Revisiting the LOOGY Situation

The LOOGY — the left-handed, one out guy — is becoming an increasingly vital role in the modern bullpen. Mangers are relying more and more on lefty specialists to enter the game in high-leverage situations and retire a Brian McCann or a Joey Votto: the opposing team’s crucial left-handed hitter in the middle of the lineup. While the Phillies haven’t been the most disciplined in platoon match-ups in past years, they have utilized LOOGYs: J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre were the most prominent.

Going into Spring Training 2012, the Phillies brought with them a host of lefty relievers vying for that LOOGY spot: Dontrelle Willis, Joe Savery, Jake Diekman, Raul Valdes, David Purcey, Jeremy Horst, and Pat Misch. Through nine and two-thirds innings so far, the septet has a combined ERA of 5.58 with a K/BB of exactly 1:1 (eight strikeouts and eight walks). Valdes has been the only one looking sharp so far, with only one base runner allowed and two strikeouts in his two innings of work.

In Wednesday’s affair with the Houston Astros, Willis struggled with control, allowing four runs on three hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning. After the game, he referred to his performance as “horseshit”. Pat Misch wasn’t much better, allowing four runs on five hits and one walk in two innings. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any colorful words to describe his performance, which consisted of unimpressive slop.

As the Phillies are only a week into spring training, there is no need to be alarmed — pitchers are notoriously slow starters, and the sample sizes are incredibly small, so much so as to be worthless. However, this is a situation worth keeping an eye on for it is one of the few roster battles going on in Clearwater. The successful Phillies teams of the past illustrated how critical a LOOGY can be to a team’s post-season success, and they will be hoping for one of the seven to shine through by the time April rolls around. If that happens, the next step is getting Charlie Manuel to adhere them to a strict platoon basis, a chore in and of itself.

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  1. Ken

    March 07, 2012 07:28 PM

    I have a question. Younger guys like Savery and Diekman might have potential to be more than a LOOGY, but it’s quite apparent D Train, at this time in his career has zero business throwing to righty hitters. So what’s the point of the Phils using him 2x now for what would seem to have been the idea of pitching a full inning. Even now, why not just pitch him as you’d use him, against lefties.

  2. Bill Baer

    March 07, 2012 07:46 PM

    While I don’t think the Phillies actually view him as a strict LOOGY, the goal in spring training, especially early, is to get as many reps as possible.

  3. Ken

    March 07, 2012 10:27 PM

    Thanks for the answer, Bill. Never paid much attention to how LOOGYS worked through the spring, and it’s true that club officials haven’t used specialist and Dontrelle in the same sentence.

  4. Bill Baer

    March 07, 2012 10:46 PM

    It’s crazy, there’s really no other way to view Dontrelle. He clearly can’t start, and he has a drastic platoon split. It’s either that or be out of baseball.

  5. hk

    March 08, 2012 08:16 AM

    8 of 10 RHP’s have reached base against Dontrelle this spring while he’s retired 2 of 3 LHP’s. I understand that this is a small sample size, but Spring Training in and of itself can be a small sample size. I surely hope the plan has been all along (or at least is now) to give Dontrelle innings in Clearwater, but only use him as a LOOGY during the real season. Of course, the statistics told a similar story about JC Romero and JC was used to face RHP’s last year, so you never know.

  6. Jonny

    March 08, 2012 11:46 AM

    Hear that Cholly? Left handed batters only!

    Bill, Anything on Qualls yet?

  7. Bill Baer

    March 08, 2012 12:37 PM

    My biggest concern with Qualls is his vanishing K-rate last year. But since it was only in one year, it could be a total fluke and/or influenced by playing in the pitcher-friendly confines in San Diego.

  8. Phils_Goodman

    March 08, 2012 06:24 PM

    I still like Willis the best. He has faced MLB lefties 891 times to the tune of a 2.50 FIP and 30% K-rate.

    What happens to his contract if they put him on the DL by Opening Day?

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