Monday, January 17, 2011

Fetch Me a Polish-to-Spanish Translator!

The good men of Bluebird Banter have a sweet little offseason feature wherein they mine their readership for predictions. When it came for Marc Rzepczynski, I couldn't resist offering my two cents.

As a dyed in the wool R-Zep supporter, I quickly started typing numbers as they came to my head. Without giving too much thought or consideration, this is what I jabbed into my workLEISURE TIME AT HOME keyboard.
I think 120 innings would be great. 8 K/9, 3 BB/9, 1.10 HR/9. 4.30 FIP, 8-10 Won loss.
I threw the W/L record in as for "when in Rome" sake but the rest, upon reflection, doesn't look too bad. Certainly not unattainable. The Bill James Projection System TM figures Rzepczynski for a 110.0 IP, 9.08 K/9, 4.25 BB/9, with a 0.82 home run rate. Good enough for a tidy 3.83 FIP.

Others remain unconvinced. Many see R-Zep as a potential bullpen arm, perhaps developing into a Scott Downs high-leverage jack-of-all-trades. While that role is crucial and Rzepczynski could possibly fill it, why settle for the pen when the rotation is within his grasp?

Consider the man pictured above, Jorge De La Rosa. Like R-Zep, De La Rosa battled control issues for years before cutting his walks to a manageable number. The Brewers tried JDLR as a reliever before he eventually moved to the rotation full time with the Royals after surviving a stern DFAing.

Since moving to the Colorado Rockies, De La Rosa proved himself quite valuable. Decreasing the walks and increasing his ground ball rates helped him amass nearly 8 WAR in three seasons in the mountains. A 2 year plus an option, $11 AAV contract was his reward after testing free agency this fall.

Looking at the De La Rosa's strikeouts, walks, home runs and the like, there is no reason to believe Marc Rzepczynski can't put up nearly identical numbers this very season.

De La Rosa throws harder but they miss nearly the same number of bats. They handle lefties and rights with similar levels of effectiveness. If anything, R-Zep shows similar control now, as a 25 year old with less than 2 years in the Show, to De La Rosa at his 29 year-old peak.

Don't like George of the Rose? Consider another young lefty picking up big-time hype and praise everywhere these days, Gio Gonzalez. How different, exactly, are Gonzalez and Rzepczynski? All numbers across 2009 & 2010.

Marc RzepczynskiGio Gonzalez

I must be getting old and forgetful, which one of these guys is an OMGSTUDALWESTFAVORITE and which one is potentially battling with Jesse freaking Litsch for a rotation spot?

Obviously the innings are a thing, as well they should be. 200 inning seasons are 200 inning seasons, giving more legitimacy/stability to Gio's rates. But why the huge gulf in opinion?

If you factor in more park effects than simply HR/FB see what I mean. Marc Rzepczynski has all the tools to be a league-average starter— and a history of using them. Considering a few similar starters, he starts to look even better.

All numbers courtesy of Fangraphs.

Getty Images photo courtesy of Daylife.


  1. I actually get angry when I hear that Jesse Litsch might get a rotation spot over Mark Rzepczynski.

    I agree with your analysis, but too be fair, I'd like Gio Gonzalez a lot less if he were pitching for Toronto and not in that big Oakland park against a weaker division.

  2. Love this. RZep is a valuable guy, whether in the pen or in the rotation. I could see him coming into his own this season, in either or both roles. At worst, he is a long RP /swingman,IMO, which is a valuable asset if the pitcher is good at it.

  3. I too Share your affinity for the Rzep. Anyone who remembers 2009 should agree. He was beastly in his rookie season, and if not for a hand injury in Spring Training (Which he only got by trying TOO HARD) he would have broken camp as no less than the third starter. I recall an article on (I can't find a source) comparing him to Brandon Webb (In his prime) as a ground-ball pitcher with high-K stuff. Obviously control became an issue coming back from a broken hand... I still see him as a starter.

  4. The comparison to Gio speaks to the pitching depth the Jays have accumulated. Exciting stuff.

  5. So your chart has IP listed twice... interesting.

  6. Gah! You're right. I meant to do it that way, to is fixed, among a few other things.

  7. I too am a Zep fan and would buttress your argument with the comments of P DeMarco as well. However don't let your irrational hate-on for Litsch blind you to the fact that it would be in the team's best interests to allow Jesse to re-establish himself as the viable #3 starter (the proof will be in the innings my friend) he is before giving his spot to Zep.

    That way the Jays could realize some value for Litsch because regardless if YOU can figure out (you seemed puzzled by his past success in your analysis of him) how he gets outs (I have heard it before, no out pitch, weight issues, blah, blah)Litsch can flat out pitch (when healthy had a 2.6 war and was one of the 10 best starters in the toughest division in baseball before his 23rd birthday) and better he re-establishes that in Toronto in 2011 than somewhere in the NL for a PTBNL because YOU were too impatient to see Zep ascend.

  8. It may seem like I have hate-on for Litsch but only because there are so many better options in my mind.

    Yes, he had a strong season in 2008. But that is now two seasons and two serious injuries in the past.

    As that success gets smaller in the rear view mirror, obscured by the persistent maladies, his shortcomings become more glaring and the plethora of better options become more appealing.

  9. I will admit that his 2.6 war season was many chevrons in the rear view mirror (well 2, and what the hell is a chevron anyway :) but what I believe haters fail to consider is that that was his second season of improvement in the toughest division in baseball. He came from double A right to the majors and didn't just perform and regress, he improved despite not having the outpitch and the typical "pitchers" body (didn't pundits say the same thing about David Wells? Didn't he have a a half decent career after being released by the jays?) that most pundits believe is necessary to succeed. In other words, despite scouts and analysts who doubted whether he could succeed he just did his talking on the mound and flat pitched.

    If all the prognosticators were right about his ceiling shouldn't AL batters knowing what little to expect from him the second time through lit him up? To me, the fact that they didn't, or rather couldn't, speaks volumes.

    Now injuries have dimmed the halo somewhat but has he really done anything, when healthy, to indicate that he cannot still get batters out? Ask the Red Sox last season whether it was less embarrassing to be shut out by a guy without a supposed out pitch. Now injuries can change a pitcher (see McGowan) but the type of injuries Jesse has undergone typically don't hamper future performance.

    So given past success, an almost innate ability to get outs (top 10 in shutouts in the League his second year through) and the absence of a career altering injury, I am inclined to believe that Jesse will again succeed (people are still willing to believe McGowan can make outs despite how many set backs??). Better he be given the opportunity to regain his form in a Jays uniform where AA can decide whether to keep him as member of the rotation or trade him for something closer to his actual value than to under estimate or trade away an asset that flourishes somewhere else.

    IMHO anyway. (I wish I knew how to get my Yahoo profile or any other profile name other than anonymous up here so I could point to these posts mid season when you are jumping back on the Litsch band wagon! :)

  10. I also believe this is a re-establishment move to have Litsch as possible trade bait later in the season. Still young controllable, he's not looked at as a long term solution in our rotation, and doesn't fit in as a bullpen arm.

    Whereas, Rzepcynski can easily start in the 'pen and work his way into a starters role due to a trade/injury. Having the flexible guy in the 'pen helps out the team in the long run.

    and if Zach Stewart develops his changeup into a plus pitch, his upside is way better than Rzepcynski's as a starter, as well. Even Deck McGuire projects better.

    Would we be so upset down the line if we had a Morrow, Romero, Drabek, Cecil, McGuire rotation with Rzepcynski, Stewart handling set up and closer duties? (not to mention Purcey along with them)

    That there alone is one sick ass starting and finishing pitching lineup.


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