Zach Lee RHP - Level 101 Scan
just a quick first take to get our arms 'round the sitch


Q.  Checksum = Required

A.  No solid prognosis at this point, babe.  You gotta give the mainframe two batters if you want 5,000 words out of it.  Well, no you don't.  But y'know.


Q.  What's the general template?

A.  The 2015-16 version of Lee reminds of a Doug Fister, Brian Holman, Ian Kennedy type.  Real ability to mix four (4) pitches and a darts champ look and feel to motion and his 1+ walk rate.

A pitcher 's worth 1,000 words.  Check this out :- )


He sometimes gets accused of having no scary pitch.  As did those other guys, but you do have the 7 strikeout rate to think about when the scouts say he's got nothing.

The Dodga scouts lost interest, much the way we would if Taijuan Walker became an Isamel Valdes or Paul Byrd type before he's even gotten to the bigs.


Q.  He was a first-rounder.  What happened to him?

A.  The Dodgas evidently took him out of high school with a "maybe we got a Taijuan here" attitude -- exciting stuff, exciting upside, made the MLB Top 100 three or even four years, right up until last year.

As so often, the tire tread wore off some of the exciting stuff  -- but the initial stuff bought him time to hone his craft.  Came in a thrower, is now a pitcher.

It ain't like the Dodgers DFA'ed him.  You know where Chris Taylor is at - ML-ready shortstop who has a real chance at a 3,000-AB career, and an even realer chance to be a backup.  Lee is in the same category; the Dodgas realize that Lee could become a 12-game winner, but what do you do with him or Taylor or this kind of player?

In fact, Chris Taylor has a lot more time left on his service clock.  Lee came with a pretty steep price tag, considering he is "layering" who has only 2017 left and who hasn't even done anything yet.


Q.  What's the arsenal?

A.  Fangraphs, in very short innings, and the scouts, say about the same thing:  

  • 90 MPH fastball, half the time
  • Plus 88 MPH slider, 25% of the time
  • Very slow change curve, and too-firm changeup, splitting the other quarter

Fister, as he was developing, evolved several times within this template.  First the change as his primary weapon ... then the changeup receded and the slider did more of the heavy lifting ... well, you watched Doogie.  One thing he always did was walk 1+, as Lee reliably does too.


Q.  Doug Fister was an SSI called shot, coming up out of AAA.  Within this template, would Dr. D be tempted to call a Zach Lee shot?

A.  Fister when coming up had several set-aparts:

  • "Outlier" class downward angles
  • "Sneaky" fastball due to Chris Young-class stepup
  • Remarkable body control for such a gangly frame (still head, repeatable release point, capacity for plus-plus command)
  • Very convincing changeup, right out of the chute

Lee is in the template, but does not have these bonus features within that template.  He's not an SSI Best Bet, or even close to it.

That said, if a pitcher truly is going to walk less than 2 batter per 9 innings, then the Shandler Threshhold of 5.6 strikeouts is a key idea.  I dunno what that 5.6 would be in today's game ... you need enough so that you're dangerous in one way or another with two strikes.

On the video, Lee's tight-spin slider has good late break and PERFECT arm action.  At 88 MPH it's very fast; even an 88 cutter (with minimal break) is a hard cutter.  The slider indeed looks like a go-to pitch.


By the way, how did it work out for Fister, now that we have a satellite camer angle?  He missed a couple of half years, as most SP's do.  But he ripped off four true TOR seasons between 2011 and 2014, was hurt last year, and now he's 7-3 3.26 with reduced velocity.  

His career ERA+ is 118 as we chat here.  That's #12 among active pitchers; Max Scherzer's career ERA+ is 120.  So:  how it worked out was that Fister became an All-Star.

Loved Doug Fister.  One of our happiest memories since 1977.


Q.  Why the homers?

A.  Lee mixed three and four pitches, and the 3-4 are going to be "invitations" some times.  He's got to deal with it, but it ain't like he's ready to retire.


Q.  Thumbs up or thumbs down?

A.  You gotta love Jerry DiPoto getting down on one knee in front of Ketel Marte, don'cha?

And as "layering" goes, here comes another pure-saber decision for your viewing enjoyment.  Seattle baseball bloggers talk about wanting a saber GM; sometimes you get the impression that means --- > let's see a Ph.D. in math and let's see some clinical research and let's see at least one or two players here specificially because their dot was the outlier on an obscure regression chart.

Sabermetrics, it is a way of thinking, gentlemen.  It is about results (like, 1+ BB) over gut instinct.  It is about flying by your instruments and not by your instincts.  It's about being smart, not about being clever.  Sudden thought:  have you ever seen the Founding Father getting too clever?  Even one time?  

DiPoto is simply relentless about sabermetrics.  A little bit funny that now we see what one looks like, a Bill James type for whom questions and answer blot out the sun, we kinda forget to bask.


Q.  Dr's prognosis?

A.  I like the Marte wedding and I like DiPoto's saber orientation.  Almost beside the point -- we're hoping he'll be irrelevant -- Zach Lee is a guy who will get more outs the more chances he's given.


Let's play two,

Dr D




I believe Dipoto / Servais is OK with Monty & Sampson starting, but does not want to see Diaz or Nuno or Weiland or other Tacoma arm pitching in Seattle's rotation.

Thus Lee is starter number 9 now... so if Karns or Kuma goes down, then we see Lee.

Therefore, I kind of expect that the M's pitching staff will remove at least one pitch from Lee's arsenal, and get him to focus on just 3 pitches.

Moreover, once guys start getting healthy, I expect Lee to be groomed for the new 7th inning guy, to see if his velocity gets back into mid 90's consistently 


I think the news is the official end of the apparent SS logjam in favor of Ketel Marte.  Not that we didn't see it coming.  Nick Franklin, Brad Miller and Chris Taylor all dispatched to other precincts over the last 2 years.

Just scanning Lee, it's worrisome that the low-walk, low-HR results only came in 2015, and seem to result from strange splits where he had super-low walks at home and super-low HR on the road.

In 2016, he still has really low walks at home, but yielding bunches of hits there in 7 starts: 6 HR, 11 dbls, 3 tpls, .201 ISO-against, .358 BABIP-against.

Looks to me like he's keeping the walks low by getting pounded by hard contact.  I can see why the LAD began to lose interest.

More sad for me is the final link of the M's to my favoritest college team (2011 UVa) is the tattered remains of Danny Hultzen's shoulder, if even that.  But that was really just an odd happy coincidence anyway.


It'll be interesting to see if they make any mechanical adjustments to try and get more velocity out of him. If they can't coax more out of him, he may be Blake Beavan II.

It's always strange to see a big, strong guy with a mushy FB. 


Looking at his Brooks page, with lots of grain of salt SSS caveats, I see a whole lot of "is basically never swung at and missed" on everything except the curve.  If that's indicative of his pitches in general and not just a coincidental sample of his bad days then he needs another pitch with something more.   Assuming it isn't just horribly obvious sequencing causing everything to get touched or crushed.  His start in Tacoma isn't promising that the M's saw a sequencing issue and addressed it so I'm going to guess it's not that.

I never know if a mechanical tweak will make a pitch more effective and changing for one purpose can affect something else.   Maybe his fastball gets better but his curve gets worse.  I can only really speculate but even looking at overall stats it just seems his overall repertoire is just getting hit too much.  There might be something to him getting too many strikes in that?  It seems to me that another pitch being less hittable is his main current stumbling block though. 


Not every pitcher needs swing-and-miss stuff, but there does come a point where the pitches are *so* hittable that ... well, you wind up in AAA ...


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