The No Lefty Pen
Don Wakamatsu confirmed last night that the Mariners would open the season without a single left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. Tyler Johnson will eventually join the team and take over the LH setup role, but until then, Wak’s got an abundance of right-handers to choose from when he needs a relief pitcher.
Honestly, this shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Late game match-up pitching has been taken to the absurd extreme in baseball over the last ten years, and while having a variety of options to choose from is a benefit, the real key to managing a bullpen is to give your best pitchers as many high leverage innings as possible. What we saw from Mike Hargrove and John McLaren over the past few years was a slave mentality to decision making by handedness – an LHB coming to the plate? Bring me John Parrish!
Wakamatsu said early in camp that he wasn’t big on the late game bullpen shuffle, and this backs it up as much as anything else. It seems apparent that the Mariners are going to ask their relievers to pitch full innings – it’s doubtful we see nearly as many mid-inning pitching changes as we have in years past. That’s just fine with me. There’s a time to exploit platoon splits, but in general, the over-specialization of the bullpens hasn’t given teams a real advantage.
It willl be refreshing to see a manager make decisions for himself, rather than going by what small sample size matchups tell him he should do.