That’s not breaking news, I don’t think. The Indians offense was hurt by injuries and poor performance across the board. We scored only 646 runs last season, third worst in the AL, for an average of fewer than four runs per game. Not historically bad, but pretty bad nonetheless.
But did you know that against left-handed pitching, our numbers were even worse? The team’s OPS against lefties was only .674 last year!
And, come to think of it, this shouldn’t really surprise us either. Most of our best hitters were (and continue to be) left-handed, meaning that they’re more likely to put up better numbers against right handed pitching. On top of that, Santana had a poor 2010 against LHP and Matt LaPorta continued to post an odd reverse platoon split—he’s been consistently worse against LHP than RHP. All these factors combined to hurt us considerably when a southpaw toed the rubber.
Today, I thought we’d look at some of the splits from 2010 not just to demonstrate the point that we were bad last season, but to think about whether there’s some hope for us to be better in the future.
The following table presents each player’s OPS against LHP and RHP in 2010. I’ve sorted the data on total OPS, with our best hitters at the top and the worst at the bottom:
So what do we notice about the top five guys on this list? Each one of them performed better against right handed pitching in 2010. Certainly some of that is sample-size related (we’ll have more on Carlos Santana in Part 2), but still, when your five most productive hitters all struggle against lefties, there’s some cause for concern.
To illustrate what I’m talking about, look at that last column, “RHP-LHP”. I’ve simply subtracted a player’s OPS against lefties from his OPS against righties. When that value is positive, a player performs better against RHP. When it’s negative, the player is better against LHP.
We certainly have some guys who are better against lefties than righties. Look at Shelley Duncan, Jayson Nix, and Jason Donald for example: they all have about .200 additional points of OPS against left-handed pitching. The problem, of course, is that their “advantage” is really more of a mirage: yes, they are better against LHP, but that’s because they are truly awful against righties—making them below average players overall. And, as of this writing, neither Jayson Nix nor Jason Donald appears headed for a platoon, with both players competing for starting spots on the club.
So does this mean we’re destined for more terrible offense against lefties? Perhaps, but before we conclude that, I’d like to take a look at some of the minor leaguers’ splits. We’ll do that in Part 2 later this week.
Photo: AP/David Richard