MLB Left Right All Stars

MLB on Sling: The Left-Right All Stars

Most folks grow up right-handed or left-handed, with each hand having clearly defined roles, and not too much being asked of the non-dominant hand. But baseball players are different — of course they are — and they will do whatever they can to gain an advantage. For many who are born right-handed, this means learning to hit left-handed to better matchup up against right-handed pitchers, while continuing to field right-handed.

Of course there are freaks like Rickey Henderson, who bat righty, but throw lefty, despite the fact throwing lefty offers no advantage in the outfield, and batting from the right side is a disadvantage given all the right-handed pitchers. The bats right, throws left combo is so useless in baseball that just 47 non-pitchers so afflicted have made it to the bigs, only eleven of whom have played as many as 500 games, with Rickey being the only Hall of Famer. Weirdly, there are three guys in the bigs right now who BR/TL: Guillermo Heredia, Joey Rickard, and Ryan LaMarre — thus far they’ve played fewer than 250 games in total.

But back to the bats left/throws right All Stars — the L-R All Stars — and the pressing question at hand: could you win a World Series with a team comprised entirely of such men? 

Starting Lineup

C – Alex Avila, 1.9 WAR: Healthy again after missing 95+ games each of the last two seasons, Avila has a 1.074 OPS in 139 PA, while playing respectable D. Yeah, he’s bound to cool off, but let’s enjoy the moment.

1B – Freddie Freeman, 2.6 WAR: After enjoying a breakout season in 2016, Freeman was playing better than ever this year, until a broken wrist in May sidelined him for 10-12 weeks. Through his first 165 PA he’d hit 14 homers, 11 doubles and a 1.209 OPS.

2B – Robinson Cano, 1.5 WAR: At 34 years of age, the future Hall of Famer is definitely in his decline phase, but when you start from such a great height, tailing off can still mean being one of the best 2B in the game, as evidenced by the fact that he’s on pace for a 35 home runs, 116 RBI and 103 runs scored.

3B – Jake Lamb, 1.8 WAR: After coming into his own last year with 29 home runs, 91 RBI , and an .840 OPS, Lamb is taking it up a notch, leading the Majors with 56 RBI and posting a .945 OPS.

SS – Corey Seager, 1.9 WAR: The reigning NL Rookie of the Year is among the stars of the current class of incredible young shortstops to grace the game. He’s tailed off just a bit, but he still rates as the second-best SS in the National League.

LF – Michael Conforto, 2.3 WAR: After teasing Mets fans for two seasons with his power potential, Conforto is finally delivering the goods, with 14 home runs, 12 doubles and ranking in the top 10 in OBP and slugging percentage.

CF – Kevin Kiermaier, 2.3 WAR: A league-average hitter, but the best defensive outfielder of his generation, Kiermaier sustained a broken hip on June that will keep him out of action for a couple of months.

RF – Bryce Harper, 2.7 WAR: One of the very best under-25 players in the game, Harper struggled with injuries last season, but has regained the form that made him the 2015 NL MVP, as he’s top 10 in WAR, BA, OBP, SLG, runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, and walks, among other things.

DH – Joey Votto, 3 WAR: Currently leads the NL with 17 home runs, and enjoying his 8th season in the last 9 years with an OPS+ north of 150. Dude just rakes.

Bench

C – Jason Castro, 1.6 WAR: He’s hitting better than he has in years, though he has yet to find the stroke that made him an All Star in 2013. But he remains among the best defensive catchers playing today.

OF – Corey Dickerson, 2.7 WAR: Currently leads the AL in total bases with 146, and hits with 81, he’s also third in runs (44) and second in doubles (19).

IF – Joey Gallo, 1.6 WAR: Good lord does he strike out a lot, having already whiffed 84 times, putting him on pace for 231, which would be a record. But when he connects, it doesn’t bode well for the pitcher — or the ball — as he has 17 home runs in 196 at-bats, which means he homers once every 6.6 times he hit the ball into fair territory.

IF – Didi Gregorius, 1.2 WAR: After waiting patiently in the wings for Derek Jeter to finally step aside, Gregorius has proven himself to be  better than average shortstop, and this year is hitting better than ever, with a 121 OPS+

Starting Rotation

SP – Lance McCullers, 1.4 WAR: After two seasons of injuries, he’s averaging 3.87 SO/BB, his ERA is just 2.58, and was named AL Pitcher of the Month for May.

SP – Zack Wheeler, 1.4 WAR: He lost all of 2015 and 2016 to injuries, but hasn’t missed a beat, with a 3.45 ERA.

SP – Noah Syndergaard, .2 WAR: He’s on the DL until August with a muscle tear, but when he’s healthy, he’s among the very best in the game. In 59 career starts, he has a 2.92 ERA and a SO/BB ratio of 5.47.

SP – Jacob deGrom, .6 WAR: He’s striking out a career-best 11.8 batters per 9 innings, but he’s also walking a career-high 3.8 per 9, and he;s been very unlucky, sporting a 4.75 ERA despite a 3.93 FIP.

SP – Scott Feldman, .4 WAR: Back in the rotation following a year as a swingman, Feldman has  a respectable 4.09 ERA in 13 starts, more than good enough to be a 5th starter.

 

Bullpen

RP – Matt Albers 1.08 ERA, 25 IP, 1 WAR

RP – Kirby Yates 2.37 ERA, 19 IP, .3 WAR

RP – Danny Barnes 2.67 ERA, 27 IP, .7 WAR

RP – Ryan Madson 2.55 ERA, 24.2 IP, .8 WAR

RP – Rob Scahill 3.12 ERA, 17.1 IP, .0 WAR

RP – Addison Reed 2.78 ERA 32.1 IP, 1 WAR

 

In sum, the L-R All Stars’ starting lineup has produced 17.3 WAR (despite some major injuries), which compares favorably to that of the best-in-the-Majors Houston Astros, whose lineup has produced just 11.1 WAR so far. In fact, all of the Astros’ non-pitchers have totaled just 15 WAR, again best in the Bigs, but well short of the L-R All Stars. The starting rotation leaves something to be desired, as their 4.1 WAR would rank just 14th in the Majors, tied with the Red Sox. In terms of total team WAR, the L-R All Stars’ 25.2 WAR grades out just ahead of the Astros’ 23.6. Now, of course the L-R All Stars would have a couple of disadvantages, in that they would be giving up the L/R advantage more often than your typical team, by dint of all being right handed pitchers or left handed batters. But the bench is so deep, and when Syndergaard comes back, the rotation gets a lot stronger, giving the L-R All Stars the necessary firepower to contend for a title.

 

Wednesday

New York Yankees vs Los Angeles Dodgers

@ 10pm ET on ESPN

 

Saturday

Tampa Bay Rays vs Detroit Tigers

@ 4pm ET on FS1

 

Kansas City Royals vs Los Angeles Angels or

Chicago Cubs vs Pittsburgh Pirates or

Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros

@ 8:15pm ET on FOX

 

Sunday

Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros

@ 8pm ET on ESPN

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All stats courtesy ESPN and Baseball Reference

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