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July 24, 2014 / Nat Anacostia

Why won’t Williams use Blevins for what he’s good at?

As the season has gone along and Jerry Blevins’ ERA has crept up (now at 4.71), many Nats fans have expressed disappointment in his performance. As we approach the trade deadline, Jim Bowden, for example, has called on the Nats to trade for a lefty reliever.

Blevins is left-handed specialist (sometimes referred to as a LOOGY). I thought I’d look for other left-handed specialists to compare him to, so I started by searching (via baseball-reference.com) for left handers who have pitched at least 20 innings this season and recorded 2.5 or fewer outs per game. Other than Blevins, I found 22 pitchers matching those criteria.

Of course, because left specialists are expected to face multiple batters or because their opponent substitutes a pinch hitter to regain the platoon advantage, all lefty specialists face quite a few right-handed batters. Of the 22 pitchers, 12 faced more left-handed than right-handed batters. Of the 10 who faced more right handers, six (James Russell, Brett Cecil, Wesley Wright, Alex Torres, Rex Brothers, and Aaron Poreda) either had a reverse platoon differential (measured by opponents’ on-base-plus-slugging) or essentially no platoon differential. I pulled these six out of my sample, which left me with 16 pitchers in my comparison group that fit my criteria for left-handed specialists.

These 16 pitchers on average faced 52% left handed batters, with right handed batters having an OPS of .802 and left handed batters an OPS of .597.

In contrast, right handed batters facing Blevins have had an OPS of .860, but left handers have had an OPS of just .370. Only one of the 16 pitchers I’m comparing him to has a lower OPS by left-handed batters (Randy Choate with .339). There’s nothing wrong, and much that is right, with Blevins when he is facing left handers.

The only problem is that he’s not facing left handers as much as most left-handed specialists. Compared with other left-handed specialists, Matt Williams has not leveraged his platoon advantage especially well, with Blevins facing left handers only 46% of the time. With a pitcher like Blevins, the greatest advantage would come from trying to send him in only when he’ll face at least two lefties. With better match ups, Blevins should be pitching better. Rather than trading for a different lefty, let’s educate our manager on how to use the ones he has.

 

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