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  • The Twins Will Hit Lefties Just Fine

    Ted Wiedmann

    This winter, the Twins picked up some sneaky good bats versus southpaws.

    Image courtesy of © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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    Adding a right-handed bat has been a talking point for the Minnesota Twins all off-season. They somewhat addressed it by trading for Michael A Taylor, who hits right-handed but doesn't hit left-handed pitching exceptionally. With five left-handed hitters currently on the 26-man and switch hitter Jorge Polanco being better from the left side, this might be an issue for the Twins. Fortunately, I think this weakness might be overstated. 

    Of the five left-handed hitters projected to get significant playing time, only two have a clear need for a platoon partner - Nick Gordon (career 54 wRC+ vs. LHP) and Max Kepler (career 73 wRC+ vs. LHP). Of the remaining hitters, Joey Gallo was abysmal against left-handers last season (23 wRC+ in 2022) but has handled them well throughout his career (104 wRC+ vs. LHP).  Both Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff have even splits between lefties and righties, albeit small samples. The Twins should see if either former top prospect can hit southpaws at the Major League level before condemning them to platoon roles. 

    Given some big-time moves this off-season, it would be easy to forget the Twins' first acquisition, Kyle Farmer. Perhaps it was undersold as a skill, but Farmer is one of the best hitters in baseball against left-handed pitchers.

    In 2022, per FanGraphs, among hitters with 150 plate appearances versus left-handers, Farmer ranked 13th with a 157 wRC+ (ahead of Trea Turner, whom Tony La Russa intentionally walked in a 1-2 count vs. a lefty), 7th with a .948 OPS, 7th in wOBA at .404, and 9th in batting average at .309. There is a very strong case that Kyle Farmer is one of the ten best hitters in all of baseball versus left-handed pitching. 

    So what would a potential lefty-killing lineup look like for the Twins? I mentioned that Kyle Farmer might be a top 10 hitter against lefties, but they also have two other hitters on that list in Byron Buxton (159 wRC+ vs. LHP in 2022) and Carlos Correa (168 wRC+ vs. LHP in 2022). If he had enough plate appearances, Ryan Jeffers would also be on there (161wRC+ vs. LHP in 2022). Against a left-handed starter, a potential lineup could be:


    1. Byron Buxton CF 159 wRC+ vs. LHP
    2. Carlos Correa SS 168 wRC+ vs. LHP
    3. Kyle Farmer 2B 157 wRC+ vs. LHP
    4. Jose Miranda 3B 132 wRC+ vs. LHP
    5. Alex Kirilloff 1B 99 wRC+ vs. LHP (career)
    6. Ryan Jeffers DH 161 wRC+ vs. LHP
    7. Joey Gallo RF 104 wRC+ vs. LHP
    8. Christian Vazquez C 130 wRC+ vs. LHP
    9. Trevor Larnach LF 108 wRC+ vs. LHP (career) 

    The Twins' front office has also stated Farmer could see some time in the outfield. You could sub out either corner outfielder for Jorge Polanco (career 93 wRC+ vs. LHP), move Farmer to the outfield, and move Polanco to 2B. 

    Michael A Taylor was also left off this lineup but figures to see most of his plate appearances against lefties. If the Twins wanted to DH Buxton or not have two catchers in the lineup, Taylor slides into CF. Taylor could also play in either corner outfield spot and spell any left-handed bats in the lineup. He would be a one-for-one swap in either LF or RF, but if Kirilloff needs a rest day, Gallo can cover 1B for that day.

    If things start to fall apart, the Twins also have Kyle Garlick stashed in AAA, who's made a name for himself mashing lefties. The front office certainly thought that a right-handed bat would be useful, being mentioned with names like Yuli Gurriel, A.J. Pollock, and Andrew McCutchen . Still, I feel good about the current roster construction's ability to hit left-handed pitching and don't see this as something that needs to be addressed. 

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    Interesting counter to the "Trading Gio Was a Mistake" article from yesterday. Even if it wasn't planned that way.

    That doesn't look a like team with no hopes against lefties because the roster was so horribly mismanaged by having Gallo instead of Gio!

    It's nice to have some real numbers shown instead of just mentioning which hand a guy hits with as if it's impossible for a lefty to face another lefty successfully.

    Edit to add: It'd be interesting to see what the league has done lefty on lefty since the new 3 hitter rule. There are far fewer LOOGYs now than there used to be since lefties need to be able to get righties out as well now. So I'd be curious if the splits have lowered and lefties are actually becoming more successful against LHPs. I don't know if I'd predict that's happened, but it'd be an interesting look.

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    I've been wondering if we'll see Farmer hit leadoff like Garlick did at times last year against lefty SPs. As soon as they pull the lefty starter, we could insert Polanco, Gordon, Kepler, Kiriloff, Larnach, etc. (whoever was on the bench that day so Farmer could start) to get them an AB against an opposite-handed pitcher (included Polanco in here even though he's a switch-hitter because his numbers are better against RHP than LHP). 

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    The narrative that the Twins were screwed against LHP probably took hold last season when the injuries started really piling up and the offense really struggled in August and September. heck, in my head I thought for sure the Twins had lost 3 straight to a bad Texas Rangers squad that ran out 3 crappy lefties and ate our lunch. Turns out memory is bad: we only faced 1 lefty starter during those 3 games (we in fact beat a crappy lefty in the first game of the series, before dropping the next 3). Maybe the bigger problem hitting anyone was the fact that Jake Cave was starting. 


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    50 minutes ago, Danchat said:

    Jeffers has a 161 wRC? Dang, it must be like 25 against righties, then. 

    This isn’t exactly convincing me that we didn’t need Urshela, but it’s better than expected. Depends on how healthy the lineup can stay…

    57 wRC+ R/R last season and 72 wRC+ for his career, either way not great. Very Mike Zunino-ish...

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    1 hour ago, weitz41 said:

    Interesting, Doesn't look all that bad with the numbers attached.

    After a quick search there's only 4 left handed starters on all the other central division teams. 2 on Detroit and 2 on KC. Neither are expected to offensive juggernauts so maybe splits are even less important.

    You beat me to the punch, buddy. The # of LHPs that we'll have to face is minimal. But I agree that we have our bases pretty much covered when we do. We need to get Taylor in as many games as we can.

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    While the FO didn't go the direction I wanted/thought they might/should for RH help, Farmer is good against LH and Taylor isn't exactly bad, and they went the defense and versatility route. Yes, Larnach and AK are SSS, but small history shows they hang in there for sure. (Uncertain of milb history). Jeffers, he of only a little over 500 ML AB is great against LH. (He's GOT to get better against RH). Sounds like a broken record, but if the Twins get the pre-NY Gallo he's got solid splits both ways. 

    So yeah, if the lineup the Twins put out there is the lineup we hope/expect, we shouldn't be so poor against LH arms as we've been the last couple of years. I find myself in a strange place caught between hope and expectation in regard to the lineup and offense in general. I love the possibilities and the depth and balance and the defense. At some point, I believe the worm has to turn, and the incredible rash of injuries needs to cease and find balance the other direction. If that actually happens, we will get the "normal" Gallo...if only for 1yr...and Kirilloff and Larnach will be good to go and begin their ML journey in full step. 

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    7 hours ago, Doctor Gast said:

    You beat me to the punch, buddy. The # of LHPs that we'll have to face is minimal. But I agree that we have our bases pretty much covered when we do. We need to get Taylor in as many games as we can.

    Remember that there are fewer games within the division and something like  100 inter-division. Pretty reliably, the Twins will face between 25 and 35 percent left handed starters.

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    My Mom used to spend a lot of time separating her food very carefully on her plate. The Potatoes and Gravy was carefully tucked into a corner of the plate. The Gravy was contained in a Potato indentation in the center. The stuffing had it's spot, The Broccoli and Cheese was not touching the Turkey or the Ham. It was a work of art as she sat down to eat. Too bad it doesn't last that long once the baseball season begins.

    By April, an injury here or an injury there and pretty soon the gravy is pouring into the jello. 

    It's nice that they have that balance to start... let's see how long it lasts. 😉



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    I agree we should not be freaking out when facing lefties.  I also agree, there are not a ton of LH starters to even worry about either.  I just hope we do not see a pinch hit for a guy in the 5th with no one on against a LH pen guy by one of our better hitters against them, only to have to deal with a worse player later in the game.  I am all for it in big spot, or late in game, but we would see Garlick subbed in early in games, then had to deal with his defense and at-bat later against RH guy in big spot later in game. 

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    14 hours ago, JD-TWINS said:

    Lefty Starter:

    Taylor CF

    Buxton DH

    Correa SS

    Miranda 1B

    Farmer 3B

    Jeffers C

    Larnach LF

    Polanco 2B

    Gallo RF


    This is about what I would expect, with LF/RF/1B/3B being mixed and matched as some of the LHB start to have varying success against LHP.

    I would like to see Buxton, depending on current health, start in RF from time to time, which is a far less health hazard vs CF. That would truly maximize the wRC+ vs LHP, allowing Vazquez to DH. 

    And, that OF alignment levels up the OF defense just that much more.

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