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As the MLB offseason progressed this winter, the Nationals seemed to develop a need for left-handed pitching in the bullpen. It was a strength in 2012, but Mike Gonzalez, Sean Burnett, and Tom Gorzelanny all departed to other clubs. Rumors emerged involving pitchers like Jeremy Affeldt and J.P. Howell, but they signed elsewhere.
Then the calendar turned and Washington general manager Mike Rizzo still hadn’t signed another lefty who projects as a primary reliever. He was asked about the vacancy in early January by The Washington Post:
“The right left-handed reliever would be great,” Rizzo said. “I think Davey likes to have at least two left-handed relievers in his bullpen. But we have a very unique and special type of bullpen. Our right-handers get left-handed hitters better than most left-handed specialists get them out. It’s not something that we feel that we have to do.”
Rizzo revealed that the team may, in fact, not sign another left-hander at all. They have Zach Duke re-signed who figures to play a bigger role in 2013, likely as a lefty long reliever, but that may be it. Former first round pick Bill Bray was also signed, but he isn’t expected to be a significant contributor.
Rizzo’s contention is that he already has a group of relief pitchers who can get lefties out and it doesn’t matter what side they throw it from.
“The reason for that is that we feel our right-handed relievers get out lefties and [Manager] Davey [Johnson is] not a big left-on-left, one-batter-at-a-time type of manager anyways.”
Rizzo was talking about guys like Tyler Clippard and Ryan Mattheus. Clippard has held lefties to a .186 average and .593 OPS across 698 batters faced. Those numbers are noticeably better than his stats against right-handers, a .213 batting average against and .691 opponent’s OPS.
Mattheus has faced fewer lefties in his time, 162 total plate appearances, but boasts a .214 batting average against. Drew Storen has also been strong against them with a .229 BAA and .583 OPS.
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