But despite that great groundball rate, 2.97 ERA and happy looking 6-2 record, there is a deeper problem going on with Moylan. I am of course talking about his walks, which have increased every season of his career, up to 5.23 per 9 innings in 2010, which is really bad. Moylan doesn't strike out enough batters to help nullify that mark fully, as his career strikeout rate has comfortably settled at around 7.5 or so batters per 9...around average. The groundballs help a little bit there, but its not enough to totally discount the fact that he puts too many men on base via the free pass. One positive about those walks is that Moylan doesn't allow many homers, only 13 in 247 1/3 career innings, so the walks aren't biting as bad as they could.
Moylan has settled into a role as a guy who outperforms his FIP year in and year out, much like Tim Hudson did last year. The similarity? We already discussed it: the high ground ball rate. FIP hates Moylan, xFIP has a dislike for him, but ERA loves the guy. This is a product of his ability to get ground balls, instead of allowing hard hit line drives. That lack of line drives and increased amount of grounders has led to high strand rates at or above 80% in 2 of Moylan's 3 full seasons. Something like that isn't usually a repeatable skill, but ground ball pitchers usually are able to sustain a higher strand rate than fly ball pitchers. It's just something that tends to happen over time.
2011 will be more of the same for Moylan, coming in from the bullpen to get that key double play ball when the Braves need it most. Moylan's role with the team has been different in each of his three season, with 2010 featuring him pitching in 80 or more games for the third time, but his inning count decreasing for the second straight year. That's probably for the best, because as I'm skimming his platoon splits right now, I've come to the conclusion that Moylan really should not be facing left-handed hitters at all. In 2010, they hit .293 against him, earning 22 walks. Against those lefties, Moylan struck out THREE BATTERS. That's right, a 3:22 K:BB ratio. I didn't think it was possible, but it is. With the Braves having a pair of guys who can function in the LOOGY role in 2011 in George Sherrill and Eric O'Flaherty, getting Moylan out of the game shouldn't be an issue when a lefty comes up to the plate. If Fredi Gonzalez uses Moylan equally against hitters from both sides of the plate, it could get ugly rather quickly.
Man, Fredi sure has a lot of buttons that he needs to push correctly in the bullpen this season, doesn't he? To say I'm nervous would be an understatement. Someone needs to get this man a link to Fangraphs, stat.