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Yankees probably need another lefty bat before adding a righty
Sometimes even the simplest stats require thoughtful analysis.
Take on-base plus slugging percentage, which is exactly what its name says it is, and the Yankees’ subpar .649 OPS against lefthanded pitching during the first half. The American League average during that span was .712, leading many analysts to prescribe adding a righthanded-hitting outfielder to aid the ailing stats of the outfield trio: lefty Brett Gardner (.761 OPS), lefty Ichiro Suzuki (.714) and struggling righty Vernon Wells (.647).
But a look inside the numbers reveals that what the Yankees actually need ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is yet another lefthanded bat.
Despite his sagging overall stats, Wells has been a significant force against southpaws, hitting .294 with a .333 OBP and .422 slugging percentage during the first half. In 205 plate appearances against righties, however, Wells is hitting .207 with a .586 OPS. That’s more than 100 points lower than the MLB average OPS of .697 for righty batters against righty pitchers.
Suzuki is posting a reverse platoon split this season, hitting .337 with an .831 OPS in 106 plate appearances against lefties and a .258 average and .659 OPS in 236 plate appearances against righties.
Gardner, meanwhile, is essentially the same hitter no matter who’s pitching. He has a .761 OPS against righthanded pitching and .760 against lefties.
Infielder Jayson Nix has just 101 plate appearances against lefties, but hits .272 with a .374 OBP when he faces them. MLB shortstops are averaging a .305 OBP against all pitching and MLB hitters have combined for a .314 OBP against lefthanded pitchers. Nix is actually quite a threat when he’s in the lineup versus lefties. But against righties (167 PAs), that average drops to .218.
With Alex Rodriguez scheduled to return Monday, he’s unlikely to need a caddie against lefties.
A-Rod had a .924 OPS against southpaws last season, and posted a .717 OPS against righties. During a miserable playoff run his struggles were most pronounced against righthanders.
Robinson Cano is the one elite starter in the Yankees’ lineup, and even though he’s been less effective against lefties (.778 OPS compared with .997 against righties), he’s not getting platooned.
That’s not to say, however, the Yankees couldn’t benefit from a righty bat at two other positions.
First baseman Lyle Overbay appears to be simply middling along with a .745 OPS, considering the major-league average for first basemen is a .775 OPS.
But he’s a significant threat against righthanders, hitting .272 with a .330 OBP, .485 SLG and 10 of his 11 home runs. He’s posted a .556 OPS in 89 plate appearances against lefties, however.
Catcher Chris Stewart bats .260 with a .326 OBP and .676 OPS in 139 at-bats against righties. That’s fairly close to the average .709 OPS for MLB catchers. But put a lefty on the mound and Stewart has just a .484 OPS in 58 plate appearances.
General manager Brian Cashman should bear in mind when he goes shopping that the Yankees’ lineup needs aren’t a one-sided debate.