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fixing-atlantas-southpaw-problem-2 | June | 2008 Articles

2008 Archives

Fixing Atlanta's Southpaw Problem

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Check out my prospect segment on the House of Braves Talk podcast. It’s no secret that left-handed pitchers have given Bobby Cox and the Braves problems this season. Add that to injuries, one-run games, and anywhere other than Turner Field as Atlanta’s kryptonite. Just like the road troubles, this team is going to have to deal with their inability to hit left-handers if they want to make a post-season run. Saying the Braves can’t hit southpaws is oversimplifying the problem. As a team, the Braves are hitting .277 against left-handers with a .341 OBP. Those numbers are good for ninth and fifteenth in baseball respectively. Neither is great but they also don’t explain the team’s sub-.500 record against lefties. What’s the issue then? The problem is that this team’s main sources of power are either left-handed or switch hitters whose power is from the left side. The Braves have a .456 slugging percentage against righties, which puts them behind only Florida and Texas in that category and their .814 OPS is better than everyone but the Rangers. Flip the splits around and you get a very different story. Against southpaws, the Braves are slugging a mere .371 with a .712 OPS. Both numbers put them solidly in the bottom half of baseball. This is an area that needs a fix. Mark Teixeira is historically about the same from both sides and should pick it up from the right side of the plate, but if I were Frank Wren, I’d still be looking for another right-handed power bat to platoon somewhere. A perfect choice for that role would be Marcus Thames of the Tigers. Regardless of whether or not the 23-32 Tigers are sellers at the deadline, they may be in a position to move Thames with a number of holes they to fill. Thames has 29 plate appearances against southpaws this season with a line of .308/.379/.923. Known for poor plate discipline, Thames has three walks and three strikeouts in those 29 plate appearances and of his eight hits, six have been for extra bases (five homeruns). Of course he isn’t going to continue to produce at this level but as his career splits show, he should be the perfect fit in a leftfield platoon. Over his career, Thames is slugging .537 against left-handed pitching with an .873 OPS. What would it take to land the 31-year old outfielder? Probably a reliever for Detroit’s bullpen, which ranks 25th in baseball and what a surprise, Frank Wren will almost certainly be in a position to move a couple of relievers with both Mike Gonzalez and John Smoltz slated to come back soon.

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