Francisco Liriano has pitched his way into consideration for today’s American League Wild Card game by having been excellent since his return to the rotation — during which period he’s recorded 24.2 innings with 26 strikeouts, six walks, and four earned runs — but also by being on the right schedule to pitch today and by pitching with his left hand.
It’s easy enough to sort this list of teams and find that the Orioles have been the worst American League team against lefties this year. But that’s just what’s happened in the past. It doesn’t necessarily dictate what would happen in the future.
The reason behind this problem against lefties is not one that should continue going forward, is another way of saying that. The Orioles this year have been worst in the American League (third-worst in baseball) when it comes to their right-handers hitting against left-handers. If you were to project a player going forward, you would almost never project him to post a reverse platoon split, to do worse against opposite-handed hitters. So, as a team, you’d project the Orioles to rectify the situation.
There’s another way to get at this. You want to use lefties against teams that rely on lefties. The Orioles rely on lefties less than most teams.
You want to win this one game, so you’ll bring Liriano and he’ll be available. But you don’t need to start the game with him. It’s a lineup full of right-handed mashers like Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop, and Mark Trumbo. With switch-hitter Matt Wieters to help, and righty role players J.J. Hardy, Trey Mancini, and Nolan Reimold also present.
So don’t look backwards, just look at those names — with only Pedro Alvarez, Chris Davis, and Hyun-Soo Kim batting the other side — when you think about the Blue Jays’ decision to start Marcus Stroman over Liriano. The added bonus is that the Rangers rely more on lefties — and so, if Stroman can get the win, you’ll be happy the team saved that lefty.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.
I’m pro-Stroman starting this game, but we don’t need to “save” Liriano for the next series. With Happ, Sanchez, and Estrada already slated into the first 3 games of next series if we make it, the decision for this game has a minimal impact on the next series.