EDITOR’S NOTE — C.J. Nitkowski played 10 seasons in the majors and pitched for eight teams, including the Houston Astros early in his career and the Washington Nationals when he finished up in 1995. The left-hander was 18-32 with three saves and a 5.37 ERA. After his time in the big leagues, he played in Japan and South Korea. Now a TV analyst with the Texas Rangers and a broadcaster on MLB Network Radio, Nitkowski couldn’t help but notice how the Astros assembled their staff to face Washington in the World Series — 12 pitchers, all right-handed. The Astros are the first team since the very first World Series in 1903 not to bring a single left-hander. Neither Boston nor Pittsburgh had any in that initial Fall Classic. This is a lefty’s lament:
You may not be heartbroken over the lack of lefties on the Astros, but I am. The problem is we have been figured out!
There was a time when you could preach to young, aspiring pitchers that they had two avenues to reach the major leagues 1) be really good, and if they couldn’t do that, then 2) be left-handed.
The Astros and their supercomputers have solved a riddle myself and my southpaw brethren had hoped would never draw a concrete conclusion — you just need your best pitchers to win, regardless of which arm they throw with.
I am grateful for the 19 years I was able to convince general managers around the world that they needed at least one left-hander in their bullpen, regardless of how inept. I guess that makes up for the fact that I had to compete against so many chemically-enhanced batters during my career.
With that being said, I do believe that field managers still love having that lefty in the ‘pen, especially one with a respectable breaking ball, to face the Yordan Álvarez and Juan Soto types late in the game.
Is it necessary? Maybe not. A good right-handed changeup that baffles lefties is a pretty good weapon to have. But a lefty breaking ball is that like a warm, fuzzy blanket — not critical for survival, but it sure make you feels nice.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports