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Know Your 40: Boone Logan

Is the 'pen's top lefty really so bad?

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Name: Boone Logan
Position: Reliever (LHP)
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 28 (born 8/13/1984)
Height: 6’5" Weight: 215 lbs.
Remaining Contract: One year, $3.15 million (Free Agent after 2013)
2012 statistics: (MLB) 80 games, 55.1 IP, 3.74 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 7.8 H/9, 4.6 BB/9, 11.1 K/9, 89 ERA-, 86 FIP-

Now that former New York Yankees prospect Arodys Vizcaino is on the Chicago Cubs following a debatable deadline deal, Logan is the only player from the December 2009 Melky-for-Vazquez deal still with his team. That is very odd for a lefty reliever, especially one that only spent half of the previous season at the major-league level. AChicago White Sox draft pick in ’02, Logan made a surprising jump to the pros from High-A in ’06, but it took him until he came to the Yankees to actually have much big-league success.

Despite frustrations with Logan's often-shaky control (he's walked four per nine innings since joining the Yankees), he has done a nice job working around those problems and posting three fine seasons out of the 'pen. In terms of WPA, he has made a slightly positive difference on the team, normally helping the Yankees win games more often than failing. Logan is better than most southpaw relievers with his platoon splits:

Logan, 2010-12 vs. LHB: 81.2 IP, .230/.304/.362, 11.68 K/9, 2.98 BB/9
Logan, 2010-12 vs. RHB, 55.1 IP, .258/.361/.413, 7.48 K/9, 5.53 BB/9

This sample size is better than a single regular season, in which anomalies have popped up like lefties slugging .462 against him in '11 while righties only mustered a .344. While there are obviously differences in the strikeout and walk rates, the triple-slash lines are not exceptionally different from each other. Logan's money pitch is his low-80s slider, which he threw more often than any other pitch last year, 51.4% of the time. It's not the easiest pitch to control, but Logan notched an impressive 41.4% O-Swing% on the pitch last year.

62 of Logan's 68 strikeouts came via the slider, and opposing batters hit just .155/.233/.310 against it. He's certainly becoming a better strikeout artist--his K/9 has been rising each year in pinstripes. His 93-94 mph fastball was not nearly as good despite strong velocity from a lefty, and it was on these pitches that most hitters did their damage against Logan, batting over .300. To combat these struggles, he did seem to have a little more success with a newer two-seamer rather than the standard four-seamer. He did not have much control of the pitch (probably a side effect of not having previously used it much at all), but opposing batters slugged just .355 against it compared to .517 when facing the four-seamer.

The lefty's workload was unmatched by any other AL reliever, as manager Joe Girardi called on him more often than any other man in the league last year. Girardi did a good job limiting these 80 games to only 55.1 innings, and Logan stayed healthy throughout the campaign. Nonetheless, the Yankees are playing it safe in Spring Training with Logan this year after his long season in 2012:

Boone Logan long-tossed yesterday with a white sleeve covering his left elbow, and after the workout, which included fielding drills, the arm was covered with a wrap as he sat at his locker. "We are being cautious with him,’’ pitching coach Larry Rothschild said about the club’s top lefty reliever. "We have decided to slow him down and make sure he catches up before we give him too much.’’- New York Post

The Yankees should keep a careful eye on that elbow after all those sliders Logan threw last year, since he pitched twice as many sliders as he ever had in a season before in his MLB career. It's hard to blame Logan for wanting to rely on the pitch since his fastball was not very effective, but he will likely need to at least mix it up a little bit to avoid injury. Improving both his control and a secondary pitch (perhaps focusing on that two-seamer more) would make him more marketable as well, which is important for him sine he will be a free agent once the year ends. Not every reliever can be Sparky Lyle and live on sliders alone.