Many Mets fans are worried that the bullpen needs another lefty. Here I explain why Pedro Feliciano should be able to handle the load by himself.

Some Mets fans out there are lobbying for the team to sign either Joe Beimel or Will Ohman because the team only has one LHP in the bullpen.  It seems like solid thinking.  After all, the team opened the 2008 season with three lefties in the pen.  However, here is a stat line I would like everyone to consider first.

.178/.243/.277 versus LHB in 113 PA with just three home runs allowed.

How does that sound?  Is that someone you would want on the team?  Well, Mets fans had that on the team last year, as it was the line posted by Scott Schoeneweis versus lefties.  Unfortunately, Schoeneweis also had to face RHB and didn’t do too well.  Schoeneweis was basically run out of town because of his inability to get out righties.

If the manager is incapable of guaranteeing his lefty specialist faces a majority of lefties, is it worth it to have a LOOGY on the roster?  Let’s see how Beimel and Ohman do versus RHB.

Beimel – .263/.363/.337 in ’08 .286/.367/.428 lifetime

Ohman – .256/.341/.359 in ’08 .262/.359/.397 lifetime

Both of these pitchers did significantly better versus RHB last year than they have throughout their careers.  Still, they both pitch reasonably well versus righties and would appear to be the “crossover” pitchers that manager Jerry Manuel wants his right handed relievers to be.

But the question remains if either Beimel or Ohman could be more than a LOOGY.  Last year Beimel appeared in 71 games yet threw just 49 innings.  Ohman was in 83 games and tossed 58.2 innings.  Their main purpose is to face the other team’s lefty batters.  Sure they may stay in to face a righty if another lefty is on deck, but these are guys who do not pitch for a full inning, much less more than one frame.

I am not sure how anyone who lived through last year’s mix-and-match approach with the bullpen could want more of the same in 2009.  So the Mets only have one lefty reliever?  That is a sacrifice I am willing to make in order not to see three or more pitching changes in an inning again.

Now you may wonder about division rivals and their tendency to be lefty heavy.  Certainly the Phillies, with Utley, Howard and Ibanez, are a team where it might be beneficial to have another lefty in the pen.

But if the starter goes six innings, Pedro Feliciano comes on to pitch the seventh, J.J. Putz the eighth and Francisco Rodriguez the ninth – where is the need for the second lefty?  If the Mets are going to the bullpen prior to the sixth inning, perhaps that is an issue.  But let’s say John Maine is struggling against the Phillies and Manuel pulls him in the sixth inning with the Phillies lefties coming up.

Then Feliciano pitches the sixth and random righty reliever (let’s call him Sean Green) faces the lower part of the order in the seventh and the lefties don’t come back up until Putz and Rodriguez come on for the eighth and ninth.  Those two guys are going to pitch to everyone when the Mets have a lead, so the need for a lefty specialist should be much less than it was in 2008.

And even if the need was still there, it is very much up in the air if the necessary dollars exist in the payroll to add even as little salary as these two free agents might command.  Just last week, the Mets released Duaner Sanchez because they could escape most of his salary if they cut ties when they did.  Those who think payroll had nothing to do with that decision are kidding themselves.

So, don’t get your hopes up for Beimel or Ohman.  And if you really are concerned with adding another lefty to the pen, perhaps you should keep tabs on Casey Fossum.  The veteran southpaw is third on the team with 7.2 IP so far and has a 3.52 ERA with one walk and six strikeouts.

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