Inside The 2006 Numbers: Vince Mazzaro, SP

Kane County Cougar starter Vince Mazzaro was one of the three "young-guns" in the Kane County rotation to start the season. We take a close look at Mazzaro's numbers to see how the 2005 draft pick fared for the Cougars this year.

Vince Mazzaro's 2006 stats

Year

Team

Lg

Age

W/L

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

BB

K

HR

H/9

BB/9

K/9

2006

KNCTY

MID

19

9-9

5.05

119.1

146

81

67

42

81

7

0.53

3.17

6.11


Background

Vince Mazzaro was a relative mystery to most Oakland A's fans entering the season. The 2005 draft pick signed too late in the summer to join the A's Rookie Ball team, so he had to wait until 2006 to make his professional debut. There was some buzz surrounding Mazzaro after the A's Instructional League season last fall, as he was very impressive at fall camp. His work at "instructs" gave the A's the confidence to send Mazzaro straight to a full-season affiliate even though he never played for either of the A's short-season squads.

Mazzaro spent the entire 2006 season at low-A Kane County, making 24 starts for the Cougars. He was a steady presence in the rotation for the Cougars, as he didn't miss a start until the A's shut him down in mid-August after he reached the organization-mandated 120 innings limit. Although Mazzaro's stats appear average, he did have some impressive outings this season. The right-hander, who was the youngest player on the Cougars' roster at the start of the season, had four starts of seven or more innings and he won all four of those starts. His next-to-last outing of the season was his best, as he went eight innings and allowed only two runs on four hits while striking out nine.

He features a classic right-handed delivery and he throws four pitches: a four-seam and a two-seam fastball, a change-up and a knuckle-curve. His fastball sits in the low-90s and his change-up is his newest pitch.

Growing Pains

Often the hardest thing for a young starting pitcher to learn is how to disguise his pitches the second time through a batting order. This is something that Mazzaro clearly struggled with throughout his first professional season. The right-hander was fairly effective in the first and second innings this season, posting identical 3.38 ERAs in each frame. However, his ERA jumped dramatically in the middle frames, as he posted marks of 5.73, 10.07 and 5.71 in the third, fourth and fifth frames, respectively.

The fourth inning (which is the inning that hitters are most commonly seeing a pitcher for the second time) was Mazzaro's worst frame by far, as his groundball-to-flyball ratio fell (2.3:1 from 2.5:1 in all other innings) and his batting average against jumped to a high level (.407). Interestingly, if Mazzaro made it past the fifth inning in any start, he tended to find success, as he posted ERAs of 0.00, 4.15 and 0.00 in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, respectively.

This trend would likely be more damning for Mazzaro's future as a starting pitcher if he were not so new to pitching professionally. Most highly successful high school pitchers are so dominating when they face their peers that they don't have to alter their approach to those hitters when they see them the next time through the order. It is understandable, then, that Mazzaro has yet to develop a strong strategy for pitching to hitters a second time. However, if this trend is still true two years from now, he may have to be shifted to the bullpen.

Stretch Position

Another sign that Mazzaro is still growing as a pitcher is his struggles with runners on-base. With the bases empty, Mazzaro was pretty effective this season. He held batters to a .275 batting average and he walked only 22 of the 277 batters he faced with no one on. However, he really struggled once he had to go into the stretch.

With runners on-base. Mazzaro allowed opposing batters to hit .350 against him and he walked 37 of the 253 batters he faced when in the stretch. With runners in scoring position, Mazzaro allowed a .357 BAA and he walked 18 of the 170 batters he faced.

Again, this trend can likely be attributed to Mazzaro's inexperience, as he likely didn't have to pitch out of the stretch that often in high school.

Groundball Pitcher

One very good sign for Mazzaro this season is that he demonstrated an ability to keep the ball on the ground. His GO:FB ratio was better than 2:1 and he allowed only seven homeruns. If this trend continues, his hit total should fall as he moves up through the ranks of the A's system. Groundball pitchers are often penalized at the lower levels, as poorly groomed infields and inexperienced infielders can cause a number of groundouts to turn into singles at the lower levels.

Handles Righties Better Than Lefties

Mazzaro doesn't strike out a lot of batters at this stage of his career, which can make it difficult for a pitcher to keep his hit total down at the lower levels. Mazzaro especially struggled to strike out left-handed hitters, as lefties whiffed only 26 times in 206 at-bats against Mazzaro (conversely, right-handers struck-out 55 times in 324 at-bats). That could, in part, explain why lefties hit .346 against Mazzaro while righties hit only .287.

Outlook

Although Mazzaro didn't wow anyone with his stats this season, there were some positives to take out of his numbers from 2006. One, his durability was evident based on the fact that he made it through 120 innings pitched without missing any time. Conversely, fellow 2005 high school draft picks Craig Italiano and Jared Lansford both missed time with injuries.

Mazzaro also showed a tendency towards being a groundball pitcher, something that will help him at the next two levels (the California League and the Texas League), both of which feature some short outfield porches. He finished the season by striking out 14 and walking only two in 14.1 innings over two starts, something he can build on to start the 2007 season.

Mazzaro's stuff was electric at times last season and he will only improve his consistency as he grows into his body and builds more strength. Mazzaro had a similar season for Kane County in 2006 as high school draft pick Ryan Webb had for the Cougars in 2005. Look for Mazzaro to follow in Webb's footsteps and start the 2007 season in High-A Stockton, where he will be challenged.


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