New York Mets Running Low on Left-Handed Relievers

By Paul Festa
Scott Rice
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets suddenly have a L.O.O.G.Y. problem.

L.O.O.G.Y., for the uninitiated, stands for Left-handed One-Out GuY. It refers to those left-handed relief pitchers that every team has: They come in for one left-handed batter, get one out, then exit the game in favor of a right-handed reliever. The Mets have a scarcity of them early in 2014.

Coming into the season, Scott Rice was that guy. Last year, in 73 appearances, he held lefties to a minuscule .468 OPS. However, he was used a lot. Had it not been for his hernia surgery, he probably would have pushed 90 appearances. All of that use last year seems to have affected him this year.

So far in 2014, he has a 12.00 ERA and has been touched up by lefties, who have a .717 OPS against him. Rice’s main issue is falling behind batters. He comes in to face his one lefty, then immediately gets behind 2-0. If he can get ahead of hitters, he’ll probably turn things around. If not, the Mets don’t have much of a safety net.

They just out-righted John Lannan to the minor leagues — Lannan has 72 hours to decide whether or not to report. He was so unreliable that manager Terry Collins didn’t even use him in a 9-0 Mets blowout on Tuesday night. The 29-year-old had a 15.75 ERA in five appearances. In Lannan’s defense, he was asked to take on a role he’d never had — Lannan was a starting pitcher his whole career until the last week of this year’s Spring Training.

At Triple-A Las Vegas, lefties Josh Edgin and Dana Eveland have matching 8.44 ERAs. Just a year ago, Edgin was seen as the future of L.O.O.G.Y.s in Queens, but since then, his star has fallen as quickly as his velocity.

At Double-A Binghamton, Jack Leathersich is a left-handed reliever, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s effective against left-handed batters. Leathersich has what’s known as “reverse splits.” That means he’s actually more effective against righties than lefties — and that trend has continued in a small sample this year. He also has what’s known as “control problems,” meaning he walks a bunch of guys. He has the potential to be a late-inning reliever in the majors, but he doesn’t fix the Mets’ L.O.O.G.Y. problem.

The Mets could be forced to think outside the box and find a right-handed pitcher who has good reverse splits against lefties. Currently, starting pitcher Jacob deGrom has held lefties to a .138 batting average this year. Rafael Montero has held them to a .200 average. Each a small sample size, but each player has been rumored as a candidate for the major league bullpen this year.

The alternative is simply not to use a L.O.O.G.Y. at all, and hope your right-handed pitchers can get batters out, no matter what side of the plate they stand on. This would put the Mets at a disadvantage in this age of specialization, and would probably cost them a game every now and then. But it’s better than running out an ineffective lefty all the time.

Rice could bounce back, if last season is any indication. But if he falters, the Mets don’t have much in the way of a Plan B.

Paul J. Festa is a baseball writer for Follow him on Twitter at @pauljfesta and add him on Google.

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