Is the LOOGY Actually Dying? I'm Not Sure the New Three-Batter Rule Will Actually Have a Huge Impact

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Is the LOOGY Actually Dying? I’m Not Sure the New Three-Batter Rule Will Actually Have a Huge Impact

Chicago Cubs

Possibly the most controversial of the various rules changes being deployed in MLB between last year and this year, the requirement that pitchers face at least three batters (or reach the end of the inning) is going to be a massive discussion point all year. Deserved or not.

Some managers are already beefing about the changes to strategy (which, you know, deal with it?), and many fans are resistant to any change that is as visible as this one is going to be.

For the most part, fan complaints about the change are vague and nonspecific. They don’t like new rules that create artificial restrictions in general, or otherwise threaten to change the game they’ve come to know. I get it. But, specifically, what exactly is the concern with this one? Fewer pitching changes is … bad? More versatile relievers is … bad? More balls in play in key spots late in games is … bad? I don’t mean all of that to sound aggressively rhetorical. I just don’t really get the problem as a general matter.

Among the few specific complaints I’ve seen out there, though, is that the new rule is going to kill the idea of the LOOGY – the lefty one-out guy – which has become a super specialized role for lefty relievers over the years. I don’t exactly know why people care about losing this role from the game, but maybe it’s the fact that an otherwise nondescript pitcher can, for a moment, shut down a lefty-batting superstar. To me, the two pitching changes required to effectuate that moment is hardly worth the drama (to say nothing of the roster management), but I’m not here to tell anyone else how to be a fan. If you like the idea of the match-up lefty coming in from time to time and doing his thing, then hey, I get why you’d hate this new rule.

But maybe the scenario you’re imagining doesn’t actually happen all that often?

ESPN’s Sam Miller took a deep look at how the new three-batter rule would actually impact LOOGY types, and it turns out, the number of appearances last year that would suddenly now be illegal were much more rare than I thought.

For example, the pitcher with the largest number of appearances last year that would now be illegal? Lefty Oliver Perez, with a whopping … 22. That was less than 1/3 of all of Perez’s appearances last year! The LOOGYiest of all LOOGYs currently in the game! Alex Claudio, and extreme-split lefty had 17 illegal appearances, the third most in baseball, and yet that was just 20% of his total appearances. Clearly teams think he’ll still be useful, as the Cubs pursued him and he was ultimately re-signed by the Brewers.

Per Elias, as cited by Miller, the 650 total appearances last year that would be illegal under the new rule accounted for just 4% of the total relief appearances in all of baseball. It’s, wow, really not a lot, it turns out.

That cuts both ways, of course: on the one hand, it’s like, wow, that’s not a lot, so chill out on your complaints. On the other hand, it’s like, wow, that’s not a lot, so how much of a difference will it actually make?

If the goal is to keep the action going on the field, then maybe we’re going to see 650+ fewer pitching changes next year, spread out over 2430 MLB games. A couple fewer minutes of dead time every few games? Yeah, that’s not a lot. I will never complain about incremental improvements, but, upon reflection, this is probably getting too much attention on both sides. I think it’ll be a small net gain, and any loss of “strategic” fun will be made up by the new strategic fun that will replace it, as managers work to game around the rule.



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.