Marc Rzepczynski: Cleveland Indians Workhorse or LOOGY?

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Should Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Marc Rzepczynski be a LOOGY? Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

His name is Mark Zepchinski.  No wait, it’s Marc Zepchinski.  Shoot, I mean it’s Marc Rzepczynski. The man with the impossible name to spell was one of the mainstays in the Indians’ 2014 bullpen.  The group of Rzepczynski, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Scott Atchison became the first foursome in American League history to all appear in 70 games in the same season.  Seventy appearances isn’t new territory for Rzepczynski, either;  2014 was the third time he reached the plateau in the last four seasons. Quite simply, Rzepczynski has been a workhorse in the bullpen.

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Performance-wise, the 2014 season was not as kind to Rzepczynski as his 2013 Tribe stint, though some regression was expected from his ridiculously-good 0.89 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and .157 batting average against.  That said, his overall numbers were still generally positive.  He posted a 2.74 ERA and 2.85 FIP, both of which were career-bests, along with an outstanding 59.7 percent groundball rate.  His 1.33 WHIP and .242 batting average against (BAA) weren’t anything special, though slightly better than his career numbers.  On the surface, the best way to describe Rzepczynski overall season is “solid.”  However, a breakdown of his numbers shows both positive and troubling splits:

vs Left-Handed Hitters:   26.1 IP, 27 K, .165 BAA, 0.76 WHIP, 1.76 FIP, 9.23 K/9, 1.71 BB/9

Rzepczynski was downright unhittable versus left-handed hitters this year.  He struck out whopping 27.8 percent of lefties he faced and out of the 97 left-handed hitters he faced, he allowed only two extra base hits.  On the flip side, though:

vs Right-Handed Hitters:  16.1 IP, 13 K, .343 BAA, 2.20 WHIP, 4.90 FIP, 7.16 K/9, 6.61 BB/9

When a right-handed hitter was at the plate, Rzepczynski made all hitters look like Miguel Cabrera. Opposing righties had an OPS nearly over 1.000 against Rzepczynski. His strikeout rate dropped to 15.5 percent while his walk rate was 14.3 percent.  On the surface here, it looks like he faced fewer righties than lefties, but that inning difference is misleading.  Rzepczynski actually faced 97 lefties and 84 righties in 2014.  Based off his 2014 numbers, Rzepczynski has no business facing that many right-handed hitters.  He’s a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy) at this point, and a quick look at Rzepczynski ‘s career splits shows that this season was not really an anomaly.

So what does the future hold for Rzepczynski?

Marc Rzepczynski will be arbitration-eligible again this winter. He avoided arbitration last winter agreeing to a one-year, $1.375-million-dollar deal in what was actually his second arbitration year (he’s a Super Two player).  He will see an increase but likely nothing more than about $2-million for his 2015 salary (MLB Trade Rumors has him at $1.9 million). For a guy you can give the ball to 70 times a year, that’s a fair price, even if he can’t get right-handed hitters out.  Hopefully in 2015 he faces far fewer right-handed hitters, and with a pair of other lefties in the bullpen (Kyle Crockett and Nick Hagadone) Indians manager Terry Francona can afford to carry a LOOGY in Rzepcyznski.

In reality though, we can probably expect much of the same with regards to Rzepczynski’s usage. Barring injury one should expect another 70-inning performance from one of Tito’s trusted relievers.  Expect to see the workhorse Rzepczynski yet again in 2015 and not the LOOGY Rzepczynski that the numbers suggest he should be.

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