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Tribe Doing The Splits in 2016



Rivaled only by Big Foot and Nessie herself, the search for the elusive “RIGHT HANDED POWER BAT” has eluded Tribe faithful for years.  As Justin Upton resurrected the hopes of a rival fanbase and the ghost of Matt Laporta haunted the dreams of Indians fans everywhere, Terry Francona himself said the team "really wanted to try to find a right-handed power bat."
Most of the concern is based around the common complaint of the Tribe’s performance vs left-handed pitching.

But is this a real concern with the current Tribe core?  The Indians actually hit better against lefties in 2013 and 2015.  When looking at the individual pieces, bopping dingers vs lefties hardly seems the issue.

Career wRC+
RHP LHP
Lindor 119 144
Santana 118 135
Gomes 99 116
Brantley 122 97
Kipnis 125 85
*Gomes had a wRC+ of 147 and 155 vs LHP in the 2 years prior to his injury-plagued 2015

So in terms of guys that will be playing every day, there are certainly some guys who can hit lefties.  Now look at the offseason additions.

Career wRC+
RHP LHP
Napoli 116 145
Davis 77 118
Cowgill 53 108

And compare that to the guys who played major roles on the 2015 squad (which hit lefties better overall already) who won’t be returning.

Career wRC+
RHP LHP
Murphy 111 73
Moss 114 100
Bourn 95 74
Raburn 85 122

So the Indians have shipped out quite a few of the roster that was focused more on hitting RHP and brought in guys that have traditionally hit better vs LHP.  Any weakness against lefties has most likely turned into a bit of a strength for the club.
Looking at the full projected lineups drives the point home –

vs RHP wRC+ vs LHP wRC+
Kipnis  125 Napoli 145
Brantley 122 Lindor 144
Lindor 119 Santana 135
Santana 118 Davis 118
Napoli 116 Gomes 116
Chisenhall 101 Cowgill 108
Gomes 99 Brantley 97
Almonte 99 Urshela 88
Ramirez 82 Kipnis 85

But what about right-handed pitching?  Brantley is going to miss the first month.  Lindor is unlikely to repeat his 2015 season offensively.  Considering that in 2015 Napoli had a wRC+ vs RHP of 63, Chisenhall 82, and Almonte is such a big question mark you can see him from space, it’s reasonable to assume a lot of those career numbers vs right-handed pitchers live on the high-end of what we can expect this season.  I mean, I love Jose Ramirez more than I love my own family – but Mr. Potato has hardly mashed at the MLB level.


Perhaps where a weakness is starting to emerge is in the Tribe’s platoons.  Traditionally, they have married a RHH platoon guy to left-handed hitters to make a Frankenstein’s monster version of a good offensive player (Murphburn, etc.)

And with the additions of Davis, Cowgill, and Napoli – the Indians certainly have the bench players to come in to face left-handed pitching.  But suddenly there appears to be a dark side of the platoon -

Career wRC+
RHP LHP
Chiz / Cowgill 101 108
Almonte / Davis 99 118
JRam / Urshela 82 88

That's a third of the lineup that has a best-case scenario of average vs RHP.  With the loss of Brantley coupled with Santana, Lindor, Napoli, and Gomes all being better against left-handers, the lineup suddenly looks very pedestrian against right-handed pitching.

Which means after all these years, the thing alluding the lineup at the moment?

A left-handed power bat.  
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