📌 Join the BPCrew Chapter in your city and meet up with more Yankees fans! 👉 CLICK HERE

The Yankees southpaw bullpen

Following the move of Chris Capuano to the bullpen and after David Carpenter was designated for assignment with the return of Masahiro Tanaka from the DL, the Yankees bullpen now consists of five lefties and two righties.  Bullpens typically utilize lefties for balance and to try to offset opposing teams power hitters in late game matchups.  However, five lefties would definitely seem to defy conventional strategy.

The Yankees, like every other team in baseball, have always been on the search for adding a lefty specialist (LOOGY) to their roster.  For years, it felt like the Yankees kept a bullpen spot just to have someone to face David Ortiz.  When Boone Logan made 80 appearances in 2012, he only pitched 55.1 innings that season.  Obviously, having one roster spot limited to this amount of usage seems like a bit of a waste.

So now the Yankees have Capuano, Andrew MIller, Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren, and Justin Wilson in the bullpen as lefties.  Certainly, this isn’t a move to make the most of strategic matchups at the end of games as there are only so many left handed batters out there.  What is behind this oddity of lefties?  Is it in-game strategy?  Is it planned organizational development?  Or just chance?  Probably a little of all these things.

The quintet of lefties the Yankees have on their roster all share one similar trait.  The ability to get batters out from both sides of the plate.  And rather successfully, at that.  League average for LH relievers vs RH batters plays out to a slash line of .256/.324/.409.  Here is how the Yankees lefties are faring against RH batters:

Andrew Miller             .071/.226/.129

Chasen Shreve            .167/.211/.278

Justin Wilson              .212/.303/.333

Jacob Lindgren           .250/.307/.350

Chris Capuano             .241/.296/.357

Capuano’s numbers are for his career and Lindgren’s are obviously from a small sample size, but he has shown the same tendencies during his college career at Mississippi State as well as his short stint in the Yankees minor league system.  All five are well above league average in all three categories.

What is making these lefties successful is an ability to generate a larger than normal amount of swings and misses on both fastballs and sliders.  Both of these pitches are also generating a large number of ground balls, which obviously plays up in Yankee Stadium.  Relief pitchers that generate these outcomes are always in demand and are typically very successful.  Miller and Wilson have the added bonus of being able to run their fastballs up to 95 MPH, while Shreve and Lindgren will depend more on movement with fastballs in the 90-92 MPH range.

Overall, then, it probably doesn’t make much sense to say a team has “too many” left-handed relief pitchers. Perhaps balance matters in that it might make some difference, but that has to be a much smaller factor than the overall quality of the pitchers themselves; it makes far more sense to go with the best relievers you can find, and figure the balance will work itself out, than to worry about their handedness.

More than likely the look of the Yankees bullpen will change over the course of the rest of 2015.  Short relievers tend to be very volatile and go through periods of ineffectiveness.  For now, having multiple left handers that can not only get batters out from both sides of the plate, but are capable of pitching multiple innings if needed, is giving the Yankees the advantage they need to finish off opponents and stay in first place in the AL East.  And I am certain some fans will like the face that this seems to be one instance of throwing Joe Girardi‘s binder out the window and just using the best available players.