Archive for Boone Logan
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.
Via Marc Carig & Chad Jennings, Joba Chamberlain‘s bullpen session went just fine today. The right-hander said his mechanics were a-okay and he feels 100% following his strained oblique. Assuming he doesn’t wake up in crippling pain tomorrow, chances are his next pitching appearance will come in a game. Good news.
Elsewhere on the bullpen front, Pedro Feliciano downplayed his dead arm – now being termed triceps tightness – and said it was nothing more than normal Spring Training soreness. The lefty tested his moneymaker at 80% effort in the bullpen this morning. Everything went well and he’ll throw another in a few days. Boone Logan, meanwhile, will pitch in tomorrow’s game, so the back spasms weren’t bad at all.
We’re inching closer and closer to Opening Day, so minor injuries are starting to become a little bit more of a concern. Here’s the latest on what’s going on with the walking wounded out in the bullpen, courtesy of Marc Carig and Chad Jennings…
- Sergio Mitre is scheduled or three or four innings this afternoon, so it’s safe to say his oblique issue is a thing of the past.
- Joba Chamberlain‘s strained oblique was well enough that he threw long-toss yesterday, and tomorrow he’s scheduled to throw a bullpen session. Assuming that goes well, he should get back into a game sometime next week.
- Pedro Feliciano is dealing with a dead arm, but Joe Girardi downplayed the extent of the fatigue and just called it “extra rest.” The only reason this is a concern is because Feliciano is 34 years old and has made like 900 appearances in each of the last four years, but dead arms are pretty common this time of year.
- Boone Logan went through a dead arm phase of his own recently, but now he’s dealing with back spasms. He did pitch in last night’s game, so the back stuff is pretty fresh. “As long as they’re just back spasms, it’s usually four or five days,” said Girardi. “They’re no fun, I know that.”
Wouldn’t that be something; more than $9M tied up between three lefty relievers, and they all start the season on the disabled list? Yikes. Hopefully that won’t come to fruition.
Throughout the 2000s the Yankees could not find a suitable lefty reliever. They went through such middling arms as Felix Heredia, Gabe White, C.J. Nitkowski, Buddy Groom, Wayne Franklin, Alan Embree, Ron Villone, and Mike Myers. It wasn’t until they acquired Damaso Marte in 2008 that they had a quality lefty in the pen, but even that was short-lived. Assuming he misses the whole season, he’ll have pitched just 53.1 innings for the Yankees, though that does include his masterful World Series innings. This year, for what feels like the first time in forever, the Yankees will open the season with two lefties in the pen, Boone Logan and Pedro Feliciano. Can they be better than the clown car of lefties the team has employed in the past eight years?
While neither Logan nor Feliciano screams lockdown lefty, each has considerable upside. We saw that in effect last year with Logan, at least following his mid-July recall. From that point on he pitched 21.2 innings while striking out 25 and walking eight, leading to a 2.08 ERA against a 3.16 FIP. It might have been the most successful stretch of baseball in his major league career.
In the best case scenario Logan becomes a lefty who can pitch a full inning. That is, he can take both the lefties and the righties in the lineup with aplomb. That necessarily means relying more on his changeup, since the slider carries a large platoon split. But best case, Logan feels more comfortable throwing the changeup to righties, which makes his 93 mph fastball a bit more effective.
Logan’s ability to take on a setup role would allow Pedro Feliciano to match up against lefties only, which is likely his optimal role at this point. Even in his best years Feliciano hasn’t handled righties particularly well. Now that he’s 34 there’s little chance that he suddenly develops the skill. He has, of course, thoroughly dominated lefties. Even in 2008, his worst season since returning from Japan, he struck out 34 of 119 lefties faced while walking only eight. He might be good for only a batter, or two with an intentionally walked righty in between, but if he can shut down the league’s best lefty hitters the Yankees will have a quality return on their $8 million investment.
This is where things get ugly. While Logan impressed in the second half, his first half left plenty to be desired. At that point he looked like the Logan who had spend most of 2009 in AAA. He walked 12 in 18.1 IP while striking out just 13. Since the success we’ve seen from Logan comes in a very small sample, it’s entirely possible that he reverts to his walk-happy, homer-happy ways. That would leave the Yanks in a bind, since he’s out of options. Do they wait around for his stuff to return to second-half 2010 levels? Or do they cut bait and start the Scranton bullpen shuttle?
With Feliciano the worst case is a bit tougher. If he’s healthy it’s tough to see him performing poorly against lefties, since he has thoroughly dominated them. Instead, his worst case involves the Yankees paying the price for the Mets’ heavy usage. Who leads the majors in appearances during the last three years? That’s Feliciano, with 28 more innings than the next closest reliever, Carlos Marmol. In fact, there are only three other relievers within 50 appearances of Feliciano’s three-year total. While he ranks 49th during that span in terms of batters faced, he still warmed up and got into all those games. That has to take a toll on the arm.
Feliciano has developed a reputation as a guy with a rubber arm, but we’ve seen some of those guys go down in recent years. Scot Shields provides the most prominent example. That is to say that arms of rubber do eventually break. Feliciano is getting to an age where that might become a concern. While injury is a legitimate risk for every pitcher, it seems to be a greater risk for a 34-year-old pitcher who has appeared in at least 86 games in each of the last three seasons.
What’s Likely To Happen
If both Logan and Feliciano stay healthy they’ll likely both provide options against the tough lefties in the lineup. Maybe the lesser of the two can take two lefties, separated by a righty, towards the bottom of the order, while the greater takes the Adrian Gonzalez or the Travis Snider (he’s going to have a big year) of the lineup.
It’s not likely that Logan figures out righties, both because of his fastball-slider repertoire and his history of abysmal performances against them. His fastball can make you dream about him mowing down Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez 1-2-3, but his history does not suggest it. Chances are he and Feliciano would go about it similarly: pitch to Crawford, pitch around Pedroia, and attack Gonzalez inside.
While the Yankees do have two quality lefties in the bullpen to open the season, they are still LOOGYs. That limits bullpen flexibility. The Yankees do have four solid righties behind them, which helps, but it still doesn’t make Logan or Feliciano any more effective against righties. The Yankees figure to get plenty of use out of them, but don’t expect them to pitch full shutdown innings. Nothing to see here: they’re just here for the lefties.
Minor league options are one of baseball’s weird little quirks. Every player gets three, and they’re used whenever a guy on the 40-man roster is sent to the minors. Once you burn all three, the player has to pass through waivers to go back to the minors. Oh, and sometimes a player can qualify for a fourth option depending on some special circumstances. Yeah, it’s weird like that.
A player can only use one option a year, regardless of how many times they go up and down. That’s why you’ll see them referred to as “option years.” If a player is in the minors for more than 20 total days in a single year, it counts as an option. Anything less and it does not. To learn more about this stuff, I recommend Keith Law’s classic Death, Taxes and Major League Waivers post at Baseball Analysts. I’ll let him bore you with the details.
Obviously, options are important because they can dictate who can and who can’t be sent back to the minors. That information isn’t publicly available, at least as far as I know, so I figured I’d compile it myself. We don’t need to look at everyone on the 40-man roster simply because a bunch of guys aren’t ever going back to the minors, like CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez. A few others are on the bubble, so let’s recap them and a could of notable young regulars…
Although 2011 will be his fourth full season since signing his Major League contract out of the draft, Brackman still has two minor league options remaining. He signed right on the August 15th deadline in 2007 but did not spent the required 20 days in the minors because the (minor league) season ended. The Yankees then carried Brackman on the 60-day disabled list all year in 2008 (Tommy John surgery), so he collected a year of service time instead of using a minor league option. His first option was used in 2009 and his second in 2010. Brackman will qualify for a fourth option because he will have used his three original options within his first five pro seasons. That’s one of those weird rules/ So yeah, the Yankees can send him down to the minors in each of the next two seasons without consequence.
Joba has all three options left. He was added to the 40-man for the first time in August 2007, when he was called up to the big leagues, and he hasn’t gone back to the minors since.
The Yankees added Curtis to the 40-man for the first time this past July, when he was summoned to the big leagues because the team was dealing with injuries and needed an extra position player during the NL park stretch of their interleague scheduled. Lil’ CC hung around a while but was eventually sent back down. He remained in Triple-A for more than a month later in the year, using his first option. He has two left.
Added to the 40-man roster for the first time this offseason as a Rule 5 Draft pick, Fish has all three options left. Doesn’t matter though, he’ll be offered back to the Angels before the end of Spring Training.
After starting the 2008 season in Triple-A, the Yankees called Gardner up and added him to the 40-man roster for the first time that June 30th. He was with the team for about a month, ultimately sent down on July 26th because they had to make room on the active roster for the just acquired Xavier Nady. Gardner stayed in the minors until August 15th, so he was there for exactly 20 days. That’s not an accident, it prevented an option from being used. Gardner hasn’t been back to the minors since (not counting a very brief rehab stint in 2009), so he has all three options remaining.
Claimed off waivers from the Padres last year, Garrison was added to the 40-man (by San Diego) for the first time last (2009-2010) offseason. He used an option in his injury-riddled 2010 season, so he’s got two left.
Golson’s been around the block, having first been added to the 40-man roster by the Phillies after 2008. He spent basically all of 2009 and 2010 in the minors (save for the occasional cup-of-coffee, nothing major), using up his first two options. Golson has one left, which will inevitably be used this season.
Called up as a 20-year-old in what really was an act of desperation by the Yankees, Hughes was added to the 40-man for the first time in April 2007 and then went back to the minors after blowing out his hamstring. He spent a little more than three weeks in the minors that July but it was a rehab assignment, so it didn’t count as an optional assignment. The Yankees called him back up in August, so they didn’t burn an option that season.
Hughes began the next year with the big league team, but eventually hit the disabled list and then did the rehab thing again. The Yankees kept him in the minors for close to 40 days, however the first 30 were the rehab assignment. He did not eclipse the 20-day limit and did not use a minor league option in 2009. Hughes did use his first option in 2009, when he began the year in Triple-A and was called up in late April. He hasn’t been back to the minors since and has two options remaining.
Logan’s out-of-options. He was first added to the 40-man by the White Sox in 2006, when they took him north out of camp because he had a great Spring Training despite having a total of 5.1 innings at the Single-A level to his credit. Yep. Boone spent considerable time in the minors in 2006, 2009, and 2010, burning all three options.
The Experience has been out-of-options for a year now.
Called up and added to the 40-man roster for the first time on the same day as Gardner, Robertson went back to the minors on August 28th (in favor of Al Aceves) and then resurfaced 16 days later, preserving an option. He bounced up and down in April and May of 2009, burning an option. Robertson hasn’t been back to the minors since late May of 2009, so he still has two options at his disposal.
Chad Jennings confirmed with the Yankees this past December that Romulo is out-of-options.
Same exact deal is Fish, so just re-read his comment and change “Fish” to “Turpen” and “Angels” to “Red Sox.”
Believe it or not, the Yankees added Cervelli to the 40-man roster for the first time after the 2007 season. That’s when he was first eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, before he ever got out of A-ball. Anyway, he spent most of 2008 in the minors, burning one options then spent the first five weeks of 2009 in the minors, burning another option. Frankie hasn’t been back to the minors since, so he still has that one option remaining.
Pena was added to the 40-man roster for the first time in 2009, when he surprisingly broke camp with the big league team as the utility infielder. He went back to the minors for 43 games that summer, burning one option. Ramiro hasn’t been back down since, so he has two left.
* * *
Dellin Betances, Brandon Laird, Melky Mesa, and Ryan Pope were all added to the 40-man roster for the first time this offseason, so all three guys have all three options remaining. Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, Reegie Corona, Eduardo Nunez, and Kevin Russo were each added to the 40-man roster for the first time last offseason, and since they all spent most of 2010 in the minors, they all have two options left.
Standard disclaimer here: I can’t guarantee the accuracy of the above info. MLB has some weird rules, and what is and what is not an optional assignment is one of them. I do feel pretty confident though, the only real question is Gardner. Does exactly 20 days in the minors count as an option, or does it have to be more? Either way, it shouldn’t become an issue. Fish, Turpen, and Romulo are goners and probably soon, before the end of camp. That’ll free up three 40-man roster spots, at least one of which will go to Jesus Montero at some point. Let’s hope he never uses any of his minor league options.
Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees have avoided arbitration with both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. The former gets $2.7M, the latter $1.4M. I had Hughes getting around $3.5M and Joba about $1.8M, so I clearly need to sharpen my arb skills. Both players were eligible for arbitration for the first time, and they’re still pretty underpaid compared to what they’d get on the open market.
Update: Boone Logan signed for $1.2M according to Heyman. I pegged him for a $1M salary or so. Unlike Hughes and Joba, it was Logan’s second time up for arbitration, though he’s a Super Two and gets four cracks at the process.
As we sit and wait for the Yankees to make some kind of transaction this month (just to liven things up for cryin’ out loud, forget about strengthening the team at this point), there’s some in-house stuff to be taken care of behind the scenes. Teams and players are currently in the process of filing for arbitration, and will exchange salary figures six days from now. Brian Cashman recently told Chad Jennings that the team always looks to have a contract in place before a hearing (just like everyone else), but they’re not afraid to go to one if they feel the player is asking for unfair compensation. Chien-Ming Wang learned this the hard way back in 2008.
The Yankees have just three arbitration-eligible players this winter, and we’ve already covered Phil Hughes’ case as well as Joba Chamberlain’s. That leaves Boone Logan, who has already been usurped as the club’s primary lefty reliever by Pedro Feliciano this offseason. This is actually Logan’s second time through the arbitration process since he’s a Super Two. That just means he’s eligible for arbitration four times instead of three because he’s going to fall a few weeks short of qualifying for free agency in a couple of years. It’s just a way of making that extra three-fourths of a year of team control slightly more fair to the player. Logan pulled down $590,000 in 2011, not all that much more than the league minimum. He’ll get a decent raise this offseason after a fine second half that saw him strike out 25 batters and hold opponents to a .247 wOBA in an admitted small sample of 21.2 IP.
Remember, arbitration cases are built on old school stats that are simple for the three-person panels to understand, so that’s what we’re going to stick with here. It was real tough to find comparables for Logan, since lefty relievers come and go like buses at rush hour. I did the best I could, and here’s who I came up with…
So yeah, they aren’t perfect comparables, but that’s life. If we apply the 137.6% average raise (which is weighted by innings pitched) to Logan’s 2010 compensation, we get a projected 2011 salary of $811,840, which is still dirt cheap. Because he was so good late in the season, I’m willing to bet he gets a slightly larger raise than that, and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up making a million bucks or so this coming summer.
Logan’s arbitration case will be little more than a nuisance to the front office given the relatively small amount of money at stake (less than one percent of the payroll even if he beats them in a hearing), but it’s a sizable raise for him. It does a good job showing you how much the arbitration process keeps salaries down though, because he’s going to earn about a quarter of what Feliciano will for similar work and what could easily be similar performance.
All told, the Yankees are looking at about $7M in 2011 payroll obligation through their three arbitration cases this winter, about $5.5M more than what Hughes, Joba, and Logan earned in 2010. I thought it would be a lot less than that coming into the offseason, but that’s because I didn’t have a firm grasp on the salary scale. Given how much money the team is paying some its older stars, getting cheap production from players like this is imperative to balance out the payroll and keep spending in check.
Real quick: take a look at Boone Logan’s 2010 numbers. They look pretty spiffy, no? You can’t ask much more from a young lefty reliever. What made Logan look even better was the value he provided. Although he faced just 169 batters in 40 innings, he still produced 0.4 WAR, which was 0.6 more than the other player the Yankees acquired from the Braves last winter. Since Logan provided more value this year and will continue to provide more in the future, we can accurately term this the Boone Logan Trade. But it wasn’t always that way.
Because the Yankees started the season stocked with bullpen arms, Logan started the year in AAA Scranton. He made his way to the big league club early on, and made his first appearance on April 20. Things didn’t go so well during that first stint. Logan faced 49 batters in 10.2 innings and walked seven batters while striking out six. It led to six earned runs, a 5.06 ERA. The Yankees optioned him, but then recalled him again in mid-June, though that didn’t exactly go well either. This time Logan faced 33 batters in 7.2 innings, striking out seven and walking five. The results were better, but he clearly still had control issues.
Logan’s 3.93 first half ERA didn’t look so bad, but his walk issues made it hard to trust him against tough left-handed hitters. He finished the half with 12 walks in 18.1 innings, leading to an opponent OBP of .390. He threw 314 pitches to 82 batters, almost four per. Clearly something would have to change if he was going to stick in the second half. By the time the Yankees recalled him for the third time in the season, something had.
The second half didn’t open ideally for Logan, as he allowed a run in 1.2 innings against the Rays. The good news is that he didn’t walk a batter, and he threw 15 of 23 pitches for strikes (65%). He continued to throw strikes in subsequent appearances, and it paid off. He walked just eight in 21.2 second-half innings, a marked improvement over his first half numbers. It led to a mere .264 opponents’ OBP. Hitters also had trouble making solid contact, as his BABIP went down to .235. This was due, in large part, to a mere 8 percent line drive rate, down from 25 percent in the first half.
How did Logan accomplish this mid-season transformation? Part of it was certainly throwing more strikes. In the first half he threw 60 percent of his pitches for strikes, while in the second half that was up to 63 percent. That might not seem like a huge increase, but it can make a big difference when you’re often working one batter at a time. But it doesn’t account for the entire difference. The biggest change, as most of us can probably intuit, was pitch selection and effectiveness.
In the first half Logan was extremely fastball heavy, throwing it 70.9 percent of the time. He got a meager 8.9 percent whiff rate on it, leading to a 21.5 percent in play rate. In the second half he started leaning on his slider a lot more, using it 32.4 percent of his time. Opponents put it in play just 10.2 percent of the time, while whiffing 27.8 percent of the time. The pitch ended up being his best per FanGraphs’ Pitch Type Values, 3.8 runs above average overall, and 2.34 per 100 pitches. All it took was him using it more and commanding it better.*
*Looking at the PitchFX numbers, Logan got -0.07 inches of vertical break and -1.13 inches of horizontal break on the slider in the first half. In other words, it darted downward and towards a right-handed batter. In the second half it was 2.02 inches of vertical break and -0.29 inches horizontal. That might seem like less movement, but I have a pet theory on this. It basically goes that Logan was letting the slider fly more in the first half and was a bit more careful with it in the second half. He might have had more movement in the first half, but he was wild with it. In the second half the lower break figures point to a greater command over the pitch. Again, this is just a pet theory, but I’d love to hear some point-counterpoint on this if anyone is interested.
Just so you can see the difference, here are Logan’s slider plots from the first and second halves.
Everything was away in the second half, and he buried plenty in the dirt. It’s tough to pick out the subtleties, because he threw far more in the second half than in the first. But I do think it’s clear that he kept the slider below the zone in the second half, while he was low and away in the first half. This probably led to the pitch being a lot more effective.
Given his second half performance, it’s hard to not like Logan as the primary lefty in 2011. He showed great improvements, from his peripheral numbers — 10.38 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9 in the second half — to his pitch selection and command. Whether he can maintain these improvements remains to be seen, but he’ll get every chance to do so. With Damaso Marte out for most of, if not all of, the 2011 season, Logan becomes the primary lefty in the pen. Six months ago that would have left me feeling queasy. Amazing what a little improvement can do.