An offseason stuck in neutral has left many teams around baseball focusing on depth more than the big splashes. That’s been true for the Brewers, too, who have signed the likes of Yovani Gallardo, Jhoulys Chacin and, most recently, lefty reliever Boone Logan.
A 12-year veteran, Logan spent last year as a true LOOGY with the Cleveland Indians. While he appeared in 38 games, he only compiled 21 total innings of work. But while the workload was light, of the 63 outs he recorded, 44% of them came as the result of a strikeout, and he struck out 30.8% of all batters he faced. High punchout rates have become the norm for Logan, as he’s posted K/9 rates above 11 in each of the past six seasons and a K% north of 30% in 3 of the past 5 years. You have to go back to 2011 to find a year in which he didn’t strike out at least a quarter of opposing batters.
He’s especially been death against left-handed hitters during his dozen years in the big leagues. Facing more than a thousand lefties in his career, Logan has held them to a line of .234/.311/.361, striking out 308 of them. He’s also held lefty-swinging batters to a wOBA of .298, as opposed to .357 for righties. We’ll probably hear how Logan’s strikeout stuff means he could face righties and pitch full innings, but that doesn’t mean he should.
Right-handed hitting has beat him up to a line of .292/.373/.472 for his career, which is likely why Cleveland only allowed him to face 35 righties last year, as opposed to 56 lefties. He did hold righties to a .242/.294/.344 line in that extremely limited sample size, but history says that was pretty fortunate, and the Brewers would be wise to similarly limit those appearances.
Much of Logan’s success comes from a wicked slider, which he uses liberally, to say the least. After throwing his slider roughly half the time over the past couple years, he threw the pitch an incredible 60.1% percent of the time last year in Cleveland, cutting his fastball usage down to just 39.9%. In that way, the fastball almost becomes a changeup, and batters aren’t used to seeing something straight from him -- especially since they may only see him once or twice in a series. It probably comes as no surprise that nobody who pitched at least 20 innings threw the slider more often than Logan did last year, beating out names like 2017 teammate Andrew Miller (57.8%).
One of the most interesting things about this signing is how it almost exactly mirrors Cleveland’s signing of Logan last winter -- and how it could give us a clue on the Brewers’ plans for another pitcher on the staff.
When they inked him to a one-year deal with an option last February, the only other left-hander Cleveland had in their bullpen was super reliever Miller. The idea was that the addition of Logan would give manager Terry Francona a lefty he could use situationally, freeing up Miller for more multi-inning or fireman appearances when the team desperately needed outs in high-leverage spots.
Now the Brewers are signing Logan to a one-year deal with an option, possibly to serve in a situational role to allow Craig Counsell to use Josh Hader in much the same way Francona deployed Miller. The team has been coy about their future plans for Hader, but the suspicion has been that the hard-throwing, long-haired lefty would at least start the year in the bullpen.
If the Brewers are indeed thinking about using Hader in Miller-like fashion, the signing of Logan would certainly seem to make that easier. At the very least, it looks like the Brewers have an effective lefty reliever that avoids contact and could possibly be a late-inning weapon against the Joey Vottos and Anthony Rizzos and Kyle Schwarbers of the world.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs