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Trend Spotting: On Zach McAllister and Scott Kazmir

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Part two of evaluating Indians starting pitching to date and the recent results have been somewhere south of acceptable. The two guys we will be taking a look at are Zach McAllister and Scott Kazmir.

The purposes of evaluating each will be slightly different, with McAllister it will be to suggest whether or not his success is sustainable and what to expect from him over the course of the year. In terms of Kazmir we are approaching that time where it is important to consider what the Indians should do in terms of laying out their 2014 rotation plans and if they should include Kazmir.

Of course the questions surrounding Kazmir have become a bit hazy and in reality using data to discuss whether or not his arm will hold up is incredibly thin ground upon which to stand. However, we will attempt to shine some light on his arm strength and how his innings limit affects the Indians interest/signability.

Zach McAllister, progression and situational pitching:

A lot of concern has been heaped on McAllister’s finger issues as well as his seeming lack of stability since his return from the disabled list which is not entirely an illegitimate concern.  However, if you look past a purely W-L or earned run average prism, Zach has actually been fairly impressive and seems to have healed up nicely.

In his five starts since returning on July 23rd McAllister has posted the following line: 25.2 IP, 8.42 K/9, .303 BABIP against, 55.2 LOB%, and FIP of 2.84.

What we see with Zach is really encouraging for a couple of reasons first off his strand rate and BABIP against will in all likelihood shift in positive directions for him.

The increasing strikeout rate is probably the most important aspect of improvement or at least positivity surrounding his return from the disabled list. Quite frankly we are witnessing a relatively unique trend as Zach has had success (ERA wise) and struggles (ERA wise) during seemingly paradoxical stretches.

This being that strikeout rate and walk rate usually are powerful indicators of success especially in regards to stranding runners. In the first half Zach’s K/BB was 2.05, so far in the second half it is 2.40, with a 25% spike in K-rate. Yet his ERA has seen a major increase in the second half.

Which all comes down to his strand rate/BABIP. His strand rate has decreased by an almost 20% shift. This is in all honesty just a sample size issue as BABIP with RISP is elevated.

McAllister has another really interesting trend regarding strikeout rate that has to do with his ability to bear down in higher leverage situations:

McAllister with a runner on first: 5.53 K/9, 3.19 BB/9, .303 BABIP
McAllister with a runner(s) in scoring position: 6.58 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, .321 BABIP

What does this mean, if it means anything at all? Well it means that Zach actually is a better pitcher with runners in scoring position, it means that he bears down, digs in or whatever classic baseball aphorism you want to throw out.

It means that in tight situations, Zach locks in and controls the ball at a much more impressive level than when there are non-threatening situations. Of course one would hope to see a higher overall K-rate but it is still solid and his elevated K-rate of late gives some hope that the hand issue had deflated his K-rate, which is reasonable to assume when you understand that his big league K-rate is over a half a strikeout per nine higher than this season’s.

Lastly, the elevated BABIP with RISP is encouraging as its impending regression will inevitably allow Zach to be more efficient and productive.

Scott Kazmir and Velocity:

(Courtesy of Brooks Baseball)

Having looked at Scott Kazmir’s velocity charts as well as his increased success as the season wore on it was fairly surprising that his “tired arm” has sidelined him. Of course at the outset of the season, it was fairly predictable that Scott would run into some sort of innings wall because, as is well documented, he had thrown very limited innings in 2011 and 2012.

Of course raw velocity does not speak to arm strength or the health of the arm although it can be a fairly strong warning sign. However, it at least speaks to Kazmir’s upside stuff-wise and leads you to believe that either his arm strength is slowly improving or he is returning mechanically to the Scott Kazmir of 2008.

Another positive sign mechanically is that Kazmir to this point is at a career high in terms of first pitch strike percentage. Positive mechanically because it proves repetition which is born out in his ability to control the ball and get ahead early in at-bats.

The positives are clearly stacking more and more in Kazmir’s favor and depending on his innings the rest of the way he has a very good chance in terms of winning Comeback Player of the Year.

However, the question becomes where do you go from here?

Do you resign Kazmir?

Do you thank him for the ride and let him walk?

If you resign him, then for how long?

What does the contract look like?

The answer to the first two questions is you absolutely resign him for the following reasons:

  1. Having a left-handed starter with three-starter upside is immensely valuable especially when used to break up the other four right handed starters in the rotation.
  2. The tired arm as well as overall health and mechanicall concerns make him more signable for a team like the Tribe.
  3. Also in terms of signability, Kazmir has voiced his appreciation of the organization’s willingness to provide him the opportunity in which he has succeeded. Points two and three being that a fair, team friendly contract with Kazmir is a distinct possibility.

As to the other two questions it depends how much risk the Indians front office is willing to bear and how much upside you believe Kazmir offers.

In my opinion, the best sort of contract for Kazmir would be a two-three year deal with an annual average value floor of 7 million dollars with incentives that can raise it to 11 million per season.

Obviously his arm health/strength over the next month will have a lot to say about his potential contract. I’m always interested to hear your thoughts on whether the Tribe should extend Kazmir and at what cost.

A few things that may only interest me:

  • The lowest WAR of any Tribe regular is not Chisenhall, not Stubbs, not Aviles but yes, Asdrubal Cabrera. (yes our criticisms of him may have become redundant)
  • Ryan Raburn’s career HR/FB 12.4%, this season’s: HR/FB  27.5%. (Yeah, not particularly sustainable)
  • Indians pitchers are still in the top three in K/9 at 8.26.
  • With men in scoring position Carlos Santana has a wOBA of .405, an OPS of .964 and a wRC+ of 163. (Should probably hit fourth all the time Terry)
  • Having missed 30 games already this season Michael Bourn projects to be a 2.5 win player. He seems to have drawn much derision for a player producing value far beyond what he is being paid this season.

Author: Michael Hattery

Currently an Attorney. I have been fortunate enough to be published at Fangraphs, The Hardball Times, The Athletic Cleveland, and Marquette Sports Law Review. Follow @snarkyhatman

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