Over the weekend, you might have noticed a big change to the Orioles' lineup, one that just might be a game-changer for the playoff-hunting O's. I am not talking about Manny Machado, at least not directly. Machado is a really exciting prospect, but it remains to be seen what kind of major league production he's going to have as a 20 year old. However, the infusion of Machado into the Orioles' lineup has one huge benefit, and that's who it kicks out of the lineup.
Wilson Betemit is a switch hitter, which is a hitting technique designed to minimize the natural weakness of facing a pitcher throwing from the same side of the plate that you're standing on by always standing opposite the pitcher. When Eddie Murray was at the peak of his career, switch-hitting worked pretty great for him. He put up an OPS of .954 as a righty and .886 as a lefty in the championship 1983 season. For Wilson Betemit, it has not worked out quite as well.
Betemit's an odd player, in that he's a utility fielder who struggles to fake it in the field anywhere as a legit defender and he's a switch hitter who struggles to fake it at the plate as a right-handed batter. His OPS as a lefty this season is .873, but right-handed it's a shockingly low .414. Last season, his lefty/righty platoon split was "only" about .260 points of OPS, and for his career it's closer to .150 points of OPS, so maybe righty-swinging Betemit's been more unlucky than outright terrible. Either way, it's really hard to stomach a .414 OPS.
Similarly, Mark Reynolds has broken down this season against right-handed pitching. For Reynolds' career he has a platoon split of about .100 OPS points in favor of hitting lefties. This season his numbers against righties have deteriorated to just a .658 OPS. That platoon split is the biggest reason why Reynolds - who was the Orioles' best hitter in 2011 - is now an offensive liability, hitting for almost no average and almost no power.
If you combine what Betemit and Reynolds have hit this season against lefties and righties, respectively, you create one gross player. In 337 plate appearances, they are hitting a combined .175/.279/.309. In Cesar Izturis' first year in Baltimore, he got on base more often and hit for more power than that batting line.
Yes, that's right. Cesar Izturis' 2009 season is a preferable power option to Mark Reynolds and Wilson Betemit. Respect the platoon splits.
Manny Machado already has 18 total bases, compared to the Reynolds/Betemit amalgam's 91, and it isn't hard to imagine Machado overtaking that number in the not-too-distant future, even if he is over-matched at the major league level. But Machado is mostly irrelevant to this conversation; inserting Robert Andino as the everyday third baseman would have been an upgrade if it meant putting Reynolds and Betemit into a platoon and cutting the sub-Izturis hitter from the lineup.