I should start out by saying that I’m not a fan of the LOOGY or Lefty One Out Guy. As I wrote prior to last season, I’m much more interested in relievers who can get batters out from both sides of the plate, regardless of which hand they pitch with. After last season, which saw the Nats bullpen start the season with just one lefty and struggle, many have pinned the blame on the lack of lefties. Mike Rizzo himself has said that finding a lefty specialist is a priority this offseason. The problem though, is that a lack of left handed relievers wasn’t the issue with the Nats bullpen in 2013. Here’s a quick table comparing the Nats reliever’s splits versus left handed batters in 2012 vs. 2013.
While it is clear the Nats performed better against lefties in 2012, it really isn’t that significant of a difference. Granted, this is over the entire year and the Nats later added more lefty relievers. However, I think it is safe to say the Nats pitching versus lefties is not what caused a drop in performance. Instead it was a lack of good performance in general, both from their expected top relievers and lower down. Drew Storen fell off the face of the earth. Ryan Mattheus punched a locker, but was ineffective before that too. Craig Stammen suffered from bouts of inconsistency and bounced around from role to role. Due to the struggles of the others, Henry Rodriguez was forced to pitch more and he predictably struggled. All of these pitchers are right handed. Additionally, the lone lefty, Zach Duke, faced significantly more right handed batters than left. He was more of a reliever who happened to be left handed, than a left handed reliever. In any case, he sucked.
The Nationals bullpen didn’t struggle from a lack of left handed relievers; it struggled from a lack of quality relievers. Still, that was the past and we’re focused on what the Nats need for 2014. To start with let’s look at what their bullpen make-up is already, assuming they use a LOOGY next year.
Closer – Rafael Soriano
Set Up Man – Tyler Clippard
Set Up Man – Drew Storen?
Middle Reliever – Craig Stammen?
Middle Reliever – ?
LOOGY – Ian Krol, Xavier Cedeno
Long Man – Ross Ohlendorf?
If anything the one thing the Nationals do have going into 2014 is a lefty specialist. Last season Krol allowed a .264 wOBA to lefties and a .406 wOBA to righties, while Cedeno allowed .284 and .457 respectively. Neither of these are guys you want facing right handers. Both of them, however, were just as good against lefties as rumored free agent target Boone Logan (.281 wOBA). What the Nats are really missing is relievers who can pitch the later innings, or can be used with the lefty specialists in the middle innings.