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Playing With Matchups: Replacement Level Southpaw Slapfight Edition

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With Clayton Richard throwing today, the Indians' lineup takes on a less top-heavy look.  Grady Sizemore struggles against lefties, as does Shin-Soo Choo.  Both of course crush right handed pitching of all shapes.  Against right-handers however, there isn't really one standout hitter.  They're all average-ish or better.  There's no one really worth pitching around except perhaps Victor Martinez.  Though that wouldn't be by The Book.

The Lefties

Sizemore's pretty well known at this point.  He's hit .239/.331/.396 against lefties over the course of his career.  He's turning 27 this season, so he's probably better than that career line at this point, thanks likely to slightly better pop and average.  He'll obviously take the walk if given the opportunity, but with relatively little power, Richard's propensity for inducing groundballs and the serious power outage in Jacobs Progressive Field, there's no reason to miss the zone when he's at the plate.  It isn't like the Sox can throw him out once he gets on base, so we might as well see if he can hit doubles.  Choo is similar, but less frightening still, though he's been showing more pop and eye in '09's small sample compared to years past.  As long as Richard is showing a decent slider, he should have a solid day against these two.

The Righties

Just to get it out of the way, PECOTA thinks righties will put up a .306/.380/.507 line against Richard in '09.  And its not pulling that line out of its mechanical ass either.  In his young career, Clayton's allowed a .321/.367/.530 line with a .336 BABIP.  So even if he cuts his BABIP 40 points, he's still giving up bombs on an all too regular basis and striking out basically no one.  Without a useful change up or a cutter, Clayton has one pitch against opposite-handed batters.  Eventually, that's going to go badly.  Anything less than exquisite command will lead to some long flies.  If Progressive is still playing mostly harmless, good defense could lead to a good outing.  The temperature and wind conditions matter far more to Richard than to most.

So it looks like any average righty is going to play up considerably against Richard.  The Indians, as mentioned, have plenty of those.  Victor Martinez is the best of the bunch, though he's better still when he turns around for RHP.  He loses some pop, but otherwise hits in the .300 range with a BB/K of nearly 1. If the conditions are less than stellar, Martinez is likely to be the least hurt by it.  He hits everything hard.  The rest of the lineup is made up of a number of fairly similar hitters outside of the light hitting Asdrubal Cabrera.  DeRosa takes the most walks of the bunch while Matt LaPorta may have the most pop.  But none project to top .470 in SLG or .360 in OBP (outside of DeRosa) according to PECOTA.  They have actual professional hitters throughout the lineup and they've all seen pitchers of Clayton Richard's caliber.  If his change is its normal fringy self, it's hard to see a lot going right unless groundballs are finding gloves and a couple liners do too.

What About Jeremy Sowers?

Oh yeah.   Well if it turns out the Knights are back in Charlotte for good, things could go well offensively because Jeremy Sowers is not good at pitching to major leaguers.  He can get lefties out, but that's pretty much it.  Make it Corky Time, consider DHing Betemit and the good Lord willing, things will work out.  As I said last year:

He can get ground balls and poorly hit balls in general from lefties.  Against righties he gets utterly hammered and it led PECOTA to tab him as basically replacement level.

I didn't put him through the pitch f/x ringer then either.  He's got plenty of data now, but there's nothing to learn from it really.  He's got average lefty velocity on his fastball with no useful movement  His change gets fewer than average whiffs and it appears he's got below average command with it.  Against lefties, he can use a slider and a curve, but they're really not much better.  He simply throws a lot of fastballs, which leads to a fair amount of success.  Really, Sowers is a more (formerly) heralded version of Richard and they have similar problems getting hitters out.

So it should come down to which team is a better hitting team (plus the whole "1 game = tons of variance" thing).  I'm pretty sure that's the Indians at this point.