Plesac graduated from high school and was off to Ball State in Muncie, Indiana.
Zach is the nephew of former big league pitcher Dan Plesac, now with the MLB Network as an analyst.
June 2016: The Indians chose Plesac in the 12th round, out of Ball State University in Indiana.
June 7, 2019: Zach can officially cross “first big league win” off the checklist, following in the exact footsteps as his Uncle Dan. Plesac allowed two runs on six hits through seven innings, throwing a career-high 111 pitches in the Indians’ 5-2 victory over the Yankees at Progressive Field, a performance that warranted a celebration in the clubhouse after the game.He also had a text from Dan Plesac, informing him that they both got off to the same starts to their big league careers.
Dan’s first loss also came against the White Sox, his first win against the Yankees. Although Dan’s win came first and the loss second, the decisions were exactly how his nephew’s played out -- in reverse order -- 33 years later.
“You know, in Boston [Zach's MBL debut], I had my closest family and friends there, and then we go to Chicago, my whole community is there, and I come here tonight and I got the whole city there,” Plesac said. “They were all there cheering for us. You can feel that. I really appreciate it, and I felt it while I was on the mound. The fans out there were incredible, and so it was a lot of fun.” (Bell - mlb.com)
Aug. 9, 2020: Major League Baseball teams are clearly cracking down on violations of the league’s health and safety protocols, with the Cleveland Indians enforcing the strictest punishment yet.
According to Ken Rosenthal and Zack Meisel of The Athletic, the Indians sent pitcher Zach Plesac home to Cleveland after he went out with friends in Chicago while the team was in town to play the White Sox. Plesac was immediately isolated from the rest of the team and traveling party, quarantined for 72 hours, and is being tested daily for COVID-19.
2020 Season: In a very weird year, it has to rank very close to the top in unexpected developments just how good Zach Plesac was this season. Cleveland came into 2020 with a pretty decent grasp of what the rotation would look like. Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger would headline, with Carlos Carrasco a steady, wonderful choice for a number three starter. After that, the glimpses we saw of the rookies Plesac and Aaron Civale gave hope that at the very least, it would be pretty good. Nobody could have expected Bieber to do what he did. Nobody really expected them to move Mike Clevinger so abruptly.
More than anything, nobody expected Plesac to turn into an ace in his own right. If you watch Plesac for just a moment and take each of his pitches in a vacuum, you’d think that this guy is not long for the rotation. His fastball clocks in at an average 93-ish. None of his breaking pitches are elite in their movement. But like Bieber before him, a preternatural command of his repertoire and the strike zone showed up this year, and his ability to mix pitches, throw strikes, and keep hitters off balance, to “pitch” in that old school style that is hard to quantify but obvious once you know what to look for, that gave Plesac the edge.
He made his statement that he was more than just one of the guys in the rotation when he utterly silenced the White Sox on July 28 — three hits, 11 strikeouts, and eight innings, against what we’d later see to be one of the four or five best lineups in all of baseball. Pitching in the AL Central as he does, and behind Bieber as he has to, it’s hard to be noticed, but he kept trying. He gutted out a tough seven inning start against a hot Reds team five days later, not quite as sharp but just as competitive. One more rotation, and he saw the White Sox again, and again made a statement. Chicago was silenced a second time, finding just six baserunners over six innings, scoring nothing while striking out seven times, again utterly lost against Plesac. Again, he did his best against the best competition. Wasn’t this enough to get noticed?
Evidently, the answer was yes. Not for the right reasons though. Twenty-four hours later he found himself in a rental car, making a miserable drive back to Ohio after being banished to Lake County for breaking COVID-19 protocols. The second-year pitcher was wonderful in the early goings, packing a 1.29 ERA and looking every bit the topflight starter the numbers suggested. But that wasn’t all that mattered this year. This is why it wasn’t a more perfect season for Zach Plesac. Many young players face some kind of reckoning, whether it’s a hole in a swing, a lacking repertoire, some kind of dent in the armor that shows they’re mere mortal. Something they have to overcome. It might not be the only thing he’ll face as he grows as a pitcher, but this lapse in judgement was Plesac’s Welcome to The Show moment.
He wouldn’t pitch again until September, but the numbers held, to a degree. He logged a 2.99 ERA in five starts, struck out 33 in 34.1 innings, and only walked four. The command, whether of the zone or his stuff, didn’t leave, and maybe the time away reminded him of how fleeting opportunities can be. He ended the season as maybe Cleveland’s second-best starter, and yet still with room to grow.
I don’t know if Plesac is as good as the 2.28 ERA leads us to believe. The walk rate, just 2.9%, is absurd. It’s the kind of walk rate that guys like Greg Maddux or late-career Bartolo Colon logged, and Colon at least didn’t strike people out at nearly the rate Plesac did this year. His FIP is a full run higher than his ERA at 3.39, though by Statcast he was very good at forcing soft contact, sitting in the 75th percentile in hard hit rate and 71st percent in whiff rate.
He’s only forcing ground balls at a 39% clip, and his strand rate was an insane 91.8%. He’s definitely got talent, and he’s certainly getting the most out of the arsenal he’s packing, it’s just amazing to see how he works with what he has. The end result was a top 25 or so starter in baseball. It’s hard to be anything but ecstatic about that, especially after all his season held.
What he looks like over thirty full starts, in one season, is up for debate. He’s at 29 for his career, and has been excellent in those 29 starts, but over two seasons including the pandemic one is a hard sell. He’s something like this kind of pitcher though, and however the team looks around him, he’s sure to be a rock in the rotation for several years to come. He’s not the best, but for a second year pitcher, someone with fewer than 200 career innings under his belt, to rank as a top ten player on a contending team, one that prides itself on pitching no less, that’s unexpected and pretty special. At the end of the day, bumps and missteps and all, that’s how you describe Zach Plesac in 2020. (Merritt Rohlfing - Oct 12, 2020)
|Birth City:||Crown Point, IN|
|Draft:||Indians #12 - 2016 - Out of Ball State Univ. (IN)|
Plesac has a 91-96 mph FASTBALL. He has a good CHANGEUP.
May 2019: Plesac attacks with his fastball to both sides of the plate. He mixes in a good changeup. Zach's breaking ball’s a work in progress. He doesn't back down from anybody. He keeps pumping strikes.”
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 50.6% of the time; Change 20.6%; Slider 18.8%; and Curve 10% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94.1 mph, Change 86.1, Slider 85.1, and Curve 79.6 mph.
May 28, 2019: Zach walked into the Indians’ clubhouse at Fenway Park following his Major League debut and found a handwritten note sitting at his locker. Who could have already written to the rookie so soon after his first career start? It came from someone who had seen it up close and personal: the opposing pitcher.
“David Price wrote me a letter and left it at my locker,” Plesac said. “He told me, ‘Congrats on your debut. Good luck, kid.’ It’s motivating. It means everything, really. It humbles me too at the same time.”
Hours earlier, as the rain poured down and drenched Fenway Park during the 7-5 Indians win, Plesac ran out to the pitcher’s mound, shrugging off the weather and absorbing the moment. The rookie righthander dug his cleats into the dirt to establish his footing, threw seven warmup pitches, shook his shoulders loose and wiped the mound with his feet. Three years after being drafted by the Indians, Plesac was ready for his debut.
“I was ecstatic,” Plesac said. “Emotions were everywhere. I was excited. First one [out], a little pressure eases off the shoulders a little bit,” Plesac said. “After the first one, I was like, ‘All right, we’re here. Out number one. Let’s get two.’ And just got locked back in.”
A rain delay lasting more than an hour interrupted the second inning and could have thrown off the momentum of a rookie pitcher in his first game, especially at Fenway. Plesac stayed loose during the delay by getting on the exercise bike and going in the cage.
“I thought he was very composed and competed like crazy,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “That’s what you ask. He’ll have his time to make adjustments and things like that, but he competed like crazy.”
The right-hander concluded his debut with a line of four hits, one earned run, one walk and two strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. He threw 86 pitches (57 strikes) and his pitch velocity averaged 89.5 mph, according to Statcast.
“I thought he accounted for himself really well,” Francona said. “There was a lot thrown at him. He’s making his debut at Fenway, it’s raining, he doesn’t know if we’re going to start on time and then there’s a delay. He attacked with his fastball to both sides of the plate. He threw some good changeups. I think we knew his breaking ball’s a work in progress. But he wasn’t scared. He didn’t back down from anybody. There was some solid contact and he kept pumping strikes.”
Plesac shared his special day with around 20 friends and family at the park, including his twin brother, who traveled from Alaska for the occasion. His uncle, former Major Leaguer Dan Plesac, sent him well wishes before the game. He will save the note from Price, along with the scorecard and balls from his first pitch and first strikeout. It’s a personalized reminder of what he has achieved and the potential of what he wants to accomplish.
“I’m sure he’s just being the vet he is, taking care of the rookie here pitching my first game at Fenway,” Plesac said. “It was a class act. If he sees this, tell him I said, ‘Thank you.’” (J Camerato - MLB.com - May 28, 2019)
June 7, 2019: Plesac is just the third pitcher in Indians history (since 1908) to allow two runs or fewer in each of his first three career starts, joining Jeanmar Gomez (2010) and Cody Anderson (2015).
“He [Zach] was just saying, ‘What do you want to see?‘” Indians skipper Terry Francona said. “I said, ‘Hey, man, I’ll never talk to you about mechanics about pitching.‘ I said, ‘You just compete, but I’ll bet you pick someone off tonight.‘" He was right.
Plesac recorded his fifth pickoff in nine starts on July 17, 2019, catching Tigers center fielder Victor Reyes off guard after a leadoff walk in the first. “It saves me probably, you never know, five to 10 pitches an inning,” Plesac said. “It saves me pitching out of the stretch. So when I can get them, I’ll take them.”
It’s a move that he’s continued to perfect since high school, but the 24-year-old credits Double-A Akron pitching coach Tony Arnold for the way it’s developed over the last few months. “He really helped me get my feet right moving toward first base and having efficient movements and being as quick as I can,” Plesac said. “So I’ve got to give most of the credit to him.”
Plesac’s uncle, former Major Leaguer Dan Plesac, texted Francona when his nephew got his first call to the big leagues back in May to let him know that the righty had an impressive move.
“[He] said, ‘He’s got the quickest feet I’ve ever seen,’” Francona said. “Well, my uncle said I was a good hitter. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. But he’s got the quickest feet I’ve ever seen. Like you could sit in the dugout and you look and go, ‘This guy is in trouble out there. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s in trouble.’ Then he picks him off.”
Plesac leads the Majors with his five pickoffs in his limited time [9 games] with the Tribe. He entered one of the most competitive starting rotations, as Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger are known for going head-to-head to outdo one another each time they take the mound, in hopes to take home the “King of the Hill” crown that’s awarded to the best starter of each series.
And while Plesac definitely takes the crown when it comes to the quickest pickoff move, he said he still enjoys strikeouts more than he does pickoffs. But he never tires of hearing his manager compliment the quickness of his feet.
“It means everything to me,” Plesac said. “I still think I can get a little better at it with my timing and things like that, but I’m just going to keep using it.” (Bell - mlb.com - 7/17/19)
2020 Improvements: Spring is a time for new beginnings. A time to be refreshed and hopeful for the future. It’s also a time for new curveball grips.
Indians starting pitcher Zach Plesac has taken to the latter philosophy. Plesac threw two innings in Monday’s 12-8 Cactus League loss to the Colorado Rockies. He gave up one run on two hits and two strikeouts, but those details hardly matter this far from Opening Day.
A factor that is relevant is the progression of Plesac’s curveball, a pitch he worked on over the winter — along with two-a-day workouts with Mike Clevinger.
“I was excited to showcase my curveball that I worked on this offseason,” Plesac said afterward. “Slider felt good. Change-up, too. Everything felt pretty good.”
Last season, Plesac’s curveball graded well enough, but he couldn’t locate it as often to use it as a weapon as much as he’d like. Hitters had a .220 average against Plesac’s curveball (only his change-up at .208 was better by batting average) and a .287 wOBA (which measures a hitter’s total offensive value). Only his slider (.276) was better by wOBA.
But Plesac thought he was coming up short too often and thew the curveball only 10% of the time. The goal has been to make it a more consistent weapon to complement his fastball, change-up and slider. So Plesac altered the grip and is working with the new one this spring. (Ryan Lewis - Feb. 25, 2020)
September 18, 2020: It doesn’t get more textbook than Zach's second inning in the Indians’ 1-0 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park: Nine pitches, three strikeouts, one immaculate inning. Plesac fanned Jorge Bonifacio, Niko Goodrum and Austin Romine to accomplish the feat before walking off the mound sporting a huge smile. (Bell - mlb.com)
- Entering the 2021 season, Zach had a career record of 12-8 and 3.32 ERA, allowing 140 hits and 27 home runs in 171 innings pitched.
- April 2016: Plesac underwent Tommy John surgery.