Since he joined the Nationals in late May, left-handed reliever Fernando Abad has helped bring stability to the bullpen. He didn’t allow a run until his 11th outing and, through 25 2/3 innings, has a 2.45 ERA. Abad has stumbled of late, allowing three runs in the past six innings. In particular, he has been less effective against left-handed batters.
In 44 at-bats against left-handers, Abad has allowed them to punch up a .295 average. Only Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus have been less effective against left-handers. There is likely some luck involved and the numbers are inflated by a small sample size, but Abad knows that left-handers have gotten the better of him recently.
Over his past two outings, two of the five hits he allowed were to lefties Freddie Freeman and Juan Francisco. In Abad’s career, left-handers have hit .265 off him in nearly a third fewer at-bats than against right-handers. The reason for this season’s recent lack of success against left-handers boils down to pitch selection, Abad said.
“Lately, they’ve been swinging early and because I throw a lot of strikes they’re going to make contact,” he said. Abad said he normally throws a lot of sinking fastballs outside to left-handers, and mixes in some sliders. To combat their success, Adad said he needs to throw more breaking balls to throw off their timing and mess with the location.
Abad, 27, has been an unheralded minor success story this season, along with fellow left-hander Ian Krol. Abad was signed to a minor league deal this offseason, after the Houston Astros parted ways with him follow last season. He went from being a long shot to make the roster out of spring training to a candidate, and by late May was part of the Nationals’ bullpen overhaul. The Nationals like his arm and he has contributed for over two months, but now he has to adjust yet again in the midst of the best season of his career.
“That’s part of the game,” he said.