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Lefty/Righty Dynamics in Baseball

   by Al McMordie - 05/19/2005

Baseball is a game of percentages, which is why managers pay so much
attention to lefty/righty dynamics. Some left-handed relieving specialists
can have a job until the age of 44, as long as they can get lefty hitters
out. Check out any baseball pitching roster and you'll notice one or two
lefty specialists, some guys who you long thought were retired or over the
hill. But if they can still get lefties out, they are a valuable commodity
in the major leagues.

It's also important to examine lefty/righty lineups because some ball
parks favor certain hitters. Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, for example,
are great for lefty batters. Yankee Stadium has a short porch in right field
making it an easy home park for lefty sluggers. Fenway has the wall in left
field, and for decades lefty hitters have learned to go to the opposite
field and "kiss" baseballs off the wall for an easy double, what would have
been an easy out in every other park. Let's take a peak at some early season
teams and how they've fared against lefty starting pitchers.

Astros: 3-10 against lefty starters, including 0-8 on the road. It's easy to
see why the Astros struggle on the road, as they haven't beaten lefties or
righties on the road. Houston actually has mostly right-handed hitters, too,
so it's not something where they have to sit down certain strong hitters
against southpaws. The bottom line: This is simply a bad offensive team that
should continue to struggle against righties and lefties.

Yankees: 6-6 versus lefties. This is surprising as this is a deep,
right-handed hitting lineup. Last year New York was 36-12 against lefties!
That 6-6 start may change, so keep a close tab on the Yankees against
lefties.

Indians: Cleveland was lousy against lefties in 2004 (24-34) and they're
struggling again at 3-8 (1-5 on the road). With the whole team struggling
to hit, it doesn't help that two of their best hitters, Travis Hafner
(lefty) and Coco Crisp (switchhitter) are both significantly worse against
lefty pitchers. The Indians likely will continue to struggle against
southpaws.

Royals: 5-10 against lefties. Same as the Astros: This is simply a bad team.

Padres: 6-1 at home against lefties, 1-5 on the road! San Diego is a team a
manager would want to throw a lefty against, with lefty sluggers Sean
Burroughs, Brian Giles and Ryan Klesko. Note that the young Burroughs is
hitting .283 with 10 walks against righties, but .259 with one walk against
lefties. It is a bit difficult to explain at this point why they're so good
at home against lefties, but as the season goes along, the Padres are a team
that should excel against righties and may struggle against southpaws,
especially on the road. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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