For years, it appeared as though Bret Saberhagen had a strange affinity for odd numbered years. Saberhagen won the Cy Young Award in both 1985 and 1989, and through the first ten years of his career, he was generally better during those years that ended in an odd number. It was just one of those random trends that can occasionally appear in baseball, without any logical reason for it.
While it is still early in his career, Tim Collins appears as though he may be following in Saberhagen’s footsteps, at least as far as the even/odd year performance goes. Collins put together a decent rookie season, going 4-4 with a 3.63 ERA, striking out 60 batters in 67 innings. Although he only gave up 52 hits, Collins walked 48 batters, limiting his effectiveness and leading to a 1.493 WHiP for the season. Yet, Collins was only 21 years old, and was likely to improve upon those numbers going forward.
That progression certainly occurred in 2012. Collins improved his control, walking 34 batters in 69.2 innings of work. Meanwhile, his strikeouts skyrocketed, as he struck out 93 batters, posting a strikeout to walk rate of 2.74. As Collins continued to challenge the opposition, his overall numbers improved as well. For the season, Collins was 5-4 with a 3.36 ERA and a 1.278 WHiP. The only potential concern was the increase in home runs allowed, as Collins gave up eight home runs that season.
Then came the 2013 season. At first glance, it would appear as though Tim Collins had a year similar to his 2011 campaign. His strikeout rate declined to under a strikeout per inning, and his WHiP increased to 1.444. A 3-6 record and an ERA of 3.54 helped make the 2012 season appear to be an aberration.
Yet, some of the positives from the previous year carried over. Collins had a similar walk rate in 2013, walking 28 batters in 53.1 innings of work. He kept the ball in the yard, allowing only three home runs during the season. The biggest issue for Collins was that he got hit more often. After allowing approximately seven hits per nine innings over his first two seasons, Collins allowed 8.3 hits per nine innings last season.
So, what changed? In 2012, Collins went away from his changeup, relaying more upon his curveball and fastball. While his fastball was hit hard, Collins held opponents to a .105 batting average on the curve, proving the axiom of ‘less is more’ to be accurate in this case. In 2013, neither the changeup nor the curve were as formidable. He had gotten a swing and a miss 30% of the time on the changeup in 2012, and the curve was missed on 12.8% of swings. Those numbers declined to 19.5% and 7.5% respectively in 2013,
It could simply be a matter of the opposition figuring out the diminutive lefty. Through June 22nd, Tim Collins was actually improving upon his 2012 numbers, posting a 2-1 record with a 2.02 ERA and a strikeout to walk rate of exactly two to one. Opponents had managed a batting line of only .202/.294/.255 against him. However, from that point on, Collins struggled to a 1-5 record with a 5.06 ERA. The batting line against him rose to .280/.369/.421, as Collins was used in lower leverage situations as the season progressed.
Based upon the raw data, it may be fair to wonder if Collins can recapture the form he displayed in 2012. He mixed his pitches at roughly the same rate, yet was unable to achieve the same amount of success. Opponents adjusted to how Collins performed for approximately a season and a half – now Collins has to adjust back. That ability to adjust may be the biggest factor for Collins in 2014. Perhaps he starts throwing fewer fastballs, or being more selective with the pitch in general, as opponents are hitting over .300 against the fastball throughout his career.
It may be too early to give up entirely upon Tim Collins, as he will be only 24 years old to start the 2014 season. However, his Royals career may be at at crossroads. With a number of pitching options on the cusp of contributing at the major league level, Collins may find that the Royals no longer have room on the roster for him.