While I’m a big fan of the work of the Blue Jays front office overall, I can’t help but question the decision to have so many left-handed starting pitchers.
That sounds like a silly thing to say, but in a division where your number one competition in the AL East is the New York Yankees, it’s a fair question. Like the Blue Jays, the Yankees feature a lineup that’s very heavy on right-handed hitters, and might be one of the few teams in baseball with as much firepower as the Blue Jays could have in 2021.
I fully anticipate that we’ll see a few slugfests between the division rivals, especially with questionable starting rotations for both teams. The Blue Jays are looking for the best of veterans like Robbie Ray, Steven Matz, and Tanner Roark, while the Yankees are hoping to get healthy seasons from Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, and the eventual return of Luis Severino. Let’s just say that both plans have their flaws.
When it comes to the Blue Jays in particular, I’m a little surprised that they’ve built a rotation with so many southpaws, especially when they’ll have to play the Yankees so many times throughout their schedule, including on Opening Day. There is potential that we could see as many as four lefties in the rotation at some point this year including Ray, Matz, Hyun Jin Ryu, and young Anthony Kay, who is bound to make a few starts at some point.
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Ryu is a certified ace and an exception to what I’m talking about here, but I have to wonder if going with such a left-handed heavy rotation is the best call. You can’t build to play against one team, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind when that opponent is as important as the Yankees. That’s especially the case when the vast majority of their hitters perform better against southpaws. To make my point I thought I’d pull up the Yankees’ career OBP (on-base plus slugging percentage) numbers. Have a look for yourself:
vs. RH= .940 OBP
vs. LH= .970 OBP
vs. RH= .870 OBP
vs. LH= 1.022 OBP
vs. RH= .762 OBP
vs. LH= .856 OBP
vs. RH= .815 OBP
vs. LH= .886 OBP
That’s a pretty significant difference when you’re talking about Judge, Stanton, LeMahieu, and Torres, but you could also easily argue that they’re the four most important offensive weapons on the team. The difference isn’t quite as stark with the rest of the projected starters:
vs. RH= .889 OBP
vs. LH= .895 OBP
vs. RH= .725 OBP
vs. LH= .754 OBP
vs. RH= .802 OBP
vs. LH= .818 OBP
vs. RH= .823 OBP
vs. LH= .820 OBP
vs. RH= .753
vs. LH= .754
Those four take a bit of the wind out of the sails of my argument, but I’m sure you can still see my point here. It’s even more reinforced when thinking about the likes of Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, and even Hunter Renfroe in Boston, or even the emerging star in Tampa Bay named Randy Arozarena.
We’ll see if this ends up being something I’m overthinking, but I can’t help but wonder if counting on so many left-handers will make playing the Yankees an even more difficult task than it already is. I’m sure they’ll have plenty of creative pitching plans up their sleeves, and perhaps the Yankees will see more of Ross Stripling and Trent Thornton than they will from Matz or Kay.
For now, it’s one of the many things I’ll keep thinking about until that first pitch on Thursday.