Which Batters Hit Lefties and Righties Best in 2014?
The 2014 season is basically in the books, so I figured I’d look at lefty/righty splits to see which hitters have been the “best” at facing each type of pitcher. I put “best” in quotation marks because the categories I selected to determine this are batting average (BA), home runs (HR), weighted on base average (wOBA), and runs created plus (wRC+). I also only looked at the top-five hitters for each category.
There are numerous other ways to determine which hitters have found success against either lefties or righties - keep that in mind.
Let’s start with hitters facing lefties.
|Altuve (.420)||Donaldson (14)||Martinez, V (.476)||Martinez, V (211)|
|Aoki (.376)||Martinez, V (12)||Bautista (.471)||Bautista (206)|
|Martinez, V (.371)||Upton, J (11)||Stanton (.453)||Stanton (193)|
|Wright (.367)||Ortiz (11)||Abrue (.447)||Altuve (192)|
|Davis, R (.356)||3 tied at 10||Altuve (.446)||Van Slyke (191)|
As you can see, Jose Altuve has had tremendous success against lefties this season, hitting a MLB best .420, with a wOBA of .446, and a wRC+ of 192. Altuve has recorded 63 hits in 150 at-bats against lefties this season, while he has 159 hits in 498 at-bats against righties, good for a difference in just over 100 points in batting average (he’s hitting .319 against righties).
Victor Martinez’s numbers also stand out, as he's the only player that appears in all four categories, including leading in wOBA and wRC+. Two other names that are surprising are Norichika Aoki and Scott Van Slyke. Besides Victor Martinez (he's a switch hitter), Aoki is one of only two left-handed batters in the top-10 for batting average against lefties - the other being Ben Revere - and Aoki has the higher batting average by 31 points.
Aoki must use all of his mojo against lefties, because he’s hitting just .253 this season against righties. Scott Van Slyke has gotten the most playing time of his career this season and has performed admirably, posting a .291/.384/.527 line with 25 extra-base hits in just over 200 at-bats. His wOBA of .398 and his wRC+ of 160 would be seventh and sixth best in baseball, respectively, if he had enough at-bats to qualify. He also crushes lefties, and I’m guessing the Dodgers know this, as manager Don Mattingly has been using Van Slyke in a platoon with Carl Crawford, with Van Slyke starting against lefties. Considering Crawford is hitting .315 against lefties this year, it’s that much more of an endorsement of Van Slyke.
Now let’s check out splits against righties.
|Morneau (.341)||Cruz (32)||Dickerson (.419)||McCutchen (170)|
|Brantley (.340)||Stanton (30)||McCutchen (.415)||Trout (168)|
|Cano (.331)||Encarnacion (29)||Brantley (.405)||Brantley (166)|
|Dickerson (.328)||Duda (27)||Trout (.404)||Puig (159)|
|Martinez, V (.321)||Carter (27)||Abreu (.397)||Duda (157)|
Playing into the belief that hitters do better against pitchers that throw the opposite of how they hit is the fact that the top-four highest batting averages against righties this year are all lefty hitters (again, Martinez is a switch hitter).
There aren’t any hitters that appear in every category above, but Michael Brantley is in three out of the four. He has crushed right-handers this year, and while he falls short in the home run category, 15 of his 20 bombs this year are against righties.
Many of the players in this table are not surprising to see - guys like Andrew McCutchen and Mike Trout, along with Nelson Cruz and Giancarlo Stanton in the home run category. However, Lucas Duda’s numbers stood out to me. His 27 homers against righties is tied for fourth best in baseball, and his wrC+ is fifth best. Looking closer at his splits, basically all of his production is done against righties. He’s not a high average hitter, but he’s batting just .176 against lefties with only one home run and a 37 to 11 strikeout to walk ratio. His wRC+ against lefties is just 48. Yikes.
It’s also worth noting that Jose Abreu is in the top-five for wOBA against both lefties (.447) and against righties (.397), which makes sense as his total wOBA of .410 is second best in baseball.
There might not be any conclusions to draw from this other than that some guys are good against lefties (Aoki), while others hit righties better (Justin Morneau). Some guys hit them both well (Martinez), and some are bad enough against one that they should be considered being benched (Duda against lefties). Regardless, as long as there is baseball, there will be stats for us to analyze. And that’s a good thing.