Red Sox manager Terry Francona said yesterday that he’ll continue to put David Ortiz in the lineup versus left-handed pitchers even though he hasn’t had success against them in years.
Here’s his reasoning:
For David to be successful—and I see his numbers against lefties, believe me, I do—you can’t just sit him because I don’t know if he’d have as much success against righties. I know we believe that. I think there are times where it’ll do him good to maybe give him a break against somebody he struggles with.
The notion that not playing regularly against lefties could hurt Ortiz against righties by making him less effective overall certainly isn’t crazy, but my guess is that the actual data doesn’t support Francona’s hypothesis. Plenty of players are extremely productive in platoon roles every season and left-handed hitters have built entire careers on their ability to mash right-handed pitchers while sitting against southpaws.
Ortiz could be different, I suppose, but Francona wouldn’t know that until he actually tries sitting him against lefties and in the meantime here are Ortiz’s recent numbers against lefties:
YEAR AVG OBP SLG OPS
2008 .221 .308 .433 .741
2009 .212 .298 .418 .716
2010 .222 .275 .324 .599
Combined during the past three seasons Ortiz hit .218 with a .291 on-base percentage and .383 slugging percentage off left-handers, which is good for a .674 OPS. To put that lack of production into some context, consider this list of players with a higher career OPS than .674: Aaron Miles, Angel Berroa, Miguel Cairo, Willie Harris, Endy Chavez, Jack Wilson, Luis Rivas, Yuniesky Betancourt, Timo Perez, Geoff Blum, Corey Patterson, Kaz Matsui.
You get the point.
Even if Francona’s theory is correct–and that’s hardly a guarantee–is it worth keeping Ortiz at his best against right-handers if it means filling the designated hitter spot with Aaron Miles-like production against left-handers?
FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports that the Nationals are expected to consider Cal Ripken Jr. for their managerial vacancy. Ripken, of course, was recently reported to have been considered by the club the last time the job was open.
This could be a courtesy. And if you’re a Nats fan, you have to hope it is, right? Because the single biggest argument in favor of Matt Williams when he was hired was that he was a top player in his day, wasn’t too far removed from his playing career and could be a good clubhouse guy who understood what made major leaguers tick. His lack of experience was brushed off. All of which would be the same thing for Ripken, except he doesn’t even have the coaching experience Williams had and is even farther removed from his playing days.
I know he’s famous and everything, but if the Nationals’ 2015 season is evidence of anything, perhaps it should be evidence that sometimes it’s useful to have a manager who has actually, you know, made a pitching change once in his professional life.
Matt Williams was voted the National League Manager of the Year on November 11, 2014, receiving 18 of 30 first-place votes from Baseball Writers Association of America members.
Today the Nationals fired Williams and his entire coaching staff following a season full of disappointment, reports of clubhouse discontent, and Jonathan Papelbon choking Bryce Harper in the dugout.
Williams went 179-145 (.552) in two seasons in Washington, which is an excellent winning percentage, but when you take over a stacked team the expectations are extremely high and there was seemingly nothing anyone could point to about his actual managing that suggested he was doing a good job.
His in-game tactics and particularly his rigid bullpen usage patterns infuriated fans. His dealings with the local media became increasingly antagonistic. And even setting aside two players literally fighting in the dugout there’s ample evidence that Williams lost the clubhouse a long time ago.
Williams was far from the only thing wrong with the Nationals this season and he’s hardly the primary person to blame for their disappointing record, but it’s also hard to make a strong case for his sticking around–meaningless, beat writer-voted award or not–and general manager Mike Rizzo predictably acted quickly to move on.
Now we’ll see who gets to take the next crack at managing the Nationals to play up to expectations.