Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Southpaw Struggles (Part 1)

As the saying goes, just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you.

And just because something is an overused cliché, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Such is the case with the Twins hitting left-handed pitchers. It’s been talked about so much that it isn’t talked about anymore – exactly when it should be talked about. I’ll credit Patrick Reusse for pointing it out again, and whether he did it because it’s a cliché or because he really could back it up, it is certainly true.

It’s the reason we’re having such trouble gauging this offense. If you think that the Twins offense has the potential to be top five in the league, you’re right – against right-handed pitching.

American League vs RH Pitching

If you think they’re dreadfully inconsistent, heading towards putrid, you’re right too – against left-handed pitching.

American League vs LH Pitching

That’s one heck of a drop-off, the biggest in the majors. And whether it’s by happenstance, or some devious strategy, the Twins have faced a lot of left-handed pitching. In fact, they lead the majors and it’s not particularly close:

American League At-bats

To some extent, that’s by design. There’s no doubt that other teams like to use left-handed pitching against the Twins. For instance, last year the Twins ranked second in the league in at-bats against left-handers, behind only the White Sox (who, incidentally are the only team worse than the Twins.) That's the bad news.

But the good news is that the Twins are going to face fewer left-handers. It HAS to happen. Last year, even with as many at-bats as they had against left-handers, they still had twice as many at-bats against right-handed pitchers. This year, they’re close to even, which smells like a quirk of early season scheduling.

And that’s the just the start of the good news. We’ll have more tomorrow, when we start examining who the culprits are of this early season southpaw funk.


Ryan said...

Very interesting numbers... Well done!

Anonymous said...

The interesting thing, is that in comparison to prior years, I don't fully understand the reason for such a significant dropoff. In past years, we had players like Jones, Koskie, and A.J. who couldn't hit worth a lick against lefties. The current lineup, especially if everyone is healthy, seems like it should be fairly good against lefties. An ideal lineup of
Castillo - 2B
Cirillo - 3B
Mauer - C
Cuddyer - RF
Morneau - 1B
Hunter - CF
White - LF
Kubel - DH
Bartlett - SS

should be very explosive against lefties, and you could even replace Kubel with Redmond with similar results. I don't know off the top of my head what Punto's splits are, and whether he would be a big dropoff from Cirillo, but clearly, when we are forced to hit Tyner, Rabe, and Casilla, our cumulative stats will be worse.

Basically, I think we should improve against LHP over time, as most of the offense should be improving and we get a few of our hitters back who are tough against lefties.

Anonymous said...

We better improve against lefties because we're going to see plenty of them this year considering our division.

Tigers: Rogers (when healthy), Robertson, Maroth

White Sox: Buehrle, Danks

Indians: Sabathia, Lee (when healthy), Sowers

Royals: De La Rosa, Perez

Of course, the Twins haven't faced their division very much so far, so it's odd that they keep getting lefties to face so much.

Anonymous said...

Not to nitpick, but it looks like the White Sox have a bigger dropoff.

Baseball Fanatic said...

Yes, very interesting stats. But you could be like my Oakland A's and struggle with right and left handed pitching this early part of the season. Good thing the starting pitching has been awesome. Haven't given up a run in the first inning all year.