Amid the New York Yankees’ unexpected start, it is very easy to get caught up in what is going right for the team, as opposed to what is going wrong. While the Yankees may look good right now on the surface, they have a real problem on their hands – one that can effectively cripple the team if it isn’t fixed.
The Yankees can not hit lefty pitching.
At the time of this writing, the team is currently batting a minuscule .199 against left-handed pitchers. The team struggles so much against lefties, that neither OBP nor Slugging Percentage break .300. In case you couldn’t figure it out, that’s not good any way you slice it.
Those statistics really make the lineup look one-sided, especially when you consider the fact that the team is batting .301 against right-handers. The OBP, SLG, and OPS against righties is also exponentially higher than it is against a lefty.
There really isn’t a problem with how the starting lineup is set up either. On any given day, there can be a nice balance of both righty and lefty hitters. The problem really lies within some of the reserve players.
Ben Francisco, who was one of the players competing for a spot on the roster before the season started, has been a disappointment so far. He put up impressive numbers during Spring Training, but as we all know, those numbers rarely if ever equate to how a player will do once the games count. Francisco has appeared in ten of the Yankees’ game so far, and has hit .080 with no home runs, no RBIs, and only two hits. Yet despite his struggles, Joe Girardi continues to start him on some days due to the fact that he bats right handed.
You know, sometimes it’s good to want to create a righty/lefty matchup, but sometimes you need to nix that plan and just go with the hotter hitter. Francisco may bat from the right side, but he isn’t the best option for the Yankees right now.
Lyle Overbay is another player who has struggled mightily against lefties so far. Overbay is different from Francisco because he bats left-handed, but yet he plays against a southpaw due to the fact that the Yankees need his defensive ability at first base throughout the game. Against righties, Overbay is doing exceptionally well – hitting .326 with two home runs and eight RBIs. Against lefties though, Overbay is a completely different hitter, batting only .056 against them with just one hit. You can give Overbay a bit of a pardon though, because he is needed more than Francisco is.
The question is though, how do the Yankees go about fixing this situation?
Well right from the get-go, it has been no secret that I am a huge fan of Ronnier Mustelier. I can sit here and make the argument that he belongs on the roster over Francisco, and the only reason he isn’t is due to an ill-timed injury. Mustelier is a right-handed batter who would be the perfect platoon player for Girardi if he wanted to start a player to go against a lefty. Once he returns from injury, Mustelier should be an option that the Yankees look at. If they want to give Musty time to play in AAA after recovering from his injury, then they could call up Zoilo Almonte, a switch hitter, or Melky Mesa, another righty bat, to play against a lefty.
Another option for the team is to just tread water like they have been until Mark Teixeira comes back. Unfortunately, due to the nature of recent reports, it appears as though we will have to wait even longer for the switch-hitter to return. I’m not going to delve into how much Tex impacts the Yankee lineup against lefty pitching because it should be obvious at this point.
The Yankees have done well so far, and they have shown that they can compete with other teams – something many people didn’t think that they would be able to do heading into the season. If the Yankees can just tread water, and hope they get lucky by facing a lot of righty pitching until the reinforcements return to the lineup, then the team should be fine.