Attacking the Central From the Right Side

Do we have the right sort of lineup to compete in this division? I’ve mentioned before, in some detail, and of course you all knew already, that the Detroit Tigers will have and have had one of the strongest righty tilts on the offensive side in all of baseball. By and large, we’re better than .500 against left-handed starters, but worse than .500 against right-handed starters. But that got me thinking: Francisco Liriano is a lefty… so are John Danks and Mark Buehrle. That’s probably 3 of 5 best non-Tiger starters in the AL Central, however you cut it. Could it be true that R is where it’s at and not L?

Follow me through the jump to see the data deluge:

What you see below are the presumed starting rotations for our division rivals, the hand they throw with, and their Left-Right OPS splits over their whole careers.  Guys with an asterisk have pretty limited major league experience, so their splits should be taken with a grain of salt.

Twins Hand L/R
Francisco Liriano L .577/.733
Carl Pavano R .800/.720
Scott Baker R .758/.736
Nick Blackburn R .820/.765
Kevin Slowey R .819/.747

And the Sox…

Mark Buehrle L .732/.737
John Danks L .739/.714
Jake Peavy R .736/.602
Edwin Jackson R .778/.773
Gavin Floyd R .773/.742

And then the Tribe…

Fausto Carmona R .793/.676
Justin Masterson R .814/.626
Mitch Talbot* R .761/.819
Carlos Carrasco* R .750/1.105
Josh Tomlin* R .881/.682

And last but not least, the Royals…

Luke Hochevar R .852/.730
Jeff Francis L .716/.812
Bruce Chen L .816/.788
Kyle Davies R .821/.816
Vin Mazzaro R .846/.774

So the theory doesn’t quite seem to hold water. Liriano does really appear to kill lefties but not righties. We’re well positioned to beat him, and he is the guy I would consider the single best non-Tiger starter in the division. He’s got big splits, but Danks and Buerhle don’t. L/R splits aren’t a given, of course, it all comes down to your pitch mix. Lefties with big splits almost have to be as good as Liriano just to stay out of the bullpen. The same goes for righties, of course, guys with really huge splits have an uphill climb justifying a slot in anyone’s starting rotation. Take Bondo, for example. There are only 2 other lefties in the division, Bruce Chen and Jeff Francis in KC. Chen is another Buerhle, with effectively no split at all, so the only two starters we have a distinct advantage against are Francis and Liriano. If KC hadn’t thrown us a bone and signed Francis, we’d only have one.

So… roughly 75% of our division games will be against right-handed starters. The biggest splits, defining what I call ‘Tiger Killers’ are for Jake Peavy, Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin & Luke Hochevar. 4/5 of the Twins rotation is right-handed, and they all basically stink against lefties, but against righties they’re ‘OK’. This doesn’t look like a recipe for success to me, especially against the division’s bottom feeders.

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