Monday, February 6, 2012

Indians and Left Handed Starters

The 2012 Indians everyday lineup will have switch hitters Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera and the remaining lineup will be comprised of left handed hitters. This has led to a lot of deep concerns about what happens when a left handed pitcher is on the mound to start a game worse yet, what about late in games when teams go to their left handed relief pitchers. Does Jason Donald, Shelly Duncan, Aaron Cunningham, and Lou Marson provide enough flexibility off the bench to balance the scales of the late inning matchup.

Let's look at the left handed starting pitchers first. The Indians may face up to 25 different left handed pitchers during the year. Out of the 26 starting pitchers listed below several won't be in their teams respective rotations but have been included on the list (see Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A's). Additionally, the Indians face the Miami Marlins in 1 series and it isn't set in stone that the team will face Mark Buehrle likewise Erik Bedard with Pittsburgh.

Second, the concern that the Indians flexibility to handle matchups late in games. Historically, teams that have a lead after 6 innings of play win around 85% of the time. The data below was presented at a SABR conference in Cincinnati in 2004 by David W. Smith in a project titled:  Coming from Behind: Patterns of Scoring and Relation to Winning   Data collected includes the results of 73 seasons.

I know what you're thinking....great, but what about close games after 6 innings etc. The graph below shows a teams winning percentage with 1, 2, 3, and 4 run leads after each inning.

Team Win% When Leading After Inning

In 2011 the Indians had a .875 winning percentage with a record of 56-8 when leading after 6 innings, .938% when leading after 7 with a record of 61-4, and a .955% when leading after 8 with a record of 64-3.

When looking at the Tigers who won the 2011 AL Central crown. They had a winning percentage of .934 when leading after 6 with a record of 71-5, 100% when leading after 7 with a record of 77-0, and 100% when leading after 8 with a record of 83-0.

The takeaway from this isn't the winning percentage between the two teams. The takeaway should be the frequency that the Indians led after 6, 7, and 8 innings as compared to the Tigers. The Tigers had a lead 76 times after 6 innings while the Indians had only 64 games.

The best way for the Indians to deflate the oppositions left-handed matchup is to make the opposition go to their bullpen to try and keep the Indians from extending a lead rather than protecting their own. 


  1. Do pitchers from either side of the plate begin to adjust to an opposition when the opposing players are all batting from the same side of the plate?

    Is it possible that a "ratio" of 6 players from one side, 3 from the other, properly interspersed throughout the line-up, is more effective than stacking 7,8 or 9 players all from the same side?

    It seems as if a pitcher can begin to really zone in on nipping the corners, and getting the calls, if all the hitters are hitting from the same side .

    It's something I plan on watching more closely this year.

  2. @MyTribe take Justin Masterson for an example.

    In 2011 he faced 908 Batters and 513 of those plate appearances came against LHP.

    Lefties hit him for an overall .291/.331/.415 mark. Most lineups load up on LHB when Masterson is on the mound and in his case..he doesn't adjust.

    In the first half, when he was pitching well against everyone, LHB hit him at .282/.329/.385 but this inched up a notch in the second half when LHB hit him at .300/.335/.451.

    In the remaining 395 PA to RHB the group hit Masterson at a clip of .210/.300/.259 an OPS of .560.

    So, in Masterson's case, he has trouble hitting LHP and managers load up lineups with LHBs against him and he doesn't adjust.