The Nats have a problem in their bullpen – getting lefties out. Sean Burnett, the only left handed pitcher in the bullpen (who, by the way, had a 2.14 ERA last season) isn’t doing it. He actually didn’t do it last year either. In 2010, lefties hit .273/.327/.384 against him – he was successful because he dominated righties. Well, this year lefties are doing a little worse (.226/.300/.396) and righties are killing him. And since he was never that good against the lefties anyway, he’s kinda useless at the moment. So where can the Nats turn to help them out? While none of the options are slam dunks, there are some options that make sense.
The Long Time Minor Leaguer
How about someone who’s been around quite a while - Cory VanAllen. VanAllen was a 5th round pick by the Nats in 2006, and has spent the last 6 seasons, including his draft season, in the minors. He’s never made it above AA, but in 2009 he was converted from an unsuccessful starter to a decent reliever. More importantly, the 26 year old is a lefty who has gotten lefties out this year. His season ERA at Harrisburg is 2.68, and he’s struck out 48 in 37 IP, although he has walked 17. But against LH hitters, he has 18 IP (almost 50%, indicating how he’s been used in AA) and in that time he’s walked 9 but struck out 30. That’s right, against lefties, he has a 15 K/9 (small sample size of course).
The negatives are of course, he’s a bit wild, and has never pitched over AA. The positive is a big one – he can get lefties out. Since nobody else in the bullpen can really make that claim, other Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, it’s a real possibility.
The Righty That Doesn’t Care
Ok, so I exaggerated a little bit in the above paragraph. The closer and the setup man mentioned above aren’t the only guys in the bullpen that seem to be able to get lefties out. There is… another. Wild thing Henry Rodriguez has almost identical OPS against for lefties or righties. He actually has pitched quite a bit against lefties, with 66 of the 146 PAs against vs LH batters. However, there are indications that his lefty success isn’t as sustainable. First of all, he has more walks against then (12) then he does against righties (8) and he has more BB than K against them. He also doesn’t strike them out nearly as much as he does righties. But, he has gotten them out so far, and that beats what Burnett has done.
The Guy With the Name
Then there’s Atahualpa Severino, a lefty from the Dominican Republic who is listed at 5’9″. He’s also a sidearm thrower, which makes it even more difficult for lefty batters to pick up the ball. But he’s only thrown 16 1/3 innings this year, and in that time has amassed a whopping 4 2/3 IP against lefties. That is so small of a sample I won’t even bother to talk about his Ks and BBs (4/4) in that time. But in 2010, he did decently against lefties. In 26 1/3 IP, he struck out 18 and walked 9, and gave up only 3 extra base hits. His FIP against lefties was 3.56, indicating an average pitcher against them, something probably better than the current bullpen options. And really, don’t you just want to hear Ray Knight try and say his name?