Baldelli and Line Ups: Which Twin has faced the best pitching?
I became interested in the Astudillo discussion in the resting players topic and wondered about Astudillo's use. I have been thinking about this since his critical hit against Matt Barnes in the Red Sox series.
Matt Barnes is a right handed pitcher with the highest k/9 rate in the AL and nearly the highest AL k-rate at 38%. The Twins are tied with the Red Sox 1-1 in the 7th inning. Miguel Sano is in scoring position with two outs. The Twins have 1 hit through 6 2/3. Jonathan Schoop is coming to the plate and in comes Matt Barnes. It is time to pinch hit with a left handed batter or so I thought. They have Polanco and Wade on the bench. They also have Astudillo. Astudillo? Why Astudillo? Kepler is up next. Let's get someone on base. Polanco or Wade must be a better choice. I was certain.
Astudillo slaps a single to right field for the Twins second and last hit of the game. The Twins hold on to win 2-1. Lucky decision on Baldelli's part I muttered. The moment stuck with me though. I wondered... "When does Baldelli choose to use Astudillo?"
With the help of Baseball Prospectus I looked to the quality of opposing pitcher for each Twin hitter with over 100 PAs. We have heard that the line ups are well thought out and planned. Maybe some hitters have faced a more difficult set of pitchers by design.
Not surprisingly the typical pitcher faced profile for a Twin hitter is Polanco. He plays the most. The opposing pitchers he has faced have allowed a .770 OPS resulting in a 105 oppRPA+. More than half of the Twin hitters bunch in the interquartile range of 104-106. Only one Twin batter has faced better than league average opposing pitching this year with a 99 oppRPA+. Willians Astudillo. Astudillo's 746 oppOPS is two standard deviations away from the typical opposing pitcher faced. I don't think this happens by accident or randomly. Baldelli must either be choosing to play Astudillo against more difficult pitching or at least choosing to rest players against a more difficult pitcher.
If you are still reading and curious the Twin closest to Astudillo is Arraez at .751 and the only other Twin more than a standard deviation away in this direction. There are two Twins on the opposite end though not near as far from center as Astudillo. Marwin Gonzalez (.779) and Byron Buxton (.781) have seen the pitchers who have given up the highest OPS to the hitters they have faced.
Does this or should this give us a different impression on Astudillo's performance at the plate this year?