Kevin Correia Riding Breaking Balls to Glory

A 3-1 record, 2.23 ERA, and 1.07 WHIP? Who saw this coming? Not Jim Sannes.

It’s time for another exciting edition of Name That Idiot!! Today’s quotation is, “Most of the Twins’ transactions this off-season made sense. (The signing of Kevin Coreia) did not … The adjustment to the AL probably won’t be kind to a mediocre fly-ball pitcher who had a K/9 of 4.68 last year.” The answer is me. I am dumb. Really dumb. For real.

To be fair, the prospects for Correia did not look good coming into the season. But through his first five starts, the 32-year-old righty is 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. The question is… how?

Catching a Break(ing Ball)

You can toss out K/9 ratio. Correia’s 3.72 K/9 is the second lowest in the league (Do you, Joe Saunders. Do you). It’s not his contact percentage as hitters are making contact on 87.3 percent of their swings, the eighth highest total in the league. Who’s first? Vance Worley, of course! He and his 7.22 ERA will keep on keepin’ on!

Maybe he has an absurdly low BABIP against? Well, Correia’s .269 BABIP against is below the league average of .290, but this doesn’t come close to explaining how he has achieved his sudden and unexpected competency.

A deal with the devil? A new gelato-only diet? Sorcerer’s Stone? Nah, bruh. It’s all about dat control, doe.

Correia’s control of his off-speed pitches has been other-worldly this year. He has the lowest power/finesse ratio in the entire league (0.55) because he has been able to throw his breaking pitches for strikes in any counts. Over 63 percent of Correia’s sliders have been in the strike zone (up from 46.9 percent last year) and 50 percent of his changeups (up from 43.6 percent last year).

Correia currently ranks third in pitches per inning (13.2) and fourth in pitches per at bat (3.72). This has allowed him to go at least seven innings in each of his five starts, a feat he accomplished a grand total of three times in 2012, four times in 2011 and once in 2010. Outside of Correia, the Twins have only had one start that lasted at least seven innings (Worley on April 20). Yeah, okay, so I’m sorry I questioned the signing. You win, as always, Terry Ryan.

There is one reason, though, I would shy away from handing Correia the Cy Young right now: he has an unusually high percentage of runners left on base. Over the last four years, Correia’s LOB% has hovered right at or below the league average of roughly 71.5 percent. This year, his LOB% is at 82.9, 11 percentage points above the league average. You should expect some regression to the mean over his next few starts.