With the 2021 season having come to a close, we are looking back at the year that was for members of the Texas Rangers.
Today we are looking at starting pitcher Kolby Allard.
When you go to Statcast and look at a player’s page, in the upper right hand part of the page, there is a box that will show a collection of sliders, reflecting where a player ranked in a variety of categories against the league as a whole, on a percentile basis, that year. The sliders are color-coded as well, with the bottom of the percentile rankings being dark blue, gradually lightening as you move up the scale until, at 50%, the slider is white. As you go up from 50%, the slider turns pink, then red, with the 99th percentile being very dark red.
A quick glance can give you an overall very general idea about a player. Click on Max Scherzer, for example, or Juan Soto, and you see a wave of crimson, with the occasional dot of white. The best players are going to generally be ranked in the top of most of the categories Statcast displays.
When you go to Kolby Allard’s page and check out that box, you see a whole bunch of blue for the 2021 season. That’s not promising.
To Allard’s credit, he does have one dark red slider — for BB%, where he is in the 85th percentile. He doesn’t walk batters, registering just 2.24 BBs per 9 innings in 2021. So that’s a good thing. Chris Woodward has preached that Rangers pitchers need to trust their stuff and challenge batters, and Allard did that in 2021.
The problem is that, if you’re going to trust your stuff and throw strikes, your stuff has to need to be good enough to get people out.
I mean, if you don’t trust your stuff and don’t throw strikes, that is bad too, because you will fall behind in counts and walk a bunch of batters and run up a high pitch count, which is what Allard did in 2020, when he walked 5.35 batters per 9. You can’t NOT trust your stuff, because that’s going to result in problems as well.
But if you don’t have the stuff to succeed in the first place, you have to walk a real fine line, with your command being good enough that you can throw strikes and locate your pitches without getting hammered.
Kolby Allard’s stuff is marginal for a major league pitcher. Here’s where Allard ranked in various categories in 2021, per Statcast:
FB velocity — 10th percentile
FB spin — 28th percentile
Curve spin — 2nd percentile
Chase rate — 12th percentile
Whiff rate — 8th percentile
Kolby Allard doesn’t throw hard. He’s a low spin guy. He throws four pitches*, with horizontal and vertical movement measured separately by Statcast, and out of those eight movement numbers, the only one that is above average is his vertical movement on his four seamer.
* Statcast also has Allard having thrown a sinker in 2021, but only 8 times, so to a first order of magnitude he’s a four pitch pitcher.
This isn’t any big secret, incidentally. Though Allard was the 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft, he has never had great stuff, being more of a pitchability guy, and the questions about whether his stuff would be able to play in the majors is why he was able to be acquired for the low, low price of two months of Chris Martin at the trade deadline in 2019. Kolby Allard is someone who was always going to need to rely upon his command — and who would always need extremely good command — to succeed.
Kolby Allard did not have that level of command in 2021. And when you have marginal stuff and iffy command while attacking the strike zone, you get results like this, per Statcast in 2021:
K rate — 21st percentile
Barrel rate — 10th percentile
Average exit velocity — 25th percentile
xSLG — 9th percentile
xwOBA — 18th percentile
xERA — 18th percentile
Kolby Allard didn’t walk many batters, and didn’t strike out many batters. What he did do is give up a lot of really loud contact. He wasn’t even that bad in regards to his hard hit percentage allowed — he was middle of the pack, at 47% — but the hard hit balls were really, really hard hit, as reflected by his bottom ten percent showing in barrel rate and xSLG.
Though we don’t even really need to use the advanced stats to show that. Allard was tied 7th in the American League in home runs allowed (29) in 2021, despite throwing just 124 innings (though thanks to Jordan Lyles and Mike Foltynewicz, Allard was just third in home runs allowed on the Rangers).
Out of 129 pitchers who had at least 100 innings pitched in 2021, Allard’s 2.09 HR/9 ratio was third-worst, ahead of only Foltynewicz and Tarik Skubal.
The upshot of all this is that Allard had a 5.41 ERA, 5.37 FIP and 5.13 xERA, all of which suggest he was sub-replacement-level in 2021. That’s also what the WARs say — he had a -0.3 fWAR and a -0.8 bWAR for 2021.
Allard spent the entire season in the major leagues in 2021, even though he was on the bubble for the Opening Day roster, and was one of the last players named to the team. Allard was used in a relief role to start the season and pitched well, putting up a 3.15 ERA in ten relief appearances through May 22. That, combined with the poor performance by others, resulted in him a look in the rotation, and he started off okay before cratering. He was moved back to the bullpen for the final month of the season but didn’t do all that well there either. After putting up a 3.46 ERA and a 3.67 FIP through the end of June, Allard put up a 6.81 ERA and 6.58 FIP from July 1 through the end of the year.
Allard is coming to camp in 2022 as one of a gaggle of young pitchers looking to claim a spot in the rotation, though he seems most likely to be in Round Rock to start the year or in a long man role in the pen. Allard has two options remaining, so he is someone who can provide the Rangers with rotation depth in AAA for the time being.
Allard turns 25 in August, and he has almost three years of service time. Aside from the group he’s currently competing with for what is likely just one major league rotation spot to start the year — Taylor Hearn, Spencer Howard, Glenn Otto, A.J. Alexy, John King — there’s a wave of pitchers coming up behind him. Jack Leiter and Cole Winn, of course, but Cody Bradford, Jake Latz, Cole Ragans, and Zak Kent are going to be in AA or AAA to start the year, as well as possibly Owen White. Allard is in danger of being lost in the shuffle and ending up on the waiver wire at some point.
Allard will, most likely, get some major league innings at some point in 2022 for the Rangers, whether in the pen or in the rotation. When he does, he’s going to have to show a lot more than he has so far as a Ranger to still be here in nine months.