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Tom Gorzelanny and Others with Three Above Average Pitches

Right before spring training starts  is the time to begin finding players on the fringe. The great to average players have been well documented. Their value is visible in early drafts. To find some fringe pitchers, I looked for ones with an above average fastball, change and breaking ball. The list contains mainly the game’s best pitchers. Instead, I am going to focus on the talent pool’s shallow end and examine Tom Gorzelanny.

First, I will step through how I found a possible sleeper in a 31-year-old left handed middle reliever. I was looking for pitchers who threw three above average pitches and had a chance to start. Using PITCHf/x data, I collected the pitchers who had any above average fastball (two-finger, four-finger, splitter, cutter or sinker), one above average breaking ball (slider or curveball) and a changeup. Additionally, I wanted to make sure the pitcher threw the pitch on a normal basis. Fastballs had to be thrown over 20% of the time and for breaking balls and curveballs it was 10%. Additionally, the pitcher had to have made at least one start (team willing to start him) and had throw at least 30 innings (a bit of MLB experience). Here are the pitchers who met the requirements in 2012 (28 total) and 2013 (16 total).

2012 Pitchers with Three Above Average Pitches

Name Team Age ERA FIP- G GS IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP
A.J. Griffin Athletics 24 3.06 96 15 15 82 7.0 2.1 0.264
Chris Sale White Sox 23 3.05 76 30 29 192 9.0 2.4 0.294
Chris Seddon Indians 28 3.67 99 17 2 34 4.7 3.4 0.289
Chris Tillman Orioles 24 2.93 100 15 15 86 6.9 2.5 0.221
David Price Rays 26 2.56 77 31 31 211 8.7 2.5 0.285
Doug Fister Tigers 28 3.45 81 26 26 161 7.6 2.1 0.296
Eric Stults - – - 32 2.91 104 20 15 99 5.0 2.5 0.264
Felix Hernandez Mariners 26 3.06 73 33 33 232 8.7 2.2 0.308
Franklin Morales Red Sox 26 3.77 102 37 9 76 9.0 3.5 0.262
James Shields Rays 30 3.52 88 33 33 227 8.8 2.3 0.292
Jarrod Parker Athletics 23 3.47 85 29 29 181 6.9 3.1 0.290
Jeff Karstens Pirates 29 3.97 87 19 15 90 6.6 1.5 0.287
Jered Weaver Angels 29 2.81 94 30 30 188 6.8 2.1 0.241
Jeremy Hellickson Rays 25 3.10 117 31 31 177 6.3 3.0 0.261
Johnny Cueto Reds 26 2.78 83 33 33 217 7.1 2.0 0.296
Justin Verlander Tigers 29 2.64 69 33 33 238 9.0 2.3 0.273
Kevin Correia Pirates 31 4.21 117 32 28 171 4.7 2.4 0.274
Kris Medlen Braves 26 1.57 63 50 12 138 7.8 1.5 0.261
Kyle Lohse Cardinals 33 2.86 93 33 33 211 6.1 1.6 0.262
Matt Harvey Mets 23 2.73 88 10 10 59 10.6 3.9 0.262
Matt Moore Rays 23 3.81 100 31 31 177 8.9 4.1 0.293
Miguel Gonzalez Orioles 28 3.25 103 18 15 105 6.6 3.0 0.260
Mike Minor Braves 24 4.12 114 30 30 179 7.3 2.8 0.252
Paul Maholm - – - 30 3.67 101 32 31 189 6.7 2.5 0.281
Ryan Vogelsong Giants 34 3.37 101 31 31 189 7.5 2.9 0.284
Stephen Strasburg Nationals 23 3.16 73 28 28 159 11.1 2.7 0.311
Tom Gorzelanny Nationals 29 2.88 102 45 1 72 7.8 3.8 0.283
Wade Miley Diamondbacks 25 3.33 77 32 29 194 6.7 1.7 0.293

2013 Pitchers with Three Above Average Pitches

Name Team Age ERA FIP- G GS IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP
Anibal Sanchez Tigers 29 2.57 59 29 29 182 10.0 2.7 0.307
Chad Jenkins Blue Jays 25 2.70 97 10 3 33 4.1 1.6 0.262
Chris Sale White Sox 24 3.07 77 30 30 214 9.5 1.9 0.289
Danny Salazar Indians 23 3.12 83 10 10 52 11.3 2.6 0.298
Doug Fister Tigers 29 3.67 81 33 32 208 6.9 1.9 0.332
Gio Gonzalez Nationals 27 3.36 91 32 32 195 8.8 3.5 0.286
Hyun-Jin Ryu Dodgers 26 3.00 90 30 30 192 7.2 2.3 0.296
James Shields Royals 31 3.15 86 34 34 228 7.7 2.7 0.298
Jered Weaver Angels 30 3.27 101 24 24 154 6.8 2.2 0.268
Kris Medlen Braves 27 3.11 94 32 31 197 7.2 2.1 0.298
Matt Cain Giants 28 4.00 111 30 30 184 7.7 2.7 0.260
Max Scherzer Tigers 28 2.90 68 32 32 214 10.1 2.4 0.259
Mike Minor Braves 25 3.21 90 32 32 204 8.0 2.0 0.272
Stephen Strasburg Nationals 24 3.00 85 30 30 183 9.4 2.8 0.263
Tom Gorzelanny Brewers 30 3.90 103 43 10 85 8.8 3.3 0.288
Zack Greinke Dodgers 29 2.63 90 28 28 177 7.5 2.3 0.276

The list is pretty much a who’s who of starting pitchers. Eight pitchers made the list each year, Chris Sale, Doug Fister, James Shields, Jered Weaver, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Stephen Strasburg, and finally Tom Gorzelanny. The first seven’s average draft rank among pitchers is 23.3. Gorzelanny is down at 207. Well, it now time to see if Gorzelanny is worth a roster spot.

First, his 2013 ERA was at 3.90 which was in line with his FIP (3.94), but a bit above his xFIP (3.64) and SIERA (3.56). Obviously, his was home run prone with a 1.2 HR/9 causing the high FIP. His season was divided up into two halves. In nine of the first ten games he pitched, he started. Over the rest of the season, he pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen. Here are his stats as a starter and reliever.

IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP xFIP
As Starter 48.2 8.9 2.2 1.3 0.343 4.81 3.68 3.39
As Reliever 36.2 8.6 4.7 1.0 0.198 2.70 4.28 3.97

His results are completely mixed making it tough to tell exactly what went on. Basically, he got hit around as a starter which led to an ERA higher than his FIP and xFIP. As a reliever, he doubled his walk rate, but was able to have an ERA below his ERA estimators. Good luck as reliever and bad luck as a starter.

Through it all, he was able to throw three unique pitches, ,two-finger fastball, slider and change, with above average results. The biggest difference for him compared to earlier in his career was his changeup development. From 2007 to 2011 it was a below average pitch for him. Over the last two season, it was above league average.

Going into 2014, several question surround him. First, he had off-season shoulder surgery to repair some loose bodies. I like that he had the surgery and could see improvement in 2014. Second, he doesn’t project to have a starting spot in the rotation. A middle reliever just doesn’t have much value. Finally, and most importantly, he is not a lights out pitcher. He is borderline decent. He could be able to mix his pitches up a bit and luck out a bit to post an ERA a run under is ERA estimators. Or it could be a run the other way. We will have to wait and find out.

Tom Gorzelanny belongs to a unique group of pitchers who have thrown three above average pitches over the past two seasons. He probably won’t be on most people’s radar on draft day. I do see him as option/chance for an owner getting desperate later in the season when injuries begin to mount and the waiver wire is picked over. He has at least one positive trait which is probably more than the other available pitchers.