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40 in 40: Marc Rzepczynski

Scrabble will help the bullpen, sure, but he’s still a bit of a strange acquisition.

Seattle Mariners Photo Day
I, for one, welcome our new LOOGY overlord.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Multiple things confuse me about Marc Rzepczynski.

For starters, there’s the obvious matter of his alphabet-soup last name. It’s pronounced “zep-CHIN-skee,” which makes the R silent. I think I’ve mostly figured this one out by now, but it could take Dave Sims a while.

Next, there’s his journeyman career. Seattle will be his seventh stop in seven years, and his fifth team in the last three years alone. He’s been part of four midseason trades, including a one-for-one deal in 2015 where Cleveland dealt him for one-time Opening Day leadoff hitter and centerfielder Abraham Almonte. (Read that last sentence again. 2014 was a weird year.)

Finally, there’s his actual presence on this team. On December 1, Jerry Dipoto handed Scrabble a two-year, $11 million contract despite the fact that he more or less goes against everything the “Control the Zone” mantra stands for.

Before we get there, however, let’s start with the basics. Rzepczynski was signed for one reason: to pitch against left-handed hitters. For his career, he allows a .277/.377/.431 slash line to righties; to give you some context, that’s an OPS of .808, which is 28 points higher than Kyle Seager’s career slash line.

Against lefties, on the other hand? Zep has been lights out, allowing a .222/.291/.298 slash line. Last year, Shawn O’Malley hit .229/.299/.319. In other words, Zep makes lefties look like Shawn O’Malley at the plate and turns righties into the career version of Kyle Seager.

It’s not wildly unrealistic to imagine paying a reliever $5.5 million per year in this day and age - even if said reliever has one job and one job only. I mean, at least not when comparing against other baseball salaries. (For example, I’d gladly take a tenth, or even a hundredth, of Rzepczynski’s salary in exchange to do one job for the Mariners, though I’m guessing they could probably find many other people to throw good batting practice.)

What is strange, however, is his walk rate. For his career, Scrabble walks 4.0 batters per nine innings while striking out 8.5. Fangraphs’ excellent advanced stats glossary paints this K/9 rate as above average, but the walk rate as, and I quote, “Awful.”

This doesn’t automatically make Zep a bad addition. His K/BB rate gets much better against lefties, and last year’s inflated BB/9 rate (5.5) is such an outlier compared to the rest of his career that it looks to be more of a one-year aberration than anything else.

He also doesn’t allow many dingers - below is the video of the only homer allowed all year in 2016, and it took a pretty superhuman effort from the Hot Corner himself.

In the end, is there reason to be excited about Zep? Uh, sure. If you get excited about LOOGYs, then he’ll do the trick. But we need to hope he faces very, very few right-handed hitters.

At the very least, we get a guy who can field his position...

who got married this winter...

who will always provide major Scrabble points...

and who will, hopefully, be a stabilizing presence in the M’s bullpen for the next two years.

Welcome to Seattle, Marc. Can we just call you Marc from now on?