The LOOGY has become less popular in bullpens over the last couple of years, but the Washington Nationals could benefit from carrying one next season.
The left-handed one out guy, or LOOGY for short, seems to be disappearing throughout the Majors. However, the Washington Nationals would be wise to carry one of their own as they head into 2019.
Teams generally, instead of carrying a left-handed reliever whose job is to specifically get left-handed batters out, are using left-handed relievers just as they would right-handed relievers. They’re starting to use them against all batters.
In some cases, though, that’s not ideal and it has hurt the Nationals as much as anybody. The key to the LOOGY is letting them specifically face left-handed hitters and minimizing their exposure to right-handed batters.
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For instance, August 9th’s game against the Chicago Cubs where the Nationals were winning 2-0 in the bottom of the 6th inning when Jeremy Hellickson ran into trouble. He ended up loading the bases and Sammy Solis comes in to face left-handed hitting Jason Heyward. Solis gives up a game-tying single to Heyward because even though Solis is a left-hander, lefties hit .329 off of him last year and .276 overall throughout his career.
It was the perfect time for a LOOGY, but the Nationals didn’t have one on the roster at the time. You could classify Tim Collins as a LOOGY because his .222 BAA vs. lefties shows that he can get left-handed hitters out, but if that’s the case, you have to pull him after he faces that left-handed batter because his .310 BAA vs. righties says that’s not an ideal matchup.
It’s understandable that teams don’t want to waste a bullpen spot on a guy who can only get them one or two outs per game, which makes sense, especially when you’ll end up paying that guy a couple million dollars per year.
That doesn’t mean the Nationals shouldn’t do it though. Jonny Venters, or old friends Zach Duke and Oliver Perez would all do the job. Specifically, Venters and Duke have a history of being able to consistently get lefties out at a higher clip than righties.
Since Duke became a full-time reliever in 2012, lefties have hit .226 against him, while righties have hit .247. Similarly, Venters, although more dominant has held lefties to a .180 BAA and righties to a .227 BAA.
In fact, in 2018, both Duke and Venters had more drastic splits. Lefties hit .133 off Venters, while righties hit .277. As for Duke, lefties hit .220 off of him, whereas righties hit .311.
Although Matt Grace is a lefty, his sinker, slider and release point all make it so that he’s able to get hitters from both sides of the plate out. In fact, Grace had reverse splits last year, where lefties hit .258, while righties hit .229 off of him.
All of this adds up to the Nationals needing to sign or trade for a LOOGY this offseason and then relying on Davey Martinez to make his matchup decisions based on the splits. The Nationals relied upon Sammy Solis to get left-handed hitters out this year, but the problem is Solis has never been able to get left-handed hitters out.
If the Washington Nationals don’t add a lefty who can get other lefties out, it’s going to surely haunt them in the regular season and again in the playoffs should they make it that far next season.