There's no such thing as a 'LOOGY'

Patrick McDermott

Most baseball teams have a "lefty specialist" in their bullpens, but there isn't a real LOOGY to be found.

LOOGY: In baseball, a "lefty one out guy" is known as a "LOOGY." When a left-handed pitcher is effective against left-handed hitters, but gets clobbered by right handed hitters, he gets branded as a LOOGY.

When you look at the batters that relievers with the reputation of being a lefty specialist actually face, you won't find a single pitcher who actually only faces left handed hitters in live game situations. In fact, even if you cut some big time slack on the strict definition of the acronym, you will find very few who even face more left handed batters than right handers.

The Tigers didn't have a single relief pitcher in 2013 who faced more left-handed batters than right-handers. Not Phil Coke, not Darin Downs, not Drew Smyly and not Jose Alvarez. Thirty-one left-handed pitchers in the American League faced at least 140 batters in 2013, and only three of them actually faced more left-handers than right-handers. The three were Wesley Wright of the Astros, Brian Matusz of the Orioles and Joe Ortiz of the Texas Rangers.

Despite the valiant efforts of managers looking for the right match ups, the reality is that about 70 percent of the batters in the majors bat right-handed, so it's very difficult for a pitcher to get a significant amount of work facing only left-handers.

If ever there was a pitcher who should have been used strictly as a LOOGY, the 2013 version of Phil Coke is that guy, right? Coke actually faced 89 right-handers and 88 left-handers, and that's not just because manager Jim Leyland didn't know how to use him.

Around the Central Division, there are a couple of pitchers who faced more left handed hitters than right handers. The Indians' Nick Hagadone faced 68 lefties and 65 right-handers, and Chicago's Donnie Veal might be the closest thing to a LOOGY, facing 78 lefties to just 48 right handers. But then, Veal has a manager who changes pitchers more often than he blinks.

Checking the splits on lefty relievers in the American League in search of a LOOGY, I found no other left handed reliever in the American league faced at least 50 left handed hitters and faced more left handers than right handers for the season. There may be a few more who saw limited action, and hence had limited value to their team.

Veal was actually more effective in his limited action against right-handers than he was against lefties last year. Hagadone didn't allow many hits to either, but walked a lot of both. Wright and Ortiz showed slightly better splits vs left-handed hitters, and Matusz was the only one of the five who was dominant against left-handers, but got killed by right-handed batters.

So what does this mean for the Tigers in 2014? Drew Smyly is gone from the bullpen to the rotation, and Coke is struggling to make the team in any capacity. Ian Krol appears to be the one left-handed reliever with a virtual lock on a roster spot. Krol comes with the reputation of a "LOOGY," because his splits from 2013 show that he was much more effective against left handers than right handers.

Krol faced 56 left handed hitters in 2013, allowing a slash line of .212 / .273 / .320 with an impressive wOBA of just .264. He allowed just one home run, three earned runs, and eleven hits in 13 2/3 innings.

Krol faced 61 right handed hitters in 2013, allowing a slash line of .298 / .350 / .607 with a scary wOBA of .406. He gave up four home runs, 17 hits, and nine earned runs in the same amount- 13 2/3 innings of work.

No doubt Tigers manager Ausmus will try to use Krol in as many favorable match up situations as he can. Being armed with advanced data, he'll be looking to increase the percentage of left-handed batters that Krol faces. But if he starts managing more like Robin Ventura in his efforts, we'll have to be understanding of his methods.

Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski referred to Krol as one of the best young left-handers in the game. If that's the case, he should be able to improve his numbers against right handed hitters as well. If not, he will have much limited value to the Tigers, and Ausmus will be criticized for using his LOOGY reliever incorrectly.

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