How Serious is the “Left-Handed Tilt” Problem?

4354079399_cbda3f5169_z== Bloomie is Your DH vs. LHP? ==

Robby says he won’t lie …

And “another right-handed bat” is his cry!

Robinson Cano, of course.

And since Cano is now Official Team Leader and Go-To Guy (which he should be, naturally), it’s interesting that he has such a keen interest in further loosening Kevin Mather’s newly loosened pursestrings.

But is he on-track regarding the left-handed tilt?  Let’s examine.

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To start with, the risk of starting seven LH hitters against a LH pitcher is pretty low, but we assume Cano was exaggerating for effect.

Corey Hart and the catcher spot — Mike Zunino or John Buck — will give you two RH hitters right there.  And Justin Smoak and Abraham Almonte can turn around (as can Nick Franklin if he’s still around and on the roster).

But, considering that there’s a risk in putting your backup catcher at DH — a risk we don’t know if Lloyd McClendon is willing to take (he was a former catcher/utility guy, but I don’t know if that matters) — then to get another RH bat into the order, you need your DH to be …

Willie Bloomquist?

Um … yeah.  That’s what you have to do.

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But we also know you can’t just focus on “handedness” — because there’s a lot of variation in how players hit against same-handed pitching.  Luckily, we can go to the data (at least for the veteran guys — that means we’re excluding Zunino, Almonte, Franklin and Brad Miller due to insufficient data).

Let’s start with OPS+, since it’s pretty generally understood.

Here’s how the veteran hitters stack up on the basis of OPS+, first overall and then broken down by platoon split.  We put lefties in red, righties in blue and switch in green:

Career OPS+ vs. RHP vs. LHP
Ackley 92 93 92
Bloomquist 80 73 92
Buck 87 84 93
Cano 125 135 106
Hart 116 111 131
Morrison 107 112 92
Saunders 89 94 77
Seager 111 123 89
Smoak 97 103 84
Average 102 105 96

So it turns out that, so far, most of LH hitters are substantially worse vs. LH pitchers, except that Cano is still very good.  Bloomquist and Buck, are, indeed, somewhat better facing lefties, but, of course, they aren’t that good in the first place.

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Now let’s go to our Brainstorm Designer Stats, which take into account strikeouts as a negative and generally treat singles as somewhat random events.  So we’re driving at “avoidance of non-random outs” and “production of non-random offense” — then the combination thereof.  More here.  That composite is presented below, with 100 set at the 10-year MLB average. Brace yourself, the variations are somewhat higher:

Career Composite vs. RHP vs. LHP
Ackley 82 90 66
Bloomquist 57 36 93
Buck 74 69 87
Cano 133 148 102
Hart 111 100 142
Morrison 135 157 77
Saunders 66 (92) 85 (96) 29 (85)
Seager 107 127 69
Smoak 106 109 99
Average 99 104 (105)
87 (94)

And what do we get from that?

  • The Cano lobbying effort appears to be well-founded.  The “vs. LHP” options don’t look too formidable.
  • Morrison’s variation in OPS wasn’t that much because he becomes a singles hitter vs. LHP and has had a .302 BABIP.  But his ISO drops 61 points, and that shows up here.  He’s been really good against RHP though.
  • Seager?  Turns out he hits doubles way less often vs. LHP, and draws fewer walks.
  • Saunders’ career numbers include his three “false starts.”  The numbers in parentheses are from 2012 and 2013 only, and aren’t so bad.  That also brings up the average total considerably.
  • Smoak grades out pretty well against LHP.  Turns out his numbers have been drug down by a .250 BABIP vs. LHP.  Some of that may be systematic, but at least some of it is probably bad fortune.

So does McClendon face down the ridicule and pencil in Wee Willie Bloomquist as his DH against lefties in place of hulking LoMo?  As the roster is presently constructed, yes, he probably will.

Unless and until the Cano lobbying campaign is successful.

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5 thoughts on “How Serious is the “Left-Handed Tilt” Problem?

  1. I thought we got Bloomie so he could spell Seager/Ackley/Saunders/Miller. I am not excited at all about Bloomquist as DH.

    Willie does allow for an extra bat on the 25 man roster, though. That bat should be Kendrys Morales.

    Cano is the only proven full-season player, so a little insurance for Smoak’s thumbs and Hart’s knees would definitely not hurt.

    • Well, yes, that’s the point. They’re not going to have a RH bat they can use in that situation except Bloomie and the backup catcher, as things currently play out. It will be interesting to see if they go for Morales, make some other move or just go ahead this way.

      Thanks for commenting Pops!

      • If I recall correctly (never a sure thing) Kendrys Morales was almost Smoak-like in his LH v. RH batting splits – much better left than right. Do you have (or can you get) Morales’ numbers and plug them into the tables above for comparison?

  2. If this is a problem this year, it was a HUGE problem last year. We had no lefty mashers at all.

    These are the 3 players with > 100 wRC+ against lefties last year:

    Raul Ibanez 121
    Kendrys Morales 118
    Mike Morse 110

    Morse was the only “RH” bat in that group and he struggled after his injury. Bay was the only “RH” bat we really had available all year but he only put together a 100 wRC+.

    Anything we put out there this year will be a huge improvement.

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