Orioles Add Clay Rapada To The Pen

The Orioles added some potential bullpen depth today, signing soon to be 30 year-old lefty reliever Clay Rapada to a minor league contract. I was excited for a second, thinking he was one of the pitchers I had suggested the team go after – but that was actually Clay Zavada*.

* Zavada is three years younger, and has posted better numbers at every level with (in my opinion) better stuff. He’s left-handed too. And has an awesome ‘stache. Did miss most of 2010 with Tommy John surgery though.

Rapada doesn’t have much major league experience – 36.1 career innings pitched from 2007 to 2010 – and he hasn’t been particularly effective (4.71 ERA, 5.63 FIP, 5.28 xFIP). Different story in the minors though; in 221 career innings at Triple-A he has a 2.77 ERA while striking out better than a batter an inning. His control leaves a bit to be desired (3.8 BB/9), but it looks like he was able to generate groundballs at a better than average clip.

Limited Pitch F/X data in the majors shows a fastball without much giddy-up (~86 mph) but with a lot of sinking and tailing action (to be expected given his side-arm delivery), complemented by a frisbee-type slider which has gotten a fair amount of whiffs (even against righties).

His career platoon splits are pretty massive, but that’s obviously a very small sample size:

FIP xFIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
LHH 3.77 4.35 8.1 5.0 0.5
RHH 7.90 6.55 4.4 7.7 2.2

Sadly, MinorLeagueSplits isn’t around to provide similar data for Rapada’s time in the minors. Just for 2010, he had very similar walk and home run numbers against both righties and lefties, but strike-out rates of 7 K/9 and 11.9 K/9 (vs. RHH and LHH).

Rapada isn’t a bad arm to take a flyer on. Maybe he’ll stick and be the team’s LOOGY for 2011 with minimal investment. Still, he’s not likely to be a real plus for the team – just the replacement level lefty they happen to have for this particular season. And if that lefty was named ‘Joe Beimel’ instead of ‘Clay Rapada’, the O’s might pick up an additional run or two.

Stats: ERA, FIP, xFIP, K/9, BB/9, Pitch F/X