The Fifth Reason

Joe Pawlikowski made his debut here at FanGraphs by listing four reasons why teams are avoiding Jermaine Dye. I’d like to add a fifth.

He’s right-handed. Let me explain.

At this point in his career, Dye is essentially a DH who might be able to fake it at first base, depending on how hard he works at it. He’s not an outfielder anymore, not at 36-years-old and coming off a four year stretch of -20 UZRs. And, because of the physics of throwing across the infield, right-handed 1B/DH types just aren’t all that appealing.

Second baseman, third baseman, and shortstop all have to throw right-handed. It’s just the nature of tossing the ball to first base – left-handed throwers are restricted to first base or the outfield. Because one of the requirements of playing the three non-1B infield spots is throwing right-handed, it follows naturally that most of those infielders also hit right-handed.

There were 71 2B/3B/SS types who accumulated 100 or more games at those infield positions in 2009 – 47 of them bat from the right side. That’s 66 percent. Approximately 2/3 of all non-1B infielders are right-handed batters. And of the 24 guys who can swing it from the left side, a group of them aren’t really offensive threats; we’re talking guys like Geoff Blum, Cesar Izturis, and Kaz Matsui. The list of guys who can provide real offensive ability from the left side while playing 2B, 3B, or SS is pretty short.

What does any of this have to do with Jermaine Dye? Well, if you’re a team that is already stocked with right-handers around the infield, you’re running out of spots to get a really good left-handed hitter to balance out your line-up. Unless you have an MVP caliber center fielder, he’s probably not that guy. You might be able to get a left-handed thumping bat in a corner outfield spot, but those guys are expensive, and a lot of teams are realizing that it’s more cost efficient to put a good defender out there anyway.

This gives rise to a strong preference to fill your 1B/DH jobs with left-handed hitters. Dye is not only trying to convince teams that he can still hit after a miserable second half, but he’s also trying to convince them to forfeit a natural line-up spot that could go to a left-handed bat. For a lot of teams, this is just not worth doing.

Even if Dye can outproduce a comparable left-handed hitter by 5 or 10 percent, managers are going to prefer a balanced line-up, so that opposing managers can’t just shut down their offense with specialist relievers in every close game. And as a right-handed 1B/DH type, Dye threatens every team he may join with a lack of balance in their line-up.

Not only does he need to find a team that is interested in an aging DH, but he needs to find one that doesn’t have too many right-handed infielders on the roster. It should be no surprise that, given how many restrictions there are on teams who may be interested in his services, that there just isn’t much of a market for him.

If you’re a right-handed hitter, you don’t want to end up in the 1B/DH pool. Do whatever you can to sustain your defensive abilities at another position, because once you’re down that far on the defensive spectrum, your career as an everyday player is probably close to being over.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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14 years ago

And yet Kevin Millar received nearly 300 PA last year, often batting 4th.

14 years ago
Reply to  92-93

Thankfully Cito will stop “managing” after 2010.

Joe R
14 years ago
Reply to  Mark

I enjoyed all those attempted zings on Moneyball by pointing out how Cito Gaston wanted hitters being more aggressive and blah blah (the Jays’ BB% increased in 2009 from 2008, but who needs facts?) and all these magical things that obviously won the Jays the WS, instead of such things as having enough talent that Jeff Kent was 1992 mid season trade bait, or a 1993 end of season lineup that featured such nobodies as Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor and John Olerud and Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter. Yeah man, what an underdog story, Gaston really had to go above and beyond to win titles in the early 90’s.