I think the Phillies are going to add an outfielder in the near future.
If they don’t, they seem poised to start 2013 with a combination of Laynce Nix, John Mayberry and Darin Ruf manning left field. There’s a whole lot of problems with that. One of them is that that’s one too many right-handed hitters for a two-man platoon — Mayberry and Ruf can’t both play left field against a lefty.
The most likely scenario if the roster plays out as it is has Mayberry or Ruf on the bench against left-handed pitching. I think there are two other possibilities, though, one that could happen and one that almost surely could not. The first is that the other could play right field against a lefty with Brown on the bench. The second is the other could play first base with Howard on the bench (that’s the one that’s not going to happen whether it makes sense or not).
Domonic Brown is 25-years-old and has 109 career plate appearances against left-handed pitching in which he has hit 208/284/302 with one home run, which came on September 10, 2012, off of Wade LeBlanc. Not trying to be a downer here, but lefties slugged .547 against the lefty LeBlanc in 2012. So he wasn’t exactly a lefty-killer.
Still, one can argue that Brown has the potential to develop into a very good all-around player against left-handed pitching, that getting to that point is going to require at-bats against lefties and giving them to him is in the best interest of the Phillies.
I think there’s also a case to be made that we simply don’t have enough data on Domonic Brown hitting against left-handed pitching. Similarly, you could also say there’s just not enough data on Ruf to conclude Ruf is going to be better all-around against lefties in right field than Brown. It seems likely he would offer more offensively, but with a huge question mark in terms of the glove. I do think it’s reasonable to conclude that Mayberry would be better in right overall against lefties than Brown in the short term, but Mayberry is probably in the lineup against a lefty in left field anyway given that we know he can handle left defensively and hit lefties. We don’t know either of those things about Ruf. My guess is that Ruf’s outfield defense will make it tough to play him there. Let’s hope that’s not the case.
With Ryan Howard, it’s not the case that we’re lacking data against left-handed pitching. He’s been terrible against lefties in four of the last five years.
There is close to no chance we’re going to see Mayberry take a significant number of starts from Howard against lefties at first in 2013 when Howard is healthy. But it’s likely he would deliver better performance than Howard if he did, both offensively and defensively.
Here’s what Howard and Mayberry have done against left-handed pitching over the last five seasons (Mayberry only got at least 50 plate appearances against lefties in 2011 and 2012):
|Year||PA||wOBA vs L||Line vs L||PA||wOBA vs L||Line vs L|
In each of the last two years, Mayberry has been clearly better than Howard against lefties. 2010 is the only year in the last five that Howard has been non-terrible against lefties. In that season, Howard hit for about the same average that Mayberry hit against lefties in 2012, the lesser of Mayberry’s last two seasons against lefties, with about the same power. He walked a little more.
Mayberry is almost surely going to be better offensively against lefties than Howard is in 2013.
He would very likely be better defensively as well. Howard posted a negative dWAR for the seventh straight year in 2012 and his UZR/150 of -15.6 at first base was the worst mark for his career. Mayberry’s career UZR/150 at first in about 285 defensive innings is -0.2.
Of course, Mayberry doesn’t have to play first to get into the lineup against lefties. In fact, given the current roster, outfield options and the fact that he’s almost surely a better defense outfielder than Ruf, Mayberry seems likely to be starting in left field against left-handed pitching if the roster stays the same.
So the question really becomes whether Ruf would be better overall against lefties than Howard. There’s close to no data on Ruf in the majors, but to me the answers are both that he likely would fare better than Howard against lefties and that’s it’s not likely to happen a whole lot in 2013, if ever, as long as Howard is healthy.
Jonathan Singleton, traded the the Astros in the deal that brought Hunter Pence to the Phillies in July of 2011, has been suspended for 50 games for violating the minor league drug policy.
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