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DAMASO MARTE – Best Dominican LOOGY Ever (so far)

Damaso Marte 's rookie card

Damaso Marte 's rookie card

Reaction to the New York Yankees acquisition of outfielder Xavier Nady and left-handed pitcher Damaso Marte yesterday tended to go one of two ways.  People either thought that the Yankees gave up nothing of consequence for two players that should actually help their playoff chances, or that the Pirates acquired a struggling top talent in Jose Tabata for a pair of players from the pool of talent marked mediocre journeyman.  Here at urbanshocker, we do things a little differently.  “Man, the Yankees just got the best Dominican LOOGY of all-time,” was my immediate response.

For the uninitiated, LOOGY is an acronym for left-handed one out guy, a southpaw specialist that usually enters a ballgame in the late innings to get out a left-handed hitter or two. 

When I began focusing my attention on Dominican baseball a quarter-century ago, LOOGY was not part of baseball’s vernacular, and left-handed pitchers coming out of the DR were not at all common.  In fact, one of my earlier posts dealt with the first time a lefty starting pitcher from the country earned a major league victory in 1985.  https://urbanshocker.wordpress.com/2007/09/06/ramon-romero-the-first-left-handed-starting-pitcher-from-the-dominican-republic-to-win-a-game/

That was then, and this is now, though.  More than a handful of contenders and pretenders for the title of top LOOGY from the Dominican has emerged in the last two decades.  I’ll consider lefties that worked in at least 25 major league games, and had fewer innings pitched than appearances.  Here are the pretenders:

ROBERTO DURAN (1997-98 Tigers) – With a name like that, I had to root for him, but the six-foot, 167-pounder from Moca had control like a man with “Hands of Stone.  32 unintentional walks in 26 career innings more than offset the fact that he limited the opposition to just 5.5 hits per nine innings pitched.  It’s a shame, too, as even right-handers only batted .149 against him.

RAMON TATIS (1997-98 Cubs & Devil Rays) – Got into 78 games, but the fact that lefties hit .299 with a .409 on-base percentage against him wasn’t even his biggest problem.  Right-handers clobbered him at a .352 clip, slugging .654!

JESUS PENA (1999-2000 Red Sox & White Sox) – Jesus saved –one game– but he couldn’t throw strikes.  37 unintentional walks in 46 2/3 innings & he was out of pro-ball before turning 29…an age when many LOOGYs are just getting going.

JOSE NUNEZ (2001-2002 Dodgers & Padres) – Coulda been a contender.  Pitched effectively as a 22-year-old after the Padres claimed him off waivers in May 2001.  Pithced only one inning the following year and never made it back to the show.  Not even the best Jose Nunez to come out of the DR.

Now, the contenders…

PEDRO BORBON Jr. (1992-2003 for 5 teams, mostly the Braves & Blue Jays) – The son of the Big Red Machine reliever of the same name, Borbon made 368 big league appearances, peaking as a member of the champion 1995 Braves and saving game 4 of that season’s World Series.  Arm problems shortened his career, but overall he held lefties to a .200 batting average with a .627 OPS.  Textbook LOOGY, as righties hit him pretty hard (.902 OPS).

YORKIS PEREZ (1991-2002 for 6 teams, mostly the Marlins & Phillies) – Does Yorkis mean “pioneer” in Spanish?.  The first Dominican LOOGY signed his first pro contract as a 15-year-old with the Twins in 1983, and pitched in 337 major league games in a 20-year career.  Lefties batted .227 against him; righties .240 and his control was passable:  259:132 strikeout-to-unitentional walk ratio in 282 innings.  Last seen as a few weeks before his 35th birthday for the 2002 Orioles.

FELIX HEREDIA (1996-2005 for 6 teams, mostly the Marlins and Cubs) – Allowed only 7 hits over 15 1/3 innings in 17 post-season appearances, including 5 1/3 innings of scoreless work in the 1997 World Series to help his Marlins prevail.  Got into 511 games and held lefties to a .221 average, though right-handers managed to bat .279. 

DAMASO MARTE (1999-present for 4 teams, mostly the Pirates and White Sox.  Currently with the Yankees) – He’s the best, and it isn’t really close.  Entering today, when he made his Yankees debut by striking out Boston’s David Ortiz, Marte had a 3.21 career ERA with 36 saves, both figures easily the best among Dominican LOOGYs.  He was the winning pitcher in game 3 of the 2005 World Series for the champion White Sox, and has limited opposing lefties to a .198 batting average in his career.  No surprise he’s been used effectively as a closer at times, as righties only hit .240 against him.  In 454 1/3 career innings, he’s issued 179 unintentional walks while striking out 484.  I’m no Yankees fan, but you go Damo!

by Malcolm Allen

malallen@live.com

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