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TGP Staff Debate: Should Handedness Matter as the Phillies Shop for Offense?

Will too many sinister batters rectus, or should those worries be left behind as everything will turn out all right?

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Free agent hunting season is now upon us, and so it's time for baseball fans' annual winter rosterbation. The Phillies have some glaring holes to fill, most notably at catcher and corner outfielder, but they're presented with a situation that may or may not be problematic: the best available players at those positions are left-handed hitters, and the Phillies already sport a lefty-heavy lineup. Should the Phillies pursue one of the more talented left handed hitters, or a lesser talented righty?

The bloglord e-mail list had a lively discussion last week covering this topic. TGP, we do drama.

In the TGP staff email listserv, the positions are represented by two separate yet equally articulate groups. The concerned, who worry about poor splits and the supporters of talent who are less concerned. These are their e-mails. Dun dun.

*Two short tangents that interrupt the flow of the dialogue have been placed into quotation boxes for readability.*

[Scene: Maikel Franco's performance in the Dominican Winter League is mentioned]

Joecatz: I think [the fate of Asche/Franco] comes down to their ability to get a RH bat, Cormican.

Every position on the field right now save a corner OF spot and C are LH hitters. (Rollins is a SH but look at his splits the past three years. He's horrible against lefties.)

Ben Horrow: We can't overvalue [Franco] because he's the "best" prospect in our system. Moving him now may be worthwhile depending on the return. That being said I like Asche a lot, and while he may not blast homers he could be a mainstay at third for a few valuable seasons.

Joecatz: If Franco was left handed I might agree there.

Ben Horrow: ... Their handedness means less to me because finding right-handed bats on the market at the MLB level is easier than developing good young arms.

Joecatz: The Phillies desperately need a RH bat. The places that player can fit are 3b or in the OF.

Aside from Nelson Cruz, who's that guy on the open market?

Joecatz: I think we forget (because they sucked) that asche replaced Young and the OF replaces Delmon. Both were RH. If the phillies sign a LH OF, and go with Asche at 3B they have 6 LH bats plus Rollins who sucks from the right side now and catcher. Unless you plug Chooch in the middle of the order you have 3-7 LH every night unless you platoon somewhere.

Ben Horrow: I guess I wasn't just looking at this season. The Phillies "need" right handed bats. I guess so, but that seems so much like, oh if we just add the one or two right-handed bats it'll be put together a playoff team. I find that difficult to believe.

Joecatz: Brown controlled through 17

Asche controlled through 18

Revere controlled through 17

Howard signed through 16

Rollins likely signed through 15 (and Crawford is a lefty)

Utley signed through 15 with options.

The left handed problem doesn't go away until likely 2016 or 2017. It's not just this year. It's the next 3-4 years most likely.

Cormican: Well, yeah, but that's also 3-4 Free agent cycles. I wouldn't say it isn't an issue, but I don't want to keep a guy just because he's a Righty.

Professor Cohen: last three years, NL rank by WRC+:

v. R: 5, 8, 11

v. L: 11, 13, 13

Ben Horrow: What's the big "problem" exactly? That a loogy has good numbers against them for 1 time through the order? I don't see that being a big deal over the long run. Bad hitting, not left-handed hitting, is an issue.

Schmenkman: I agree with this. A lefty-heavy lineup will do worse than a more balanced one vs. LHPs, but better than the balanced one vs. RHPs. It's an issue, but I'll take good hitters first, and worry about handedness as a secondary concern.

Prof. Cohen: but isn't it more than just overall performance that is concerning (and the rank numbers i emailed are concerning). It's that they are incredibly vulnerable in high leverage situations.

Ben Horrow: Every game has a handful of high leverage situations, but more so there are lower leverage and medium leverage ones. Succeed in those, and the rest become more and more negligible.

Joecatz: The problem is that, while protection doesn't really exist, lineup balance does. It's less about Howard getting loogied left and right as it is Utley, Howard, Brown, Asche and whoever else hits there getting loogied in a row. As crappy as Delmon Young was he had 11 BB to 18Ks vs LHP and a .343 OBP vs lefties in 2013.

Say they pay choo 17-20 mm a year for five or six years. Choo kills RHP but vs lefties last two seasons? He's 215/347/265 in 13 and Ks twice as much as he walks (he was 88/89 bb/k vs RHP) 2012 was worse. 199/318/286 28/60 vs LHP.

You've got a lineup of non platoon players.

Choo L

Rollins S

Utley L

Howard L

Brown L

Ruiz R

Asche L

Revere L


No matter where you hit chooch you set yourself up NOT just to be in trouble with LH starters but to allow opposing managers to use their loogy in tight games for a full inning.

You sign a guy like Cruz?

Revere L

Rollins S

Utley L

Howard L

Cruz R

Brown L

Ruiz R

Asche L

That one extra RH bat in the middle, that hits LHP at a career 285/356/513 clip (and RHP at a 262/317/489 clip) changes the dynamic of every game.

It's not about limiting the at bats or protection it's about limiting the exposure.

88: When you envision these lineups vs. loogys next year, are you assuming Darin Ruf has been swallowed by a whale or something?

Joecatz: No. But if Ruf pinch hits for Howard the loogy still faces Brown and Asche etc...If you have Cruz behind Howard now the manager either lets the loogy face Ruf and Cruz to get to Brown or he calls the righty in. Either way the loogy gets burned for one batter, not four.

88: Choo's OBP over the last two years was higher than Delmon's, so I dunno if I'm too worried about that.

The vast majority of AB in any season are against RHP, and while Revere is technically a LHB he's got career reverse splits so that's another guy you don't have to worry too much about.

And for every run you gain in the lineup by having a little extra power from you stand lose because Cruz a joke in the field.

I think the "too left handed" concerns are overblown.

Joecatz: It was higher vs RHP.

Choo vs LHP in 2013 215/347/265

Delmon vs LHP: 261/343/341

Andre Ethier in 2013:

272/360/423 overall.

221/275/338 vs LHP

294/394/470 vs RHP


285/423/462 overall

317/457/564 (366 babip) vs RHP

215/347/265 vs LHP.

Choo career vs RHP 309/411/521

Ethier career vs RHP 309/388/518

Choo costs a draft pick. Ethier probably can be had for a mid grade prospect and the Dodgers eat cash. Choo is repped by Boras coming off a career year.

The Phillies are literally better off trading for Ethier than signing choo

88: Nah. Ethier is giving up 75 points of on base percentage to Choo against lefties. And you're the one worried about LHB vs LHP problem.

Joecatz: I'm not advocating trading for Ethier. I'm just noting the similarities. Aside from OBP they're similar players. And choo coming off a career year at 31 is a bad idea.

88: Not sure 2013 was a career year when he's had similar wRC+/wOBAs in both 2008 and 2010 and had a 131 wRC+ last year.

Prof. Cohen: [in response to Ben's most recent comment] Sure, that sounds great in theory, but you're never going to be so dominant that you're going to avoid having high leverage situations, lots of them. And the lineup right now is so vulnerable in those situations.

Joecatz: Yeah for me that's the rub. You have to look past the numbers and are the bigger picture here. Now imagine this.

Rollins S

Utley L

Cruz R

Howard L

Franco R

brown L

Ruiz R



Choo L

Rollins S

Utley L

Howard L

Franco R

brown L

Ruiz R

Revere L

No matter how I slice it, Franco trumps asche if they're even value. And you actually CAN go after a LH bat if you see Franco in the mix there.

Joecatz: ...You can certainly try and avoid [unbalanced lineups] by not building into the problem. The biggest issue the Phillies have is that they are paying Howard Rollins and in a sense, Utley 47mm a year to be glorified platoon hitters. Investing another 17mm into a guy like choo worsens that problem in the long run.

88: I think the biggest problem is that they had one of the absolute worst outfields in baseball. (Total of -1.6 fWAR) Choo goes a long way to solving that.

Cormican: I think both schmenkman and RtP are right. I don't care about handedness, I just want really good hitters. Sadly, we have both a Lefty heavy lineup and a few guys very susceptible to LOOGYs. That said, you platoon Ruf more with Howard, sign Cruz and that problem largely goes away.

Prof. Cohen: Maybe I should take back my concerns. Note the #5 team on the first chart -

John Stolnis: Well, I think that 1993 Phils stat is a bit misleading. The Phils were lefty at catcher, 1B, and CF only. They were strict platoon at 2B, LF and RF, and Hollins and Stocker were switch hitters. They faced mostly righty pitching, which is probably where that stat came from. But they platooned effectively against left-handers that year as well. I think that was one of the big keys to their success.

Inky hit 27 bombs that year, mostly against lefties.

Prof Cohen: Just FYI, the 2013 Phillies had 6014 plate appearances. 2865 (47.6%) were by right-handed hitters; 3149 (52.4%) were by left-handed. This is nowhere near the extreme imbalance reflected in that hardball times article. in fact, based on the overall chart, it's in the range associated with the highest WRC+.

Also relevant, the Phillies had the following breakdown of plate appearance:

L v. L: 626 (10.4%)

L v. R: 2523 (42.0%)

R v. L: 965 (16.0%)

R v. R: 1900 (31.6%)

88: Let me clarify my position here...I think it'd be great to have a nice RHB off the bench to face the loogy options in the event of Howard or an overly LH stretch of OF/Utley/Howard. But I don't want to waste a regular roster spot on a lesser player because of one or two potential ABs late in games.

But when 70% of all big league pitchers are right handed, and the Phillies OF is abysmal, they need a big upgrade there, and all the significant upgrades are left-handed, so I'm okay with that. Maybe call up Chris Young and see if he's willing to be a bench/platoon/backup CF for not too much money.

Joecatz: But here's the thing I'm getting at.

If you're the Phillies, with the money they have coming in and you're talking to Scott boras:

Why sign Choo for five years and 18mm per if you can have Ellsbury for 20mm per and maybe an extra year?

Phrozen: Personally, I'm with Joecatz. An RHB > LHB, all else being nearly equal; and given the dearth of FA RHBs, Franco's value gets a plus. Not a huge one, perhaps, but one worth considering.

Schmenkman: I can agree with all of this, due to the key "all else being nearly equal". I just don't think you go out with a primary objective of getting more right-handed (although maybe I'm just arguing against a strawman there).

88: That "all else being equal" part is where I get off, because there really are no equal RHB pieces available in the outfield. You've got Ellsbury, Choo and then a sizeable gap, then everyone else. And so if I'm going to have to make a sacrifice, I'd rather err on the side of the talented LHB than the lesser-so righty.

Dajafi: I think they have to make a trade for an RH outfielder, unless you want to go with Chris Young. I'd be pleased to see him or Bourjos come to town.

Joecatz: Just imagine if you still had Schierholtz making 3mm this season. You go out and get David DeJesus or Chris Young to platoon in a corner for roughly 10mm total.

Here's the problem with that. That trade likely costs Franco which negates the value of that RH bat in the context of this discussion unless he's Stanton.

As hard as it is to say this, if you trade for the RH OF bat, they guy you center it on is brown, not Franco for me. If you do that, you can go after choo all day if you want.

Dajafi: I think I agree... but the question is whether you trust them to make the decision driven by sound baseball analysis rather than the guy in marketing saying "butbutbut we have a Dom Brown Bobblehead already ordered!"

Joecatz: Well my gut tells me for some reason that if given the choice between dealing brown biddle or Franco they'd deal brown before both of them.

I worry more about them dealing two of the three for the wrong player though.

Joecatz (in response to 88's last message): Yeah I'm dead set that the only LH bat you pay free agent dollars to is Ellsbury. I'd much rather see Cruz in A corner for four years at 15mm than Choo in center for 18mm for five or six.

Cause it's still the Phillies. They'll sign Cruz and trade Revere.

They're better off paying 7-8mm a year to a solid platoon in a corner than wasting it on Choo in my opinion.

88: I'd rather have Ellsbury than Choo.

I'd rather have Choo than any free agent not named Ellsbury.

And if they sign Choo I want him in a corner because he's not a center fielder.

Joecatz: If the Phillies sign Choo or Ellsbury what do you really think the chances are that they keep Revere?

And if they do keep revere, how many games does Ruf play in left, choo play in center and brown play in right?

I'd bet serious money that choo ends up with more games in CF than a corner if they sign him.

88: I would hope high, since he's still really cheap, may have good on base skills, has the potential to have plus plus range in the field, and is good on the bases. He's a player with a lot of value.

It would be phenomenally stupid to sign Choo, have him play CF (badly) and trade Revere.

Joecatz: Of course it would. But tell me you really think they wouldn't consider it.

Prof. Cohen: More stats to go with this discussion. And they're interesting. The 2013 phils were not good L v. L, but they were above league average in this regard (sOPS+). And, also quite interesting, they were horribly below league average L v. R:










vs RHP as LHB









vs RHP as RHB









vs LHP as RHB









vs LHP as LHB









[Roll closing credits]

At this point the LH/RH argument petered out, with emails moving on to a smallish debate about grit and hustle (gristle?), comments about Adrien Cardenas' New Yorker article, and Professor Cohen being awarded an email Grover for an NSA joke. What say you, gentle reader? Should the Phils shape their off-season around finding a right handed batter to offset their left-handedness, should they target the best available talents ignoring the side of the plate from which said player bats, or some combination of the two?

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