Saving Dotel for Righties

A huge part of the Cardinals’ postseason success thus far can be attributed to their bullpen. In particular, journeyman right-hander Octavio Dotel, who was picked up by St. Louis at the trade deadline, has looked dominant during October; as of Sunday, he has thrown 9 innings over 9 games, allowing three hits, two runs, a walk, and a hit batter while striking out 11.

Dotel has two pitching characteristics that have helped make him more effective against right-handed hitters than against lefties: for one, he throws from a ¾ angle, which typically makes it easier for opposite-handed batters to see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand. Also, Dotel does not utilize a changeup or splitter in his repertoire, so he does not have a pitch that moves away from lefties to complement his fastball/slider/curveball arsenal. Dating back to 2002, Dotel has stellar against right-handed hitters and less-so against lefties:

    PA   ERA   K%  BB%
LHB 1013 3.92  23% 13%
RHB 1380 2.95  34%  8%

And if we look at some PITCHf/x stats, for which we have data back to 2008, we have some more strikeout-related metrics to back up this claim:

     Fastball#  Fastball Whiff%  Breaking Ball#  Breaking Ball Whiff%
LHB  1213       22%              234             28%
RHB  2323       31%              530             37%

This has made Dotel’s managers (and there have been plenty of them) more willing to throw him against righties, to varying extents (data below are since 2008, and all are for regular season games except for the last row):

                PA    RHB%
Chicago         537   68%
Pittsburgh      170   55%
Los Angeles     77    64%
Colorado        28    71%
Toronto         112   60%
St. Louis       96    63%
'11 Postseason  33    79%

Note that Dotel served as the Pirates’ closer at the beginning of 2010, so he faced a higher percentage of lefties than he has in his standard setup role.

Tony La Russa, never afraid to make a pitching change, has used Dotel against a right-handed hitter in 26 of 33 total plate appearances this postseason. While it may not be necessary for all relievers, La Russa’s short leash with Dotel against opposite-handed batters seems to be a good strategy.

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10 Responses to “Saving Dotel for Righties”

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  1. Bob Loblaw says:

    Lucas – in your first data chart, something looks a little funky…

    His K% against righties was only 8% and his walk rate was 34%!?!?!

    Did you get those backwards?

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  2. IvanGrushenko says:

    How is ERA vs L and vs R calculated?

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Not sure, but I’d guess it’d be based on earned runs and outs that occurred while a R/L hitter was at the plate.

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  3. CircleChange11 says:

    Tony La Russa, never afraid to make a pitching change, has used Dotel against a right-handed hitter in 26 of 33 total plate appearances this postseason.

    … but forgot to bring him in to face Mike Napoli with 2 guys on, trailing 1-0.

    Mitchell F Boggs.

    If a reliever was really good at get LHB and RHB out then he’s be [1] a closer, [2] a strarter, more times than not.

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      TLR should have stashed Scrabble (because i cant spell his name) in the outfield and brought in a righty to face napoli, then brought scrabble back in for the second lefty. and why did he bring in lance lynn to face only one batter… and to intentionally walk that one batter? that seemed a little bit absurd to me, especially considering they were trying to make it to extra innings, so burning a multiple inning reliever makes no sense.

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  4. Most awesome thing about this: the number of teams Dotel has been on since 2008. Wow.

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  5. Will H. says:

    Leave it to the Bucs…

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  6. Slats says:

    Doesn’t matter to Michael Young.

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  7. Matty Brown says:

    …just don’t use him for intentional walks…

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