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Monday, January 30, 2023

The Continued Demise of the Left-Handed Reliever

In 2022, left-handed relievers performed worse relative to their right-handed compatriots in nearly every significant category. They didn’t experience a dramatic dip in strikeout rate or strikeout-minus-walk rate, but their ERA and FIP were at a ten-year high. Even when you isolate their performance when holding the platoon advantage, left-handed relievers performed worse last year than they had since before the three-batter rule was implemented; their league-adjusted ERA against left-handed batters rose 11 points from 2021 to ‘22, and their FIP- and wOBA- both saw smaller rises as well.

Without the ability to guarantee a run of left-handed batters, teams have had to reconsider the value of rostering a lefty in their bullpen when a potentially more effective right-handed reliever could be available instead. There will always be a place in the game for genuinely effective left-handed relievers, but those with significant platoon issues or a spotty track record are facing a tough future.

This trend has had an impact on the free-agent market this year. Among the 25 left-handed relievers listed on our offseason tracker, just five have signed a major league contract thus far, and only two have been multi-year pacts. Nearly half (12) of those southpaws have yet to sign with a team. This isn’t an artifact of a generally slow market either; just four of our top 50 free agents remained unsigned, and it appears that the hot stove has reduced to a simmer just a few weeks ahead of spring training.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 30, 2023 at 05:07 PM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: loogys

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: January 30, 2023 at 09:16 PM (#6115209)
RHP vs LHB: 239/314/394
LHP vs RHB: 252/320/417

RHP vs RHB: 245/307/393 (whoa!)
LHP vs LHB: 225/300/347

For 2022 at least, virtually no platoon difference for RHP. The K-rate is 1% lower vs LHP and the walk rate much higher but the BABIP is lower (the shift maybe) and the HR/PA rate the same (slightly higher vs RHB even).

Lefties seeing something like the traditional pretty extreme splits. Given nearly 75% of their BF are RHB, those big numbers are not kind and it's only their dominance of LHB that keeps them in the game at all. The HR rate tells much of the story -- 3.1% vs RHB and 2.1% vs LHB.

A quick weighted OPS puts the break-even point for a LHP around 2 RHB for every 1 LHB which suggests the 3-batter rule per se is not a big problem -- as long as it's 2 scheduled LHB in the next 3, even if one gets PH for, they should be OK on average. But that 4th batter will almost always be RHB and maybe that's where the trouble lies; also the LHB not PH for is probably a very good LHB.
   2. Adam Starblind Posted: January 31, 2023 at 09:23 AM (#6115251)
I thought this was going to be about Pedro Feliciano.

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all night.
   3. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: January 31, 2023 at 03:19 PM (#6115306)
Would the shift have reduced the value of a lefty, and the newly added regulations of the shift may make them a little more valuable?

   4. BDC Posted: January 31, 2023 at 05:09 PM (#6115327)
There seem to be as many good left-handed starters as ever – or have I missed something? It may be hard to get a sense of a trend when there are individual stars defying it.
   5. Karl from NY Posted: February 01, 2023 at 02:51 PM (#6115412)
Would the shift have reduced the value of a lefty, and the newly added regulations of the shift may make them a little more valuable?

Yes - if a lefty batter's expected value is already reduced by the shift, then the available platoon advantage for pitching lefty-on-lefty has to be less. I don't know if these tiny percentage points would add up into anyone's roster decisions, though.

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