The Dodgers bullpen has been a large mess and due to injuries and ineffectiveness, Don Mattingly finds himself trying to figure out new roles for his relief core in late August. With this, we find ourselves with Jamey Wright as the Dodgers new LOOGY*. This is unusual since he is right handed and doesn’t fit the stereotypical qualifications for this role, not to mention he has pitched since 1996 (yikes) and has spent his entire career as a starter/swingman/mop-up type guy. How did the Dodgers get here?
*LOOGY stands for “Lefty One-Out Guy”. It could also be another word for a snot rocket shooting out of your nose, which is sometimes a reasonable nickname for Jamey Wright. But in this case, it stands for those relievers that make close to a million dollars a year to come in to a game, pitch to one batter, then go home.
J.P. Howell has pretty much taken over as the most reliable set up man for Don Mattingly, due to his great numbers this year mixed in with Brian Wilson and Brandon League both being unreliable. Paco Rodriguez came up for awhile and looked like a perfect solution for the Dodgers: Someone the Dodgers could use against lefties in the 6th or 7th innings, meanwhile using Brandon League (who should only be used against righties, as we were reminded by Lyle Overbay) to take care of righties. Sadly, Paco was quickly injured and it is uncertain when he will be back. Now, the Dodgers find themselves with only one lefty in the bullpen, with that lefty being needed for late, high leverage innings. The rest of the bullpen consists of Brian Wilson, who will seemingly also be used for late innings, Brandon League, Carlos Frias, Jamey Wright, and Pedro Baez. With Frias taking over the swing-man role, Jamey Wright finds himself in more important roles and Mattingly has said he would like to use him to get tough lefties out. Let’s see if that will work.
Jamey Wright has been much better this year against lefties then righties, backing up Mattingly’s decision. Lefties are hitting .168/.248/.181 with a .196 wOBA. He has a 8.20 K/9 and a 3.42 BB/9. Compare this to righties, where they are hitting .286/.372/.398 with a .342 wOBA, 5.72 K/9 and 3.30 BB/9. That difference is astronomical this year. Although the sample size is a bit small, the sample size on each is not very different. Jamey has faced 105 lefties compared to 133 righties. Righties are hitting like Adam Jones this year, and lefties are hitting worse then Joaquin Arias. So in terms of this year, it seems logical for Jamey to be a LOOGY, but also to make sure he stays away from all righties in a tight situation. He is the opposite of Brandon League, which would make a nice pairing for the 6th-7th inning if utilized correctly.
Prior to just 2014, the numbers look far more even between righties and lefties. From 2012-2013, lefties hit .234/.334/.322 with a .291 wOBA and righties hit .266/.329/.339 with a .294 wOBA.** Those numbers aren’t bad at all against lefties, but what it does show is that this year has been very strange for Jamey Wright. For two seasons prior to this, Wright has fared very similarly to lefties and righties, making him ideal to complete multiple innings; even if you take back the sample size a year or two further, it’s similar. For whichever reason, 2014 has been a year that Wright has shown crazy splits. Maybe it’s the randomness of the game, maybe it’s one of his pitches getting worse against righties but better against lefties, and maybe who knows. But the fact of the matter is that he has been amazing versus lefties, and terrible versus righties, making him ideal to be a LOOGY. He also has enough evidence of solid success against lefties in his past to make it justifiable to be in this role.
The Dodgers bullpen is going to be scary the rest of the way, with the 6th-8th innings making fans have their hearts beat way out of their chests. Don Mattingly is trying to find the best roles possible for his relievers, and it seems as if his decision to place Wright into a more established role as a LOOGY is one that could greatly benefit the team moving forward. Hopefully, Wright’s success against lefties continue and he also stays away from righties.