Since McClellan seems to be the leader for the 5th starter spot I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at his repertoire and see how if might lend itself to starting. The robot already did a piece that covers a lot of similar ground, but hopefully there will be a few new nuggets of info in this piece. What type of arsenal would lend itself to starting? Conventional wisdom would say that he needs enough variety to get through a batting order multiple times, so I’ll continue assuming that is what we are looking for evidence of. Looking at McClellan’s pitcher card at Joe Lefkowitz’s site, it appears that McClellan has 4 fairly distinct pitches, a Fastball, Cutter/Slider, Curveball, and Change-Up. On it’s face, that would likely be enough to start. In fact if you look at the other Cardinals starters they all have 4ish pitches as well. Just having four pitches is not the end of the story though. How frequently he deploys each pitch, as a proxy for how confident he is in each, is also an interesting data point. The following table looks at pitch utilization for Cardinals starters from last season as well as McClellan. Data is BIS data from Fangraphs
The thing that stands out to me is McClellan’s reliance on two primary pitches. Clearly some of that is a function of being utilized out of the bullpen and not needing to vary the arsenal as much as he will as a starter. I’m not doubting his ability to make said adjustments, just looking at the current factual data. It would be interesting to get similar breakouts for his stints as a Spring Training starter. That said, the rest of the Cardinals staff relies fairly heavily on two pitches too. The following table summarizes and adds an MLB starter average
|MLB qualified SP||58%||19%||77%|
So while K-Mac used a 2 pitch heavy arsenal out of the bullpen, it doesn’t appear that his usage patterns are that far off from other starters.
In addition to using having and using 4 pitches, there is clearly still the issue of quality. Using Fangraphs pitch value calculations McClellan has been average or better with the majority of his pitch types over the last three seasons. All in all it seems like there is no red flag about his pitch arsenal. I think the biggest remaining question will be about durability. A question that will not be answered until he gets the full time shot.