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Updated: May 29th, 2013 12:23am
Numbers Game: Scott Diamond having rough time in second full season

Numbers Game: Scott Diamond having rough time in second full season

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Minnesota Twins left-hander Scott Diamond still has plenty of time to make up for his rough start, but the numbers tell an interesting story about the difference between 2012 and 2013.

Despite tallying the third fewest strikeout rate (4.7 per nine innings) of any qualified pitcher in baseball last year, Diamond was able to have success because of three main qualities:

1.) His ability to go deep into games. In 27 starts last season, Diamond pitched at least seven innings 13 times. He failed to complete at least six innings only six times. And only once in those 27 starts did Diamond not pitch at least five innings.

2.) His excellent control. Diamond kept almost everything low, rarely missing above the strike zone.

3.) His 53% groundball rate, which ranked 10th among qualified starters. Diamond doesn't have the inherent downward movement in his fastball that other groundball-heavy pitchers do, but his control down in the zone was good enough to kill a ton of worms.

As a result, Diamond was able to post a 3.54 ERA (3.93 xFIP) in 173 innings despite not joining the rotation until a month into the season.

This year has been vastly different.

Including Tuesday night's rough outing in which Diamond gave up four runs on eight hits to the Milwaukee Brewers in only 4 2/3 innings, the lefty has now failed to reach the six-inning mark five times in nine outings. Only once has Diamond pitched beyond 6 1/3 innings so far this season.

His ERA sits at 5.22.

What's different?

According to numbers kept by Fangraphs.com, Diamond's contact percentage, first-pitch strike percentage and zone percentage are all the same as in 2012. But he is allowing more home runs per nine innings, inducing fewer groundballs (47%), and his strikeouts per nine have dropped even further (from 4.7 to 4.2).

Pitchers who strike out fewer than six batters per nine innings walk a very fine line. If their defense isn't solid, they give up runs. If they walk hitters, they give up runs. If balls aren't hit at defenders, they give up runs.

Diamond seems to be at the mercy of some of those external factors -- as evidenced by opponents' .331 batting average on balls in play, which is 40 points higher than last year.

Has the offseason elbow surgery played a part in the bad start? If so, Diamond hasn't said anything, although according to Pitch F/X data his average fastball is down from 89.5 mph to 88 mph, which isn't a huge gap.

Diamond was probably due to regress from last year's success, but not this much. It's likely he'll settle in somewhere in the middle.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Scott Diamond
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