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Even in a bad game, Jerad Eickhoff is Mr. Consistent
by Scott Butler 4/29/17

Jerad Eickhoff Phillies

Manager Pete Mackanin offered Jerad Eickhoff a compliment last night. "Eickhoff was off," Mackanin said after the Phillies' 5-3 loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles. "He just wasn't himself. He's allowed to have a bad game once in a while."

Wait, aren't compliments supposed to be nice?

That's just the thing, though. Eickhoff was one out away from pitching six or more innings in five out of six outings this season. Compare that to Vince Velasquez who, prior to his last two starts, had pitched six or more innings in just half of his 26 starts as a Phillie. In a game in which Eickhoff admitted his go-to pitch (curveball) wasn't working, he nearly made it through six innings with only 3 runs allowed - Eickhoff's "bad game" nearly earned him a quality start. For his outing to be considered an off night speaks to Eickhoff's consistency.

When his career is over, we probably won't be comparing Jerad Eickhoff to Steve Carlton, but the Phillies might bring home some trophies thanks in large part to the efforts of the hefty right-hander, and the reason is consistency.

How many casual Phillies fans would mention Eickhoff's name ahead of rotation mates Nola and Velasquez? Not too many, I suspect, yet Eickhoff is the rock of this staff. Well, as Corey Seidman pointed out, Eickhoff is finally getting some recognition:

Greg Amsinger, Dan Plesac and Eric Byrnes did two whole segments on the Phillies, and at the end of one of them Plesac said that, "When this team is ready to contend again, Jerad Eickhoff will be front and center."

Eickhoff truly is Mr. Consistent. Prior to last night's came, Eickhoff pitched six or more innings in 26 of 37 starts the last two seasons and he's allowed three earned runs or less in 31 of them. If Jerad recorded one more out last night, you could have bumped each figure up by one.

As I've written plenty of times in the past, consistency is one of the most under-appreciated qualities. Contracts are friendly to pitchers with gaudy strikeout numbers and the occasional epic performance like Velasquez's 16-strikeout game.

Players like Cliff Lee, who gave up one run in the entire month of June in 2011 and later that year allowed just 2 runs in all five August starts. Lee had a fantastic 2.40 ERA, a number Eickhoff may never approach in a season. However, Lee also had a a 4.91 ERA in July that season, a figure Eickhoff has not reached in any month in his big league career (he did come close with a 4.85 ERA last August).

Point being, Eickhoff gives his team a chance to win nearly every single night. MLB teams averaged 4.48 runs per game last season, which is nearly exactly the run rate for a quality start (3 runs or less in six or more innings, which equates to a maximum 4.50 ERA). Eickhoff is almost a lock to give you that nearly every night.

Eickhoff is the steadying presence every team needs, and you better believe the Phillies will try to lock him up long term.

Andy MacPhail has been steadfast in his belief that you grow pitching and you buy hitting.

"When you're dealing with essentially free-agent-type, older pitching," MacPhail said after losing Buchholz for the year, "it's a reminder that it's fragile and it's expensive."

The Phillies lost two free-agent, 30-year-old plus pitchers (the other one was Charlie Morton last year), but it is no coincidence that both pitchers had contracts that expired after just one year.

"I think I've articulated in the past," MacPhail explained. "I know there's time we're going to have to get involved in it but . . . I think there's going to be a lot more opportunities to add free-agent position players. Pitching is just something that should give you pause for concern."

That's where pitchers like Eickhoff play a crucial role. He is a safe investment that allows the Phillies to pause when deciding on pitchers like Yu Darvish and Jake Arieta, who are free agents at the end of the year. Maybe Eickhoff helps the Phillies hold their money on the riskier pitching acquisitions and allows them to make the safer bets on free agent hitters.

Sticking with that same theme, Eickhoff is about as safe a bet as you get every fifth day. Eickhoff was missing his best pitch and came oh so close to a quality start. For most pitchers, that means a quick shower and a reliever picking up three innings in a blowout loss.

But not for Mr. Consistent.

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