The new and (slightly) improved Boone Logan

White House trip caps off 2009 World Series celebration
Yanks offense still waiting for Teixeira and Johnson
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

It’s been clear since the start of Spring Training that the Yankees are pretty excited about lefty Boone Logan, the other guy they acquired in the Javy Vazquez trade. Considering his awful big league performance coming into the season (5.78 ERA, 4.69 FIP), most of us figured it they were just blowing smoke and trying to pump up their latest acquisition. There’s nothing wrong with that, every team does it.

Logan then went out and had a strong showing in camp, allowing just four hits and a pair of walks against eight strikeouts in 10.1 spring innings. That caught our attention, but we still disregarded it until the old “Spring Training stands mean nothing” axiom. After being assigned to Triple-A to start the year, the 25-year-old southpaw from Texas allowed just four baserunners with nine strikeouts in 6.2 innings before the Yankees recalled him to take the place of the injured Chan Ho Park. Again, it’s a small sample, so most of us didn’t put any stock in it. The prevailing thought was that Logan got the call just because CHoP wouldn’t be out very long, and there was no point in summoning Mark Melancon only to have him go stale as the 7th man in the pen for two weeks.

So far, Logan has justified the team created hype, and it appears there’s more to his success than just “he’s figured it out.” Buried in the middle of this trade rumor piece, Ken Rosenthal mentions that the reason the Yanks are so excited is because of the results he’s gotten from a minor mechanical adjustment. Pitching coach Dave Eiland suggested to Logan that he should simply lift his leg a little higher during his delivery, allowing him to get his arm out in front and use his height (he’s 6-foot-5) to his advantage.

The results were almost immediate, as Logan noticed that his fastball picked up some armside run, his slider picked up some more break, and his changeup came back from the dead. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Logan’s delivery this year and from his time with the Braves last year.

It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there. His knee isn’t any higher, but the front of his leg is. You can also see that he’s a little slouched over in the shot on the left, but with the Yanks he’s a bit more upright. Seeing the difference is great, but these days we have the means to verify if their effects match up with what Logan says is happening. We’re in ridiculously small sample size territory here, but we have nothing else to go off of right now, so let’s examine the PitchFX data…

Right away, you see the difference in the horizontal break of both his fastball and slider. The fastball has 1.58 fewer inches of break than it has in the past, meaning it is in fact running back in on lefties, albeit slightly. The slider now features 1.74 more inches of break, which is pretty significant. It’s the difference between squaring a ball up and hitting it off the end of a bat. I’m not going to bother to look at the changeup, because you could probably count the number he’s thrown this year on one hand.

Let me remind you that we’re talking about dangerously small sample sizes here, but at least the data we have supports the claims Logan is making about how adjusted his leg kick has effected his pitches. Whether or not these changes will translate into positive results is another story all together. For all we know, the added break on his two primary pitches could make him even less effective. I wait to pull the wait and see card, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do. We have to wait and see.

Logan’s success in Spring Training and in Triple-A has been one of the more welcome surprises of 2010, and it’s encouraging to know that there’s at least a tangible reason such improvement is possible.

White House trip caps off 2009 World Series celebration
Yanks offense still waiting for Teixeira and Johnson
  • Lucas AA, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

    So the limited sample of data would imply that Logan’s fastball actually *lost* the armside run, counter to what he said he noticed.

    • BklynJT

      I think less horizontal break on the fastball (to lefties) = more armside run.

    • Jose

      I think you are correct. A change from 8.94 to 7.36 in horizontal break is loss of armside run for a left-hander.

      For right-handers as horizontal break becomes more negative that means he is increasing armside run. To compare for left-handers you can flip it to a negative sign to mirror the data. If you do that, Logan’s numbers are becoming less negative.

      Logan may notice more armside run, but I am pretty sure there is actually less.

      • Lucas AA, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

        Yup; exactly. I did some looking at his PITCHf/x splits with the Braves last year, and it looked like he was already getting a ton of tail on the fastball (evidenced by the average 8.94 horizontal spin deflection). However, we’ll definitely need to see more before we make a judgment one way or another due to the slight variances in the data from park to park.

      • DF

        Is it possible he’s getting some sort of two-seam action on his fastball? Perhaps he’s getting less overall arm-side run because the pitch is breaking later? I’ve not seen Logan pitch enough to know myself.

        • Lucas AA, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

          I don’t know how he grips the seams, but it certainly looks like a two-seamer to me. From the pure “stuff” aspect of it, it seems pretty nasty. It breaks on both planes, and he’s thrown it up into the high 90s.

  • CS Yankee

    Good article.

    I was doubtful on this part of the trade as the Braves usually develop solid pitchers and haven’t seen much upside in the ones they traded. Javy was a salary dump (nobody would touch that Lowe mess of a contract)and I thought that was a gem of the trade and logan was the weak link.

    I still expect 200+ and an ERA of low-mid 4’s for Javy (one of the three guys left standing that still believes this was a steal) and maybe Logan pays some dividends as well.

  • A.D.

    Would be icing on the cake to have Logan perform well….assuming Vazquez does turn it around.

    • mike c

      are you saying boo or booo-oone?

  • larryf

    Be nice if we could rely on another lefty other than the unreliable Marte.

  • Rose

    What is the best pitch fx data page to go to? I’d like to try and do the same thing with Javier Vazquez…

    I used to go to but it seems to be down for the count.

    Schilling and company are just saying that he simply can’t handle the AL or pressure in NY…while others are clearly stating that there may be a mechanics issue as his MPH on his fast ball has lost significant speed.

    • Rose

      Nevermind I found something similar here… (SAFE)

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      FanGraphs has a PitchFX section. And yes, Vazquez’s fastball velocity is down quite a bit this year.

      • Rose

        Not to continue off track…but his 2 seam fb as well as every other pitch seems to be in line if not better…which is weird.

        Anyway, thanks for the info.

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    the chart says he’s a tad slower on those two pitches…but still more effective?

    • Rose

      Perhaps its been location, location, location!

      Might be easier to control with the less mph he’s taken off? Just a thought…but it could be something entirely different.

  • http://none Damien

    The real key to the before and after is his right toes are point down in the after pics. This enables him to land on the ball of his foot (vs his heel) which will lead to improve balance, velocity and accuracy.

  • piiax

    I think his knee is higher as a Yankee, 2-3 inches maybe, look carefully..

  • Ted Nelson

    Great analysis, very interesting.

  • Steve S

    I thought it was the new haircut…