Monday, June 8, 2009

Red Sox relievers and Yankee switch-hitters

When the Red Sox and the Yankees met the first time, we broke down in this space how Terry Francona might deploy his bullpen against the numerous switch-hitters in the lineup. Two months later, some things have changed -- and some things have stayed exactly the same.

Righty Manny Delcarmen, lefty Hideki Okajima and righty Ramon Ramirez remain Francona’s top setup options. Even better, all three have proven they can pitch against lefties and righties with impressive effectiveness. To wit:

Against lefties
Okajima (45 PA): .119/.178/.262
Ramirez (50 PA): .119/.245/.214
Delcarmen (59 PA): .200/.293/.260

Against righties
Ramirez (53 PA): .180/.226/.220
Okajima (55 PA): .239/.333/.391
Delcarmen (44 PA): .256/.341/.333

That effectiveness means that Francona doesn’t have to worry so much about traditional head-to-head matchups. Just look at the numbers: Okajima has pitched more against righties than against lefties, and Delcarmen has pitched more against lefties than against righties.

"We want to be consistent in what we do -- and maybe it doesn't look like it, but I don't think our pitchers think there's some craziness or it's chaotic," Francona said. "They've got a pretty good idea of who they're going to face, and they understand that in certain situations of the game, if the game is in the balance, we want to go to them. ...

"I know Oki gets lefties out than he gets righties, but he gets them both out. Manny Delcarmen has gotten lefthanders out. ... (Justin Masterson) is certainly a matchup guy, but other than that, we just try to get them to face the guys we think (they should face), when the timing is right, and then go to the next guy."

Here's how this all pertains to the Yankees: The ability of Okajima to pitch to righties and Ramirez to pitch to lefties means switch-hitters aren’t at as much of an advantage as they’d normally be. In fact, they might even be at a disadvantage.

"Inveterate Yankee fan" Bruce wrote to ask how Francona had gone about matching up his relievers with the switch-hitters in Joe Girardi’s lineup in the first five games between the two teams. Here’s how it broke down:

Melky Cabrera
* Ramirez: 0-for-2
* Delcarmen: 0-for-1
* Okajima: 0-for-1 with a strikeout
* Jonathan Papelbon: 1-for-1
* Takashi Saito: 1-for-1

Jorge Posada
* Ramirez: 0-for-0 with two walks
* Delcarmen: 0-for-1 with a strikeout
* Okajima: 1-for-1 with a single
* Saito: 0-for-1

Nick Swisher
* Delcarmen: 1-for-2 with a double
* Okajima: 0-for-2 with a strikeout
* Papelbon: 0-for-1 with a walk and a strikeout
* Ramirez: 0-for-1

Mark Teixeira
* Okajima: 1-for-2 with a walk
* Papelbon: 0-for-2 with a walk and two strikeouts
* Delcarmen: 0-for-1 with a strikeout
* Ramirez: 1-for-1 with a solo home run

As a group, the Yankees' switch-hitters are hitting .286 with five walks and seven strikeouts in 26 plate appearances against the Red Sox bullpen so far this season. Against Delcarmen, Okajima and Ramirez, they're hitting .266 with three walks and five strikeouts in 18 plate appearances.

What does that tell you?

Very little -- except this: There's no formula to predict how Francona will deploy his weapons. The Red Sox manager is so confident in his middle relievers right now that he'll call on any of them in pretty much any situation and against pretty much any hitter.

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