What's Going Wrong For Mulder?

Mark Mulder lasted only three innings, allowing six runs on five hits Friday night in Milwaukee. The Cardinals and the fans were looking for a lot more from the guy who is suppose to be the Cards #2 man in the rotation.

Alright, so what is the deal with Mulder? Looking at his peripherals, he looks pretty much like the same Mulder who won 16 games and had a 3.64 ERA last season. His batted-balls he's giving up are around the same as last season. 60% of the balls in play against Mulder are grounders, and he has the same amount of flies and line-drives as usual. His strikeout rate is slightly down, but so is his walk rate. His WHIP is rock steady over the last three years. He's leaving the average amount of runners stranded. So what gives? Well, I'm sure most of you know the answer to this:

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graph from www.fangraphs.com

A very high homerun rate of 1.5/9. (His career norm going into the season was .88/per 9 innings.) That's not good for an extreme ground-ball pitcher. 27.5% of fly balls hit off of Mark Mulder are leaving the yard. 27.5%! That's insane! That's nearly 10% higher then any other pitcher in the National League, and over 12% increase from Mulder's last year. Out of the different types of batted balls off of Mulder, around 20% are flies, and about 1 of 3 are homeruns. This is very unusual indeed. According to The Hardball Times,

"Research has shown that about 11% to 12% of outfield flies are hit for home runs. For pitchers, significant variations from 11% are probably the result of "luck," but for hitters this stat is more indicative of a true skill (hitting the ball hard!)."

So my guess is as to why Mulder is getting shelled routinely is that it is partly his own fault for making more mistakes, and largely in part due to some very, very bad luck. I'd say we should look for Mulder to rebound a decent bit in the second half, unless his case of gopheritis somehow continues. And if by some sort of magic he rediscovers a strikeout pitch and can average around 5.5 k's per 9 innings, he'll be the good Mulder we all hope for and miss watching pitch. If not, he'll fade into oblivion, with no trade value on the market and will be remembered as the worst of the few bad deals made by Walt Jocketty.

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