For four years when I was a student at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., I ate my meals at the dining hall in Eickhoff Hall. It was named for Dr. Harold Eickhoff, a controversial former President of the college, who still teaches and strolls around campus wearing his signature eye patch. Maybe that explains why I love watching Philadelphia Phillies righty Jerad Eickhoff pitch. Maybe it's because he's one of the few members of the Phillies that are actually enjoyable to watch. Who knows, emotions are complicated.
The 25-year-old Eickhoff was one of the prospects who went from the Texas Rangers to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade in late-July, and after three starts in Triple-A Lehigh Valley he made his major league debut on August 21st against the Miami Marlins. Eickhoff threw six shutout innings against the Marlins, allowing five hits while striking out five and walking just one.
In Eickhoff's eight starts with the Phillies, he has thrown seven quality starts - a poor outing on September 6th against the Boston Red Sox is the only dark mark on his brief big-league resume. Since that start, the 15th-round draft pick in the 2011 Draft has been impressive. In 28 innings over the ensuing four starts, Eickhoff has allowed just three runs on 17 hits, while maintaining a 33:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He threw exactly seven innings in each of the starts, and his streak of four straight starts with at least seven innings pitched and two earned runs or less is the most among National League rookies this year, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Over his last two starts he dialed it up another notch, striking out 20 and walking two, allowing just two runs combined to the Washington Nationals and New York Mets.
With 51.0 innings pitched under his belt Eickhoff has posted the second-highest RA9-WAR on the Phillies (1.5, tied with fellow rookie Aaron Nola), behind only Hamels' 2.3 mark. He has been helped some by a low BABIP against .257, and his ERA (2.65) has outperformed his FIP (3.25).
Control has always been a hallmark for Eickhoff, who couples a low-90s fastball with both an 11-5 curveball and slider. His 3.77 K:BB ratio in the majors is third among rookie starting pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, behind only Noah Syndergaard (5.35) and Trevor May (4.23). Impressive company considering Eickhoff didn't have nearly the fanfare as a prospect as both Syndergaard and May.
But start comparing Eickhoff to his fellow rookie starting pitchers, and he looks even better. He leads the pack in WHIP (1.04) and ERA, and is tied for third with Syndergaard and May in FIP.
Not to make mountains out of a 51-inning mole hill, but Eickhoff looks to be a solid major leaguer - not bad considering he was looked at as the fourth-best prospect in the Hamels deal. He is probably not the ace starter that he has pitched like since being called up, but it's worth keeping your eye on what he does next year.
Joe Vasile is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score and the Assistant General Manager and voice of the Fayetteville SwampDogs of the Coastal Plain League. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.