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Heed Splits: The Octavio Dotel Story

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Octavio Dotel didn’t do a whole lot of relieving last night. It feels like he rarely does. Every year, there’s one guy I hope never gets the call from the bullpen. I know he has to. I know it’s inevitable that he’ll be coming into the game, eventually. The manager can’t let him rot out there. But I just, well, don’t want him to. We’re nine days into June; a third of the season’s officially complete. Only a hundred games left. Dotel’s that guy.

“Oh, no. Not Dotel.”

That’s my usual reaction to when Jerry Howarth lets me know that Octavio”s warming in the bullpen.

“Please, President Farrell. Don’t do it. I’ll be good, I swear.”

Followed, sooner or later, by: “Oh, Octavio.”

What’s unfortunate is that Dotel hasn’t been that bad. Prior to Wednesday night, Old Octavio hadn’t allowed a run in his last seven appearances, lowering his ERA each time out. The honour — That Guy in the Bullpen — should actually go to Frank Francisco. He’s been fucking brutal. But so much was made at the start of the season about how Dotel was being used — splits be damned! — that I find I’ve got little to no faith in the guy. And then, last night in Kansas City, Dotel was again put in a position to succeed, brought into the game to face right-handed hitting Billy Butler, and he gave up a three-run bomb. In eight previous at-bats against Butler, Dotel had held him to one hit, a double, and had struck him out twice. That’s baseball, yo. God bless it.

I used the word “again” above on purpose. Someone, Alex Anthopoulos presumably, has gone and done what I was hoping they’d do, and left a copy of Dotel’s splits on John Farrell’s desk. Anthopoulos is stealth-like, which is why I assume he did it. Proof: In Dotel’s last eight appearances (including last night’s at-bat versus Butler) – 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 9 K – he’s faced true left-handed hitters four times, and switch-hitters four times, out of a total of 26 batters. The only time Dotel faced more than one left-handed hitter in an outing — switch-hitter or true left-handed hitter — was against the Minnesota Twins on May 15, with Toronto up 11-3 at the time, when he faced four of them. Yeah, about the only time Dotel should be facing more than one left-handed hitter.

Out of those eight at-bats versus lefties, Dotel retired six of them. Go figure. Only Minnesota’s Alexi Casilla and Denard Span managed hits — both singles — off of Octavio, and they both came in the rout of the Twins I mentioned above, on May 15, when I presume Dotel was rightfully experimenting.

The sample size is small, but that’s not the point. John Farrell got the memo. Octavio’s going to be fine. Octavio’s going to turn into a precious draft pick. And I’m going to set my sights on Frankie Francisco.

Image — Dotel face! — courtesy of Reuters, via daylife.

Written by Navin Vaswani

June 9th, 2011 at 2:05 pm