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August 10, 2012 5:00 am

Raising Aces: Hocking LOOGYs

6

Doug Thorburn

How do left-handed specialists make the most of their platoon advantage, and at what cost does their approach come?

Growing up left-handed is a tough gig. We left-handers can't write a sentence in ink without needing to wash our hands, classroom scissors malfunction in our claw-like grips, and driving a stick-shift requires a certain degree of ambidexterity. In little league, defensive assignments were restricted to roaming the outfield pasture unless one happened to have a hyperactive pituitary gland, thus earning a trip to play first base with the right-handed infielders. I was able to fool one coach into putting me at catcher for a season, but that experiment was predictably short-lived.

The mound is a southpaw's chance at redemption, where the bar for lefties to gain acceptance is lowered. Left-handers sit right in the cross-hairs of the supply-demand curve in the majors due to the limited player-pool as well as a league-wide desire to exploit platoon splits (see table for 2012 figures). Just 10 percent of the world is left-handed, yet southpaws have been on the mound for 31 percent of all plate appearances this season. Lefty batters make up 44 percent of plate appearances, a function of the advantages that are inherent in a two-step head-start down the line, combined with the reality that it is much easier to switch sides of the plate than it is to alternate throwing arms.

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May 8, 2009 12:11 pm

Checking the Numbers: LOOGYing Around

8

Eric Seidman

Sorting out who's been good and who's been great in situational roles.

Over the last several decades, with the platoon effect becoming more widely understood and exploitable, a flood of pitchers with otherwise weak skills in the broad strokes have found employment in the major leagues. No aspect of the sport has undergone as thoroughgoing a transformation as bullpen usage, and while the idea of a structured relief corps may in fact be inefficient in terms of roster management, it has certainly paved the way for the rise to prominence of a number specialist relievers. Those referred to as LOOGYs-courtesy of John Sickels, who coined the catch-all term for Lefty One-Out GuYs-comprise the vast majority of this new group, entering into the latter stages of a game to try to face a same-handed hitter or two. Pitchers assigned to the role generally dominate lefty batters; approximately three-quarters of the pitches that a batter will see over the course of a season are thrown by right-handers, and a pitch delivered from a southpaw to a left-handed batter can be thrown from a more deceptive angle, altering the perception of the hitter.

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