Thursday, August 12, 2010

Glen Perkins is Not a LOOGY

Middle school students associate the word "loogie" with a big wad of spit laced with mucus. Baseball fans are more familiar with the spelling LOOGY and the acronym for which it stands: Lefty One-Out GuY. This refers to a left-handed pitcher whose sole duty in the bullpen is coming in to retire tough left-handed hitters. While these relievers don't always strictly follow the usage pattern that the LOOGY label would suggest (often they face multiple batters in a game), it's clear what their specialty is.

The Twins have largely relied on two pitchers to fill this role in the 2010 season: Jose Mijares and Ron Mahay. While Mahay has been effective against left-handed hitters, most people (rightfully) do not view him as a particularly reliable option in high-leverage situations so Mijares has been the go-to guy when multiple left-handed hitters have been due up with the game on the line.

Unfortunately, Mijares injured his knee while trying to make a play at first base in last night's game and is headed for the disabled list. Since left-hander Glen Perkins had already been called up to the big-league roster as a spot starter for Wednesday's game, the prevailing wisdom as that he should be moved to the bullpen as Mijares' short-term replacement.

However, this cannot be emphasized enough: Perkins is NOT a candidate to become a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen.

That's because, despite the fact that he throws with his left arm, Perkins has proven over a lengthy period of time that he is simply not an asset against left-handed hitters.

Over 117 innings with Triple-A Rochester this season, Perkins has allowed a .327 batting average against lefty hitters, compared to .305 for righties. His strikeout rate against righties during that span (7.56 K/9IP) has actually been markedly better than his strikeout rate against lefties (4.76 K/9IP).

The trend is not unique to this season. In his minor-league career, Perkins has allowed a .277 average against left-handed batters as opposed to .254 against righties. His K-rate against righties is 8.29 compared to 7.71 against lefties. While his control has been slightly better against left-handers (3.29 BB/9IP to 3.00), the difference is negligible.

Those patterns have also been reflected during Perkins' major-league time, during which he has allowed a .327 average and .857 OPS against lefties, versus a .283 average and .786 OPS against righties. In 286 big-league innings, Perkins has posted a solid 107-to-46 strikeout-to-walk ratio against right-handers, while the ratio against lefties is an ugly 40-to-30.

I'll point out that right-handers have always been able to hit Perkins harder (69 of the 82 home runs he's allowed in his pro career have come against righties), but the statistics make it clear that Perkins is far from dominant against left-handed batters.

With his 6.08 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in Triple-A this year, Perkins doesn't belong on a big-league roster to begin with. But if the Twins are thinking he might be an asset as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen in the absence of Mijares, they're sadly mistaken.

It's just irresponsible to overlook the mounds of evidence suggesting that Perkins is far less effective against lefties than righties, regardless of which arm he throws with.


Mike M. said...

Hopefully, the Twins can fill this need through a waiver deal, but it is probably unlikely given the demand for quality relievers.

Matt said...

Too bad Neshek probably won't make it up to the Twins this year. I remember he was used as a lefty specialist in Rochester due to his funky movement on the ball.
I think they'll just have to tough it out until Mijares comes back, hopefully he's not too badly hurt.

Nick N. said...

Too bad Neshek probably won't make it up to the Twins this year. I remember he was used as a lefty specialist in Rochester due to his funky movement on the ball.

I don't think that's true. Neshek has always struggled against lefties.

Matt said...

Hey, not to nit pick, but I had to do it...
I pulled three year splits (2007-2009) for Neshek against right and left handed batters:
RHB: .193/.260/.335 (avg/obp/slg)
LHB: .193/.286/.368
His K rate is also higher against RHBs and walk rate lower as well. So, lefties do cause him a bit more trouble.

So, you're right in the sense that lefties hit a bit better, power wise, and take more walks/strikeout less. Still, I'd take that line over Perkins' any day!

rghrbek said...


I, like you, have been somewhat flummoxed with all the comments about Perkins filling in for fat Jose.

You get into it in more detail, but he should not be in the bullpen. He should not be with the big club right now. He is just not very good. If they can't, pick up a guy on waivers, or promote Salama, or one of the other dudes in the bullpen down there.

Good post.

cy1time said...

Perkins just isn't very good at all. I think he needs a change of scenery.

Son of Shane Mack said...

I believe Neshak used to have more trouble against lefties earlier in his career.

During one off-season, he developed a change-up whose purpose was to give him not only an additional pitch and speed change but something with contrary movement to throw to left-handed hitters (contrary movement to the normal slider/curveball movement).

It seems that he's been more effective against all hitter since then, though I didn't look up statistics for this, yet.

USAFChief said...

I don't think "Perkins is less effective against LH hitters than RH hitters" is the issue, Nick.

The issue is "Is Perkins more effective against certain LH hitters than the RH options the Twins have in the bullpen."

It's not like the Twins are putting Perkins in the pen and keeping Matt Thornton in AAA. They're betting that he'll be able to do a better job of getting a key LH hitter or two out than Matt Guerrier or Anthony Slama or some such reliever.

Proud said...

I won't say you're wrong here, but until the Twins pick up a left-handed specialist off waivers expect Perkins to be just that out of necessity, then transition him to long relief for the playoffs.