First Check on Mike McClendon

Mike McClendon has never profiled as much more than a slightly above replacement level middle reliever, but he's been impressive in his first two appearances in the majors, if on a pitching staff that doesn't take much to stand out on. He's been a pitcher who hasn't exhibited great strikeout stuff in the minors but has limited the walks. This year, his strikeouts took a jump up to the 7s per 9 innings, with the walks staying below 2 per 9. He also only allowed 1 home run in his time at AAA. All that produced a MLE FIP of 3.04, which made Mike worthy of a shot in the majors in this lost season.

McClendon has thrown 5 different pitches in his 6 innings in the majors, something that's pretty rare for a relief pitcher. The fastball topped out at 89.8 and seemed to be right in the 88-89 range each time. He's doing a little bit with the movement, probably throwing more of a 2-seam fastball some of the time (breaking towards a righty batter) and a 4-seam some of the time. Usually 2-seamers come in a bit slower and with more movement but his two versions of the fastball seem similar in velocity.

The biggest thing to note with McClendon so far is his very heavy reliance on the changeup. Nearly every pitcher throws their fastball more than half of the time, but that has not been the case with McClendon, who has thrown 44 changes (52% of his total pitches). The pitch hasn't generated many swinging strikes, but batters have not swung at it often and haven't put it in play successfully. He's throwing it for a strike 60% of the time, very close to the league average on all pitches.

90% of the pitches thrown so far by McClendon have been fastballs or changeups, but he has a curve and slider in his arsenal as well. Each come in around 78 miles per hour, but they are clearly separate pitches due to drastic differences in movement. There's not enough of a sample to see if they're quality pitches or if they're worth throwing more, but it will be interesting to note if he starts working either in more or sticks with a pitch selection heavy and fastballs and changeups.

McClendon interests me because of his unusual reliance on the changeup, especially for a right-handed pitcher who struggles to top 90. There's not enough data on him yet to determine if that strange pitch selection is his usual plan of attack or if it was just a chance thing over two outings. Either way, he's earned a shot and pitched successfully so far, and cheap, effective middle relievers are never a bad thing to have around.

*(Thanks to the Texas Leaguers Pitch F/X tool, which makes queries like this much easier than running them all by hand).

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