Team Performance by Pitcher Handedness – Two Months In

We’re now over two months into the season, so we’re starting to get an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of certain teams. One of the stats we can start to leverage in fantasy leagues is offensive performance by pitcher handedness. By evaluating which teams excel or struggle against a pitcher orientation, we can sometimes find value plays or dangerous matchups to avoid.

Before we jump into the numbers, let’s recognize the shortcomings. We’re still working in small sample land. Team wide data tend to be biased by injuries to key personnel as well as player promotions. For example, the Astros just promoted Jonathan Singleton, a left-handed batter. He’ll presumably take playing time from Jesus Guzman, a right-handed batter. Not only is Singleton probably better than Guzman, but he’ll have the platoon advantage most of the time. As such, the Astros are probably better against right-handed pitching than their numbers suggest.

Let’s start with team performance against right-handed pitchers. The majority of games are played against righties, so this split has a larger effect on overall team success.

v RHP

If you prefer the link, here it is.

Five teams really excel against righties. By wRC+, the four top teams are the Athletics, Blue Jays, Dodgers, and Indians. The Dodgers are the outlier since their only platoon quality player is Andre Ethier. The other three teams employee several left-handed bats specifically for their ability to mash righties. Players like Adam Lind, Brandon Moss, Juan Francisco, and David Murphy aren’t very useful against fellow lefties, but boy can they crush opposite-handed opponents.

The other team in the top against righties is the Rockies. By wRC+, they’re a bit above average. Of course, wRC+ adjusts for park effects. Your fantasy league does not. As such, we’ll all happily take their collective .279/.330/.479 line.

As it happens, five teams are particularly laggardly against northpaws. The Royals and Phillies are weird teams to find here because they’re known for notable left-handed hitters. The Phillies have Chase Utley and Ryan Howard who are well-established righty bashers. Utley has held up his end of the bargain with a 149 wRC+, but Howard has a disappointing 100 wRC+. The Royals lineup leans left-handed, with Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon leading the charge. More was expected from Norichika Aoki and Mike Moustakas too.

The Braves are an interesting find on this list due to their reputation as a top offense. They have a lot of dynamic, right-handed hitters, but they’re not performing well against same-handed pitching. The few lefties in the lineup haven’t capitalized on their matchups. Turner Field isn’t friendly to left-handed power, which contributes to the problem.

The other two trailers – the Cubs and Padres – are just bad offensive teams. We knew this going into the season, although I think the Padres have been worse than expected.

Let’s take a look at team performance against southpaws. Once again, here’s the link.

v LHP

A LOT of teams hit lefties well this year. Perhaps the league is host to more marginal left-handed pitchers than normal? It might be something worth investigating.

In any case, here we find the Braves again, except this time they’re leading the pack by a huge margin. They’re hitting like their home field is in Colorado (more on them in a second). They also have the second fewest plate appearances versus lefties, so take the results with a grain of salt. Still, their lineup is very right-handed, so good results are to be expected – just probably not quite this good.

Fifth by wRC+ and second by wOBA are the Rockies. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are third by both measures. These are the two teams that rake regardless of opponent. The Jays lose some of the dynamic nature of their lineup since Francisco and Lind aren’t as effective.¬†However, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera are switch hitters while Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are just ridiculously good. The Rockies numbers are carried by Troy Tulowitzki. He’s hit .420/.524/.840 against southpaws, which translates to a 253 wRC+. That means he’s 153 percent above league average.

It’s not surprising to find the Nationals near the top of this leaderboard, what with Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon carrying the middle of the order. Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos should add to the damage too. The real surprise is the Phillies. They’re not supposed to hit lefties, but the unlikely dynamic duo of Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz have helped the lineup against their traditional foes.

The Athletics are the less superlative version of the Blue Jays and Rockies. They’re a threat against either type of pitcher. It’s clearly by design, Billy Beane has been leaning on platoons as a cost effective approach to free agency for years.

Six teams trail the field. The Mariners and Royals aren’t a shock, all of their best hitters are left-handed. If the Royals want to get off the worst offense list, they need to find a way to hit a few home runs. We already dismissed the Padres as a bad offensive club, it works both ways.

It’s really weird to find the Cardinals, Reds, and Dodgers taking residence in the basement. All three clubs were supposed to be good against lefties. “Good” might even be underselling it. The league worst Dodgers have Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez in the middle of the lineup. That alone should be enough to post an average offense against southpaws. The Cardinals and Reds both skew right-handed, but in both cases, only a few hitters are actually hitting. For the Cards, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig have been big disappointments, while the Reds have been handing too many plate appearances to Billy Hamilton and Brandon Phillips.



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Wobatus
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Wobatus

Interesting stuff. Max Scherzer has had a small slump his last 3 starts and I note he has platoon splits, much better against righties and a 4.30 xfip against lefties. Sure enough 2 of the starts were against Oakland and Cleveland, at or near the top of the against righties list, and against the Mariners, who aren’t great against righties but better than against lefties and they do indeed lean lefty in their lineup.

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