Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Marc Rzepczynski: Hard to spell, but easy to hit

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When it comes to pitchers, Marc Rzepczynski isn't exactly a household name ... literally and figuratively. His last name may look like a random assortment of scrabble tiles, however when it comes to his game, Rzepczynski is anything but unorganized.

R-Zep was one of the many pleasant surprises of this past season. Nobody could have foreseen the amount of success he would have this past year because he wasn't even a blip on the radar at the beginning of 2009. Now, Marc Rzepczynski could propel himself into a solid number three starter in less than one full season in the majors with the Blue Jays.

Scouring through the internets, I was pleased to find a new article on Fangraphs that listed R-Zep as having the highest O-Contact to Z-Contact percentage in the majors - even topping 2009 Cy Young finalists such as Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainright.

One might take R-Zep's 64 % contact rate outside the strike zone as bad news, but it's actually a blessing in disguise. As Fangraphs suggests, a pitcher that is able to induce swings at pitches outside the zone will rack up plenty of strikeouts.

One very important thing I learned from Scott Richmond earlier this year is that a pitcher's success ultimately depends on pitching to contact. If you try to power pitch and strike out every batter, you are eventually going to get knocked around.

Rzepczynski does a phenomental job of pitching to contact, evident by his 51 % ground ball rate. By inducing more ground balls and putting the ball in play, Rzepczynski helped keep his pitch count down to around 100 pitchers per start while also achieving a K/9 rate of 8.8.

I don't want to jump the gun here, but it appears as though Marc Rzepczynski is starting to take after another young Blue Jays starter that came out of nowhere to surprise everybody ... Roy Halladay.

11 comments:

  1. Yeah, it's probably a little early to start doing any Halladay comparisons, but there are quite a few similarities.

    Both are finesse pitchers and both are great at painting the outside corners of the strike zone.

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  2. "One very important thing I learned from Scott Richmond earlier this year is that a pitcher's success ultimately depends on pitching to contact. If you try to power pitch and strike out every batter, you are eventually going to get knocked around."

    I dunno. 'The Book' made note of this, that in over 20k batter vs pitcher events from 99-02, high contact pitchers were significantly worse against all types of hitters (high contact, neutral and low contact) than low contact pitchers (by 40-50 pts of wOBA). But I think you are right, it's about the right type of contact. That Rzep has such big ground ball rate takes the pressure off allowing so much contact.

    Just to parrot the authors for a bit (because it is pretty interesting) ironically GB pitchers did 10 pts of w0BA worse than fly ball pitchers against fly ball hitters. Fortunately for Rzepcynski, GB pitchers only see FB hitters 2.8% of the time, so hey, their loss!

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  3. I'll also add a disclaimer, I'm a novice at this stuff as much as anyone, so sorry if I butchered conclusions.

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  4. Thanks for the info, Jeff! I would have never guessed ground ball pitchers had a worse wOBA than fly ball pitchers. One of those weird baseball anomalies, I guess.

    If R-Zep had a low O-Contact percentage to high Z-Contact percentage, then I might be worried. But so long as he can get hitters to swing outside the zone (whether they make contact or not) he should be in good shape.

    And I'm just as novice as the next guy, but you do raise some interesting points here.

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  5. This is what we have to look forward to in 2010. And that's not such a bad thing.

    Building!!!1

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  6. I hope all these young arms we saw last year can be just as successful without Arnsberg's guidance.

    R-Zep (don't even want to attempt it in full but I did have it memorized at one point last season) was definitely a pleasant surprise last year. Looking forward to seeing what the pitching staff can do next season. I hope we get some more steady arms for the bullpen seeing how they won't get every 5th day off anymore.

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  7. He's not really someone you would look twice at but he did a great job in limited starts last year. With the huge number of starting pitchers Toronto has on the cusp of being MLers, I think our rotation may be a lot better than some think.

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  8. HLF, that's one thing the young pitching staff (especially Drabek) will miss - the presence of the almighty Arnie. The bullpen is a different story - I would really hope to see Accardo back, because he definitely deserves it after all the BS he was put through last year.

    Mattt, I think most people overlooked R-Zep because of his 2-4 record. He was really much, much better than that, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do in his first full year in the majors.

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  9. Good article highlighting Rzepczynski but I disagree that Halladay "came out of nowhere to surprise everybody". Roy was, after all, a first round pick vs. Mark who was a 5th-rounder.

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  10. Good point, I think people knew Doc would be good - I just think they didn't know he would be THAT good.

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