The two LOOGY problem

4/9-4/11 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles
A full view of Girardi's rotating DH plan
(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

The season is only three games old, but we’ve already seen the Yankees get burned by letting a left-handed reliever face a right-handed batter on two occasions. Clay Rapada gave up a double to Evan Longoria (and a walk to switch-hitter Ben Zobrist) in Saturday’s game, then Boone Logan gave up a homer to Jeff Keppinger yesterday. Stuff like that will happen over the course of a season, but it’s still a reminder of how problematic a two-LOOGY bullpen can be.

“It’s 6-2 and you’re down,” said Joe Girardi after Saturday’s game. “It’s the [seventh] inning. We’ve got a lot of days early on. We have one day off in the first 16 or 17 days, so we can’t burn these guys out in the first two days.”

First of all, let’s just ignore that Girardi basically said he doesn’t think his team could come back from four runs down. That’s an asinine statement we could facepalm over at some point in the future. The important thing is that he doesn’t want to burn out his bullpen, which is obviously very good to hear. Managing the bullpen’s workload is Girardi’s best trait, and it’s not particularly close. The problem is that the bullpen isn’t well-suited for two lefty specialists.

The Yankees’ three best relievers are tied to very specific innings. Rafael Soriano is the seventh inning guy, David Robertson the eighth inning guy, and Mariano Rivera the closer. Those are their innings when the Yankees have a lead, the game is tied, or when they’re behind a run or maybe two. That’s it. David Phelps is a rookie and the mop-up man, so his appearances figure to be sporadic and generally low-leverage. That leaves Logan, Rapada, and Cory Wade for the middle innings. Unless Wade can magically re-enter games at opportune times, Girardi is going to forced to use the two lefties in spots he normally wouldn’t. That’s how Jeff friggin’ Keppinger winds up hitting a homer and reasonably close games become blowouts.

“I can’t use Mo, Robertson and Soriano every day, and when we’re losing, we try to get some innings out of some other guys down there,” said the skipper yesterday. Like I said, I understand not wanting to overwork guys and I commend Girardi for it, but Logan and Rapada should not be used against righties at all. Unfortunately, they will be unless Phelps takes on more responsibility or Girardi becomes a little more flexible with his end-game trio.

4/9-4/11 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles
A full view of Girardi's rotating DH plan
  • Dr

    Rapada will play himself off the team soon

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Probably, and I think it’d be great to have DJ Mitchell in his spot. That gives you two guys who could go multi-innings in any type of situation.

      • jjyank

        I’d be cool with that, as long as Girardi doesn’t restrict both their usage to blowouts/longmen. With the three best guys tied to the last three innings, we need someone who can also be used to get a couple outs in the 5th or 6th if need be. Granted, Phelps was used in a non-long man way yesterday, so maybe that won’t be a problem.

      • Ted Nelson

        Garcia or Hughes will likely take his spot, I’d guess. When Pineda is back one will be bumped, and then Pettitte might bump the other (or maybe Kuroda if he totally bombs).

  • nsalem

    Wasn’t Logan fairly effective vs righties last season?

    • Mike Axisa

      Yes, but that’s an outlier compared to the rest of his career.

      • nsalem

        2011 was very likely an outlier however isn’t it worth the chance to see if he actually learned to pitch to righties last year? It does occasionally happen in mid career. People were skeptical last year about Granderson’s potential to carry over his 6 week 2010 lefty success into 2011.

      • Ted Nelson

        Even though he wasn’t particularly effective vs. RHP in 2010, Girardi still have his work against them.

  • nsalem

    Wasn’t Logan fairly effectives vs. righties last year?

    • STONE COLD Austin Romine

      Yea , but that reverse split he put up in 2011 compared to the rest of his career was the exception.

  • Ray Fuego

    Girardi gone after 2012.

    • STONE COLD Austin Romine

      If the Yankees missed the playoffs last year & then were in serious danger of missing it this year then I’d agree with you.

      Obviously your post was made a year to early.

    • Havok9120

      Not until we miss or burn out too early 2 or 3 more times. Heck, despite last year’s burnout, it was a positive. No one expected us to win 97 games last year and 90 would’ve been a stretch.

  • Dicka24

    How do you get that he’s saying his team can’t come back from 4 runs down? What he’s saying is that in being 4 runs down in the 7th, you’re less inclined to bring in another arm, with only one day off in the next 16 games, when it’s this early in the season. He’s saying you roll the dice in such a situation, whereas were the game closer, he’d likely play it differently. It makes complete sense in the grand scheme of things.

    • pat

      Agree 100%. I think the part about only having 1 day off in the next 16 is the important part.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Couldn’t this also be entitled “why the purely mop-up guy is a waste of a roster spot?”

    Unproven? Yes, but Phelps would be better used (if he’s up for it) as a multi-inning releiver, regardless of situation, than purely mop up. Hell, he pitched 2/3 of a inning last night in what was still a close game.

    There’s a reason we still wax rhapsodic over Ramiro Mendoza and Al Aceves, pre-Sox edition. Guys like that can play an important role that keeps the dual-LOOGY at bay.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      +1. I was really hoping to see Phelps in a situcation like this, rather than leave the LOOGY’s in to face the righties. If they’re not going to use Phelps in a spot like this, when do they put him in, when they’re down 6? 7? 12??? Give the kid a shot and see what he can do. Maybe next time they’re down by 4 Giriardi will allow him to go.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I’ll say, though, that there’s zero reason to have Rapada if you’re not even going to test his stuff in tough situations.

    • Ted Nelson

      Agreed. No one held a gun to Girardi’s head and made him use Rapada there. He could have used Wade earlier, he could have used Phelps…

      And Girardi was going to use one of his worst relievers late in the game down 6-2. Most managers would. How many options did the Yankees have other than Rapada? They just traded Kontos for a AAAA C in Stewart, so I don’t think that they viewed Kontos as a real option. Mitchell was a good option, but then your immediate 6 and 7/8 starters are doing relief work and not stretched out. Delcarmen? Rapada is at least effective against one subset of hitters. There’s a pretty good chance other 7th relievers would just be ineffective against everyone.

  • Naved

    Quit this two LOOGY bs. Having Logan on the team was a mistake on itself now we got two of them. Just get the pitchers who was the best stuff in the bullpen and let them work. We got monsters in AAA just itching to get on the major league level. I’m looking at you Betances. His K/9 would be 11+ if he goes to the pen right now.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Those walks looked down during Betances’s first start. If he’s able to keep that up, forget the bullpen, and hello 2013 rotation.

      I don’t share the Logan hate, but there certainly is a bit tinge of that “DFA by May” aura with Rapada. That spot could be better used.

      • Manny’s BanWagon


        It would be incredibly short sighted to relegate Betances to the pen at this stage in his development. I know many including Keith Law project him as a reliever but even if he topped out as a #3 starter rather than an ace, he’d still be infinitely more valuable than even a dominant set up man.

        • JobaWockeeZ

          Kuroda pitched 200 innings with a 3.70 FIP. That would qualify for a mid rotation starter. His WAR was 2.4

          Mike Adams, a “dominant setup man” had a WAR of 1.7 or in other words not infinitely less valuable than Kuroda.

          • JobaWockeeZ

            Or actually I should have just stayed with the team. In that case we see David Robertson who also had a WAR of 2.4 in 2011.

            • Manny’s BanWagon

              …and there were 60 starters with 2.4 WAR and up last year not to mention it’s a pretty big assumption to project that Betances is going to be one of the 4-5 best relievers in all of baseball.

              The original point that you’ve seemed to miss is whether or not it would be smart to dump a LOOGY and move Betances into the pen now.

              • Ted Nelson

                As grumpy a commenter as JobaWockeeZ is… he’s pointed out an obvious weakness in your argument. You specifically said that even as a “dominant” set-up man he’d be “infinitely” less value than a #3 starter. That’s a really definitive statement that goes against common perception based on fWAR as a legitimate stat. You can dispute fWAR, but it says that dominant relievers are pretty valuable.

                I agree that Betances shouldn’t be put in the pen right now. JobaWockeeZ might too. But that wasn’t the point of contention.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    Since the Yankees righties like Mariano, Robertson, Soriano and even Wade last year have shown they can get out lefties efficiently, I’d rather they go with another righty like Mitchell until Joba or Aardsma (hopefully) become available rather than a LOOGY like Rapada who is useless against righties.

    As for Phelps, I can see babying him early on since you want to build his confidence but he has good stuff and if he does well, Girardi needs to use him in higher leverage situations or he shouldn’t be on the team.

    The bullpen is a lot easier to manage when you don’t give a shit about burning someone out like Torre did with guys like Quantrill, Gordon, Proctor and Luis Vizcaino.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Yes, but you also can’t baby him to the point where you’re leaving other pitchers overexposed. Dude’s 25 years old with two years of AAA experience in a bottleneck for rotation spots. He needs to seize whatever opportunity he’s given.

      I don’t *think* babying is what’s going on, though. I think this is more the feeling-out period to see who’s going to fall into what place.

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        Which is what I said.

        Let him get his feet wet since he’s a rookie and has pretty much always been a starter but after that, Girardi has to either use him even in high leverage situations or send him back to the minors.

      • Havok9120

        There’s no way to know after 3 games. We MAY know more by the time this run is over.

  • CP

    “It’s 6-2 and you’re down,” said Joe Girardi after Saturday’s game. “It’s the [seventh] inning. We’ve got a lot of days early on. We have one day off in the first 16 or 17 days, so we can’t burn these guys out in the first two days.”

    First of all, let’s just ignore that Girardi basically said he doesn’t think his team could come back from four runs down. That’s an asinine statement we could facepalm over at some point in the future

    Considering that the Yankees’ win probability was less than 2% when Longoria came up, I think it’s accurate to think that the team was very unlikely to come back from that deficit. Why waste a pitcher to increase the odds of winning from 1.9% to maybe 3%?

  • tom zig

    Solution: have your starters go more than 5 innings.

    • Gonzo

      Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    Who is asking that Mo, Soriano and Robertson be pitched everyday? Obviously that’s not possible so that’s a weak excuse. How many teams have even two relievers of the caliber of the Yankees’ trio? Yet they get by fine. You can start by not using LOOGY’s against righties.

  • jjyank

    Rapada will be gone soon. One lefty is fine. As for the Logan hate, I’m cool with Boone. He’s actually probably underrated by most Yankee fans. I also don’t really have a problem with Girardi trying to see if last year’s success against righties was an outlier or not. Its April, if there is a possibility that Logan figured something out against RHB, now is the time to find out. If he gets hit hard a couple more times, go back to strict LOOGY work.

    I know its hard to watch when it doesn’t work out, but the team’s gotta figure out what they have somehow. I think the potential reward of finding out that Logan can be used for a LHB – RHB – LHB inning is worth looking into.

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    Another reason I was a “9” this morning. Other teams would love to have the Yankee’s problems.

    • jjyank

      True. I said something like this in the thread a week or so ago about whether we should take Phelps, Mitchell, or Warren as the last guy for the bullpen. Most teams are trying to figure out who their closer or setup man is, and we get to bitch about the mop up guy and a second LOOGY. I love it.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        There’s a few teams out there who’d be wondering whether Phelps, Mitchell, or Warren would start game #2 of the season. Hell, some of those are across town.

        • jjyank


  • LiterallyFigurative

    I hate the second lefty when he’s useless against righties.

    I think it’s best to have two longer, multiple inning guys. The ability to soak up innings and maybe go one inning when need be will afford Girardi more options.

    A pen of Mitchell, Phelps, Logan, and CoSoRoMo, is alot more versatile than the current configuration.

  • BK2ATL

    Phelps looked pretty good out there. Hope he doesn’t get buried just because he’s a rookie and right-handed. If he’s successful, and someone else isn’t, you gotta let him pitch.

    That being said, since you brought 2 LOOGYs, they should primarily only face LHB. The supposed reason for carrying 2 LOOGYs, is their effectiveness against same-handed batters.

    In the 6th, 7th or 8th inning, Wade, Phelps (possibly), then Soriano and Robertson are better options than either Logan or Rapada anyway. You only brought Logan and Rapada to face lefties. Use them that way. No need to overthink it.

    • Havok9120

      You can’t blame them for seeing whats what with the LOOGYs, especially Logan. Its the time of the year for experimentation. Hopefully Rapada won’t get many/any more shots.

  • The Moral Majority is Neither

    Cabral would have been a nice add as a reliever, not a loogy. Rapada taking that ‘role’ was a mistake. D.J. Mitchell has Mendoza-type stuff and would have stuck around once Pettitte comes back and Phelps starts again in AAA.

    • Havok9120

      Cabral was still going to be primarily a LOOGY. D.J. Mitchell doesn’t fit that role.

  • cranky

    “The two-loogy problem?”
    The Yanks have ONE. Rapada.