Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.

Two lefties in the postseason bullpen? Why?

Posted by: Howard Sinker under Ron Gardenhire, Twins pitching, Twins postseason Updated: September 23, 2010 - 11:27 AM

Sport for Twins fans right now is to figure out the 25-man playoff roster. Gardy has been dropping hints -- 11-man pitching staff, Jose Morales getting a start at first base, balancing let's-take-a-look game management with the goal of having the best record in the American League.

Prevailing wisdom right now is that either Scott Baker or Kevin Slowey will be left off the roster because the Twins need only four starting pitchers -- and one of those two will be the long man in the bullpen.

That would make sense, except that Jose Mijares, Glen Perkins and Randy Flores aren't exactly lefties with a track record of retiring lefties. Should any of those three be on the roster?

We've written a few times that Flores has faced eight lefties since joining the Twins, retiring one of 'em. For the season, including his time in Colorado, lefties have a .293 average/.388 on-base percentage/.888 OPS against him.

Mijares? His numbers are .283/.321/.812 -- and lefties have extra-base hits against him in nine of 57 plate appearances. (Context and bulk: Left-handed batters have only six extra-base hits against Francisco Liriano in 168 plate appearances and eight in 109 PAs against Jesse Crain.)

Perkins? This season, his tiny sample numbers against lefties are .190/.261/.499 in 23 PAs. But his career numbers are .318/.392/.833.

Two comparisons:

Brian Fuentes this season is .140/.240/.403 against lefties. He's the platinum standard.

And OPS numbers against lefties for the right-handed set-up guys? Crain .631, Matt Guerrier .678, Jon Rauch .745.

And the guys on the bubble? Slowey .708 and Baker .833.

I'm assuming that Flores has performed his way out of consideration and that Mijares leads Perkins, who could make the team as an injury replacement even though he wasn't  called up until after Sept 1. But Mijares gave up hits to all three lefties who faced him on Tuesday. Cleveland lefties, including Luis Valbuena.

If the Twins had a more reliable second lefty, it wouldn't be much of an issue -- but by the numbers and in their makeup -- I'd rather have any of the three set-up righties facing a left-handed bat than the current versions of Mijares or Perkins.

And I'd rather have Slowey and Baker on the roster than one of those lefties. In a best-case scenario, their biggest roles in the playoffs are running onto the field in displays of man love and spraying champagne in the clubhouse. But given all the things that can go funky in the postseason, moving both right-handed starters into the bullpen makes me more comfortable than the thought of Mijares or Perkins pitching in a key situation.

 

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