Nick Tropeano is having a great year. So far in 2016, NiTro has only given up more than 3 runs once and through 8 starts, he's given up 2 or less runs in 6 of them. These numbers are not that far off from 2015 when he started 7 games and in 4 of them gave up 2 or less runs.
His basic stats looks good: 3.30ERA, 43K in 43.2IP, 2-2 record. But what happens when you dig a bit deeper?
We know that he has a hard time going deep into games. All season long he's been pitching 5 innings per game (last night he went 7). He's been averaging nearly 20 pitches per inning (last night was around 14).
NiTro has has given up 7 homeruns (on pace for about 1 per game), his BB/9 rate is very high at 4.53, his WHIP is high at 1.580, and his FIP is 4.78. Tropeano's BB/9 is up from 2015 (2.39 to 4.53), His HR/9 is up (.48 to 1.44), His ERA is down, but his FIP is also up (2.60 to 4.78). In fact, his walk rate is highest on the team and his HR rate is second only to Jered Weaver.
With these numbers, how is he being successful? It would appear that NiTro might have an anti-curse placed on him (unlike all the unlucky players currently on the DL). Tropeano's LOB% is a staggering 89.7 which is highest on the team, and 4th highest in all of baseball. His clutch rating (a measurement of how well he pitching in high leverage situations) is 7th in all of MLB.
Is he good, or lucky? Maybe a bit of both. The combination of his FIP being quite a bit higher than his ERA, AND his high LOB rate, may indicate a bit of luck going his way (though fly ball pitchers often outperform their FIP). NiTro gets a lot of his outs via fly balls, and in HR ballparks this can be a problem (case in point the 3 HRs he gave up at Miller Field, ranked 1st in homeruns last year). An average strand rate can be expected to be around 72%, meaning NiTro is pretty lucky with a rate near 90%.
However, NiTro may also be getting a bit of back luck when it comes to what happens to balls once they leave the bat (BABIP). Considering an average of about .300 for BABIP, NiTro's .325 may indicate a bit of BAD luck.
My take? Tropeano's "lucky" LOB rate, and "unlucky" BABIP rate maybe cancel each other out to some extent. He is riding high on his 3.30 ERA right now, but it may not stay that low. A nearly 90% strand rate is probably unsustainable, even with Mike Trout in the outfield
and Andrelton Simmons at SS. If Tropeano can cut down on his walks, he may keep that ERA in the3 range, but it could creep over 4 if his LOB rate goes down and he continues to walk at the same rate.
Let's hope the luck dragons stay on NiTro's side a bit longer and he keeps doing his thing. Whatever he is doing right now, it's certainly working!