Split Decisions

If you are heavy into Daily Fantasy Sports, there is no doubt you are aware of and exploit handedness splits. That is, you seek out batters that have success against right or left-handed pitchers and avoid those that struggle.  It makes perfect sense in the DFS game.  However, there is also a place for season long roto managers to be aware of these matchups, particularly those teams with deep benches and daily roster changes.

In 2017, Alex Avila was extremely effective against right handers when he slashed .270/.398/.478 with 14 home runs across 332 plate appearances. He was worthy of a bench spot that could fill in on certain dates. That was, of course, before 2018 became his year of suck.  But, that shouldn’t stop us from seeking our 2018 Alex Avila.

Before we get into the data, a word of caution for the season long players. If you decide to roster any of these splits monsters, it will take some heightened roster management to make sure that they are starting when they should be. Some of these decisions take care of themselves as real life managers employ platoons in their day-to-day lineup management. But you shouldn’t let that cause you to have goose egg on your daily stats page.  Pay attention to your rosters and establish lineup alerts if they are available.

The Data

Below is a visual representation of each players Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) against left-handed and right-handed pitching. Players on the left side of the graph have had an advantage against left-handed pitching in 2018 and those on the opposite site of the line fare better against right-handed pitchers. The players included all have at least 50 plate appearances in 2018. All wOBA split stats are from Baseball Savant.

Red dots represent positive contributors regardless of the pitcher, green dots are masters of left-handed pitching, yellow dots control right-handed pitching, and blue dots, well, forget about the blue dots. Below are several highlighted players in each of the areas. In particular, players that are new to the league and fantasy managers may not realize their tendencies.

There is no fault in diving deeper. If you would like to see all of the players in tabular form, you can go here.

wOBA Chart

Try to Avoid

Managing roster splits with these players may be a wasted effort. They have been downright terrible all season.  Unless steals are part of the equation or improvement is eminent, it is best to move on:

  • Byron Buxton – Whatever plan you have, make sure Buxton is not part of it. As much as I was optimistic coming into this season, he hasn’t been able to produce much of anything. Perhaps the time off has allowed all of his injuries to heal and put his mind in the appropriate context. Or perhaps he just continues to be a defensive marvel.
  • Chase Headley – Where have you gone Chase Headley?  I am not sure what happened to Chase in 2018 but falling off a cliff is a good way to sum up the production. Yikes. This explains the release from the Padres a month ago and the lack of interest from the rest of the MLB.Chase Headley
  • Alex Avila – Still better against righties but still not good.

Other names: Michael Taylor, Cole Calhoun, Dexter Fowler, Greg Bird, Pat Valaika

Generally Balanced

While most of these players have some sort of handedness strength, their hitting is solid no matter the pitcher on the hill. No need to worry about matchups with these guys

  • Mike Trout and Mookie Betts – No analysis necessary. Just wanted another reason to point out how great of a season they are both having. Consistently teeing off against pitchers regardless of handedness, approach, stuff, weather, whatever. Simply amazing players.
  • Juan Soto – Did you hear this kid is only 19? If only more people would mention his age then we could feel bad about our accomplishments at the same stage in life.  While it appears that he has a preference towards left-handed pitching, it doesn’t really matter. His excellent plate discipline (20.0% O-Swing) and hard-hitting approach (Hard% of 39.2%) have led to excellent results in his short time in the majors.
  • Brandon Nimmo – I am not exactly sure what else Nimmo has to do to get your attention. He still is unowned in about 20 – 30 percent of leagues.  Already, he has accumulated 12 home runs and 7 steals. Go find him. Go now.
  • Max Muncy – While he doesn’t look like your typical power hitter, Muncy has been feasting on pitchers all year indiscriminately. Pair the power (.599 SLG) with a way above average walk rate (18% vs the league average 9%) and Muncy has become a must start option.  Also, his results have been consistent regardless of the pitcher delivery. He has produced a .418 wOBA against RHP and a .404 wOBA against LHP.

Other non obvious names: Shin-Soo Choo, Eugenio Suarez, Steve Pearce, Odubel Herrera, Jake Bauers, Brandon Crawford, Teoscar Hernandez, Ronald Acuna, Niko Goodrum

Left-Handed Pitcher Pulverizers

Start these players with confidence against left-handed pitchers. Perhaps seek other options when a righty looms:

  • Tyler Flowers – Everything is roses when Flowers is facing a southpaw. This season he is batting a remarkable .455/.591/.758. While only 44 plate appearances and a .545 BABIP vs LHP screams unsustainable (because it is), Flowers will continue to be an asset against left-handed pitchers.
  • Austin Meadows – Once a top prospect, Meadows was put on the back burner by many pundits after injuries and other shinier objects came to pass. However, Meadows has been a revelation in his 2018 call up to the big leagues. Although, perhaps until he gets more seasoning, Meadows may be best utilized against LHP. Five of Meadows’ eight barrels have been off of left-handed pitching. Additionally he possesses a 1.321 OPS vs LHP and only a .741 OPS vs. RHP.Christian Villanueva
  • Christian Villanueva – “WHY CANT THERE BE MORE LEFT HANDED PITCHERS IN THE LEAGUE!” – Carlos Villanueva, presumably, to himself every time he’s not facing a left-handed pitcher. It’s a shame that only 72 of his 230 at bats have come against LHP because most of Villanueva’s value comes against them.  He has an OPS of 1.237 with 11 of his 16 home runs off of lefties. Take a look at his spray chart against left-handed pitching. It’s a wave of destruction (I’ll omit the RHP chart.  It’s too depressing. So many pink circles).
  • Delino DeShields – Chances are that you are devoted to starting DeShields every night for the steals and the offensive production is secondary. After all, he has still swiped 10 bags when a right-hander is in the game.  If you are solid in steals, consider other options on a night he faces a righty (.252 wOBA).
  • Brandon Guyer – This is no secret that he is a left-handed assassin. Just wanted to highlight how much of a variance there is between his strength and weakness. His wOBA is .370 against LHP and .072 against RHP.  He is strictly a DFS option.

Other names: Jedd Gyroko, Max Stassi, Justin Turner, Yan Gomes, Sean Rodriguez, Jose Iglesias, Derek Fischer, John Hicks, Jonathan Villar, Addison Russell, Brandon Guyer, Franmil Reyes.

Right Handed Pitcher Pulverizers

These players are all showing an advantage primarily against right-handed pitchers, and struggle against their left-handed counterparts:

  • Alen Hanson – It’s a limited sample size this season for the Giants’ switch hitting 2B/OF. But, Hanson has shown capability against right-handed batters.  He has accumulated five home runs and an OPS of 1.081 in just 76 plate appearances. To sweeten the pot, Hanson has been batting higher in the order when facing RHP (1st or 2nd). Higher batting order equals more plate appearances which means more counting stats.Adam Eaton Splits
  • Adam Eaton – Historically, Eaton has been a fairly productive hitter regardless of pitcher handedness. However, over the past two injury riddled seasons, he has been a better hitter against RHP (albeit with a minuscule sample size of only 13 PA in 2018).
  • Andrew Benintendi – You probably will never sit him, but realize that he has not been as good against LHP. His K% jumps by 10.8% to 24.7% and his BB% drops by 3.5% to 9.6% when a southpaw is on the hill.
  • Joc Pederson – Very rarely is Peterson even given a shot to face LHP (only 25 PA in 2018). But, Pederson makes the most of his RHP opportunities sporting a wOBA greater than .400 with 9 homeruns.
  • David Dahl – It seems like everyone wants the former top 10 pick to get his fair share of playing time.  He needs to get at bats in order to develop into his full potential and show the world what he can do. Oh, wait, he broke his foot. He’s out another 4-6 weeks? Drats. Well, when he emerges from the disabled list, he will have to show the league that he can hit LHP.  Dahl has only a .165 wOBA against lefties. That’s approaching Buxton territory.  The good news is that he handles righties with ease, a .402 wOBA on the season.

Other names: Lucas Duda, Travis Shaw, Matt Adams, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Joey Gallo, Justin Upton, Kendrys Morales, Nick Williams, Yasiel Puig, Yasmani Grandal, David Dahl, Yoan Moancada,

Catcher Considerations

In a follow up to Front Office Jeramy’s early season article that offered you Creative Solutions to the Catching Wasteland, Flowers and Suzuki still appear to be an excellent complement.  Adding to the potential catching tandems, Pittsburgh’s Einar Diaz and Francisco Cervelli (barring good health) have reverse splits.  Whereby Diaz clobbers left-handed pitchers and Cervelli right. I would expect Cervelli to handle a majority of the catching appearances when back, but Diaz will make an excellent fill in on those sitting days. As we learned this season, health is paramount in any catching decision as the position is brutal way to endure the baseball season.

Up Next

In the next article coming soon, find out which batters have more success when at home or on the road, or maybe nine reasons that the Diamondbacks look better in gray.

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