Is Zach Plesac a Bonafide Ace?

Coming into the 2020 season when anyone would mention the Cleveland Indians rotation you would have automatically thought of Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, and maybe even Aaron Civale. No one thought anything of Zach Plesac. Yet here we are two and a half months later and Zach Plesac had an ADP of pick 79 in the “2 early mocks.” Plesac balled out in this shortened season pitching 55.1 innings with a 2.28 ERA and 24.8% K-BB%.

Cleveland Indians pitching coach Carl Willis attributes Plesac’s success to his hard work ethic and delivery. Willis goes on record saying that Plesac really impresses him with his command. In the offseason he worked on his balance on the mound trying to repeat the same delivery more frequently. This resulted in his walk rate dropping from 8.4% in 2019 to 2.9% in 2020. Clearly the hard work paid off.

One of the most notable differences was Plesac’s pitch mix.

Zach Plesac’s Pitch Mix
Year Fatsball Changeup Slider Curveball
2019 50.6% 20.6% 18.8% 10.0%
2020 37.6% 25.3% 27.8% 9.3%
Difference -13.0% 4.7% 9.0% -0.7%

As you can see he ditched his fastball which was always an average pitch and threw his breaking pitches more. His slider was fantastic this season and it’s no wonder he threw it over 27% of the time. He threw it over 200 times without allowing a single barrel while it also put up a 42.6 O-Swing% and 24.1 SwStr%. Not only were the numbers gaudy but he utilized it so well that he posted the second-highest pVAL amongst all other sliders. Pitching coach Carl Willis also has talked about his slider saying that while it doesn’t have a lot of spin rate, it has a lot of gyro effect making it very effective.

Plesac also made his changeup a viable weapon in 2020 and used it over 25% of the time. The changeup is great on its own producing a mere .177 wOBA against but the best part about it is how well it compliments his slider. While the slider gets Plesac most of his strikeouts he sets it up with his changeup. He targets right-handed pitchers low and in with the changeup then switches it up with his slider throwing it low and away. Working both sides of the plate while also hitting the top of the zone with his fastball makes for the perfect blueprint.

Now the season wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns for Plesac. On August 8th both he and Mike Clevinger broke the team’s safety protocol resulting in disciplinary action. At the time a lot of people thought he might be traded because of it. Fortunately for him, he stayed in Cleveland but one might wonder if there is some risk here. Will he be a problem off the field moving forward? Or was it just him being young and stupid? No matter what the answer is to that question we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. The main take away here is that he got to stay in Cleveland. The Indians love to let their pitchers go deep into games. It just so happens that in 2020 he lead the league in innings pitched per game. More innings pitched means more counting stats.

Overall Zach Plesac has the potential to become a bonafide ace in the league. It’s always great to hear coaches talking about a pitcher working hard and seeing the positive results. With the more consistent delivery and different pitch mix, we can in fact say his 2020 season wasn’t just a mirage.





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pedeysRSox
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pedeysRSox

In the chart, fastball is listed as Fatsball.

dl80
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dl80

Paging Shirtless Bartolo Colon!