I saw an interesting tweet today that noted that with Daniel Norris of the Tigers headed to the disabled list, Tommy Milone of the Twins was left as the lone left-handed starter for the entirety of the non-Sox teams in the American League Central.
While most of the teams boast at least one, if not two lefties out of the bullpen, this means the White Sox are going to see a lot of right handed pitching in their division games. And given the fact this figures to be a very tight division, those games carry even more weight.
So that got me thinking as to how the Sox stack up against right handed pitching, and whether or not this is something that could be an issue for them as the season wears on.
Even before Adam LaRoche’s retirement there were rumors flying around that the Sox were looking to land a left-handed bat, preferably one with some pop. But after the Austin Jackson signing, those rumors died off. The Sox roster is what it is, at least to start the season.
The White Sox regular lineup figures to include one natural left-handed hitter in Adam Eaton. That number moves to two on days that Alex Avila is catching. They also have up to three switch hitters in Melky Cabrera, Jimmy Rollins, and Dioner Navarro, once again depending on who is catching and/or playing shortstop. That means on most days, you are going to have at least five right handers in the lineup.
Last year the Sox posted a triple slash line of .253/.310/.390 against right-handed pitching with a .700 OPS. White Sox right-handed batters were slightly worse than that, but not by a lot with a .249/.300/.391 triple slash with a .691 OPS. Both of those are below league average in terms of split OPS+ according to baseball-reference.
For the record, White Sox lefties were atrocious against right-handers last year with a .248/.302/.379 slash line and a .680 OPS. That group of course, included Adam LaRoche, who was also below league average against righties with just a .697 slugging percentage and 12 home runs in 390 at bats.
While the numbers against right-handers aren’t great, it should be noted that the Sox were pretty bad hitting against everyone last year. The splits versus righties were slightly better than their numbers overall, but still, not good.
But the Sox roster has undergone some significant changes and upgrades this year. So let’s take a look at the Sox additions and how they have fared against right-handers in their careers.
Todd Fraizer: .254/.319/.448, .767 OPS, 96 tOPS+
Brett Lawrie: .259/.314/.417, .731 OPS, 99 tOPS+
Jimmy Rollins: .263/.324/.421, .746 OPS, 100 tOPS+
Austin Jackson: .278/.331/.402, .733 OPS, 100 tOPS+
Dioner Navarro: .249/.305/.353, .658 OPS, 92 tOPS+
Alex Avila: .259/.358/.423, .781 OPS, 110 tOPS+
So nothing fantastic there, most of them are right around league average or slightly below against right-handers. However, the OPS numbers of the first four listed are all better than the .700 OPS that the Sox posted against righties last year. So even league average production against righties should be a decent upgrade for the Sox from where they were last year. Whether or not that is enough to make up the difference, might go a long way in determining if the Sox are contenders or not.
While LaRoche’s retirement did cost the Sox a left-handed bat with the potential for power and production, it does give the Sox some financial flexibility to make a move in-season. Some of the names that were most often tossed around included Jay Bruce and Carlos Gonzalez, both of whom have had a lot of success against right-handers in their careers.
Career: .257/.329/.480, .809 OPS, 107 tOPS+
2015: .225/.297/.457, .754 OPS, 106 sOPS+
Career: .302/.366/.564, .931 OPS, 113 tOPS+
2015: .301/.364/.633, .997 OPS, 171 sOPS+
The hope is that the additions that the Sox have already made will be enough bolster last year’s struggling offense. But, should the White Sox find themselves in the thick of things as we move deeper into the season, the addition of a player like Bruce or Gonzalez could be possible and would almost certainly help their lineup against the right-handed heavy rotations in the AL Central.
As far as contracts, Bruce is under contract for 2016 for $12.5 million, with a $13 million option for 2017 with a $1 million buyout. Gonzalez is under contract for this season and next year at $17 and $20 million respectively. While next year might be a stretch for CarGo, both of them would fall within the budget for this year with the money the team will save not paying LaRoche.