It’s safe to say Brandon McCarthy’s time in Arizona did not go as planned.
Signed to a two-year, $15.5 million deal prior to last season, McCarthy was traded to the New York Yankees over the weekend for the equivalent of a bag of balls: a replacement-level pitcher in Vidal Nuno, with the Diamondbacks even giving the Yankees money in the deal.
McCarthy’s stint in the desert could be summarized in two words: bad luck.
After a rocky first two months in a Diamondbacks uniform, McCarthy landed on the disabled list in June last year with shoulder problems. While on the DL, he also suffered a seizure as a lingering result of being hit in the head by a line drive at the end of the 2012 season. It would be two months before he would return to action.
The bad luck this season has been more about on-field results than injuries. Despite boasting a K/BB ratio of 4.65 (93 strikeouts to just 20 walks in 109.2 innings), McCarthy’s ERA sits at 5.01 as he shifts back to the American League. His fielding-independent numbers say that ERA should be closer to 3.79, though, and when you adjust for park factors, that drops even further to 2.89.
He’s clearly been hurt by pitching in Arizona’s offense-happy environment, and while Yankee Stadium has been known to give up those cheap home runs to left-handed hitters, there isn’t as much of a constant threat of a home run clearing the bases. It’s also hard to believe that McCarthy’s current home run rates would have continued even if he stayed in Arizona — the numbers are just so far above his career averages that they pretty much have to come down eventually.
McCarthy’s career home run-to-flyball rate is at 10.1%, but this year, that number has jumped to 20%. Another weird thing about this season? While he’s giving up more home runs, he’s actually giving up less flyballs than he has at any point in his career — it’s just that a disproportionate amount of the flyballs he is getting are carrying out. He’s been able to induce a groundball 55.3% of the time this year, which should be very encouraging for the Yankees, even if their infield defense allows more hits than it should.
With CC Sabathia likely out for the year, the Yankees were looking for a veteran starter as they remain on the edge of playoff contention. The Yankees do tend to throw money at a lot of problems, but they’ve also shown that they’re very good at crunching numbers and buying low on guys that underachieve before getting to the Bronx. Alfonso Soriano carried the Yankees’ offense in the second half last year. Maybe Brandon McCarthy can help stabilize the rotation in the second half this year.
It’s possible that this is just a nightmare season for McCarthy and his numbers never catch up to his true performance. Even if they don’t, the Yankees won’t lose much sleep — they didn’t give up anything they’ll miss in the deal, and they’re not even picking up the entire tab for his salary this year. If McCarthy flames out, they’ll just let him walk in the offseason. If he rights the ship, they’ll have a leg up on re-signing him. In the end, this weekend’s trade was a low-risk move that may end up paying large dividends.