Let’s play the ever popular “Guess that player” and consider the following numbers using the past three seasons:

  G PA AVG HR HR/FB BB% K% BABIP wOBA
A 178 448 .267 7 *6.0 11.4 21.0 *315 *330
B 388 1347 .325 64 *18.1 11.1 17.5 *355 *412

*approximated, or split data not available

Well first off you see a pretty wide discrepancy in terms of playing time, Player A might possibly be a role player or oft-injured?  Player B has a pretty big advantage in wOBA though he has had significantly better luck with balls in play and a markedly higher percentage of his fly balls leave the yard.  Ok, enough with the suspense as I am sure you are all at the edge of your chair in anticipation awaiting the names of Player A and Player B.

Player A is none other than Hanley Ramirez, while player B is…Hanley Ramirez?  As a few of you might have guessed Player A is actually Hanley Ramirez versus left handed pitchers and Player B of course versus righties.  Over the past three seasons Hanley Ramirez has been the best shortstop in the majors and in the conversation for best overall player in the game, but looking at his numbers against southpaws and it appears Hanley could have possibly been even better.

Although not always the case ‘Baseball 101’ states that right handed hitters will perform better against left-handers, and possibly struggle against same handed pitchers.  Hanley stuck to this premise in his first two seasons in the league as his splits versus lefties were ridiculous (2006 – 307/385/588, 2007 – 399/455/703). 

But over the past three seasons he has hit southpaws much worse than righties:

Hanley Ramirez VS L

YEAR AVG OBP SLG wOBA
2008 258 389 402 351
2009 316 376 418 347
2010 202 286 323 260

 

Hanley has over three times as many at-bats versus right-handers over the past three seasons to use, and those numbers have been ridiculous:

Hanley Ramirez VS R

YEAR AVG OBP SLG wOBA
2008 313 403 580 417
2009 353 424 594 429
2010 307 385 477 373

 

His batted ball profile shows only slight differences at first glance and Hanley has actually hit more fly balls versus lefties than righties for his career, however the HR/FB is a huge difference maker (8.5% vs. L and 15.2% vs. R) nearly twice is high.  The BABIP difference is approximately 40 points and this could have helped make up some of the BA/OBP difference as over his career he has hit more line-drives against lefties overall.

So what happened from his first two seasons when he obliterated left handed pitching and was above average against righties to the past three seasons where he has had a reverse split, and destroyed righties at a similar clip to that of Albert Pujols?  Has the quality of left-handed starting pitching improved dramatically over the past three seasons, or at all?  It’s hard to imagine that specialized relievers have much of an impact as I can’t see Sweet Lou (or any other manager) coming out of the bullpen and summoning his top lefty reliever to get Hanley out in the bottom of the eighth inning?

Not sure if anybody has access to ‘Pitch type’ values split for each hand but taking a quick look at his profile for an entire season (vs. Both hands) and the number of cutters that Hanley has faced has risen each season, from 1.9% in his rookie season to 5.5% in 2010.  Some of this could be incorrect pitch type recognition from the past (the system has improved a lot since 2006) but it is possible lefties are busting Hanley inside with more cutters.  For his career Hanley has only pitch that shows a negative run value (per 100 pitches thrown) coming in at -0.26, that pitch is the cutter. 

It appears he has struggled in 2010 with more pitches (CB -1.30), (CH -0.52) than he has in the past and has really scuffled against the cutter (CT -2.86).  David Golebiewski recently did a wonderful analysis on his current season and gave his take on what to make of Hanley’s relatively down season.  What are your thoughts, more specifically on his reverse platoon splits?  Should we ignore them as the sample size is much smaller than versus righties or is there enough to go on that we can ascertain meaningful conclusions which can explain a pretty huge difference in overall numbers?

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