Feliciano best when used carefully

December, 17, 2010
12/17/10
11:01
AM ET
Pedro Feliciano is no Cliff Lee, but he should be a valuable commodity for Joe Girardi now that he's signed to pitch the next two seasons with the Yankees.

The key to Feliciano is in his usage. Use him in the right time, against the right combination of hitters, and the results are usually positive. We’ve gleaned that from watching him pitch more frequently than anyone else in the major leagues. Use him improperly and it can be painful to watch.

With that in mind, and with the help of the tools available from Baseball-Reference.com, Stats LLC, and the National Pastime Almanac, it seems appropriate to offer up a scouting report on the newest Yankees lefty, likely the 110th player to appear for both the Mets and Yankees.

You’ll see him quite a bit
Over the last three seasons, Feliciano has pitched 266 games, the most in the NL in each of those years and the most in the majors combined by a significant margin (Carlos Marmol ranks second with 238).

Feliciano has pitched in at least 86 games in each of the last three seasons. The only other reliever to do that in major league history is Paul Quantrill (the only other ones to do it in consecutive seasons are the more well-known Kent Tekulve and Mike Marshall).

There have been some seasons in which there is a consequence for this. Last year, Feliciano pitched well when asked to pitch in consecutive days (or in both ends of a doubleheader) –- hitters batted only .217 against him with 27 strikeouts, eight walks, and one home run allowed in 29 1/3 innings over an MLB-leading 44 games .

From 2006 to 2009, there were some issues in making Feliciano an everyday pitcher, most notably the 12 home runs allowed in 86 innings. So that bears watching carefully, especially if you ask him to pitch consecutive days in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.

Left is right
Move over Boone Logan, there’s a new LOOGY (lefty, one-out guy) in town. Feliciano’s stuff is very tough on left-handed hitters, specifically those with significant power.

Feliciano’s specialty is the left-handed power hitter, a good thing since he'll see plenty of them with the Red Sox. The 14 active left-handed hitters with a slugging percentage of .500 or better (min. 2,000 PA) –- a group that includes Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez, and Prince Fielder—are hitting a combined .201 against him with three home runs and 58 strikeouts in 154 at-bats.

The key to this is all in his breaking ball. It looks irresistible, but proves to be quite difficult to hit.

Last season, Inside Edge’s video scouting noted that when Feliciano threw a two-strike breaking pitch to a lefty, he was able to finish him with a strikeout on 32 percent of his pitches. That putaway rate is much higher than the major league average for lefties vs lefties, 24 percent.

In the last four seasons, all left-handed hitters have a slashline of .203/.273/.290 against Feliciano. Those aren’t the best numbers in baseball, but he’s among the top 20 percent of left-handed pitchers in all three categories in that span.

Right is wrong
Feliciano has said in the past that he likes to think of himself as more than just a lefty specialist. That’s nice. But just because he thinks it, doesn’t mean it’s so.

There was one season in Feliciano’s career in which he put up good numbers against right-handed hitters. That was 2007.

In the three years since, righties are hitting .325 and slugging .474 against him.

Only two left-handers have a higher opponents batting average against right-handed hitters in that span. Coincidentally, one of them is Logan, against whom righties are hitting .325 (the other is Reds lefty Daniel Herrera).

Last season, right-handed hitters had a .436 opponents on-base percentage against Feliciano (padded by six intentional walks). He's been worse -- in 2008, that number was .453.

Feliciano’s 87-mile-per-hour fastball does not fool right-handed hitters. In fact, they feast on it. Last season, right-handers hit .483 against Felicano (29-for-60) when an at-bat against him ended with a fastball. Not surprisingly, that was the worst in baseball and the ultimate message regarding how Feliciano should best be used.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .274
HRM. Teixeira 20
RBIM. Teixeira 53
RB. Gardner 76
OPSB. Gardner .792
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135