Player profile: Tom Gorzelanny

I’d first like to apologize for how long it’s been since my last post. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and my computer was broken for about a week of it. Things are calming down now, though, and we should be able to get back on track. For those of you who’ve e-mailed and haven’t gotten a response, you should be getting one over the next couple of days.

I’ve received a good number of player requests now, but keep them coming. What I’m going to do is try and make sure that I profile at least one player from everyone’s list, and then cycle back through once I get everyone. I’m going to wait on the hitters until I can complete the HitTracker homer system, which hopefully won’t take too much longer. Feel free to send in requests for hitters, though; they just won’t be done for a bit longer.

All that being said, let’s look at a pitcher I’ve gotten a couple of requests for: Tom Gorzelanny. Considered a sleeper by many coming into the year, these owners thought they’d hit the jackpot when he posted a 3.10 first-half ERA. Let’s check out his numbers.

Numbers

YEARAGELASTFIRSTTEAMLGGGSIPERALIPS ERAWHIPDIPS WHIPK/9BB/9K/BBxGB%LOB%BABIPHR/FBLD%
200522GorzelannyTomPiratesAA2323129.33.26N/A1.23N/A8.583.182.7046.3*75.40.3064.812.1
200623GorzelannyTomPiratesAAA161699.72.35N/A0.94N/A8.462.433.4847.0*77.40.2546.218.9
200623GorzelannyTomPiratesNL111161.73.794.621.311.465.844.521.2948.173.00.2645.016.7
200724GorzelannyTomPiratesNL3232201.73.884.581.401.386.023.031.9941.376.90.3117.018.0
07-1H24GorzelannyTomPiratesNL1818119.03.104.361.241.345.672.652.1442.179.60.2826.017.5
07-2H25GorzelannyTomPiratesNL141482.75.014.901.621.466.533.591.8240.274.00.3528.318.8

Note: Minor league stats came from Jeff Sackmann’s excellent website MinorLeagueSplits.com.
*For minor league numbers, straight ground ball rate is given instead of expected ground ball rate.

2007 season

In 2006, Gorzelanny posted a very unexciting 4.62 LIPS ERA. In 2007, he put up a nearly identical 4.59 figure. How he went about doing it, though, was quite different and definitely shows progress for this 25-year old hurler.

First, his strikeout rate jumped a bit from 2006 to 2007. Even better is that it was near league-average at 6.53 in the second-half. He has shown the ability to strike batters out in the minors, so this isn’t completely unsubstantiated. I don’t know if he could keep that up for a full-season, but he is just 25, and this was his first full major league season. A K/9 north of 6.00 seems extremely likely for 2008, with a K/9 around 6.50 somewhat likely. Let’s put him down for a 6.35 K/9.

His walk rate also made nice strides. His 3.03 mark on the season was better than league average, although it regressed in the second half (3.59 BB/9). His control in the minors wasn’t amazing in 2005 or 2006, so I don’t know if he’ll be able to repeat his first-half mark of 2.65 in 2008. Even his second-half BB/9, though, was better than it was in 2006. Definite improvement. I think a BB/9 around 3.10 for 2008 seems like a pretty good guess.

So with an improved strikeout rate and an improved walk rate from 2006 to 2007, why is Gorzelanny’s LIPS ERA relatively the same? Check out his expected ground ball rate. It dropped from 48% last year to 41% this year. It was much closer to 48% in the minors, and I’m not aware of a repertoire change between 2006 and 2007 that would cause this drop (let me know if you guys are aware of anything like this), so I think a bounce back is in order for 2008.

2007 Pirate defense

His ERA and LIPS ERA were quite different this year, so let’s see if the defense might have had something to do with it.

TEAM+/-RKRZRRKOOZRKIF RZRRKIF OOZRKOF RZRRKOF OOZRKBABIP
Pirates5810.819739340.7601120850.885616813.324

It looks the Pirates had a slightly above average defense, although the BABIP is below average. Let’s check out the individual players.

POSLASTFIRSTINNINGSRZRLG AVGOOZOOZ/(BIZ+OOZ)LG AVG
1BLaRocheAdam13010.7810.741230.1070.135
2BSanchezFreddy12720.8340.830230.0680.104
SSWilsonJack11420.8160.816760.1610.128
3BBautistaJose A10640.6120.680360.1010.139
LFBayJason12370.8420.855470.1530.147
CFDuffyChris5340.9020.888240.1280.137
CFMcLouthNate4950.8620.888230.1430.137
RFNadyXavier7480.8460.877250.1340.141
RFDoumitRyan M3110.8280.877100.1350.141

Nothing really remarkable here. Adam LaRoche is a below average first baseman, Jose Bautista is terrible defensively, and the middle is decidedly average, with Freddy Sanchez showing poor range and Jack Wilson showing good range.

In the outfield, Chris Duffy and Nate McLouth made a formidable tandem in center, with Duffy being an above-average in-zone defender and McLouth succeeding out-of-zone. Both seem to be near their physical prime, so a little improvement shouldn’t be considered unexpected next year. The corners weren’t nearly as good, although Jason Bay‘s range is nice to see. In right, Xavier Nady and Ryan Doumit were below average both in and out-of-zone. Doumit hadn’t played a lot of outfield before this, so he could improve, but I don’t think he’ll get too much playing time out there unless they move Nady.

Explaining the LIPS ERA to ERA gap

The Pirates defense can’t be considered too much better than average, so it doesn’t look like this is the reason for the large gap between Gorzelanny’s LIPS ERA and ERA. His .311 BABIP seems about right under the circumstances.

I think the real explanation for the gap can be found in his left on base percentage and his home run-to-fly ball rate. Both were better than expected, and there is little evidence that either should be that good. His below-average xGB% makes the regression on his HR/FB a bit more severe because of the number of fly balls he gives up. If we look at them in the first-half (79% and 6%, respectively) it becomes even clearer why Gorzelanny looked so good before the All-Star break and so… not good… after.

2008 outlook

So what does all of this say about Gorzelanny for 2008? Well, it says to temper your expectations. He could one day put up a K/9 north of 8.00, but I don’t think it’s very likely that it will be in 2008. I do see his LIPS ERA falling into the low 4s, especially if his ground ball rate increases. A peripheral line like this (6.35 K/9 | 3.10 BB/9 | 46% xGB%) would allow Gorzelanny to post an ERA around 4.40 and a WHIP between 1.30 and 1.35. He won’t really help with strikeouts except in deep leagues.

A sub-par Pirates offense won’t help with wins either. This could change if they make some moves in the off-season, but there doesn’t appear to be too many spots where they will really look to upgrade (maybe third, short, or center) and even if they do, there’s no guarantee they’ll make good choices.

Gorzelanny missed a month at the end of 2006 with tendinitis in his left (throwing) elbow, but he was able to throw over 200 innings in 2007. We’ll put him down for 190 in 2008 to account for the risk of the elbow. With that many innings, Gorzelanny could be expected to win maybe 11 games.

Closing thoughts

While Gorzelanny is a decent pitcher and has the potential to one day be quite good, I feel like he will be overrated in 2008. He’s posted major league ERAs under 4.00 two seasons in a row now, and his 2.35 Triple A ERA before that will only further fuel the fire. His higher WHIPs and poor second-half might dissuade some people, but I still think we’ll see Gorzelanny cracking the Top 50 or so starters on many lists. He’s #54 on CBS’s early list. I just don’t see Gorzelanny living up to that, though.

If we look at the Top 50 performers (with 12 or more starts) of 2007 in LIPS ERA, DIPS WHIP, and K/9, we see that our expected numbers for Gorzelanny in 2008 wouldn’t make any of the lists. He might crack the DIPS WHIP list (1.31 was the cut-off), but his LIPS ERA (4.20 cut-off) and K/9 (7.06 cut-off) aren’t close enough.

You could do worse if he’s sitting there at the end of 12-team mixed league draft, but there are likely to be at least a couple of better bets, maybe a Scott Baker or Dave Bush type.

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