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?
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP