Archive for Boone Logan
When we talk about bullpens, we’re usually speaking of the closer and his one or two primary setup men. Rarely do we have time to dive into the guys who bridge that gap between the starters and the setup men. That’s largely because we expect the starters to bridge their own gaps. But it’s also because these middle relievers just aren’t cut from the same cloth as their late-inning counterparts. Still, they can prove valuable, or detrimental, during the course of the season.
In the past few years the Yankees have built up their bullpen. That includes not only their setup men, but their middle relief corps. This year they could have an especially strong crew, thanks, in large part, to their fifth starter competition.
The Long Man
The Yankees will choose the winner of the fifth starter competition by the end of spring training, but that doesn’t mean the competition will cease. The loser will head to the bullpen and take on the role of long reliever. The best chance for him to get innings will come when a starter gets knocked out of a game early. Who is the most likely Yankees starter to get knocked out early? Chances are, it will be the winner of the fifth starter competition.
A long reliever can be more than a mop-up man early in the season. Managers tend to go easier on their starters in April, often lifting them after the sixth inning. Last April that happened all too often. It led to an incredible burden on the bullpen. With the long man this year the Yankees can ease that burden. That’s not only because they’ll have a bonafide multi-inning reliever in the pen, but that reliever will actually be good (unlike most long man/mop-up men).
Sure, the starter’s role will be more important in both the short and the long terms. But if the long man can go two innings twice in a single rotation turn, he can provide plenty of value. That will help the Yankees bridge the gap between the starter and the endgame. The longman can also, in some instances, finish off the game. In games where the Yankees are losing, or are winning by four or more (since Girardi plays it by the save rule), the long man can pitch those final three innings, giving the rest of the bullpen the day off.
The only question is of whether Girardi will choose to deploy his long reliever in this manner. If he saves the long man for failed starter situations, it seems like a wasted bullpen spot.
It might have seemed as though Cory Wade came out of nowhere last year, but he had previously experienced success in the majors. Unfortunately, he followed his successful 2008 season — 2.27 ERA, 3.78 FIP in 71.1 innings — with an ineffective and injury riddled 2009. Those two factors kept him in the minors for all of 2010, after which he became a six-year minor league free agent.
Here’s the kicker, though: the Rays signed him to a minor league contract, which included a mid-June opt-out date. He pitched exceedingly well for their AAA affiliate, a 1.23 ERA and 3.34 FIP, but they declined to promote him. The Yankees snatched him up after the opt-out date, and, well, we can all remember the rest.
Wade will essentially act as the bridge to the bridge to Mariano this year. He’s not a knockout reliever, in that he won’t come in when the Yanks need a strikeout. But he can come in to plenty of situations and challenge hitters. That might be his greatest virtue, in fact. Throughout his career Wade has sported a low walk rate; last year it was 1.82 per nine innings for the Yankees. That is, he doesn’t work himself into trouble too often. That’s a valuable, and uncommon, trait for a middle innings reliever.
For a guy who throws about 40 innings per season, Logan is quite the polarizing character. Some fans loathe his every appearance. Others take him for what he is, which is a situational lefty. Or, at least, that’s what he had been prior to 2011. Something changed with Logan last year. In 2010 he was quite effective against lefties, hitting them with a fastball-slider combination that resulted in plenty of whiffs. But in 2011 he saw fewer whiffs on his slider from lefties. Instead it was righties who were swinging and missing when he did go to the slider.
It’s one thing to note that Logan performed better against righties than he did lefties last season. It’s quite another to think that this is a repeatable trend. After all, it happened over the course of one season, in which time Logan faced just 185 batters. Additionally, the entire performance difference comes from home runs: he allowed four against lefties and zero against righties. At the same time, he struck out far, far more lefties and walked far fewer. That is to say, Logan is still pretty much a situational lefty.
If, by some stroke of luck, he can continue inducing righties to swing through his slider, he could become more of a bridge piece. He won’t take late inning situations away from David Robertson or Rafael Soriano, but he could toss a sixth inning here and a seventh inning there. Chances are, however, that he’ll continue being the pitcher he’s been his entire career: effective enough against lefties, perhaps enough so that you’d intentionally walk a righty between two of them.
The last spot
If we play with the safe assumption that the Yankees will, as they have in the past, carry 12 pitchers, there is but one bullpen spot remaining. This morning Mike examined one candidate, Clay Rapada. Given the Yankees’ follies in finding that elusive second lefty in the pen, Rapada’s chances probably get a slight boost. There’s also Cesar Cabral, who could have a leg up because he’s a Rule 5 pick.
Brad Meyers, another Rule 5 pick, presents another option. He got a late start to the spring, but seems almost up to speed at this point. George Kontos and D.J. Mitchell are really the only other options, since they’re on the 40-man roster. Essentially, the Yankees have a competition here without many inspiring candidates. It’s hard to see how the Yanks will get much out of this last bullpen spot — which is why I feel they’re more likely to carry the extra lefty.
As Mike said this morning, the spot isn’t of the greatest consequence. The Yanks do have a few guys who could fill in this spot — remember, pitchers such as Lance Pendleton, Buddy Carlyle, and Amauri Sanit pitched out of the bullpen at points last season. Eventually, Joba Chamberlain will return and reclaim this spot. So whoever fills it, should the rest of the bullpen stay healthy, will likely be out of a job by the end of June.
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It’s easy to remember the mid- to late-aughts and cringe at the woeful bullpen behind Mariano Rivera. They had few effective setup men, never mind middle relievers. Now, though, they have the back of the bullpen pretty well set. Even the middle portion of the bullpen has formed nicely. When the only real concern is the 25th roster spot, something has gone right.
Yesterday we took at look some Yankees who are candidates to see their performances take a step back in 2012, and now it’s time to flip the coin and look at some players with the potential to improve. That’s the neat thing about the term “regress,” it can work both ways even though it’s somehow developed this negative connotation. The Yankees had a few players under-perform last year, some with good reason and others just because.
On the surface, Logan had some killer stats last season. He struck out 9.94 batters per nine (24.9 K%) while walking 2.81 per nine (7.0 BB%) with a decent 42.4 GB%. Of course lefty specialists usually aren’t judged by their overall numbers, they’re on the roster to get left-handed batters out. That was a problem for Logan last year, who allowed same-side hitters to tag him for a .260/.328/.462 batting line in 118 plate appearances. He gave up three times as many extra-base hits to lefties as David Robertson despite facing 24 fewer hitters.
Logan’s strikeout (11.20 K/9 and 28.8 K%) and walk (2.30 BB/9 and 5.9 BB%) rates against southpaws were insanely good, but his problem was the long ball. His 40.6 GB% resulted in a 13.3% HR/FB ratio, though Hit Tracker says that three of the four homers he surrendered to lefties were Just Enoughs. That means they cleared the fence by less than ten vertical feet or landed less than one fence height beyond the wall. Two of the four homers would have remained in play in the other 29 parks according to their data. Just Enoughs are the most volatile type of homer given their definition, as they’re very prone to the weather and wind and ballpark. The homer issue may not be much of one, so if Boone can maintain those strikeout and walk rates, he should do just fine against left-handed batters going forward.
We all know the story by now. Martin started last season ridiculously hot — .270/.367/.511 in his first 158 PA — before dragging himself across the finish line — .221/.303/.357 in his final 318 PA. The end result was a .237/.324/.408 batting line in 476 PA, or a .325 wOBA and a perfectly league average 100 wRC+. The average catcher produced a .309 wOBA and a 91 wRC+ last season, so Martin was an above average hitter relative to his position.
Like most players, Russ was a more productive hitter at Yankee Stadium (.345 wOBA and 114 wRC+) than on the road (.307 and 88). The easy answer is the short porch and more homers, but that’s not the case. Martin went deep eight times with a .175 ISO and a 15.4% HR/FB ratio at home last year, but clubbed ten homers with a .166 ISO and a 16.4% HR/FB ratio away from the Bronx. His walk and strikeout rates were essentially identical both home and away as was his batted ball profile, but his road batting average (.217 with a .220 BABIP) paled in comparison to his home rate (.260 and .288).
Martin is likely to see his home performance suffer a bit next year and his road performance improve a bit. In terms of process stats — the strikeouts, walks, batted ball types — he was the same hitter regardless of venue in 2011, he just got different results. Given the advantages of Yankee Stadium, the short porch and the fact that pretty much every hitter performs better at home, his home performance may not decline as much as his road performance improves. Martin will never be the guy he was in 2007 again, but a little more love on the road will boost his overall numbers and value to the team. Some more rest will only help further.
Swisher was basically the anti-Martin last year. He was dreadful to start the season — .206/.321/.288 in his first 193 PA — but a monster thereafter — .284/.397/.519 in his final 442 PA. Overall, Swisher finished with a .260/.374/.449 batting line (.358 wOBA and 122 wRC+), his worst performance as a Yankee and the second worst season full season of his career. His 23 homers were his fewest in five years thanks to the early-season slump.
Although he’ll never be a high-contact guy, Swisher has slightly improved his strikeout rate as his career has progressed while maintaining his high walk rate. He’ll never hit for a high average but that’s fine, he’s asked to provide power and patience. That power was missing early in the season, though his 14.3% HR/FB ratio in 2011 was right in line with his career average (14.9%). He just didn’t hit as many fly balls has he had in the past…
Swisher’s performance against right-handed pitchers last year was by far his worst as a Yankee, going from .375+ wOBAs to just .335. Again, it had to do with the lack of fly balls, a 41.4 GB% compared to 35.9% from 2004-2010. He’s still relatively young (turned 31 in November) and healthy, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t expect the fly balls to return in 2012. It’s not like we’re asking an injury-prone guy in his late-30′s to perform miracles here. More fly balls will lead to more homers, hopefully getting Swish back around 28-30 and making him more dangerous against northpaws.
It’s easy to forget just how stellar A-Rod was before his knee started giving him problems. He carried a .301/.377/.509 batting line (in 318 PA) into July before getting hurt, which is still excellent even if it’s not on par with his lofty standards. Alex was never the same after that (.191/.345/.353 in his final 84 PA), and the story is the same heading into 2012. I don’t want to spend too much time on this because I think everyone knows the deal. If healthy, A-Rod will produce big numbers even if they aren’t quite as big as they used to be. Whether or not he can actually stay on the field for 140 games or so is a total mystery, experimental knee procedures and new training methods be damned.
Baseball’s highest paid setup man didn’t have a great first year in pinstripes, particularly early on. Most realized that his fly ball ways (just 35.2 GB% in 2011 and 31.4% career) were a bad fit for Yankee Stadium, so the big jump in homer rate (0.92 HR/9 and 8.3% HR/FB were nearly double his 2010 totals) wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was his walk rate, which jumped from 2.69 BB/9 and 7.5 BB% coming into the season to 4.12 and 10.0 in 2011, respectively.
Most of the walk damage came before Soriano hit the DL with an elbow problem. That makes sense, since elbow injuries have historically resulted in a loss of control while shoulder injuries have resulted in loss of velocity. Soriano walked 11 of 69 batters (15.9%) before hitting the DL but only seven of 95 batters (7.4%) after getting healthy. His strikeout (14.5 K% per-injury but 27.4 K% after) rate improved as well. Unfortunately, health is a going to remain a question going forward given his career-long battle with his elbow, but a healthy Soriano should be a very good reliever for the Yankees.
Teixeira’s performance problems are all self-inflicted. He readily admits that he’s changed his left-handed swing over the last three years in an effort to take advantage of the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium, and says he’s working hard to correct the problem. He’s even talked about laying down bunts to beat the shift, which might be going a little too far. That’s another argument for another time.
With his massive power (.246 ISO and 17.1% HR/FB in 2011 vs. .250 ISO and 18.2% career), strong walk rate (11.1 BB% in 2011 vs. 11.5% career), relatively low strikeout rate (16.1 K% in 2011 vs. 17.2% career), and right-handed production (.410 wOBA vs. LHP in 2011 vs. .400 career) still intact, it’s all about Teixeira getting that batting average as a left-handed hitter (.224 in 2011) back up to his career norm (.277 coming into 2011). If he does that, his overall batting average (.248 in 2011) and OBP (.341) will also return to their previous levels (.286 and .377 coming into 2011, respectively).
Fixing the problem is much easier said than done. The uppercut Teixeira has added to his swing has resulted in a ton of fly balls (48.3% in each of the last two years) against righties, and fly balls will do a number on the ol’ BABIP (just .222 last year) since they’re generally easy to field. Eliminating the uppercut and returning to the level, all-fields approach that made him one of the game’s very best hitters will be tough because that’s a lot of muscle memory to undo. It won’t happen overnight, but it can be done. It will cost Teixeira some homers, but he’s a good enough hitter that he’ll be able to provide average, on-base skills, and 30+ homers at the same time. It doesn’t have to be one of the other.
As far as Spring Training position battles go, the Yanks have few, and those they have aren’t very compelling. The pitching staff has the non-problem of having three hurlers — A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes — for one rotation spot, and barring an injury, the starting lineup is set in stone. It will be, then, business in Tampa as the Yanks will use March to fine-tune the team for the regular season.
Yet, the club will have to make some decisions, and it may come down to those who are out of options. As I see it now, the Yanks have 23 guys with their tickets punched to the 25-man roster. It goes a little something like this:
This array of players leaves us with few noticeable holes. With Jones set to DH against southpaws, they could use another bat who can handle right-handers and serve as a weapon off the bench. They also could carry another infielder, as they did for much of last year. The in-house options include Ramiro Pena and Brandon Laird while Eric Chavez remains a free agent. We’ve heard Bill Hall’s name bandied about, but he hasn’t yet received his non-roster invitation to Spring Training yet.
For the empty outfield/DH spot, the Yanks could still look to the free agent market for help. Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez and Hideki Matsui have all been linked, one way or another, to the Yanks this winter. It’s possible one of them could take spot No. 24 or 25. The Yanks though will let those players’ prices drop before making any sort of move. If one happens, it will be on our terms, and not yours, the Yanks’ brain trust has telegraphed.
The in-house options are Chris Dickerson and Justin Maxwell, and they’ll either break camp with the Yanks or on some other team. The two of them — along with Boone Logan, the only lefty on the 40-man with Major League experience — are out of options. The Yanks will have to take Dickerson and Maxwell with them north if they want to keep them or else the two players will have to clear waivers to remain in the Yanks’ system.
Throughout the winter, Mike has examined these two players in depth. He looked at Dickerson’s possible role earlier this month and Maxwell’s potential in December. Of the two of them, Dickerson seems to hit right-handers far better than Maxwell has, and that’s a need the Yanks have right now. The club may also be able to flip Maxwell for something reasonably useful as he’s a few years younger than Dickerson.
Complicating the roster dance are Brad Meyers, a right-hander, and Cesar Cabral, a lefty. The Yanks grabbed these two guys during the Rule 5 draft. Meyers would have to go back to the Nationals if the Yanks opt to exclude him from the 25-man, and Cabral could pick free agency as he’s a two-time Rule 5er. Cabral also would give the Yanks more bullpen options and pitched exceptionally well in Winter Ball this year. As Logan is out of options, he won’t bump Boone, but a solid spring could make the Yanks think twice about a second southpaw in the pen.
So for the Yankees, the big battles are all but over. We have to pick a fifth starter from a group of three guys who are all flawed for various reasons, and the last two guys on the team have to earn that trip to the Bronx. The guys without options have the inside track, but even then, they’re expendable AAAA types. With two weeks until pitchers and catchers, that’s not a bad problem to have.
The Yankees and Boone Logan have avoided arbitration, the team announced. The AP says it’s a one-year deal worth $1.875M. He had filed for $2.1M while the team countered with $1.7M, so they settled just below the midpoint. Logan can earn an addition $25k by appearing in 55 games.
All six of the Yankees arbitration-eligible players (Logan, David Robertson, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Brett Gardner, Russell Martin) are now under contract next year for a total of $18.65M in guaranteed money (not including bonuses). Matt Swartz’s model at MLBTR projected the six players to sign for $17.8M combined, so give him a round of applause. Getting within 5% is pretty damn good in my book.
The Yankees avoided arbitration with Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson by agreeing to one-year contracts, the team announced. Joba received approximately $1.675M (per Jon Heyman) his second time up for arbitration, a slight raise from the $1.4M he made last year. He would have cleared $2M if it wasn’t for the Tommy John surgery. Robertson signed for $1.6M with another $25k in incentives (per Heyman) his first time up for arbitration, a big raise from his near-league minimum salary.
Noon ET today was the deadline for teams and their eligible players to file arbitration salaries, and the trio of Russell Martin, Boone Logan, and Brett Gardner remain unsigned. Hearings start in February, but the two sides can still agree to a contract at any time. Here are MLBTR’s salary projections, if you’re curious. Phil Hughes agreed to a one-year deal and avoided arbitration yesterday.
Update: Heyman says Gardner filed for $3.2M while the Yankees filed $2.4M. They’ll probably split the difference and call it a deal, but Gardner’s arbitration case isn’t all that great because he’s a defense-first guy, and that doesn’t pay.
Update Part II: Heyman says Martin filed for $8.2M while the Yankees countered with $7M. Russ actually holds the salary record for first and second time eligible catchers. This is his fourth year of arbitration eligibility as a Super Two.
Update Part III: Jack Curry says Logan filed for $2.1M while the Yankees countered with $1.7M. Logan has a pretty decent arbitration case because of his low ERA (3.20 as a Yankee) and high strikeout rate (9.3 K/9 as a Yankee).
As we get close to wrapping up our season review, we’re inevitably left a few players that don’t fit into our rather vague What Went Right/What Went Wrong categories. Unsurprisingly, these guys are bit pieces, essentially spare parts on the roster.
After a brief cameo in September 2010, the Yankees handed Nunez their utility infielder’s job out of Spring Training in 2011. The off-day and rain-out heavy April kept Nunez glued to the bench during the season’s first month (just six plate appearances), but he started to get more and playing time as the weather warmed up in May. He had five hits (including two doubles) in his first three starts of the season, but he carried a weak .214/.254/.339 batting line into mid-June, though that covered just 61 plate appearances.
Nunez became a pretty important piece of the Yankees’ puzzle in mid-June, after a calf injury shelved Derek Jeter for more than three weeks. The backup infielder had two hits in each of his first two games as the starting shortstop, and he ended up hitting a robust .339/.381/.525 in 65 plate appearances as the Cap’n's replacement. When Alex Rodriguez hit the shelf with a knee injury before the All-Star break, Nunez was again pressed into everyday duty, this time at third base. He hit .252/.310/.336 in 117 plate appearances while filling in for A-Rod.
All told, Nunez hit .265/.313/.385 in 338 plate appearances, swatting five homers and stealing 22 bases in 28 tries (78.6% success rate). That’s pretty much what you expect from a utility infielder. His defense was atrocious however, specifically his long-time problem with making the throw to first base (from short or third). He committed 20 errors (almost all throwing) in 789.2 defensive innings, which projects to about 37 errors over a full 162-game season. Nunez had his moments, and I figure he was the Yankees’ best backup infielder in quite some time.
Reportedly, the Yankees were holding an open competition for the backup catcher’s job in Spring Training, though it stood to reason that Cervelli had a leg up over Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, and Gus Molina just because he was the incumbent. A broken foot (suffered on a foul ball) delayed the start of his season by a month, but he came back with a bang. In his third game of the season (May 8th), Cervelli swatted a grand slam to dead center off Cody Eppley to turn a 6-5 game into a 10-5 game, helping put an end to an ugly four-losses-in-five-games stretch.
Cervelli played pretty regularly as CC Sabathia‘s personal catcher throughout the summer, and carried a .274/.333/.340 batting line into a late-August series against the Red Sox. After hitting just two homeruns in the first 541 plate appearances of his big league career, Frankie went on a tear and clubbed three homers in the span of eight days as August turned into September. I also remember one ball that looked like a no-doubter off the bat, but was caught at the wall after being knocked down by the rain and wind in that ugly, rainy 11pm ET start game against the Orioles. No idea where it came from, but Frankie was showing some serious pop late in the summer.
Unfortunately, a concussion ended Cervelli’s season in early-September. He was involved in two collisions at the plate on September 8th, giving him his third concussion in the last four seasons. That forced Romine into backup catcher duty, and makes Cervelli a bit of a question mark going into next season. Concussions are nothing to sneeze at, especially several of them in a relatively short period of time. The late power surge raised Frankie’s season batting line to .266/.324/.395 with four homers in 137 plate appearances.
The Pedro Feliciano signing managed to turn into a disaster before Opening Day, which meant Logan was the team’s sole left-handed reliever for the majority in the season. He struggled early in the year, carrying a 5.40 ERA into mid-May. Even worse, lefties were hitting .364/.440/.591 with more walks (three) than strikeouts (two) in their first 26 plate appearances against him. Logan received some advice from A-Rod during an interleague series in mid-June, at which point same-side batters were still hitting .300/.391/.425 off him.
The pep talk marked a bit of a turn around for Boone, who held lefties to a .234/.286/.484 batting line the rest of the way. He did a much better job of getting them out, but he was giving up far too many extra-base hits. After surrendering just one extra-base hit (a triple) to lefties in 2010, he gave up 12 in 2011 (seven doubles, one triple, four homers). That’s the same number of extra-base hits they had off Sabathia, who faced more than twice as many left-handed batters. All told, Logan finished the season with a solid 3.46 ERA (9.9 K and 2.2 BB/9), but lefty specialists don’t get judged by overall numbers. Left-handers hit .260/.328/.462 in 118 plate appearances against Boone this season, and that’s simply not good enough for the primary lefty on a contending team.
The last two games have been on extreme opposite ends of the spectrum for Boone Logan. He got two huge, huge strikeouts with the bases loaded to escape a jam on Tuesday night, but then he allowed the game-winning two-run homer on Wednesday. A night of good followed by a night of bad, and it seemed to fit right into the story of Logan’s season: he didn’t get the lefties out when he had too, but he got the righties out. It’s backwards.
In the series opener, Boone allowed a single to the lefty Carl Crawford to load the bases before striking out the switch-hitting Jarrod Saltalamacchia (LOL) and the righty Darnell McDonald. Yesterday he gave up the homer to lefty Jacoby Ellsbury that basically won the game for the Red Sox. Now, Logan did rebound to get both Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz after the homer, but by then the damage was done. Coming into the series, left-handed batters were hitting .235/.300/.425 in 91 plate appearances off the Yankees’ lefty specialist. Effective, but not exactly lock down given the power numbers. On the other hand, righties were hitting just .216/.286/.255 in 56 plate appearances off Logan.
Of course, Boone did have a little bit of a revelation in Cincinnati after Alex Rodriguez pulled him aside and told him to have a plan for each pitch, and since then he’s been much better. After tagging him for a .300/.391/.425 line in his first 25 games (.167/.259/.167 vs. RHB), lefties have hit just .200/.289/.489 off Logan in his last 26 games (.267/.312/.333 vs. RHB). Definitely some big time improvement, though he’s still giving up far too many extra base hits to same-side batters. A lefty specialist allowing a .289 ISO to lefties over half his season workload is … awful.
Obviously, small sample size rules apply here. Logan’s faced just 154 batters this year, which is nothing. That’s the life of a reliever though, these guys are just going from one small sample size appearance to the next, which is why Boone’s reverse split and backwards season isn’t terribly surprising. Anything can happen in a limited sample, but it’s still rather annoying to see. Hopefully he continues to be as effective against lefties as he has since A-Rod‘s pep talk, just without all the untimely extra base hits.
Last night Boone Logan did part of his job, the big part of his job, well. He came into a high-leverage situation and got what should have been a bunch of outs, but thanks to the stadium, and his own poor reaction time, the Rays squeaked across two runs and took the lead. Logan was clearly responsible for the botched comebacker, though he did induce poor contact on the play. In terms of pure pitching, though, there are no complaints, despite him facing two right-handed batters.
Logan vs. righties
It’s no secret that Logan, like most lefty relievers, is more effective against same-handed batters. He has faced 448 lefties in his career and has held them to a .249/.324/.364 line, while righties have hit .313/.390/.486 against him. While there are certain lefty relievers, such as the Cubs’ Sean Marshall, who can handle full innings of work, Logan, with nearly 200 innings of career work, has clearly defined himself as a left-hand only kinda guy. Why, then, was he facing right-handed hitters?
No platoon advantage
There is a surefire way for managers to make his opponent pay for bringing in a LOOGY. Since the rules dictate that any pitcher brought into the game must face at least one batter, the manager can pinch-hit for his lefty, thus turning the platoon advantage in his favor. Joe Maddon did just that last night, not only with Sam Fuld, but also with the next batter due up, Reid Brignac. In fact, it was an utterly predictable move. Neither Fuld nor Brignac is a good hitter, and Maddon has been known to maneuver like this in the past.
With two weak hitters due up, why didn’t Girardi go to Cory Wade instead? He wouldn’t provide a platoon advantage, but he doesn’t have a significant career lefty/rigthy split. Girardi could have used him against the two lefties and then saved Logan for Johnny Damon, who is a far greater threat than the two batters before him. That makes enough sense, and it very well might have been the right move. But it certainly wasn’t the only move.
LOOGYs facing righties
Girardi knew that Maddon’s bench was bare. When Logan was announced, Maddon sent up Justin Ruggiano, a 29-year-old with a career .233/.269/.381 line. In place of Brignac he sent up Elliot Johnson, a career .194/.252/.317 hitter. So while he negated the lefty-lefty matchup, he also sent up two horrible hitters. Even someone like Logan should be able to retire these guys (which he essentially did). It’s not as though it were Evan Longoria up there.
Because of the one-batter minimum, this is a situation LOOGYs face often. They’ll come into the game set to face a lefty, and the opposing manager will pinch-hit. But, because he’s pinch hitting from his bench, chances are the replacement is not as good as the original hitter. A good manager will consider his opponent’s bench before bringing in a LOOGY, to make certain that he’s not running into a regular starter who had the night off. I can’t say for certain that Girardi did that, but I’d bet that he did.
It is part of a LOOGY’s job, then, to face right-handed bench players. It’s unreasonable to ask them to face righties and switch batters who normally hit near the middle of the order. That’s asking for trouble. But I find it difficult to complain when the opposing manager gains the platoon advantage by pinch-hitting two guys who have terrible MLB track records. A LOOGY has to be able to retire guys like that. And, again, Logan essentially did.
Using Logan against righties
If pitchers like Logan have to face righties, they might as well face slap-hitting righties with poor MLB track records. That’s exactly what Logan faced last night. In fact, it appears that’s the type of righty he’s faced for the most part this year. Despite his pitching in a few mop-up situations, he’s still faced just 39 righties to 68 lefties, and has held them to a .200/.272/.200 line. That is, he’s allowed zero extra base hits and only seven hits overall to right-handed hitters.
His success is largely a product of luck; he’s shown an inability in the past to retire righties, and we shouldn’t think that just because he’s fared well in these 39 instances that he’s all the sudden cured. But as I look at Logan’s play log I see a bunch of poor-hitting righties: Derrek Lee, Mike McCoy, Yorvit Torrealba, Franklin Gutierrez, Orlando Cabrera, and Aaron Hill. Most of the better righties he’s faced, such as Kevin Youkilis and Miguel Cabrera, have come during garbage time, when the Yanks were either up or down big.
It’s certainly possible, then, that Girardi is putting Logan in a position to succeed. Again, he’s faced just 39 righties this year in 107 total chances, or 37 percent. Last year it was 78 of 169, or 46 percent. You can learn a lot about a guy in a year, and it appears that Girardi has learned not only to limit his usage against righties, but also limit it to poor-hitting righties.
While in an ideal world Logan would never face a righty, it’s simply a reality of the game. Thankfully, Girardi has placed him in situations this year that favor him. When he does face a righty, it is, for the most part, a poor hitting one. When he faces a quality one, it has come in mop-up duty. Last night was a further example of that. The Yanks lost the lead, due in no small part to Logan’s poor reaction time, but he did pitch well against light-hitting righties. It’s something that can be expected of him, even as a LOOGY.
If you’ve been following the Yankees all season, then this should come as no surprise: Boone Logan has been awful. Last night’s appearance was pretty much a microcosm of his year; he faced one batter, threw one pitch, and hit the guy with it. Brutally ineffective, I’m talking unusably bad, so bad that I’m going to bullet point the badness…
- Left-handed batters are hitting .300/.383/.425 off him in 47 plate appearances. His one job on this team is get lefties out, but he’s essentially turned them into something just short of Andre Ethier.
- Logan has failed to retired a batter (one! singular!) in four of his last eight appearances, including last night.
- He has five meltdowns and just four shutdowns. A meltdown is an appearance with -0.06 WPA or worse, a shutdown with +0.06 WPA or better. A 1.50 SD/MD ratio is like, the bare minimum for a medium leverage reliever. Sub-1.00 is horrific.
- His fastball velocity is down noticeably and his slider has flattened out.
It’s pretty obvious at this point that the only things keeping Logan on the roster are his left-handedness and those 20 great innings down the stretch last season. Keep in mind that those 20 innings are basically his entire track record of success as a Major Leaguer, the other 163.2 IP have been pretty terrible. Because he’s out of options, the Yankees can’t simply send him to the minors to work things out. He’ll first have to clear waivers, and for a while we’ve all assumed that he wouldn’t just because he’s a lefty and throws hard. Is that really the case though?
Just looking around the league this year, a number of left-handed relievers have already been designated for assignment and most of them have cleared waivers. Jerry Blevins stands out for me. The Athletics designated him for assignment last month and then a few days later he was with their Triple-A affiliate because no one touched him on waivers. Blevins’ track record of success is a whole lot longer the Logan’s (he held lefties to a .227/.270/.292 batting line from 2007-2010, though he did a lot of up-and-down to Triple-A during that time), and here’s the real kicker: he’s making what amounts to the league minimum (just $420,000). Logan is making about three times that this year as an arbitration-eligible player, $1.2M to be exact. If Blevins cleared waivers with his track record and salary, wouldn’t it make sense that Logan would clear given his track record and salary? Sure, on paper it does.
The real question is this: should the Yankees be willing to risk it? Is Logan that irreplaceable? No, of course not. The other question is do they have someone better to replace him with? The obvious candidate is fellow lefty Randy Flores, who is doing an okay job against lefties in Triple-A (seven strikeouts, one walk in seven innings against them). If nothing else, he’s unlikely to be as bad as Logan has been so far. His opt-out clause is looming (though I don’t know the exact date) as well, so they can’t wait around forever. Another option is Kevin Whelan, though he’s a righty. I’m of the belief that a team should take its seven best arms regardless of pitching hand, so not having a lefty wouldn’t bother me one bit.
So I guess the moral of the story is that we’re starting to reach the breaking point with Logan. He hasn’t been effective at all and (even worse) there have been little to no signs of improvement thus far. Yes, he didn’t hit his stride until late last year, but last year he had the benefit of going to the minors to work on things, away from games that count. Left-handers that throw hard (and are reasonably young) are in demand, but I’m not 100% certain that someone will gamble on Logan given his salary. Remember, if he gets claimed off waivers, his entire salary and contract goes with him. The Yankees could designate him for assignment and hope he clears waivers and goes to Triple-A, or they could lose the bet and watch him go to another team. It’s risky, but you know what? Losing him really wouldn’t be a huge loss.
It has not been a good year for Boone Logan, who has “held” the 46 left-handed batters he’s faced to a .350 wOBA this year. He’s only struck out seven of those guys as well, which is an an unfathomably bad rate (15.2%). The Yankees were apparently concerned enough about Logan’s ability to repeat his success from the second half of last year that they signed Pedro Feliciano to a (not cheap) free agent deal. Feliciano’s injury has again thrust Boone into top LOOGY status, a job he really doesn’t deserve at the moment.
The root cause of Logan’s struggles appears to be his slider, a pitch that went from being 2.50 runs above average (per 100 thrown) in 2010 to 1.71 runs below average this year, a swing of more than four runs. He’s throwing the pitch almost exactly as often this year as last, but batters have gone from swinging and missing at it 25.6% of the time to 12.7% of the time, so the slider’s whiff rate has been cut in half. Part of the problem is just location, which you can see from the heat maps above (what’s a heat map?). Logan did a good job of burying the pitch down and away to lefties last year, but this season it’s ending up in the middle of the plate entirely too often.
The characteristics of the pitch are different that last year as well. Boone has actually picked up about an inch and a half of horizontal movement while losing a mile an hour of velocity. A slower pitch with more break is loopier; the 2010 version of the pitch came in harder and had shorter, sharper break. Leave a loopy slider out over the plate … well that’s just a meatball, even to a same-side batter. Logan’s release point is no different (here’s a gif comparing 2010 to 2011), at least not different enough to worry about (could just be a PitchFX issue). Since his fastball velocity is also down noticeably, it could just be a mechanical issue. Or maybe he’s hiding an injury (or doesn’t even know about it) Both theories make sense, as do countless others.
Given the injuries to the rest of the bullpen, the Yankees need Logan to pitch better than he has just to provide depth. He has to improve against lefties at the absolute minimum, since the only reason he’s on the team in the first place is to neutralize the Adrian Gonzalezes and Adam Linds and Matt Joyces and Nick Markaki of the league. Getting back to burying that slider down and away, preferably just out of the strike zone, is step one of that process.