With the Yankee bullpen weakened by injuries to Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, and David Robertson, the rest of the relievers have had to put on their big boy pants and pitch more meaningful innings than were asked of them before. Carrying two LOOGYs in your bullpen obviously limits the flexibility you have to fill in the necessary innings because to be considered a lefty specialist, it usually means that you are the equivalent of nuclear waste against right-handed batters. Either way, Boone Logan has had to be more than just a LOOGY for the 2012 Yankees, and he hasn't been half bad at it so far.
I have not been shy about my negative feelings for Boone Logan. Since becoming a Yankee, it seemed like he managed to constantly do something wrong in a key situation that drove all of us insane, and because of that, I dubbed him the LNOGY, or Lefty No Out Guy. It's possible that my disdain for him was a little unfair at times, but that's not the point.
In 2012, Logan has gone from LOOGY to Rafael Soriano's set-up man that gets out both lefties and righties, which may be because he is way less terrible against righties than fellow LOOGY Clay Rapada. In any other year, putting him in that role could have been a disaster, but the nightmarish results have really not been there so far this season. I haven't felt the need to cover my eyes when Girardi calls for Boone from the bullpen, and that's a huge step up from where we were in the past.
Logan has been very effective in 18.2 innings so far this year, and has a higher K/9 (13.98) than he has ever had as a Yankee. Admittedly, this is a small sample size, but it's not as though Boone is pitching the same as we've known him to and just riding the luck train to positive results. Something is different.
The slider. In the three years prior to now, Logan has thrown his fastball over 60% of the time. Going away from that a bit and throwing the slider more has yielded very positive results so far in 2012, obviously. So, he's throwing it more. Big deal, right? Well, it would be one thing if Boone was simply throwing the slider more often than he had in the past, but that is not the case.
According to PITCHf/x, the sliders he is throwing are also more effective (valuable) than they have been in the past, per 100 sliders thrown. That value likely stems from the fact that the slider has been better at limiting the contact batters can make off of it. Logan's contact% is lower and his swinging strike% is higher than they have been in any season, which is certainly a positive change for any pitcher. His 59.4 contact% and 17.7 swinging strike% would easily be the best of his career should they continue to hold up over the course of the season, and obviously there is no guarantee that that will happen. It's not intelligent to draw sweeping conclusions from only 18.2 innings, but it's fair to say that, at least so far, Logan has been a more effective pitcher.
(via Joe Lefkowitz)
His slider has resulted in a 29% whiff rate, easily the best of his pitches this year, which is likely a big contributor to the improved effectiveness. The chart above shows the location of said whiffs with the right-side up blue triangles. Conclusion? A lot of batters have gone fishing for the pitch and came up empty-handed. It has only been put in play 6.2% of the time despite being the pitch he has thrown most often this year. It's really difficult to think that the improved slider hasn't played a huge role in his results.
I'm not going to say that you should apologize to Boone Logan or anything like that, because for all we know, he reverts back to the previous LNOGY form tomorrow. We'll all happily take the Boone Logan that doesn't cause us to cover our eyes and pray when he enters the game, though, and I hope that that is the Boone Logan we get for the rest of 2012 at least. He needs to continue throwing that slider effectively and often for that to be a reality.