When it comes to hitting lefties, Didi Gregorius is better than all right.
And as exemplified by a game in which he collected two hits against lefthanded ace David Price in the Yankees’ 3-1 win over the Red Sox on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, the lefthanded-hitting shortstop actually has done better against lefthanders than righthanders this season.
In a sport dominated by platoon matchups, Gregorius defies logic. With 30 hits in 81 at-bats, he owns a .370 average against lefty pitchers in 2016, tops in the league for lefthanded batters. Against righthanders, he is 62-for-227 (.273).
Completing his slash line, he has a .414 on-base percentage and .469 slugging percentage against lefties for an .883 OPS. Against righties, he has a .300 on-base percentage and .471 slugging percentage for a .771 OPS.
Since May 7, he’s hitting .421 against lefties. The hits just keep coming, and opposing managers are forced to juggle the stereotype of lefty specialists with the indisputable fact that they simply don’t bother Gregorius.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi first saw improvements in the 26-year-old’s approach against lefties late last season.
“I think it started last year,” he said. “I think he’s just gotten more comfortable because we’ve played him against lefthanders. And he hits the ball all over the field, and I think that’s really helped Didi.”
Even though Girardi saw positive growth in 2015, Gregorius’ level of success against lefthanders is surprising, to say the least. Entering this season, he was a career .214 hitter against lefthanders (22-for-103). He credits having a clubhouse full of veteran hitters for his improvements.
“I’m just trying to see the ball, try to get down early and try not to chase outside the zone,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do, especially when I’ve got all the veteran guys here. They can talk all the time about hitting. If you want to learn, there are a lot of guys with a lot of experience here.”
The Yankees’ lefthanded hitters performed well against Price, as Gregorius, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury each had two hits against him. The six hits they collected are the most Price has ever surrendered to lefthanded hitters in a game.
Gregorius has played a crucial role in keeping the Yankees somewhat competitive, and one could argue that he’s neck-and-neck with Carlos Beltran in the discussion for team MVP.
He has become a stabilizing force in the lineup, something questioned by many when he was acquired before last season to replace Derek Jeter, of all people. He was always regarded as a solid defensive shortstop, but it was unclear if his bat would ever catch up.
It has all come together this year, as evidenced by his .299 average and .801 OPS.
Said Girardi: “He’s taken off.”