One name that intermittently popped up whenever I sifted through 2010 pitcher rankings was Manny Parra. The lefty transitioned to a starting role for the Milwaukee Brewers midway through the season and his numbers began to plummet; he was moved back to the bullpen and it appears the Brewers are planning on keeping him there in 2011.
Despite his unsuccessful run as a starter last season, I noticed that Parra ranked near the top of the league in a few specific areas. Parra relies heavily on both his split-finger fastball and curveball as out pitches. Batters had a 54.2% contact rate against Parra’s off-speed pitches last season, which put him in the top 3% of all major league pitchers (min. 400 offspeed pitches thrown). A 42.1% K-rate put him in the top 4% of pitchers.
Of course, he needs his fastball in order to set up his splitter and curve. Last season, Parra’s fastball was hit fairly hard; batters put up a .565 SLG and .442 wOBA off it, with an 84.1% contact rate.
Working from the pen is probably the best bet for a pitcher like Parra. As a starter, he had to rely on his fastball more as he was working multiple innings at a time. But as a reliever, Parra can lean more heavily on his off-speed stuff without worrying about it taking such a toll on his arm. In addition, batters will have a tougher time adjusting to his off-speed pitches in short stints.