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« Damon's Doughnut | Main | Has Matt Holliday helped Albert Pujols? »

The Red Sox Lineup Vs. LHP

Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald recently wrote about the Red Sox dilemma regarding their lefty dominated lineup.

Two lefty Red Sox hitters in particular have had a tough time against LHP. New acquisition Carl Crawford has posted a wOBA 80 points lower against lefties than righties over the past 3 years. He’s also reached base at a much lower clip against southpaws (.304 vs. 368 OBP). Similarly, David Ortiz’s .296 wOBA versus lefties since 2008 (102 points lower than versus RHP) is concerning.

As for the rest of the hitters likely to see some significant playing time:

Red Sox Batters vs. LHP since 2008
Kevin Youkilis.332.447.628.461
Mike Cameron.289.418.560.424
Jed Lowrie.316.398.525.403
Darnell McDonald.312.364.473.374
Dustin Pedroia.285.370.452.370
Jason Varitek.250.346.483.363
Adrian Gonzalez.258.347.436.350
J.D. Drew.247.357.414.348
Marco Scutaro.275.357.410.348
Jacoby Ellsbury.303.349.389.337
Carl Crawford.254.304.366.302
David Ortiz.213.290.373.296
Jarrod Saltalamacchia.199.261.315.260

More than likely, David Ortiz will see very little starting time at DH against any left-handed starters. Similarly, Francona will probably attempt to rest Saltalamacchia versus lefties, starting Varitek (a better hitter from the right side) in his place. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lowrie occasionally starting at shortstop versus LHP in place of Scutaro, who has hit lefties only slightly better than righties in his career. Francona could even deploy Lowrie at third against LHP, allowing Youkilis a half day off at DH.

Silverman mentioned that Jacoby Ellsbury has hit left-handed pitching better than right-handed pitching in his career, and is thus a better option to leadoff versus lefties. However, his numbers versus RHP aren’t exactly eye-popping to begin with (.277/.329/.400). As good a stolen base threat that Ellsbury is, the old saying “you can’t steal first base” says it all. He’s a better bet to be anchoring a Red Sox lineup that contains far better hitters.

Obviously, Francona won’t bench Carl Crawford whenever the Red Sox face a left-handed starter, although he’s likely to get his days off against one from time to time. Given Mike Cameron’s great success versus LHP, it makes more sense to deploy a Crawford-Cameron-Drew/McDonald OF, with Pedroia the best option to lead-off. And should we see Lowrie getting a spot start against a lefty, don’t be surprised to see him leading off, with Pedroia, Youkilis, Gonzalez, and Cameron rounding out the top half of the lineup.

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