Where have all the superstar left-handed hitters gone?

15 Comments

Last night’s Home Run Derby included just one left-handed hitter (Justin Morneau) among the eight contestants and tonight’s All-Star game will feature only two left-handed hitters (Chase Utley, Robinson Cano) among the 18 starters.

So where did all of the star-caliber left-handed and switch-hitters go, exactly?

Looking back to last year, the All-Star game starting lineups featured left-handed bats Cano, Chris Davis, David Ortiz, Joe Mauer, Carlos Beltran, Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez, and Bryce Harper. Injuries knocked most of those guys out of consideration this season.

Going back two years, the All-Star game starting lineups in 2012 featured left-handed hitters Cano, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Votto, Beltran, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Rafael Furcal, and Curtis Granderson.

In other words, yeah, this season is a whole lot different.

Of course, it’s worth noting that this year’s All-Star game reserves include quite a few left-handed bats in Victor Martinez, Charlie Blackmon, Matt Carpenter, Freddie Freeman, Dee Gordon, Miguel Montero, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rizzo, Erick Aybar, Michael Brantley, Brandon Moss, Kyle Seager. And switch-hitting Orioles catcher Matt Wieters was chosen as a starter, but won’t be playing due to an injury.

So there are plenty of left-handed-hitting All-Stars, just not many left-handed-hitting superstars, or at least not many left-handed-hitting superstars who’ve been both healthy and at the top of their respective games this season.

Who are some young left-handed and switch-hitters capable of emerging as perennial All-Star starters? Bryce Harper stands out, certainly, but beyond that there aren’t many 25-and-under left-handed hitters currently in the big leagues who strike me as sure-fire future superstars. Guys like Dickerson, Freeman, Rizzo, Lonnie Chisenhall, Matt Adams, Billy Hamilton, Christian Yelich, Jason Heyward, Kolten Wong, Eric Hosmer, Rougned Odor, Oswaldo Arcia, Jon Singleton, and Jackie Bradley Jr. certainly have big-time potential, but who knows?

It really does seem like we’re in a bit of a lull in terms of superstar left-handed hitters and that might continue for a while until a few prospects like Oscar Taveras, Gregory Polanco, Francisco Lindor, and Joey Gallo start taking over and/or former MVPs and MVP candidates like Votto, Mauer, Gonzalez, and Fielder get back on track.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

Getty Images
1 Comment

It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.