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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