Apr
28

Optimizing the bullpen with another righty

By

Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson, AP

A disabled list trip that was originally supposed to be nothing more than an early season precaution has morphed into a multiple week hiatus with no end in sight for Chan Ho Park, whose bum hammy has yet to improve. The Yankees originally called up Boone Logan to replace him in part because CHoP was expected to be out just the minimum two weeks, but also because he left a solid enough impression during Spring Training. At the same time, Mark Melancon would remain with Triple-A Scranton and work on a regular schedule, rather than be buried as the sixth or seventh man in the bullpen. Now that Park’s return has entered into “indefinite” territory, it might be time for the Yankees to swap out Logan and Melancon.

Logan has put five men on base in his 2.1 innings of work so far despite his new mechanics, but we’re talking about three games, which are meaningless to base an evaluation on. Sure, last night’s episode of walking the sole lefty batter he brought in to face was frustrating, but that happens to everyone. The real reason why I’d like to see Melancon brought up to replace Logan is the upcoming schedule.

The Yanks’ next eight games come against the Orioles and White Sox, who have .316 and a .299 team wOBA‘s against righthanders. The Orioles has several lefthanded bats in Nick Markakis, Luke Scott, and Rhyne Hughes, but Markakis is the only one who is demonstrably worse against southpaw pitching (.328 wOBA vs. LHP, .377 vs. RHP). Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera have the 8th and 9th innings exclusively, so Damaso Marte can be used against him as needed in the 6th or 7th inning. Good righty relievers like Al Aceves and David Robertson (last night notwithstanding) should be able to neutralize the other two.

The White Sox have four lefty batters in their regular lineup, but three of them are named Juan Pierre (.243 wOBA), Mark Kotsay (.193), and A.J. Pierzynski (.172). The fourth is Mark Teahen who is having a fine year (.390 wOBA), so that makes him Marte’s designated guy for the series. The other three are awful, and burning through relievers just to get a platoon advantage against them is the height of foolishness.

Once the eight games against those two clubs are through, the Yanks head back to Boston, whose top lefty batters are David Ortiz (.240 wOBA) and J.D. Drew (.271). Drew is a high quality player with a platoon split (.349 wOBA vs. LHP, .394 vs. RHP), so that’s the guy you sic Marte after. Ortiz can’t catch up to even average fastballs anymore, so any thought about bringing in a lefty specialist to face him is based only on the scars of the damage he’s done in the past. He’s not worth it any more, Drew’s the only lefty in their lineup worth fearing.

After the Red Sox series is a four game set at Detroit, who bring very little offensively beyond the top four of Austin Jackson, Johnny Damon, Magglio Ordonez, and Miggy Cabrera. Damon’s the only lefty, and Yankee fans are well aware of his platoon split after his time in the Bronx. Again, there’s only one lefthanded bat in the lineup worth saving a lefty reliever for. A second lefthander really won’t be a true necessity until after that Tigers’ series, when the Twins bring Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, and Jim Thome to town for a weekend set from May 14th to 16th. The next 15 games are against predominantly righthanded lineups.

That’s where Melancon comes in. The schedule allows the Yankees to only carry one lefty specialist, instead stacking the bullpen with righthanders that create better matchups. Melancon has a negligible platoon split in the minors, and has pitched to a 3.23 FIP against righthanders during his career. He has been good yet not overwhelming at Triple-A Scranton (4.33 FIP, 1.89 GB/FB, 8.78 K/9), but we all know that his track record is exceptionally strong. He’s the logical call-up for that spot currently occupied by Logan.

If the Yankees go this route, Joe Girardi has to commit to being more liberal with not just Marte, but Melancon as well. He has to show a willingness to bring Marte into the 6th inning of a game if the situation calls for it, and he can’t bury Melancon for a week or more. Joba’s the 8th inning guy, we may not like it but they officially announced it to the world, so show some confidence in the kid and let him face a lefty if they come up in his inning. Girardi and the Yanks will have close to three weeks to evaluate Melancon before the Twins series, so they can adjust accordingly from there.

There’s no reason to double up on lefty relievers over the next few weeks, so why not tailor make the relief corps to fit the opponents?

Categories : Death by Bullpen

28 Comments»

  1. Chris says:

    Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera have the 8th and 9th innings exclusively, so Damaso Marte can be used against him as needed in the 6th or 7th inning.

    While that may be technically true, that’s not how Marte has been used. He’s been used as a late inning lefty matchup – even entering in the 8th or 9th to face a lefty.

  2. pat says:

    The Duffman waiteth his turneth.

  3. Andrew What? says:

    Hey Mike I got a pitching related question for ya not really related to this post, so I hope you don’t remove this comment (pretty please). A lot is getting made of last night with Hughes not throwing any change ups last night. In fact, NYYFans forum is in a panic state about that. What’s your take on it? Thanks in advance.

  4. Jamal G. says:

    Why would Mark Melancon be called up before the eight inning over the likes of Alfedo Aceves and David Robertson, though? Factoring in your starting pitchers pitching into the sixth and seventh innings, using Aceves and Robertson when you can before the eighth inning, how could Melancon be justifiably used so that he receives regular work?

    There are just too many guys that I would prefer Girardi to use ahead of Melancon for a call-up to be deemed optimal for his development – short-term or otherwise.

  5. W.W.J.M.D. says:

    I think we should keep Melancon in Scranton until he will definitely have a spot in the pen for him and he would be up for good. I say we call up Albaladejo until Chop is ready, yea he hasn’t figured it out in the bigs but he is putting up a decent year in Scranton so far.

  6. Carl says:

    We could dump Mitre so we can keep Logan and Melacon.

    • I think I’d be okay with that.

    • First Time Poster says:

      With Gaudin serving up meatballs with the A’s and ChoP riding the DL train, Mitre has become our lone swingman… but than I just remembered Ace…

      Regardless, Mitre could be dealt for something.

      Plus, Mitre hasn’t looked half bad yet, combine that with his SP and perhaps Joe’s faith in Mitre will not be in vain.

    • Thomas says:

      I don’t think the Yankees would go without Mitre until Park comes back. If they dump Mitre, then the Yankees really only have one true multi-inning reliever in Aceves. Without Mitre, Aceves would become the mop-up man by default limiting how often he could be used in high leverage situation.

      Once Park comes back, the Yankees would have two multi-inning relievers. Then, they could split Park and Aceves between mop-up and high leverage innings, making sure one is always able to do long man work if a game gets out of hand early.

      • That seems like a waste to me. While Aceves hasn’t been as sharp this season as he was last year, I think he’ll get things straightened out sooner than later. Assigning him ‘mop up’ duty might be a waste of his abilities. I think he has earned some additional responsibility beyond that of an innings eater.

        • Thomas says:

          I think Aceves is worth much more than a regular long man. What I am saying is without Mitre, then Aceves is the only bullpen pitcher you can realistically expect to go multiple innings regularly. Thus, he would have to be the mop-up, even though he is more valuable as a fireman.

          Once Park gets back though, even without Mitre, Girardi has 2 legit multi-inning relievers (Aceves and Park). Then, Girardi can regulate their usage so that either Park or Aceves is available as the long man any given night, while the other is more available as a fireman/one inning reliever.

          Neither one should be used purely as a mop up man, because both are too good/valuable for that. However, if Mitre is cut and Park is still on the DL, then Aceves would be forced into that role. Thus, I think they should wait until Park is healthy before trading the big Meat.

  7. Steve H says:

    I think if they bring Melancon up, they need to do it knowing that he may force himself to stick in the bigs, and adjust the roster accordingly. If he comes up and is lights out, will they send him back to the minors where he has nothing left to prove? When Melancon gets the call the next time, I hope (and think) it will be his last time on the Scranton Shuttle. He has the potential to be that good out of the pen.

  8. Jammy Jammers says:

    Does anyone know/or have the means of finding out how many innings the bullpen pitched by this time last year compared to this year? I would think it was more last year b/c of CMW and his 1 inning 20 run outings.
    Could the CMW calamity actually have been oddly good for the bullpen in terms of giving them all a hefty chance to ‘get in the swing of things’ and giving Girardi ample opportunity to see everyone (if not TOO much)?
    If so, I blame our wonderful starting pitching for holding us back. (j/k)

  9. Adam says:

    Only problem is haven’t been overly impressed with what I seen from Melancon…let him come up and dominate, would love it. Don’t know that he has that in him…don’t see explosion on his pitches. Hope the 2010 version surprises us all!!

  10. NJ Steve says:

    I would much rather have the 2nd lefty in the pen rather than your 5th righty. Logan was throwing 92-94 and I would like to give these new mechanics some work. Melancon might not even be effective (he wasn’t in his last call up). Wait until a move has to be made or Melancon is lighting it up in the minors. teams with only one lefty make it easy for matchups off the bench (something you forget about when only talking starters. Sometimes just the threat of a lefty in the pen can keep a lefty on the bench.

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