The record in games started by opposing lefthanders is 22-18 (going into Sunday night and CC Sabathia), bettered only in their division by the Tampa Bay Rays. Indeed, they have been overpowered in the second half of the season by David Price and Matt Moore, who on the nights they pitched would have dominated anyone, anywhere.
But as the Red Sox head into the final weeks of the 2013 season beginning with (thanks, MLB, are the schedule makers on the Biogenesis list?) two Sunday night games bookending a trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles, there is as much legitimate concern about their problems hitting left handed pitchers as there is about replicating the Aprils of Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester.
Yes, they have been beaten by Oberholtzer and Diamond, and they lost 2-1 in Toronto last week to Mark Buerhle, but that was a game in which they hit line drives all over the Rogers Center. Yes, they lost to Moore, Price, Pat Corbin, Cliff Lee and Derek Holland. They and many others.
But these numbers do tell a few things:
|Vs RHPs||Vs. LHPs|
First, this is a far different team when Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz are thundering in the front four of the lineup. Ellsbury is slugging 160 points lower against lefties, his OPS down 231 points. Look at the Ortiz on base, slugging and OPS comparisons, which add up to five homers against lefthanders, 19 against righties. The same can be said for Stephen Drew, who is vitally important getting them back to the top of the order.
Second, they believed they would get more out of Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes against lefthanders. Napoli now has a plantier fasciitis problem with his landing foot, which has impacted his swing, and in Gomes’ case this problem with lefties is an aberration; the three previous seasons, his numbers against lefties were .296/.398/.506,.904. Ortiz, Gomes and Middlebrooks are all capable of September turnarounds.
What can be done?
It’s a little cloudy because of Napoli’s foot, because they wouldn’t give up on him. One can be pretty certain that they put a claim in on Michael Cuddyer at the end of the week, not that he’s going to be traded. It may be that they continue to discuss bringing up Xander Bogaerts and occasionally use him as a shortstop against lefthanders (“Drew does need the occasional rest,” says one Red Sox official) and an occasional shot as a DH. They can see what other bats come across, although Ben Cherington has honestly said, “we don’t have that much roster flexibility.”
It’s easy to say they should have spent the money on Alfonso Soriano, although Brian Cashman was against that trade. It’s easy to create fantasies about trading Jon Lester for Wil Myers last winter, but the Royals never would have done it, as Dayton Moore targeted James Shields once he found what might be possible on the market. Injuries to Carlos Quentin and others prevented the Padres from trading Chris Denorfia, who is among the leaders against lefties with nine homers and an OPS over .900.
Maybe Bogaerts can help. Gomes, Napoli and, when he returns, Brandon Snyder(.964 OPS in 28 at-bats) can help. Ortiz’s numbers against lefthanders the previous three seasons were .286/.356/.484/.840.
What is more important is Buchholz and Lester and how well the young pitchers like Brandon Workman, Drake Britton and Rubby De La Rosa pitch in the front of the bullpen. They’ll probably see both Price and Moore in St. Petersburg when they play the final series of the year there Sept. 10-12, a series that already has folks from each team talking about a Buchholz-Moore matchup.
“I’ll take that,” Bucholz says. “I’m all in.”