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Baseball's Rules For Next Season May Eliminate The LOOGY


Major League Baseball officials know the game is a bit slow. The average contest lasted three hours and four minutes last season. New rules for next season would cut down on the number of pitcher changes. Commentator Mike Pesca notes that could end a specialized baseball tradition.

MIKE PESCA: Whither the LOOGY. It's an acronym. Stands for lefty one-out guy - a left-handed pitcher brought in from the bullpen to face one usually left-handed batter. That's because lefty pitchers perform better against lefty batters. Then the LOOGY hits the showers. Or, really, maybe just uses one of those body wipes. The job is not that taxing. There are also ROOGYs - righty one-out guys. But as with so much in public life, it would be a false equivalence to compare righties with the lefties. In baseball, it's much less common for a right-hander to be used in such a specialized manner. Plus, left-handers are a little nuts. Everyone knows that, just like everyone knows redheads are fiery and Canadians are even-keeled. Please don't bother to test the hypothesis. This is baseball. It's a lot easier just to go with what everyone knows.

The plan to cut down on how many times a manager can send in a new pitcher will spell doom for the LOOGY. And while baseball is a game of tradition, eliminating LOOGYs next year is a case of conflicting traditions. Normally, the league wouldn't meddle in how managers use their bullpens. On the other hand, in recent years, managers increasingly used one pitcher to record one out against one batter then sent in an entirely different pitcher to record the next out. This means a pitcher would be removed from the game - pause in the action - a left-hander would be called in from the pen, - pause in the action - he'd get his eight warmup pitches - pause in the action - for enough time to ponder why baseball is the only sport where substitutes get to stop the game and warm up on the field of play. The newly inserted left-handed pitcher might throw one pitch, induce a pop-up or a weak ground out to second and be done.

Now, here's how it works in real life. I'll take you to Game Seven of the 2011 World Series, as announced on Fox. The Cardinals' starting pitcher has reached the seventh inning and then gives up a hit.


UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: That is rocketed down into the corner.

PESCA: He's lifted for a LOOGY.


UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: As Torrealba waits and takes a strike.


PESCA: And three pitches later, that LOOGY, Arthur Rhodes, gets his one out. And then he is replaced, which brings us to...


UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: Kinsler, red hot. Takes a strike.


PESCA: Delivered by the third pitcher in that one inning. All those pitcher substitutions, just so that a LOOGY could get one guy out, have chewed up nine minutes and 18 seconds. That's why the LOOGY will go the way of the woolly mammoth and the flip phone. It's not like change is impossible. The game has changed in the past. The spitball used to be allowed. Now it's banned. That was before this rule, which threatens the lefty one out guy. So it was never illegal for LOOGYs to use LOOGYs. Today's LOOGYs say they will evolve, that they will show they have what it takes to last an entire half-inning. So maybe the LOOGY will not die out. Maybe there will be an evolution from LOOGY to LITOOGY (ph), the lefty three-out guy. Or, as they may simply call him, pitcher.


INSKEEP: Mike Pesca - we brought him in for just that one commentary, and now he's hitting the showers. He hosts the podcast called The LOOGY? No, no. It's called "The Gist," for Slate. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.