Thursday, April 21, 2011

My lefty brethren versus my favorite team

Before the season, the only problem the Red Sox were expected to face (talk about hindsight being 20/20) was the fact that their ideal lineup was lefty heavy. What this really means is that 4 of the 5 lefties expected to be in the everyday lineup (Jacoby Ellsbury actually hits lefties better than righties for some reason) have pretty large platoon splits over their careers. Through the first 17 games of the season, the Red Sox have faced a whopping 9 lefty starters including some of the leauge’s best in CC Sabathia, David Price, C.J. Wilson and Brett Anderson and 5 of their last 6 matchups. The Red Sox sit at 6-11 so all the people who said the team was too lefty heavy have been vindicated right?

Not so fast. According to Baseball-Reference, against left-handed starters this year the Red Sox are batting .241/.335/.400 while against right-handed starters they are hitting .236/.326/.363. If they are so lefty heavy in the lineup, how is this possible?

Well, there are 3 great reasons. While our righties have a .832 OPS against left-handed pitching so far, we owe it all to Dustin Pedroia (.969 OPS against lefties), Kevin Youkilis (1.232), and Jed Lowrie (1.400) hitting lefties like Albert Pujols on steroids. I do not expect Youk and Lowrie to keep this up all year, but I also expect some of our right handed depth to improve as the season goes on. Mike Cameron, Marco Scutaro and Darnell McDonald should all be able to serve as viable platoon partners to our all left outfield and our lefty DH. If Francona were so inclined, he could easily fill out a lineup card with only Adrian Gonzalez and one of the lefty outfielders (preferably the reverse platoon split Ellsbury) to face some of the tougher lefties in the middle of the season.

The real problem with the Red Sox offense this year has been the ineffectiveness of our lefty mashers against right handed pitching. Another reason why people said the Sox were so lefty heavy this year is because our lefty hitters are all very famous for their really good hitting. Well that group has a .718 OPS against righties so far. In other words, they are hitting like a bunch of Marco Scutaros. The main culprits have been Carl “Dead Horse” Crawford (.342 OPS against righties; that’s OPS, not OBP), J.D. Drew (sporting a weird opposite platoon split with a .671 OPS against righties and a .978 OPS against lefties), and David Ortiz (same weird opposite platoon split with .724 OPS against righties and 1.027 against lefties). I don’t expect Drew and Ortiz to all of a sudden be completely different players and have lefties stop fooling them on sliders and forcing them to roll over grounders on outside fastballs, but I do expect them to get back to destroying right-handers. “Dead Horse” Crawford, as you can see by his new nick name, has been discussed at length. There is just no way he is this bad, I promise.

The lefties will start crushing the right-handers soon enough and this offense can go back to being the behemoth it was expected to be. What we now see is that despite opposing managers seemingly throwing every able bodied left-hander at this team, the Red Sox are in good position to handle it given the right line up construction. With right-handed bats Pedroia, Youkilis and Lowrie, the team has the type of top of the order balance necessary to face pitchers of all handedness.

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