future. About 15% of the balls hit against Whitley are hard hit, which is equal to the league average, but the batting average on those hard hit balls is just .579, more than 100 points lower than the league average of .692. So thats another great sign of Whitley having good stuff, and it’s also worth noting that the Yankees’ defense is playing well behind him.
Quality Of Oppositon
One last thing to take into consideration, is the quality of teams Whitley has faced this year. On June 18th, Whitley faced his toughest test against the Blue Jays, who are a top 10 offense in just about every category. He performed well, giving up just 2 runs, in 5 innings, in a 7-3 Yankees’ victory. Whitley had started in mostly pitcher-friendly ball parks this season, so it looks like Whitley is actually pitching up to his capability.
Expect his ERA to rise to the mid or high 3s in the future, because he is bound to give up more home runs, that’s just part of the game. But even that will be more than anyone expected from the one-time farmhand reliever.