Lefty Malarkey

added 7/19/2001 by Raymond Desadier
Major League Managers spend too much time managing the average team when they should be managing their team. For instance, using what the averages say about match-ups rather than evaluating your own team's strengths and weaknesses.

According to the Law of Averages, a left-handed pitcher will fare better against a left-handed batter. What this means is, a left-hander with similar stats, repertoire, etc as a particular right-hander, has a better chance of retiring a left-handed batter than the right-hander does.

What it has been misconstrued to mean is a left-hander with an ERA of 5.00 is preferred over a RH with a 3.50 ERA, simply because he throws with his left arm. What is this called? Sheer stupidity.

It makes much more sense to base match-ups on repertoires. For example, put in a junkballer to face a fastball hitter and a flamethrower to face a slow bat. Above all, effectiveness is the most important factor. Teams should concentrate on stocking their staffs with the most effective pitchers as possible and ignore petty things like which arm they throw with.

Let's apply this theory to the Astros. After spring training, Wayne Franklin had a better chance to make the roster than Scott Linebrink, despite Linebrink being FAR more effective. Due to injuries, both made the opening day squad, but when it came time to send someone down to the minors, it was Linebrink who got the first ticket to New Orleans.

Now everyone thinks we need another Wayne Franklin, only one that starts so he can pitch poorly for 5 or 6 innings instead of just 1 or 2. Unless an EFFECTIVE left-hander can be obtained, like an Al Leiter, there is no reason to try and lean the rotation the other direction.

What does more left-handers get you these days anyway? Let’s look at the top 5 teams and the bottom 5 in the NL and how many southpaws each has on their staff:

Top 5: Cubs – 3, Diamondbacks – 5, Astros – 2, Braves – 4, Phillies – 4

Bottom 5: Reds – 3, Pirates – 5, Rockies - 6, Expos – 2, Mets – 4

Let’s see… the team with the best record in the league has 3 left-handers, as does the team with the worst. The second best team has 5 left-handers, as does the second worst team. If these 2 sets of teams have relatively the same amount of southpaws, then it is obvious that they are not the cause of or solution to any problems. The third worst Rockies have 3 times as many as the third best Astros, and more than anyone else on the list!

The Astros face 11 different teams in their remaining games. Out of the 11, only 4 have a higher batting average against right-handed pitchers: St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Florida and Montreal. We have only 3 games left against each Montreal and Florida. St. Louis is the only team here to be concerned about so is it really worth going after a pitcher to face one team? Especially when the front running Cubs who you have to face 13 times, more than any club, hits left-handers over 20 points higher than righties?

If at this point you don’t see that the left-handed pitching does not solve all your problems, please reread this column from the beginning, do not pass Go or collect $200.

I’ve got nothing against left-handed pitchers. In fact, my favorite current Astro is Billy Wagner. However, I do have a problem with people “guessing” or “assuming” problems when they are too lazy to dig for evidence to prove their theory. So for those who insist that the Astros could be better if they had more left-handed pitching, I advise you to quit blowing smoke and start doing some research.


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