Mets Desperate for a LOOGY

Over the winter, the Mets succeeded in overhauling their bullpen. Whether the change of faces will make a difference remains to be seen, but nearly every reliever on the team this time last year has been replaced.

Every one, that is, except for Pedro Feliciano, the Mets’ lone lefty.

Once piece missing from the overhaul, though, was the acquisition of a second lefty, or Lefthanded One Out Guy (LOOGY), to help out Feliciano. An extra lefty is especially necessary in the NL East, where the Braves and Phillies both send up dangerous lefthanded hitters.

Thus far, the Mets have auditioned Jon Switzer, Ron Villone, Casey Fossum, Valerio De Los Santos, Heriberto Rueles, and Tom Martin. Today they begin the tryout of 40-year-old Japanese hurler Ken Takahashi — presumably as a test for the upcoming weekend series against the lefty-heavy Phils. The Mets are desperate to find a somewhat reliable lefthanded option to team with their incumbent LOOGY.

But there’s a small problem: Pedro Feliciano is a shaky option himself.

Over his career, Feliciano has done a good job of retiring the Phillies’ top LH hitters — Ryan Howard has a .190 AVG against him and Chase Utley has hit .174. Feliciano has also done fairly well against switch-hitters Shane Victorino (.071) and Jimmy Rollins (.278). But, the rest of the current Phillies who have faced him before are hitting .500.

That’s not a huge deal, though, since there are a lot of “1-for-2s” there. A larger sample size may change those numbers drastically for the better.

What IS a huge deal is that the 2008 Phillies team hit .370 (10-for-33) against Feliciano, with a 1.040 OPS. Also alarming is the fact that in 2008, the first batter facing Feliciano hit .311 with a .400 OBP. That’s not good news for someone who often comes into a game with runners on base.

Unfortunately, things don’t get better for Feliciano when he starts an inning. Leadoff hitters were 13-for-33 (.333) with a .395 OBP and a .959 OPS.

Thus far this year, Feliciano is doing pretty well, with 10 Ks in 7 innings, and holding opposing batters to a .222 batting average (lefties: .176, righties: .300). He had a similarly strong start last year, posting a 0.97 ERA and 9 Ks in 9 IP in April. After that, though, his performance was inconsistent.

So while some believe the Mets need a secondary lefty for the bullpen, the reality may be that they need a primary lefty.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. D.J. Short April 27, 2009 at 12:57 pm
    The Mets currently have a LOOGY and his name is Pedro Feliciano. I don’t want to see him against a right-handed batter ever.
  2. isuzudude April 28, 2009 at 8:53 am
    I think Feliciano should be allowed to face right hand batters when the situation presents itself. For example, say he’s brought in to pitch the 7th with the Mets up by 2. Due up in the inning, in cronological order, is a lefty, righty, lefty, and a lefty in the hole. Feliciano has to stay in to face those 4 hitters, if only because of the 2 lefties following the righty. Otherwise, you bring in a righty to get the righty out, and you’re stuck with a righty pitching to 2 straight lefties. I concur that Feliciano should primarily be facing lefties, but that doesn’t mean he should be taken out of the game anytime he’s scheduled to face a righty. His 2008 numbers against righties were atrocious, but he pitched 24 innings against righties, compared to 29.1 against lefties, a horrible ratio for a LOOGY that should be blamed on management. But his 2007 and 2006 numbers against righties were both very good, so there was every reason to believe last year that Feliciano was the “crossover” lefty the Mets are looking for now.

    However, I agree Feliciano’s crossover days should be put to rest. And with the lack of quality depth of left handed relievers in the organization, it really boggles my mind why Ron Villone was barely considered (and who is now pitching well for AAA Syracuse) and why the Mets were never on the trail of Wil Ohman, who signed cheaply with the Dodgers.