Memorable LOOGYs in Washington Nationals History

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 04: Matt Grace #33 LOOGY (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 04: Matt Grace #33 LOOGY (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The implementation of the “Three Batter Minimum” rule was met with disdain; Here is why it’s a good thing for baseball and a look back at key Washington Nationals LOOGYs

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball officially announced the implementation of several rule changes for the 2020 season.  The most significant of which is the “Three Batter Minimum” rule, which requires pitchers to face at least three batters (or pitch until the inning is over) before they come out of a game. The only exception for this rule is if a player is suffering from an injury or illness that prevents them from facing the three batters.

The concept is designed to avoid multiple pitching changes in a single inning, in order to maintain the pace of play.  Luckily, Bruce Bochy has retired, which by itself will significantly lessen situations with a revolving door of relievers.

The official announcement of the “Three Batter Minimum” has been met with cries about Rob Manfred trying to ruin baseball (to be fair, I think Manfred could be doing a lot of things better, but this just isn’t the hill to die on), and that the rule eliminates reliever strategy.  But I see things very differently.

I certainly don’t think the change will speed up the time of the game, but that’s not something that has ever bothered me.  If anything, it will actually create more offense, which I am not dramatically opposed to either.  I believe the rule will help to maintain the fluidity of the game by lessening significant drops in action at key moments.

From a managerial perspective, it certainly changes the bullpen strategy, but it adds to the strategy related to lineup construction, pitching changes and substitutions.  Depth and versatility will work in the Nationals favor, and the rule will make for some interesting managerial decisions on when to bring in specific relievers.

For example, if the Nationals 2-4 hitters are Eaton, Turner (for sake of argument) and Soto.  It makes complete sense to bring in a lefty to face two left-handed hitters (Eaton and Soto), but it also adds to the drama by forcing that pitcher to face Turner, who is right handed.

You can also bring a lefty in with two outs in the 8th to face Soto, but if the pitcher doesn’t do his job, they’ll be required to face two additional hitters.

It’s a gamble, yes, but I love gambling.

The players who will be most impacted by the change will be LOOGYs (left-handed one-out guys). Frankly, I was never a huge Jessie Orosco or Boone Logan fan, so I was surprised at the uproar over the minimization of these types of players.  I decided to take a walk down memory lane to look at some of the top LOOGYs in Nationals history.

Who can forget the Nats inaugural 2005 season with Joey Eischen?  Eischen made his MLB debut in 1994 and pitched until after the 2006 season. Over that time he accumulated 296.1 total innings.  Nationals fans may remember his ’05 campaign in which he pitched 36.1 innings over 56 games. Eischen pitched on one or zero days rest 39 times that season and faced less than hitters in 32 of his appearances.

Eischen got a little grouchy toward the end of the career, saying “Half these guys,  couldn’t tell you what decade Frank (Robinson, Nationals manager at the time) played in. This is the what-can-you-do-for-me generation. We’re playing for one of the best players ever to play the game of baseball. Guys don’t realize what they have.”

It sounds like he might be shoo-ing teenagers off his front lawn these days, but his LOOGY legacy lives on.

Big Ray King, was another left-handed specialist who spent time with the Nationals during the 2007 season. Nicknamed Burger, King was 6’1 and nearly 270 lbs at times in his career.

He pitched in 39.2 innings over 67 games with Washington and Milwaukee in ’07. Burger threw on back to back days 20 times during that season, pitching to no more than 7 total hitters in any of his outings.  He faced less than 3 hitters 33 times and finished the year with a 4.76 ERA.

After that season King told the Washington Times that he “would like to play here (Washington) more than just this year. I would like to stay three or four years here.” Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way for Burger, as he was out of Major League Baseball after just 6.2 innings in the 2008 season.

One of my favorite Oliver Perez moments was last season as a member of the Indians when Perez waited on the mound for his cleats to be delivered wearing only his socks.

But in 2016 with the Nationals, Oliver Perez had a 4.95 ERA over 64 appearances.  He pitched more than 1 inning only 4 times that season, one of which was an 18 inning marathon against the Pirates, which the Nationals lost 2-1.  Perez threw to less than 3 hitters 29 times in 2016.

More recently, Matt Grace, Enny Romero and Sammy Solis have been used as left-handed specialists for the Nationals. I may be wrong (I’m not), but I don’t remember seeing many of their jersey’s in the crown or hearing glorious praises related to the contribution they made to the club from fans.

Managers can still bring in specialists in the late innings to face a single hitter with 2 outs, and the strategy will impact lineups; with managers trying avoid hitting left-handed hitters back to back. This isn’t a bad thing for baseball, it’s just a different thing.

I doubt it will dramatically impact the way that fans watch the game. I can’t imagine a clamouring for a left-handed pitcher to come throw to a single hitter more than a handful of times in the season.  If anything, it will add to the fluidity of the game and provide more dramatic moments.

I’m on board.