Jul 5, 2010; Detroit, Mi, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Andrew Oliver (41) pitches in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

The Lefty Myth


With ex-Tiger right handed starter Edwin Jackson just signing a one year deal for 10M dollars with the Washington Nationals, I personally believe all of the options that could truly help the Tigers rotation have now disappeared. Unless of course something happens in the trade market. What signing Jackson also did for the Nationals, is make one of their lefty starters available in a deal, the suggestion is that it would be John Lannan.

I’m definitely not suggesting that the Tigers trade anyone for John Lannan. Lannan after all is a pedestrian lefty, with not so good peripherals that likely wouldn’t translate too well to the American League. He isn’t somebody that the Tigers couldn’t produce from their own farm system at this point.

In the past week or so, MCB writer Chris Hannum has posted a couple different articles, one reminding us not to forget Fu-Te-Ni as a possible 5th starter candidate, and one suggesting that Adam Wilk could be an option as well. It didn’t escape me that both of those guys are left-handed, as are some of the other in-house candidates for the job. Those include; Drew Smyly, Andy Oliver, Jay Voss, and Casey Crosby as well. Throw Jacob Turner into the mix, and there should be one heck of a battle.

I don’t think for a second that it is the conscious decision of the Tigers organization to have all those left-handed starters in the mix for the 5th spot because they believe a lefty is needed for their rotation. The other four spots currently held in the rotation are all done so by right-handers. It just happens that most of the Tigers pitching prospects in the upper minors are of the left-handed variety. I am also not suggesting that Hannum thinks the Tigers need a left-handed starter either. I am suggesting that it has been a theme of fans in the past year or so when discussing the Tigers rotation.

September 26, 2011; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Duane Below (64) pitches in the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Detroit won 14-0. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

A lot of the discussion by the fans this off-season has been that the Tigers should be looking for a lefty to fill out that rotation, and the earlier pursuit of Gio Gonzalez lends to that idea. In theory, I can’t say that I disagree with the notion of having a lefty in the rotation. In a three game series, my logical mind tells me that it isn’t a bad thing for hitters to get a look at a pitcher from a different side. But in reality, I don’t think it helps at all.

In general, most people are right handed. So it stands to reason, most teams are going to have more right-handed bats in the lineup from day to day. Heck, the Tigers own regular lineup going into 2012 looks like they will only have 3 regular lefties in Prince Fielder, Brennan Boesch and Alex Avila. It certainly wouldn’t have helped the Tigers in the ALDS this past season either, considering that Josh Hamilton was essentially the only regular lefty of note on the Rangers. Even if on average, lineups consist of 40% left handed hitters, it stands to reason they will be facing righties much more often. This is obviously a disadvantage for left-handed pitchers.

Also, I don’t believe that inserting a left-handed starter in the midst of two right-handers confuses lineups as much as we would all like to think. Given that they are starters, its not like the batters have to make an in-game adjustment like they do when a reliever comes in. Left handed relievers can be more effective because their role is often shrunk to facing a hitter or two that has been facing another pitcher the whole game. Left-handed starters can be prepared for, and given it is a new day, hitters aren’t coming off of facing a different pitcher, thus taking away some of the effect of the “new” look.

The bottom line is the hand a pitcher throws with doesn’t matter as a starter. Its about their stuff, their ability to command, and their ability to keep big league hitters off balance. It really comes down to results. Who are the best five pitchers that a team can put out there? The Tigers have never needed a lefty in their rotation. It’s pretty clear that the Tigers organization understands that. Their overtures to both Matt Garza and Roy Oswalt suggests they understand that.

I’m all for a lefty in the rotation, but only if they are the best person for the job, and have outperformed everyone else to win the job. Otherwise, it is just counter-productive to do so.

So, if the 5th starter is truly up for grabs, may the best man win the job, no matter which hand he throws with.

Tags: Adam Wilk Andy Oliver Casey Crosby Detroit Tigers Drew Smyly Edwin Jackson Featured Jacob Turner John Lannan Popular

  • garretkc

    “Most teams are going to have more right-handed bats in the lineup from day to day.”

    That may be true in general but in the AL Central it isn’t. I looked up some projected lineups for the four other teams in the division; of 36 regulars, they’ll be fielding four switch-hitters, 16 right-handed, and 16 left-handed. The only projected starter for the Indians (maybe the Tigers’ best competition in the division) who can’t bat from the left side is Matt LaPorta. The Twins also have a lineup loaded with lefties. I’m not saying it’s necessary for Detroit to have a left-handed starter (they were fine last year without one), just that it might actually prove somewhat beneficial considering how often they’ll be playing against those two clubs.

    • MCBjohnverburg

      @garretkc Well, the Indians certainly swing this, and by the way, they hit better against lefties last year.

      • garretkc

        @MCBjohnverburg Did they? Interesting, I should’ve checked that. By the way, Matt LaPorta is now out as their only projected regular batting right; Casey Kotchman, lefty, has replaced him.

        • MCBjohnverburg

          @garretkc Actually, of all the division rivals, Kansas City is the only one that performed better against righties. The other three had better success against lefties.

        • MCBjohnverburg

          @garretkc And lastly, I checked two other potential playoff teams. My contention that it wouldn’t have helped against the Rangers is somewhat true. Overall their stats against LHP was really similar to righties. Their OPS was higher against lefties, but they performed much better against lefty relievers than starters.

          Also, the Angels were much better against lefties.

          Not throwing these at you to make an argument against you, just something I kind of should of checked before I threw my theory out there. I guess my main point of the article is that we as fans should be more concerned with the quality of the pitcher instead of worrying if we have a left handed starter or not.