The litany of games where the Orioles have seemed to come up short against soft-tossing left-handed starting pitchers is so long that we take it for granted that the Orioles are not at their best when facing lefties. After beating CC Sabathia on Monday night, the O's are 24-23 in games where their opponent starts a lefty.
Statistically, all of baseball is worse when batting against lefties than against right-handed pitchers. Have the Orioles been any more vulnerable against lefties than the other teams in playoff contention in the American League?
The charts below include hitting numbers through Sunday's games and records through Monday's games.
FACING RIGHT-HANDED PITCHING
|Team||AVG||OBP||SLG||OPS||W-L (vs. SP)|
These are the numbers that have been accumulated this season. They are not park-adjusted or adjusted for quality of opposing pitching or anything like that. Some teams have probably faced more tough right-handed pitchers than others, and some teams have played more games in parks friendly to left-handed power hitters than others. To say that it is any kind of exact means of quantifying the quality of each offense would not be correct. It is a comparison of what actually happened.
Another thing to consider, particularly in the case of a team like the Yankees, is that these numbers were accumulated with different rosters than some teams now have.
FACING LEFT-HANDED PITCHING
|Team||AVG||OBP||SLG||OPS||OPS (LHP - RHP)||W-L (vs. SP)|
As you might expect, won-loss records are not indicative of a whole lot, because they are still heavily dependent on the performance of other aspects of the team. A team's offense could have a great game against any pitcher, but their own starter or bullpen could be poor and that could go as a "loss" against a lefty starter, who may not even factor in the decision.
Boston's dip going from facing righties to lefties is the largest, and yet they are 11 games over .500 against lefties. Detroit does not tail off much at all, and still has the best OPS of any of these contending teams against lefties, yet it is the only contender below .500 against lefty starters. The Yankees have a negligible decline in OPS when facing lefties, and yet they have a better record against lefty starters by eight games.
Several contenders hit better against left-handed pitching, with Cleveland showing marked improvement, as well as Oakland. Tampa Bay and Texas have also had slightly-better numbers against lefties.
The Orioles have one of the highest OPS drop-offs when going from righties to lefties. This is not surprising, considering their best hitter is the left-handed Chris Davis, and right-handed hitters Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, and Manny Machado, whom you might expect to hit lefties better, actually hit righties better this year.
Their struggles at times to win games started by left-handed pitchers could have a lot to do with their on-base percentage, which is the poorest of any of these teams against either type of pitcher. Their batting average against lefties is nearly the worst as well. While their slugging percentage is as good as or better than most of the other contenders, this makes for very feast-or-famine offense.
As a team, the Orioles do not put pressure on pitchers to throw strikes, and against certain pitchers, especially some lefties, who tend to have the reputation of getting by with slower pitches and lots of off-speed stuff out of the zone, they can be punished.
Through the season, they have made small moves that may make their September numbers against lefties better, if you believe in Michael Morse or Danny Valencia. As much of whether they win those games will have to do with the pitching staff as it does with the bullpen.
When tinkering with the roster over the offseason, perhaps Dan Duquette can work to strengthen the team against left-handed pitching while not surrendering too much of its strength against right-handed pitching. For now, the Orioles have to win with the team they have. They need to go 16-3 over the final 19 games to get to last year's 93-69 record.
To do that, they need to beat everybody, righty or lefty. Based on the numbers of the season so far, it'll probably be the lefties that give them the most problems.