The Left-Handed Heavy Lineup Dilemma

Yesterday, Troy took a look at potential changes to the leadoff spot for the Sox in 2012. Given the rise in power from Jacoby Ellsbury and the consistently awesome on-base skills of Dustin Pedroia, it makes all the sense in the world to bat Pedey leadoff and Ells second or third in the lineup. However, this does create a situation where the Sox offense starts to become somewhat left-handed heavy. Will teams be able to exploit this potential aspect of the lineup?

Hitting Pedroia leadoff would likely put Ellsbury in the two-hole, followed by fellow lefty Adrian Gonzalez, then Kevin Youkilis (for as long as he can stay healthy) then David Ortiz, Cody Ross (vs. LHP), Carl Crawford (once his wrist is game ready) and mix-and-match after that. Essentially, the bulk of the order is consumed by left-handed bats. However, one look at some split stats shows us that this isn’t really that much of an issue to begin with.

Jacoby Elssbury 2011 vs LHP: .284/.348/.492
Career vs. LHP: .299/.355/.427

Adrian Gonzalez 2011 vs LHP: .321/.387/.400
Career vs LHP: .272/.347/.437

With regard to A-Gone, his career numbers vs LHP might be seem significantly lower than his 2011 showing, but keep in mind that he hit .337/.424/.513 off of them in 2010 as well, so he has two seasons in a row with data showing us that he has made a significant adjustment.

David Ortiz 2011 vs. LHP: .329/.423/.556
Career vs. LHP: .260/.334/.471

Keep in mind that Ortiz had struggled mightily against lefties since 2008, failing to post an OPS higher than .716. The question remains: At 36 years of age, will Ortiz revert to the futile hitter against lefties that he was in 2009 and 2010, or has he completely reworked his swing and/or approach at the plate to essentially eliminate the problem?

Carl Crawford 2011 vs. LHP: .195/.249/.317
Career vs. LHP: .262/.308/.375

Clearly, Crawford has never found a whole lot of success against left-handed pitching — his best seasons against lefties came back in 2006 and 2007. His dismal numbers against them in 2011 can be chalked up at least somewhat to the wrist problem and the overall severity of his suckiness. It’s scary to think that the $20 million dollar man may be in need of a platoon partner. How he bounces back this season is paramount.

All-in-all, it doesn’t look as though the Sox should have to worry too much about the fact that their middle of the order is left-handed heavy. Ellsbury and Gonzalez have shown in recent years that they are capable of producing against lefties and Big Papi may have made an extremely important adjustment against them last season — though I’m not 100-percent convinced that he can come close to repeating what he did against them in 2011. Carl Crawford will have to prove he can be at least descent against lefties, but he might not bat much higher than seventh if everyone else is healthy and hitting like they can and/or should.

The bottom line with this team is: Bobby V. shouldn’t worry about stacking the left-handed hitters of this projected lineup. Put the best hitters in the best lineup positions possible. Simple as that.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Carl Crawford David Ortiz Dustin Pedroia Jacoby Ellsbury Kevin Youkilis

Charlie first started writing about baseball back in 2008 when he opened Fantasy Baseball 365. Since graduating college with a degree in English, he has spent time coaching baseball as well as working in several minor league front offices. He also writes for The Outside Corner and contributes to Project Prospect and ESPN's Sweet Spot. Writer from August 3, 2010 - May 6, 2012

5 Responses to “The Left-Handed Heavy Lineup Dilemma” Subscribe

  1. Cory March 23, 2012 at 12:51 PM #

    Watching CC against LHP is deflating. He looks lost. All pitchers need to do is throw three sliders down and away and he will strikeout.

    I do have hope for the others, though. Their numbers do not lie.

  2. Jay March 23, 2012 at 3:27 PM #

    I'm betting on Valentine putting Crawford in the two hole as soon as he is healthy. Team needs a lot from CC, and I can see Valentine trying to boost his confidence with this move. In that case, lineup would have to be something like – Ells, CC, Pedey, AGon, Youk, Papi, etc.

    • Charlie Saponara March 23, 2012 at 8:15 PM #

      I could certainly see this happening, though I'm not sure it would make for the most productive lineup.

  3. topherdd March 24, 2012 at 8:45 AM #

    ' severity of his suckiness ' may I borrow that ?

  4. Bill C. March 27, 2012 at 3:58 PM #

    Split stats are nice in the aggregate, however where they don't tell us much is against a very tough left-handed reliever. Opponents could still put in a tough lefty the Red Sox have not seen as much, and he could have a better chance of breezing through the top of the Sox's order – better than a right-handed pitcher might. This is not exactly ideal late in games…