When the Red Sox swapped Javier Lopez for Daniel Bard, the move left them with Hideki Okajima as one of their two lefthanded pitchers in the bullpen and the only one who behaves like a lefthander – Hunter Jones, throughout his minor-league career, has been better against righties. The Sox could feel comfortable without a second specific threat against lefties not only because of Lopez’s ineffectiveness, but also because their righthanded relievers behave like lefthanded pitchers when they face lefthanded batters.
Lopez had been the Red Sox’ worst reliever by any measure, but his struggles against lefthanders were particularly astonishing. Lefties were 9 for 21 (.429) against him. While he began the season as a lefthanded specialist, he could no longer perform that role by the end of his tenure, which made designating for assignment palatable.
“Because of the way we were using Javy, it doesn’t [change anything],” manager Terry Francona said. “He wasn’t being used to come in and get a lefty out. We’ve had basically a bullpen that has come in and pitched innings – Ramon [Ramirez], Manny [Delcarmen], Okajima, they’re not coming in for one hitter. So that was part of the reason we were able to do that.”
Okajima has been one of the toughest pitchers in the majors for lefties to hit. They have two hits in 26 at-bats against him, and that .077 batting average is fourth best in the majors. (One of those hits was a home run by Robinson Cano.)
Here’s a breakdown of how the Red Sox bullpen has fared against lefthanders this season:
In total, the six remaining relievers in the Red Sox bullpen have allowed lefthanders to bat .167 against them. Even if Okajima is unavailable, the five other Red Sox relievers in the bullpen other than Bard have allowed lefthanders to bat .183. And, as seen above, the worst pitcher against lefties has allowed a .222 average against.
This has not been a bullpen that Francona has matched up with all season, and because of how good it’s been, he won’t need it to be.
Note: I made a very absent-minded post before, stating that the Red Sox had only one lefthander in the bullpen, which is false. They obviously have two, Jones and Okajima. Sorry for the misinformation, and thanks for all your comments alerting us to the mistake.