Friday, August 20, 2010

What's a Rzepczynski Worth?

The endless debate that is Marc Rzepczynski rages on within the Blue Jays blogosphere. In the previous post on this very site, the talk went back and forth between "I think R-Zep makes a fine swingman" and "I think he's a great 5th starter." As you likely know by now, I'm firmly in the latter camp. In fact, I think he's better than a fifth starter. Whether he gets a chance to prove it in Toronto is another story.

Marc Rzepczynski showed his best stuff last weekend in a start against the Angels. The two-seamer was diving and the ground balls rolled like heads at Sportsnet One if Bell doesn't sign on. It was a virtuoso performance.

One start later, R-Zep struggled badly against the weirdest team in baseball aka the Oakland A's. (Seriously, what an odd collection of oddities. ) What was the problem? Not enough sink in the sinker? Let's take a look, though I think the answer is much more obvious.

Remember this is our movement chart, plotting horizontal movement against vertical. I moved away from using this plot because it gets quite muddy. We see a little less horizontal break on the curve, for what that's worth. The fastball/sinker/changeup area looks a little muddy. Let's try to clean it up by measuring vertical break against the velocity of the pitch.

A little more clear, but nothing jumps out as being an obvious cause of his struggles. Am I overthinking? Looking for flat fastballs when the culprit lies elsewhere? It wouldn't be the first time I look for something cool and gimmicky when the answer is just good, old-fashioned, suckiness. Allow me to present what will have to stand in for The Smoking Gun.

Angels A's
Batters Faced2521
Ahead 0-1138
Ahead 0-252
Behind 2-0ZERO!!!6

There really isn't much more to add. Get ahead. R-Zep already gets life-saving ground balls (50% of the time) and misses a few bats here and there. Just get ahead. Strike one - the most important pitch in baseball. Simple but effective.

If it was as easy to throw strike one as it is to say "get ahead", this wouldn't be an issue. But, again, all this stuff adds up to a guy like Marc Rzepczynski being a valuable guy as the Jays move forward. If Jesse Litsch was a good fifth starter then somebody with R-Zep's skill set can be much more. People love to focus on big righties like Chad Jenkins or Henderson Alvarez, but I think Marc Rzepczynski might be one to hold on to.


  1. If I'm reading the bottom chart right it looks like he threw way more changeups in the Angles start. Or hung more sinkers?

  2. To carry on what I was saying yesterday, I don't think Rzepczynski should be a swingman, but I don't think he deserves to be in the rotation over any of the current top four guys, and if Drabek lives up to his potential this year then Scrabble will just be a victim of circumstance. Certainly he deserves to be starting somewhere, but holding onto him/using him in the bullpen provides a pretty good insurance policy if anybody gets hurt.

    For now, though, he should definitely be starting. And he should definitely be in the competition for the fifth spot next year in Spring Training. But if he loses out to Drabek or Stewart or whoever, I think he'd be more useful in the major league bullpen than he would in the Vegas rotation.

  3. I would hate to see him become ghettoized to the point that people don't recognize him for what he's worth.

  4. I think Rance pointed out that his release point against the A's had changed from the Angels start; hence his struggle to get the ball over the plate, especially early on. He still needs some seasoning, but I'm with Drew; I'd like to see RZep be a mainstay in the rotation, ahead of guys like Litsch and Mills. Especially Litsch. Looking forward to Zep's next start.

  5. Zep has alot of promise this is certain but I doubt he will beat out the likes of Drabek/Stewart for the jays 5th spot in the next two seasons. I see him being more valuable as a trading asset than parking him in the bullpen where he doesn't belong. The jays should package him with another young arm and address their future needs at 3rd base. An encarnacion type of player just won't cut it in the al east...

  6. assuming Drabek is the 5th starter next year then Litsch, Rzep and Mills are competing with each other for the Tallet role, with the other two either transitioning to bullpen roles or going back down AAA.

    I think Mills has a chance at being a Camp or Downs type if he can streamline his repertoire and get more control. RZep seems best suited to spot starting or long relief. Litsch is in Chacin territory right now until he shows more durability and consistency.

    assuming no Downs or Frasor and no signings, who are your top four relievers going into next year?

  7. The thing about Rzepczynski is that he has MUCH better stuff than either Litsch or Mills. His uncanny ability to get ground balls would make him a much better reliever than either of those guys, but it's also what makes him a better starter than either of those guys.

    It's tough because in order to maximize Rzep's value, you him as a starter, but at whose expense? Obviously there's ample time between now and next year; somebody might get hurt, somebody might have a setback, the young arms might not be ready. But the 2011 rotation is a pretty crowded scene already... and really, on the bright side, that's a good problem to have.

    Re: top four relievers next year... looking at the previous post Janssen has actually been very good out of the 'pen this year. So I'd say Purcey, Camp, Janssen, and one of Roenicke/Gregg (depending on whether or not they pick up Gregg's option).

  8. You forgetting Carlson there, Ty? I have no idea why he was stuck in AAA. 43:11 K:BB this year. He can be a good set-up man.


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