Tigers Put Lefty-Bashing Reputation To The Test
By Chris Hannum
In a couple of hours the Detroit Tigers will begin game one of a three game series in the smoldering mess of Dodger stadium (you know, fires, beatings and an inability to make payroll). They will be going up against Clayton Kershaw, a genuine ace, on the road and without the benefit of a designated hitter. Kershaw leads all MLB starters in K/9 and Tigers batters are worst in the AL when it comes to strikeouts. When a pitcher who misses bats faces batters who miss pitches, you wouldn’t expect a lot of contact.
Fortunately, Kershaw – though dominating – has an achilles heel, from the Tigers perspective.
He’s a southpaw. Detroit is 14-6 this year against lefties, 25-27 against right-handed starters. That’s no fluke, last year they were 26-21 against southpaws and 55-60 against northpaws. In 2009, 29-20 against lefties, 57-57 against the rest. And it goes on. One of the big reasons for that is on the DL – Brandon Inge. We all know how badly Inge has hit overall this year, but he’s still put up a .747 OPS against lefties. Ordonez and Raburn have also hit much better against lefties over the past half decade. The question now might be how far Leyland is willing to go to bias the lineup against Kershaw. Don Kelly, I would devoutly hope, will not see play anywhere on the field today. Brennan Boesch and Alex Avila have hit well against lefties so far this year, so they might stay – even if that means that Avila bumbles his way around the hot corner and Casper Wells lacks a purpose in life. If ever there was a time to give Avila the day off, this is probably it. I say give Danny Worth, who has 6 hits in 11 at-bats against lefties so far this year, a shot at the third sack.
The Tigers will face Chad Billingsley tomorrow, another very good starter who lacks Kershaw’s flaw, and a second lefty in Ted Lilly on Wednesday. If Detroit is going to come out of this series in first place, they’ll have to prove that their success against lefties is more than a mirage.