The New and Improved Jeremy Guthrie
By David Hill
Typically, as players age, they begin to decline. It is rare for a player to suddenly improve in their mid to late 30’s, as they have theoretically begun to slip past their prime. Of course, as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens could point out, there are ways of cheating Father Time. Then, there is Jeremy Guthrie who, over his past seven starts, may be on the best run of his career.
Since May 21st, Guthrie has channeled his inner Clemens. During those last seven starts, Guthrie has only gone 3-3, but has put together a 2.49 ERA and a 1.15 WHiP. In 47 innings, Guthrie has struck out 37 batters, including consecutive games with nine strikeouts. In that time, Guthrie has seen his ERA decrease from 4.76 to 3.75, as he is in the midst of what may be his best season in the major leagues.
Of course, the question is whether or not this recent run by Jeremy Guthrie is sustainable. In some cases, it seems as though it may well be. During these last seven starts, Guthrie has had a batting average against on balls in play of .287, which is a bit below normal. Yet, over the course of the 2014 season, Guthrie has allowed a batting average of .263 on balls in play. However, BAbip does not factor in home runs. During this run, Guthrie has only given up two long balls, as opposed to the twelve in his previous nine starts, potentially skewing the average.
Even if we ignore BAbip, there are other indications that Guthrie may be capable of continuing this stretch. In these seven games, Guthrie has given up line drives on 25% of those balls put in play. Meanwhile, this season, Guthrie has only given up a line drive on 18.6% of batted balls. While the opposition has made harder contact, those line drives have been finding the Royals gloves more often than not.
The key for Jeremy Guthrie, as is usually the case, involves his ability to keep the ball in the yard. Yet, given his newfound ability to miss bats and the Royals defense, Guthrie may be able to mitigate any possible damage should he give up the occasional longball. Add in his improved control, as Guthrie has walked batters at a career low 5.4% rate, and he has a formula for success.
Unlike those other examples of players who improved in their mid to late 30’s, Guthrie appears to be succeeding with finding ways to improve without chemical enhancements (allegedly). Improved control, more strikeouts and excellent defense appear to be carrying Guthrie to his latest run of success. If this run continues, then the Royals rotation looks formidable enough for a run to the postseason.
It is not often that players improve during the latter stages of their careers. However, for the last seven games, the Royals have received a new and improved Jeremy Guthrie