Former big league lefty reliever Ray King

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Bernstein: MLB's LOOGY Facing Extinction

A new MLB rule will require pitchers to face a minimum of three batters.

Dan Bernstein
March 14, 2019 - 3:08 pm
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(670 The Score) He was already on the way out of existence, truth be told, the humble left-handed relief specialist tasked with one job to do against one left-handed opposing hitter in a high-leverage moment.

The LOOGY -- Lefty One Out Guy -- was a creation of the 1980s and 1990s championed by Tony La Russa and then mirrored by other managers as an accepted practice, selected further over time for deliveries and arm slots particularly disruptive to the timing of lefty swings. And while we saw guys like Jesse Orosco, Paul Assenmacher and Mike Myers beget the likes of Ray King, Boone Logan and Randy Choate, the role has been turning into a dinosaur that has been selecting out due to a desire for more bullpen flexibility and more efficient usage of roster spots.

And now with the announcement Thursday of new rules for MLB, we may have the equivalent of the Alvarez hypothesis that posited a large asteroid impact as the cause of the large lizards' end. Some rule changes were agreed upon bilaterally and will be implemented immediately, while others are imposed by the commissioner and will take effect for 2020. They're all designed to mitigate the lack of action in what has turned into an all-or-nothing sport that features too much time with nothing actually happening.

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One for 2020 is the requirement that a pitcher face a minimum of three batters or complete the half-inning. And that all but does it for the LOOGY.

There will be an even greater premium on reverse splits that make handedness even less important than it already has become and only the most extreme situation meriting even a thought of somebody so specialized. Picture Bryce Harper up with men on and two out in the eighth and the opposition having to gamble that the difference between its LOOGY and a more adaptable reliever is worth the chance of him then facing two righty bangers.

And before we get to envisioning such moments comes the reality of the roster stuff. Even if that hypothetical moment were deemed worth such a gamble, the fact that it already has to be that specific is in itself an argument against allotting a full-time bullpen position for something so remote. It's just not happening. 

Roster expansion added into the new rules will offset the loss of LOOGY jobs, so it's not a real labor issue of any kind, and relief pitchers are more than free to develop new tools to expand their respective arsenals and effectiveness to retain viability. But baseball keeps getting less personalized and individualistic in so many places, as cameras and homogenized coaching standards from younger ages have created hitters and pitchers that mostly look alike.

Just as PGA golfers have increasingly indistinguishable swings, batters have largely lost signature tics and pitchers have ditched windups entirely. There's just an accepted way these things are now done that eliminates independence and experimentation at the big league level.

The LOOGY is a last bastion of individualism, an anachronism of funkiness that has added texture to the game. It was going and soon will be gone, taken out as collateral damage from the velocity explosion that broke the game.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​

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