Erick Fedde’s Evolution: From Unwanted to Ace

From unwanted to in-demand.

Plenty has gone wrong for the Chicago White Sox. Their 21-58 record and -164 run differential are the worst in baseball. Their offense ranks 30th in runs scored and 30th in OPS. Chicago’s offense alone isn’t the problem. Its pitching ranks 25th in FIP, and 29th in ERA and WHIP. Saying the White Sox are a bad team is like saying the sky is blue. Even if you catch a glimpse, you know it’s true.

Yet one engine block is firing on all cylinders amidst the wreckage of the 2024 White Sox. This pitcher is ninth among all AL starting pitchers in fWAR, 11th in ERA, 12th in ERA+, and 14th in FIP. He is one of the best stories in baseball this season, and his name is Erick Fedde. But to understand how Fedde became one of the best pitchers in the American League, you must go backward in time.


The Rise and Fall 


It’s 2022. The Washington Nationals are coming off a 55-107 record, their worst since arriving in Washington 18 years ago. The Nats have traded Juan Soto, shed members of their 2019 World Series-winning team, and set course for a rebuild. Part of that path means cutting talent. For Fedde, it meant a nontender designation on Nov. 21. For the first time in his career, Fedde was a free agent.

The decision to part with Fedde made sense. The then-29-year-old had a career-worst year in 2022, recording a 5.81 ERA, a 5.15 FIP, and just 0.4 fWAR. Among 101 starters with at least 120 innings pitched, Fedde was 98th in fWAR and FIP. Likewise, the only pitcher with a worse ERA than Fedde’s 100th-ranked 5.81 mark was teammate Patrick Corbin. It’s why the Nationals cut Fedde. It’s also why, by December 2022, no other teams called for his services.

Fedde was unwanted. It was a situation the right-hander never dealt with before. After high school, Fedde had a choice few his age did. He could start his professional career with the San Diego Padres after being drafted in the 24th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft. Or he could take his talents to UNLV, Fedde’s hometown school, re-enter the draft in a few years, and improve his stock.

In the end, Fedde chose the latter. The decision propelled him to a three-year career with the Rebels, a stint with the United States collegiate national team, and a summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Fedde pitched to a 1.76 ERA in his junior season with a 1.030 WHIP, 82 strikeouts, and 9.6 SO/9. It was the best season of his collegiate career. It was also unfortunately the shortest. On Feb. 11, 2014, UNLV announced Fedde needed Tommy John surgery. It ended his season prematurely and clouded his draft status going into the 2014 MLB Draft.

Luckily, the Nationals didn’t care about the injury as much as they did Fedde’s potential. They would select him 18th overall and dub him one of the franchise’s building blocks.

During his introductory press conference, the Nationals had star and face of the franchise Bryce Harper pose with Fedde. That’s how highly they valued him. He and Harper were Washington’s future: The do-it-all 2012 NL Rookie of the Year winner and the prized pitching prospect who would join him alongside D.C.’s billboards.



Other accolades came first, however. Baseball America ranked Fedde the 52nd-best prospect before the 2017 season, MLB.com the 60th, and Baseball Prospectus the 62nd. The anointment of Fedde wasn’t new. He had been on Baseball America and MLB.com’s boards the year before. But after a 3.12 ERA between Single-A and Double-A in 2016, Fedde only climbed those boards. There was every belief Fedde could be something special.

And yet, six years later, Fedde sat during the 2022 offseason like a house that wouldn’t sell. His warts weren’t a wet basement or a paint job past its prime. Fedde’s warts were something else entirely. Of 165 qualified starting pitchers from 2017 to 2022, Fedde’s 5.47 ERA ranked 163rd, while his 5.24 FIP and 1.3 fWAR ranked 162nd. Additionally, Fedde recorded a 1.523 WHIP, a 77 ERA+, an 8.6 K/BB%, and a 21-33 record. The Nationals hadn’t released him due to one bad season but a six-year-run that summarized him as one of the worst starting pitchers in the game.

Fedde waited for a call that offseason, but it never came. Not from MLB. One did come from the NC Dinos of South Korea’s KBO League. They wanted Fedde. Moreover, they were willing to pay him $1 million, the most any team can offer a foreign player. And so, the then 29-year-old moved across the globe and started anew.

Many failed MLB pitchers seek shelter in the KBO once the majors leave them behind. Journeyman Dan Straily found a home with the Lotte Giants for four seasons, Merrill Kelly washed upon its shores and spent four seasons with the SK Wyverns, former first-rounder Casey Kelly became a mainstay in the LG Twins rotation starting in 2019, and Chris Flexen, a former New York Mets prospect, found refuge with the Doosan Bears in 2020 and pitched to a 3.01 ERA.

Each pitcher found varying levels of success in the KBO that they couldn’t in MLB. But none of them succeeded like Fedde.

In his 30 starts with the Dinos, Fedde posted the following: A 2.00 ERA, 0.954 WHIP, 10.4 SO/9, and 209 strikeouts. All while pitching 180⅓ innings and recording 21 quality starts. Fedde struck out 29.5% of all hitters, walked 4.9%, induced a staggering 70% ground-ball rate, and stranded 79.6% of all runners on base on route to a 20-6 record.

Fedde led the league in ERA, FIP, strikeouts, SO%, K/BB%, and wins. He became the first foreign pitcher to log 20 wins and 200+ strikeouts in a single season. Even the few metrics he didn’t leadinnings pitched, K/9, BB/9, and K/BBweren’t far from his reach. The American finished second in innings pitched, K/9, K/BB, and third in BB/9.

Fedde was a force of nature in the KBO, winning the pitching Triple Crown, the Choi Dong-won Award, the KBO’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award, and the KBO’s MVP award. Fedde won the latter by receiving 102 of 111 votes. It was a deserved landslide.



By season’s end, Fedde was wanted again. Dinos’ general manager Lim Sun-nam reportedly offered Fedde “the best (offer) we could’ve made within the rules.” But Sun-nam wasn’t the only one pursuing Fedde. Suddenly, the 31-year-old had four offers. He could stay in Asia and either return to the Dinos or sign with a team from Japan’s NPB. Or, he could come back to America, sign with either the Mets or the White Sox, and get a second chance at the career he had just left behind.

Fedde chose the latter and signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the White Sox on Dec. 14, 2023. And so, here we are, back in the present day.


The Return


In the months since returning to MLB, Fedde is unrecognizable. So, what’s driving that change that’s flipped his perception on its head?

The most apparent changes come with Fedde’s pitch mix, with his sinker and curveball being major casualties. Back in 2019, Fedde relied on his sinker an astonishing 55% of the time. While that number decreased year-by-year since, Fedde throws his sinker 30.8% of the time now, a career low. Instead of reducing his curveball like he has his sinker, the pitch is out of Fedde’s repertoire entirely. Its usage peaked in 2022 at 28.8% and is now gone completely.

In exchange for his sinker and curve, Fedde added a sweeper. It’s become one of his go-to pitches, using it 20.8%. A large portion of that percentage comes against right-handed hitters, who have seen the pitch 278 times, while left-handed hitters have only seen it 40 times. Not to worry. Lefties have their own nemesis in Fedde’s changeup, seeing it 271 times compared to right-handers seeing it just 39 times. An increased frequency of changeups thrown is another aspect of Fedde’s overhaul. In 2022, he used the pitch 3.6% of the time. That number rose this year to 20.3%, a new career-high.

Fedde doesn’t just look like a different pitcher, he is one.



These additions to Fedde’s arsenal are paying dividends. Opposing hitters are hitting .191 against his sweeper with only an expected batting average of .199 and a 86 wRC+. Though the sweeper has only accounted for 12 of his 86 strikeouts, hitters are whiffing through it 22.8% of the time. Hitters also struggle to drive the sweeper. They’ve compiled a 26.8 HardHit%, the third-lowest number against any of Fedde’s pitches since his 2017 rookie season, where he started three games.

Fedde’s changeup is just as effective. Opponents tout a .203 batting average against the pitch with an even lower .247 wOBA and a 55 wRC+. Though it’s coaxing a 14.3 Whiff%, eight percentage points less than the sweeper’s 22.8 Whiff%, it has generated more strikeouts. It currently has an 18.8 K% compared to the sweeper’s 16.9 K%. The changeup is only barely ahead of the sweeper with a 28.1 HardHit%.

The strikeout pitches of Fedde’s arsenal are his sinker and cutter, accounting for 58 of the pitcher’s 86 strikeouts or 67%. What’s fascinating about this is they’re not infallible. Hitters have a .248 batting average, a .376 slugging percentage, a 102 wRC+ against the sinker, and an even better .268 average, a .412 slugging percentage, and 119 wRC+ against the cutter. Opponents are hitting the sinker hard, registering a 52.4 HardHit% against the pitch.

There are caveats to these numbers. For instance, Fedde has thrown his sinker and cutter 896 times this season. Contrast that with the 628 times he’s thrown his sweeper and changeup. These stats might not be symbolic of ineffectiveness but frequency. If hitters see these pitches more than the others, they can expect and learn to excel against them. That’s true. But it doesn’t disregard the facts or silence the question at the heart of every comeback story like Fedde’s: How real is this?

It’s nice to believe that an athlete can rewrite their narrative. That Fedde can start his career as one of the worst starters in baseball, disappear for a season, and then return as the pitcher everyone aspired for him to be. But a nagging thought wonders when midnight will strike and if this is what Fedde is. A feel-good chapter of a fairytale that gives way to the same Kafka-esque ending from the past?


It’s easy to believe that things won’t or can’t change, but Fedde has. Other advanced statistics speak to this more than fanciful words. Fedde’s 22.1 K% is the highest of his career; His 6.2 BB%, 7.2 Barrel%, 5.1 Barrel/PA, and 88.1 exit velocity are the lowest. His 20.2 LD% is the second-best of his career, and 24.2 Under% ties his 2022 mark for a career-high.


Fedde or Not?

Equally convincing is the right-hander has only gotten better with time. Since April 17, Fedde has limited opponents to a .229/.274/.339 slash line and a .613 OPS. Fedde’s 2.82 ERA during that stretch is eighth among all AL starters, and his 2.87 FIP is seventh. Over the last two months, Fedde has a better ERA than Seth Lugo, a seemingly surefire All-Star, and only slightly trails AL Cy Young contender Tarik Skubal in both metrics. And that’s while pitching for the worst team in baseball.

There has been time for hitters to make adjustments. Baseball has had time to turn Fedde back into a pumpkin, yet he’s still standing.

Overall, the differences between the Fedde’s present are drastic. They show large-scale increases and decreases with little in common with the pitcher who carried a 5.47 ERA for six years. Though it’s fair to doubt the validity of what we’re seeing, after 15 starts, the truth becomes self-evident.

The truth is that Fedde is a different pitcher, and it hasn’t escaped MLB’s notice. With the White Sox set to embark on one of the greatest fire sales in sports, everyone, including Fedde is available.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Chicago is “willing to move” the right-hander at the start of June. When those discussions begin, a bevy of suitors should await Fedde. Teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, the Baltimore Orioles, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Minnesota Twins, and the Mets could use Fedde to deepen or upgrade their rotation.

When Fedde leaves Chicago, he’ll complete one of the greatest comebacks in recent memory. A pitcher that was unwanted in 2022, only targeted by two teams in the 2023-2024 offseason, and is now in demand in 2024. Where Fedde will go and what he’ll do is unclear. But for the first time in his career, Fedde has proved one thing: He finally belongs in Major League Baseball.

*All stats current as of the afternoon of 6/26/24


Josh Shaw

Josh Shaw graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2022 with a Journalism degree. He's written for The New Hampshire, Pro Sports Fanatics, and PitcherList.

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