Jarrod Parker: Outstanding in One Way

Let’s not dance around the subject, Jarrod Parker has an outstanding change-up. Since his first full season in 2012, Parker has teased fantasy analysts with a below average strikeout rate and above average swinging strike rate. Generally speaking, we consider swinging strike rate to be a leading indicator on overall strikeout rate. So Parker will get more strikeouts in 2014, right? Right???

Strikeout rate is the one thing that’s really holding Parker back from being a fantasy asset. He’s supported by a strong offense, posts decent rates in walks, home runs, and ground balls, pitches deep enough into games to earn wins, and has that plus plus secondary pitch. If he struck out more batters, he’d improve in three categories. Unfortunately, his change-up might be deceiving us in the surface level analysis.

So let’s dig deeper. First, perhaps a look at this so-called change-up is in order.

Parker1

I said look.

Parker2

Now those are change-ups. Some pitchers have a lot more success with their change-up against opposite-handed batters, but Parker’s is neutral. Let’s turn to the tables. See if you can spot the problem.

Pitch Outcomes Against LHB
Parker LH PO

Pitch Outcomes Against RHB
Parker RH PO

Against all batters, Parker’s change-up is a beast of a pitch, generating whiffs about 25 percent of the time. When they swing, batters whiff 50 percent of the time. I mentioned that the pitch is excellent, right? Parker’s other pitches do show a hint of a platoon split. Let’s look at some easier to read data.

Results and Averages Against LHB
Parker LH RA

Results and Averages Against RHB
Parker RH RA

Lefties like both of his fastballs quite a bit. His sinker is effective against righties, but his four seamer is a below average pitch that he uses about 28 percent of the time. If you’ll turn your attention back to the first two tables, you’ll notice that his whiff rate on all non-change-ups is below average. Let’s throw in a seventh visual for good measure.

Parker PU

This probably tells us why Parker strikes out lefties at a higher rate than righties (oh, did I forget to mention that?). The additional power that lefties gain on his fastballs counteracts the increase in strikeouts, leaving him with a non-existent platoon split. When ahead of lefties, Parker turns to the change-up and says, good luck. Against righties, he’ll use the change-up, slider, sinker, or four seam with about equal frequency. But only one of those is a strikeout pitch.

For the time being, Parker doesn’t appear to have enough weapons in his repertoire to reach an above average strikeout rate. Until he develops a primary pitch that better complements his change-up, he’ll struggle to bury batters. As a long term speculative pick, Parker remains quite interesting. If he does find that pitch he could become borderline elite. Even if he doesn’t, he provides slightly below average production in three categories (wins are always an unknown). That all adds up to an average fantasy pitcher, or maybe slightly worse. There is utility in having that kind of guy around, although it’s also difficult to win a league if they aren’t outperforming their peripherals.

Maybe this is the year that Parker puts it together, but don’t go expecting an increase in strikeouts until he shows another weapon.




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Brad is a former collegiate player who writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times, RotoWorld, MLB Trade Rumors, and The Fake Baseball. Follow him on Twitter @BaseballATeam or email him here.

7 Responses to “Jarrod Parker: Outstanding in One Way”

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  1. Roger says:

    BA on Parker over the years:
    Rated Best Curveball in the Arizona Diamondbacks system after the 2007 season
    Rated Best Slider in the Arizona Diamondbacks system after the 2008 season
    Rated Best Fastball in the Arizona Diamondbacks system after the 2008 season
    Rated Best Slider in the Arizona Diamondbacks system after the 2009 season
    Rated Best Fastball in the Arizona Diamondbacks system after the 2009 season
    Rated Best Curveball in the Arizona Diamondbacks system after the 2009 season
    Rated Best Fastball in the Arizona Diamondbacks system after the 2010 season
    Rated Best Slider in the Arizona Diamondbacks system after the 2010 season
    Rated Best Slider in the Arizona Diamondbacks system after the 2011 season
    Rated Best Slider in the Oakland Athletics system after the 2011 season

    A bit ironic, and shows just how dramatically Parker has changed as a pitcher over the years.

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  2. cs3 says:

    Awesome article. I have been wondering why Parkers K rate has been so pedestrian.

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  3. Pat G says:

    That second gif isnt…. it isnt giffing for me

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  4. Eno Sarris says:

    Excellent piece. Totally agree. He’s a one-pitch pitcher, even Griffin’s change up is better as a second offspeed pitch.

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