Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – Much has been made about the Indians bullpen since the acquisition of Andrew Miller, though because of the addition of the big lefty, not much has been made of Zach McAllister.
Though, not much has been made of the big righty since his transition to full-time reliever in 2015, largely viewed as a failed starter. While the latter may be the case, McAllister has become an asset for the Indians as a long reliever, and has been a burden for right-handers in 2017.
In Tuesday’s loss to the Rays, McAllister faced eight hitters, five of them righties. The results: four strikeouts and a GIDP.
Of the 33 right-handed hitters McAllister has faced in 2017, only one has gotten a hit, though five have walked en route to the lone earned run. Of those 33 righties, 14 have struck out.
The key for McAllister has been his ability to throw inside on righties, something he had not been able to do in prior years according to his manager.
Check out the lack of hard contact on McAllister’s inside pitches to right-handers.
That success, according to Terry Francona, is thanks to a revision of a mechanical change made in the off-season.
“He had kind of moved his hands, and the idea was, because sometimes he runs away from his arm a little bit and the ball will come up and in on a righty kind of like how it did the other day,” the skipper said. “But it’s not just so that doesn’t happen, but he also wants to be able to pitch in to right-handers because he was really struggling with that from before. But then he was losing some power on his fastball, so then we were like, ‘You know what? Let’s go back to what you were doing before,’ and he’s been pretty good.”
With all of the success against right-handers, the same has not been the case for hitters on the opposite side of the plate.
On Tuesday, the three lefties McAllister faced were 3-for-3 with a double, and 12 of the 31 left-handers he has faced in 2017 have reached base. Looking at his zone chart above, you can see those hits have been hard.
Part of the reason McAllister may have flown under the radar for so long was his usage, as Francona admitted to using the former starter against southpaws.
“A lot of times we would bring him in for left-handers when we thought velocity was – I think he’s worked so hard on his breaking ball,” Francona said. “It has become more consistent, and I think at the end of Spring Training, he went back over his mechanics from before and some of the power came back to his fastball, which I think then leads to confidence. So I think he’s in a good spot.”