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Saturday, August 20, 2011

MLB: Roenicke OK with no lefties in the bullpen

roen·i·ckes: Sound made while hocking every loogy.

No left-handers in the bullpen? No problem, says Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.

He remains all right with the Brewers’ all-righty relief corps, and said there is a strong chance they will go without a lefty reliever until rosters expand Sept. 1.

“I like our bullpen the way it is,” he said. “I just can’t imagine our bullpen being any better than what it has been, so why have a left-hander in there? If it’s a lights-out lefty, that’s different.”

...“Eighth or ninth [inning], there’s no way I’m bringing in a lefty, and in the sixth or seventh, if you bring in a left-handed specialist, you’re talking about using three pitchers in an inning,” Roenicke said. “Say I start [Takashi] Saito in the inning, and a big lefty comes up and I bring in a lefty. He gets him out, or maybe doesn’t get him out, now I have to go to a right-hander.

“It doesn’t work out that well.”

Repoz Posted: August 20, 2011 at 11:52 AM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: brewers, projections, sabermetrics

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   1. Does Flounder still wave lighters in the crowd? Posted: August 20, 2011 at 12:28 PM (#3904684)
Not that it would do anything, but could someone please staple this to LaRussa'a forehead.
   2. BDC Posted: August 20, 2011 at 12:36 PM (#3904686)
Eighth or ninth [inning], there’s no way I’m bringing in a lefty


Is there any special reason why this has become standard doctrine? Managers have no trouble starting games with lefthanders, and the first 6-7 innings are pretty important, too. Left-handed aces/closers were never super-common, but in the 60s and 70s there were usually a few stars (Perranoski, McGraw, Lyle), and by the mid/late 1980s and early 1990s there were always several LH closers. In recent years the population shrank to Billy Wagner, Brian Fuentes, and off-and-on a couple of miscellaneous others (Sherrill, Guardado), and now Fuentes, who seems to be in rapid decline, is the last of the order. It seems completely arbitrary to me.

That said, Roenicke's idea that you should assign jobs to your best personnel instead of figuring you must have a LOOGY on the staff no matter what is not arbitrary, and makes great sense.
   3. jacjacatk Posted: August 20, 2011 at 12:42 PM (#3904690)
I don't have a problem with the idea of not having a LHP in the pen if your RHP are that much better than the alternative. I'm especially fond of it for the Brewers given the chances they face the Phillies int the post season.
   4. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 20, 2011 at 01:23 PM (#3904715)
Ron has his flaws but I am pretty sure he has never done anything remotely close to THIS:

Homer Bailey pitched five innings, but Dusty Baker still managed to use seven relievers to pitch the final four innings. And since Francisco Cordero pitched a perfect ninth, that means that six relievers combined to pitch the three preceding innings.
   5. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: August 20, 2011 at 02:01 PM (#3904740)
Antonio Bastardo has a real chance to be the next great high leverage LH reliever.
   6. Honkie Kong Posted: August 20, 2011 at 02:11 PM (#3904743)
In recent years the population shrank to Billy Wagner, Brian Fuentes, and off-and-on a couple of miscellaneous others (Sherrill, Guardado), and now Fuentes, who seems to be in rapid decline, is the last of the order.

Have you heard of a gentleman called Jonny Venters?

EDIT : Came out snarky, not my intent
2010 : 83 ip, 1.95 ERA, 201 ERA+, 93/39 K/BB, GB/FB = 2.17, Opp hitters : 204/311/241
2011 : 71 ip, 1.13 ERA, 335 ERA+, 79/30 K/BB, GB/FB = 3.18, Opp hitters : 154/256/183
   7. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: August 20, 2011 at 02:39 PM (#3904752)
TUEM, yeah, I just don't like to think about him. :)
   8. Sweatpants Posted: August 20, 2011 at 02:42 PM (#3904755)
The Braves don't use Eric O'Flaherty like a lefty specialist, either. That was his role earlier in the season, but now he's just the seventh-inning guy.
   9. Matt Welch Posted: August 20, 2011 at 02:50 PM (#3904761)
And so the Scioscia family tree of managers proliferates....
   10. Accent Shallow is on swiftly tilting planet Posted: August 20, 2011 at 03:10 PM (#3904775)
Antonio Bastardo has a real chance to be the next great high leverage LH reliever.

You're speaking, of course, of Tony Illegitimate?
   11. salvomania Posted: August 20, 2011 at 04:10 PM (#3904801)
Not that it would do anything, but could someone please staple this to LaRussa'a forehead.


He sure could have used having it stapled to his forehead yesterday...

Motte retires three batters (last one in the 7th, first two in the 8th) on 10 pitches in a 4-3 game, and LaRussa just HAS to take him out in favor of Rhodes---who has been pretty bad this year---and I say to my girlfriend, "watch, Rhodes is going to walk this guy, and then LaRussa will bring in someone less effective than Motte who'll give up the lead."

Spookily, that's exactly what happened....

EDIT: It's one thing to bring in a shutdown lefty in a runners-on situation, especially if the current pitcher has been shaky, but why yank a guy pitching well with no one in base to bring in someone whose only qualification is his handedness, and not his effectiveness?
   12. Honkie Kong Posted: August 20, 2011 at 04:17 PM (#3904804)
TUEM, yeah, I just don't like to think about him. :)

Way he is being used, not for much longer!
That Philly bullpen aint that bad. Now if they only had decent starting pitching
   13. BDC Posted: August 20, 2011 at 04:20 PM (#3904809)
Have you heard of a gentleman called Jonny Venters?

I actually have, which is not like me :) Venters has been great, but remember that he has all of five major-league saves. Craig Kimbrel has been great too, so it probably doesn't matter what order the Braves use them in, but on some level the prejudice still is, ninth innings are for right-handers.

Edit: As with Bastardo in Philly; when Madson is healthy, he's the closer.
   14. Honkie Kong Posted: August 20, 2011 at 04:30 PM (#3904812)
And so the Scioscia family tree of managers proliferates....

Weren't the early 2000s pens of the Angels famous for being good and having no lefties? Guess some stuff got carried over. Just hope there is no obsession with shitty hitting catchers
   15. The Keith Law Blog Blah Blah (battlekow) Posted: August 20, 2011 at 04:38 PM (#3904819)
The funny thing is, the Brewers began spring training with a glut of left-handed relievers. They had Manny Parra, who wasn't going to win a rotation spot, Zach Braddock, who's sporadically looked like he could become a power lefty set-up man/closer, and Mitch Stetter, your stereotypical LOOGY. Parra never even got off the ground, missing the whole year with a back problem. Stetter went down with a hip injury in May. Braddock's had the weirdest/worst season of them all, struggling with what's been termed a "sleep disorder" that is almost certainly related to his bipolar disorder before being demoted for disciplinary reasons and landing on the temporary inactive list.

They tried to use Danny Ray Herrera for a second, but he was just awful at Fenway and was banished to Nashville. If they wanted a lefty at this point, they'd probably turn to vet Randy Flores, whom they just signed. There's also (2008 49th-round pick!) Dan Meadows at Nashville and Lucas Luetge (middle name: Lester) at Huntsville. Neither throws hard, but compared to Herrera, they're fireballers.
   16. Vance W Posted: August 20, 2011 at 04:47 PM (#3904822)
I seem to recall Bill James writing an article about one of the pretty good Felipe Alou managed Expo teams. Their bullpen did well despite an absence of lefties. James theorized that this actually benefitted Alou since it prevented him from overmanaging for match-ups. Burning through gobs of relievers just increased the manager's chances of finding the guy having a lousy game and did nothing to insure that the best relievers were placed in the highest leverage situations.
   17. Karl from NY Posted: August 20, 2011 at 04:52 PM (#3904824)
The Mets used lefty Pedro Feliciano as a regular one-inning reliever for a while, although did shift him towards LOOGYhood in his last couple years.

I think part of the effect comes from opposing managing tendencies. Everybody has now "figured out" not to line up three lefty hitters in a row, so you don't get an easy block of platoon advantage to bring out the lefty reliever.

And of course the save stat plays a role. LOOGYs never get to rack up saves to show they have Closer Material so they don't get promoted to closer.
   18. JoeHova Posted: August 20, 2011 at 05:11 PM (#3904835)
Eighth or ninth [inning], there’s no way I’m bringing in a lefty

Is there any special reason why this has become standard doctrine?

I think he meant in the specific case of the bullpen he has now. With Axford and Rodriguez for the 9th and 8th, a lefty would have to be pretty good to justify taking one of them out, and the Brewers don't (appear to) have a lefty like that in the minors.
   19. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 20, 2011 at 05:17 PM (#3904840)
The best way to have a good bullpen is have solid starters so you can avoid overworking any one guy and better cope with extra inning games, doubleheaders and extended strings with no off days
   20. BDC Posted: August 20, 2011 at 05:33 PM (#3904847)
I think he meant in the specific case of the bullpen he has now

Fair enough, and of course as noted there are still some 8th-inning lefties around. I guess I was just struck by how close the statement came to identifying something that just "isn't done" any more: sending a LH in to close. Maybe the pendulum will swing back in the next few years.
   21. tshipman Posted: August 20, 2011 at 06:30 PM (#3904876)
Not to get all mgl here, but isn't the lack of LH closers a mostly intelligent move?

Given that all right-handed hitters hit better against lefties than righties, and that it's very easy for managers to pinch hit when trailing in the 9th, a left-handed closer has to be much, much better than the next best righthander in the pen.

It's not terribly surprising that there aren't that many guys who do it.

Take Antonio Bastardo. While on the surface this year he actually has a reverse platoon split, he has better K/BB numbers against lefties versus righties. His BaBiP is .130 against righties. I'm pretty comfortable saying that's unsustainable.

For comparison's sake, Antonio Bastardo's xFIP against righties is 3.82, compared to Madson's 2.94 xFIP.

Kimbrel vs. Venters show similar splits. There are good reasons why managers prefer right-handers.
   22. The Keith Law Blog Blah Blah (battlekow) Posted: August 20, 2011 at 09:21 PM (#3904945)
Given that all right-handed hitters hit better against lefties than righties

Just something that I've been keeping an eye on for awhile, and since it's a Brewers thread I'll bring it up:

Matt LaPorta, career
vs. RHP (705 PA): .241/.301/.418/.719
vs. LHP (244 PA): .218/.311/.336/.648

Not that big of a deal, except that being a Brewers fan I followed LaPorta in the minors, and it was the same story everywhere he went there too. Probably still just noise, but it's interesting that he's yet to have a stop anywhere in his career where he's hit better against lefties than righties.
   23. Shibal Posted: August 20, 2011 at 10:35 PM (#3904975)
Milwaukee better find themselves a lefty in the bullpen. Sure it might be working now, but there's a 800 pound gorilla called UtleyHowardIbanez staring them in the face in October. A guy like Joe Beimal would do wonders for the Brewers chances against the Phillies.
   24. BDC Posted: August 20, 2011 at 11:32 PM (#3905013)
Given that all right-handed hitters hit better against lefties than righties, and that it's very easy for managers to pinch hit when trailing in the 9th, a left-handed closer has to be much, much better than the next best righthander in the pen

I get that logic, but then I don't understand why LH closers were relatively common (and very successful) 20-25 years ago, when teams carried more pinch hitters than they do now.
   25. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: August 20, 2011 at 11:43 PM (#3905027)
Milwaukee better find themselves a lefty in the bullpen. Sure it might be working now, but there's a 800 pound gorilla called UtleyHowardIbanez staring them in the face in October. A guy like Joe Beimal would do wonders for the Brewers chances against the Phillies.

Chris Narveson.
   26. Karl from NY Posted: August 20, 2011 at 11:56 PM (#3905033)
but then I don't understand why LH closers were relatively common (and very successful) 20-25 years ago


I think the definition of success may have changed. Before the modern hyper-media era, you could expect a good reliever to lose a lead once or twice a month in trying to go a few innings. No big deal, get 'em back tomorrow. Nowadays every single 9th inning blown save is an immediate apocalyptic disaster of a catastrophe and a closer who does that more than twice a year is terrible. (Armando Benitez Syndrome.) A LH closer has to be really seriously established (like say Wagner) for the manager to avoid the second-guessing about plugging in the wrong platoon.
   27. tshipman Posted: August 21, 2011 at 12:58 AM (#3905082)
I get that logic, but then I don't understand why LH closers were relatively common (and very successful) 20-25 years ago, when teams carried more pinch hitters than they do now.


There were more pinch hitters, but you also used a closer more often in the early innings, where managers *can't* be as free about substituting.

Just taking some lefty closers and looking at the splits for their biggest save years, and then their careers.

Brian Fuentes in 2009 had 55 IP--53 and 1/3 in the 9th inning or in extras (96.96%)
Billy Wagner in 2003 had 86 IP--78 and 1/3 in the 9th inning or in extra innings (91.1%)
John Franco in 1988 had 86 IP--72 and 1/3 in the 9th inning or in extras (84.10%)
Jessie Orosco in 1984 had 87 IP--51 in the 9th inning or in extras (58.62%)
Tug McGraw in 1972 had 106 IP--66 of which in the 9th inning or in extra innings (62.26%)
Ron Perranoski in 1970 had 111 IP--53.2 in the 9th inning or in extras (47.92%)

To me, the big difference is in usage. Given the modern model for closers, it's not really surprising that there are fewer and fewer lefties in the back of the pen. Hope that makes sense.
   28. Gaelan Posted: August 21, 2011 at 01:00 AM (#3905086)
Not that big of a deal, except that being a Brewers fan I followed LaPorta in the minors, and it was the same story everywhere he went there too. Probably still just noise, but it's interesting that he's yet to have a stop anywhere in his career where he's hit better against lefties than righties.


Dan Uggla is the same way, significantly better vs. righties. Alex Rios and Juan Uribe have no platoon split over their career.
   29. tshipman Posted: August 21, 2011 at 01:14 AM (#3905104)
Dan Uggla is the same way, significantly better vs. righties. Alex Rios and Juan Uribe have no platoon split over their career.


Uggla, LaPorta, Rios and Uriba all have higher walk percentages and all but Uribe have lower K percentages versus lefties than righties. My guess is that going forward, they are more likely to hit lefties better than righties.

I'd be willing to bet $100 or so on it.

Again, not to be a dick about it or anything, but I thought this was settled ground. The standard platoon split predicts right-handers performance against lefties better than anything (including past results) going forward. IMO, this factor and the usage shown above explains the demise of the left handed closer.
   30. Cuban X Senators Posted: August 21, 2011 at 01:15 AM (#3905105)
Is this childhood scarring? Gary must've just raked against Ron when they were kids.
   31. Shibal Posted: August 21, 2011 at 02:15 AM (#3905145)
Again, not to be a dick about it or anything, but I thought this was settled ground. The standard platoon split predicts right-handers performance against lefties better than anything (including past results) going forward. IMO, this factor and the usage shown above explains the demise of the left handed closer.


Where was this argument made? Do you have a link to it?
   32. tshipman Posted: August 21, 2011 at 06:50 AM (#3905234)
Where was this argument made? Do you have a link to it?


mgl talked about it on this site a long, long time ago (2003 or thereabouts). It's in The Book, and the relevant section is here:


Recalling the “regression” section of the Toolshed chapter, we find that a right-handed hitter’s platoon split is best estimated with a weighted average in which his platoon split is weighted by the number of lefties he has faced, and the league average is weighted by 2200.

In other words, a righty who has 2200 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers will be regressed exactly halfway toward the league-average. For a lefty, the number is about 1000 (due to the larger variation in platoon skills).


For a lefty pitcher to show that he has a true "skill" at getting righties out probably takes 2200 PA. Brian Fuentes is in year 11 of his career. he only has 1709 PA against righties.

Billy Wagner had a 16 year career and only has 2800 PA against righties--and, was around 9% worse against righties (by OPS allowed) than against lefties.

Managers don't want to make lefties the closer because it guarantees that they get the platoon advantage less often than an equivalent right hander. Some simple evidence to try to help with this. Billy Wagner had the platoon advantage in 20.52% of his career PA's. Trevor Hoffman had it in 51.81% of his PAs.
   33. jmp Posted: August 21, 2011 at 06:52 AM (#3905235)
I did a search for mgl and platoon splits and came up with this.

There was another discussion that brought up Frank Thomas, and his platoon split of 15% compared to the league average of 8% or 9 %. My recollection was that mgl brushed it off as luck, which seemed odd to me, given that the Big Hurt had 2445 PAs against lefties. I read someone later say that mgl could acknowledge that Thomas was an outlier, but that the important point is that the standard platoon is the best projection going forward.
   34. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: August 21, 2011 at 07:06 AM (#3905238)
This is why they should Rule V Pat Venditte. Check that K/BB at AA! Ignore that he tosses 80 mph from the left side!
   35. BDC Posted: August 21, 2011 at 12:22 PM (#3905250)
OK, if we establish that RHP have a built-in advantage, then I don't understand why LH starters are still as much in vogue as ever. I think that Karl in #26 has the best point: there's a significant psychological advantage to playing percentages in the cosmically-important 9th inning that you wouldn't think twice about playing the other way in the pedestrian first through seventh.

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