Indians trade for left-handed pitcher Josh Outman

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There are likely to be two lefties in the Tribe bullpen in 2014. Newly acquired Josh Outman stands a good chance at being one of them.

The Indians acquired pitcher Josh Outman from the Colorado Rockies in a trade Wednesday afternoon, in exchange for outfielder Drew Stubbs.

Outman hasn't been especially remarkable during his five MLB seasons, especially in terms of run prevention. His ERA+ peaked at 127 in 2009, bottomed out at 57 in 2012, and has been right around league average in his three other seasons (including a 102 in 2013). His peripherals have been a bit better than that over his career, helping him to a 3.98 FIP, as compared to his 4.61 ERA.

I'd heard of him, but new almost nothing about him before yesterday's trade, but then Kyle Boddy (the author of this article on Outman that ran in April at The Hardball Times) dropped into out comments section and shared this GIF of what is known as the "Outman Methodology," which was coined not by Josh, but by his father Fritz Outman, who taught both of his sons to throw this way:



*If the GIF is not working for you, click on it to have it open in a new window, where you'll be able to see his unique delivery. The GIF is also in the Hardball Times' article I linked to above, which you should read in full.

Obviously high school baseball is not the same as MLB, but I'm fascinated by his having had success with something so different from the norm. If he struggles while using a more traditional delivery in April and May, I would love to see him be allowed to use his original mechanic down in Columbus, to see if he can be successful there with it. Despite his somewhat pedestrian numbers with the Rockies (and Athletics before that), I think there's a decent chance he works out well for the Indians (using the traditional delivery he's used in games since college), because his platoon splits are very solid.

Outman gives the Indians five lefties who could potentially be a part of the bullpen come Opening Day. Marc Rzepczynski is all but assured of a spot (if healthy, of course). After being acquired via traded at the deadline this year, "Scrabble" pitches 20.1 innings while allowing just 2 earned runs, striking out 20 while walking only 6. He hasn't been a dominating MLB reliever, but he's got a stronger track record than any of the other southpaws the Tribe has under contract.

Outman, Nick Hagadone, Colt Hynes, and Scott Barnes are in the running for the other spot (in theory there could even be three lefties, but I wouldn't bet on it). Most pitchers fare better against same-handed hitters, and this seems to be especially true for left-handed relievers, some of whom are used as heavily against left-handed hitters as possible. These pitchers are often referred to as LOOGYs (Left-handed One Out Guys). Obviously every pitcher will have to go without the platoon advantage some of the time as well, but in assessing which option should win the second-lefty spot, it's probably best not to look at their overall numbers, but against their production against left-handed hitters.

2013 production against left-handed hitters:
Pitcher IP BA OBP SLG K% BB%
S.Barnes* 12.2 .200 .321 .467 22.6 11.3
N.Hagadone 16.0 .207 .328 .351 26.5 14.7
C.Hynes 9.2 .156 .289 .313 15.8 15.8
J.Outman 31.0 .195 .278 .261 31.0 8.7
M.Rzepczynski 17.0 .172 .230 .250 25.8 1.5

*Barnes numbers for 2012 and 2013 are included, because his 2013 sample was especially small

None of those samples are huge, but Outman's is the largest, and his numbers are clearly the second-best of the bunch. If someone else can pitch well enough in Spring Training to displace Outman (or Rzepczynski), more power to them, but right now I think it's Outman's spot to lose.


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