Can we count on this guy in October? Photo via getty images
We’ve clearly seen some middle relief issues lately, despite nearly sweeping a 4-game set in Atlanta this past weekend. And one of the issues we’ve been continually discussing is our left-handed relief options.
We traded Felipe Rivero. Oliver Perez has a 5.61 ERA. Sammy Solis just had an MRI on his left shoulder. Matt Grace has nice looking AAA numbers, but got shellacked last year (2.00 whip in 26 innings) during a brief call-up. Nick Lee was so ineffective this year that he passed completely through waivers when we DFA’d him off the 40-man. We just paid cash for twice-TJ survivor and ex Nat Sean Burnett, whose AAA numbers look good but is now on his fourth organization of 2016.
Do we have a LOOGY problem?
I constantly have to remind myself of this sentence: “You don’t have to be left-handed in order to get lefties out.” That and this sentence: “If your lefty splits are good … then you’re still a good LOOGY option.”
Here’s the 2016 versus lefty splits for every reliever on our 40-man, RHP or LHP. And then lets add in some of the call-up candidates just for fun… (all numbers as of 8/21/16’s Atlanta game via baseball-reference.com):
Right Handed reliever options
- Melancon: .202/.253/.274 for an .527 OPS; as you’d expect, an elite closer gets both lefties and righties out.
- Treinen: .211/.357/.351 for an .708 OPS. Not bad.
- Kelley: .250/.294/.609 for an .903 OPS. Not good.
- Petit: .261/.327/.511 for an .838 OPS. Again, not really that good, but then again that’s not what we’re asking him to do generally.
- Belisle: .150/.203/.267 for an .470 OPS. Wow; that’s better than any of our lefties.
- Glover: minimal stats in MLB; for 2016 he had a .161 BAA in AAA, .250 in AA and .143 in High-A for lefty splits (which are kind of hard to come by at milb.com). That looks promising, but he seems to be more effective against righties.
Left Handed reliever options
- Perez: .217/.321/.377 for an .698 OPS. Its his rightly split that’s killing him.
- Solis: .200/.279/.273 for an .551 OPS. Awesome … if we can get him back healthy.
- Sean Burnett: Again, minor league splits are harder to come by, but Burnett had a .150 BAA against in 12 IP in his longest AAA stint of the year.
- Bryan Harper: .161 BAA in AAA this year, even better .091 while in AA. And it’d be cool to have him on a roster with his brother. But he’s on the D/L right now.
- Matt Grace: .207 BAA in AAA this year … but as noted above he struggled in his 2015 audition.
Rivero, by the way, has this for a lefty split in 2016: .325/.424/.429 for an .852 OPS. A .325 BAA; no wonder they were willing to part with him. He was a lefty who couldn’t get lefties out.
What if we thought outside the box a bit?
- Reynaldo Lopez: .180/.250/.340 for an .590 OPS. Interesting; we’ve already talked at length about Lopez being a fire-baller out of the pen for a post-season team and his lefty splits are good.
- Lucas Gioilto: .269/.406/.462 for an .868 OPS; not nearly as impressive.
- Aaron Laffey: just a .254 BAA in AAA this year in a swing-man role.
- Nick Lee: the aforementioned struggling lefty is the only other lefty in the minors above High-A; he’s got a decent .214 BAA against lefties in AA … but his overall ERA/Whip is ugly; 4.73 and 1.77,
- I didn’t go to High-A, where we have a couple of lefty prospects but they’re no where near consideration for a call-up.
So, we need Solis back; he’s the closest thing we have to a matchup lefty who we can count on. But clearly Belisle’s numbers make him a matchup option too, despite his being a rightly. It reminds me of when we had Tyler Clippard, who always had stellar lefty splits. Perez’s split line isn’t great; I feel like we should be pushing him almost all the way to the mop-up/Petit role right now.
Are you concerned though? On a whole, the Nats bullpen has been one of the best in all of baseball. Are the falterings lately just due to a too many innings thanks to a couple of bad starter outings?