Keep eye on MLB righty-lefty splits

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I got a pretty good response last week after highlighting day-night splits in Major League Baseball. I don’t think bettors give this type of information enough consideration even though it is readily available on VSiN.com and in Point Spread Weekly. Simply, foundational reasons help explain why certain teams perform better in these varying situations. Another split that shows up in our MLB team reports each week is performances against left-handed and right-handed starting pitching.

The foundation for why a team performs better against left- or right-handed pitchers is fairly basic. In most cases, it’s simply having more batters on the opposite side, who see the ball better and succeed accordingly. If a team is stacked with mostly right-handed hitters, it will likely have more success against left-handed starters, and vice versa. While some luck and coincidence is involved, teams’ lefty-righty splits have enough merit that bettors should give these numbers consideration day in and day out. 

Here are 10 teams that have shown drastically different performance levels against left-handed and right-handed starters in 2021. Again, note that these numbers are taken directly off this week’s MLB team reports and can be tracked daily on the matchup pages on VSiN.com.

 

CHICAGO CUBS

vs. RH: 25-22 (455 $ units), O/U: 17-27, RF/RA: 4.1-4.1

vs. LH: 13-6 (703 $ units), O/U: 10-9, RF/RA: 5.8-3.6

The Cubs had seen big-time production against left-handed pitching this season, scoring 5.8 runs per game while going 13-6 for a profit of 7.03 units and a return on investment of 37%. Ironically, Chicago’s top offseason lineup addition, Joc Pederson, bats left-handed, as does slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo. But Rizzo was hitting .364 against southpaws in 2021. The rest of the Cubs’ big bats — Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras, all of whom boast double-digit home runs — hit right-handed. The Cubs host Miami this weekend looking to avenge last year’s wild-card series loss and are scheduled to face left-handers Braxton Garrett on Saturday and Trevor Rogers on Sunday.

 

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

vs. RH: 25-21 (-243 $ units), O/U: 19-25, RF/RA: 4.3-3.7

vs. LH: 16-4 (992 $ units), O/U: 8-12, RF/RA: 6.6-2.8

Like the Cubs, Chicago’s South Siders are raking against left-handed pitching. The White Sox boasted a league-best 16-4 record against southpaws and had produced a gaudy 6.6 runs per game. It almost seems like malpractice for an opposing manager to line up his rotation to trot out left-handers versus Chicago. Yermin Mercedes and the injured Nick Madrigal were each hitting at least .343 in that split, and slugger Jose Abreu had hit five of his 11 home runs vs. lefties in just 54 at-bats. For this week, look for three healthy opportunities to see the White Sox take on left-handers. It starts right away with a game Wednesday against the Rays and Ryan Yarbrough. They figure to see Framber Valdez on Saturday in Houston and Tyler Anderson on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Three games in a week against lefties could amount to a profitable week for White Sox backers.

 

CINCINNATI REDS

vs. RH: 26-28 (-350 $ units), O/U: 31-20, RF/RA: 5.0-5.4

vs. LH: 7-3 (449 $ units), O/U: 7-2, RF/RA: 5.7-3.7

You have to wonder about the logic of Brewers manager Craig Counsell slipping Eric Lauer into a spot start Monday night, setting up a spot in which the Reds would be facing left-handers on back-to-back nights. Cincinnati tagged the Brewers for 10 runs in that game and was set to take on Brett Anderson the next night. So far in 2021, the Reds had a 22% winning-percentage difference and a unit profit variation of 7.99 units when facing southpaws. The biggest bat to take advantage of lefties has been right fielder Nick Castellanos, who is in the running for NL MVP and was hitting .392 in the split. Unfortunately for the Reds, only 10 of their first 64 games had been against lefties. It will be that same ratio this week with a four-game set against the Padres, who will start all righties. The only contest in which Cincinnati was expected to see a lefty was J.A. Happ on Monday in Minnesota.

 

COLORADO ROCKIES

vs. RH: 17-32 (-1325 $ units), O/U: 21-27, RF/RA: 4.1-5.2

vs. LH: 9-9 (240 $ units), O/U: 10-7, RF/RA: 4.6-5.0

If the Rockies faced all left-handed pitchers and played all their games at Coors Field, they probably would be World Series contenders. But only half their games are at home, and only 27% have been against lefties. The result has been a miserable 2021 campaign. Colorado had scored a half-run more per game when facing left-handed starters and had been a profitable team in those games, producing + 2.4 units as opposed to -13.25 units against righties. Yonathan Daza, Garrett Hampson and C.J. Cron were hitting at least .333 against lefties. For this week, it looks like we should fade the Rockies in the first three of four games against Milwaukee and then Tuesday at Seattle. The Padres’ Blake Snell could present some opportunity Wednesday as well as the Brewers’ Eric Lauer on Sunday, assuming those lefties stay in their projected rotation spots.

 

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

vs. RH: 28-18 (-216 $ units), O/U: 27-16, RF/RA: 5.9-4.0

vs. LH: 12-8 (-223 $ units), O/U: 7-13, RF/RA: 3.8-3.6

I wrote last week that the Dodgers were performing much better in night games, and far more of those are scheduled. The logic is the same with righty and lefty pitching. Los Angeles is producing much better numbers against the former, and that is good news, as nearly 70% of their games have been against right-handed starters in 2021. In both splits they boast a winning record. However, if you look behind the wins and losses, you’ll note a difference of 5.9 RPG produced vs. righties and just 3.8 against lefties. That margin is impossible to ignore. The best producer had been catcher Will Smith, who owned a .308 average with five home runs and 23 RBIs vs. right-handed pitching. The Dodgers’ numbers in this spot project even better when lefty hitters Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger are healthy. Five of the next week’s six games figure to be against righties, with the lone exception Monday at San Diego, which has Blake Snell penciled in that night.

 

MINNESOTA TWINS

vs. RH: 19-24 (-1018 $ units), O/U: 25-16, RF/RA: 4.8-4.9

vs. LH: 7-16 (-1358 $ units), O/U: 16-6, RF/RA: 4.1-6.2

With big right-handed sluggers like Miguel Sano, Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Byron Buxton, it’s tough to explain how the Twins could be just 7-16 (-13.58 unts) and scoring just 4.1 runs per game against left-handed starters in 2021. They haven’t lived up to expectations against right-handed pitching, either, but the numbers don’t lie in this case. Minnesota was expected to be a front-runner in the AL Central this year but was sitting 15 games under .500. Maybe the summer heat will help these bats get going. Until then, keep fading the Twins, especially against left-handers. You’ll likely get three opportunities in the next week alone, starting Wednesday at Seattle and Justus Sheffield, then Saturday at Texas and Kolby Allard and finally at home Tuesday against the Reds and Wade Miley.

 

NEW YORK METS

vs. RH: 26-16 (694 $ units), O/U: 20-20, RF/RA: 4.2-3.3

vs. LH: 7-9 (-445 $ units), O/U: 6-10, RF/RA: 2.9-4.2

The Mets’ lineup has been ravaged by injuries, yet New York leads the NL East on the back of the pitching staff. That said, the Mets are putting up respectable offensive numbers against right-handed pitching this season, at least compared with how they fare against lefties. Versus right-handers, they were scoring 4.2 runs per game, and with the great pitching to back it up had gone 26-16 for 6.94 units of profit to date. The offensive production vs. lefties had been 1.3 RPG worse. For the upcoming week, the schedule is very busy, with nine games scheduled between Wednesday and June 22. The only expected left-handed opposing starters in that span figure to be Jon Lester and Patrick Corbin of Washington over the weekend. It could be a lucrative week for New York backers.

 

NEW YORK YANKEES

vs. RH: 24-20 (-698 $ units), O/U: 18-26, RF/RA: 4.0-3.7

vs. LH: 9-12 (-968 $ units), O/U: 9-12, RF/RA: 3.5-4.7

In looking at the Yankees’ lineup, the splits versus left-handed and right-handed pitching are quite strange. If any of these splits has a chance to turn quickly, I would say it would be New York’s sluggish performance against lefties. With Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the Bronx Bombers clearly have potent right-handed bats capable of clobbering left-handers. It just hasn’t worked out that way yet, as they were scoring just 3.5 runs per game in that scenario while going 9-12 for an ugly -9.68 units. That ROI of -46% shows that New York has been favored big in many games and a lot has been expected. I’d be leery of  following these numbers in the coming weeks, regardless of how the schedule sets up.

 

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

vs. RH: 24-19 (631 $ units), O/U: 19-24, RF/RA: 4.3-3.8

vs. LH: 8-13 (-636 $ units), O/U: 12-8, RF/RA: 4.0-5.4

Three of the main players in Philadelphia’s lineup — Bryce Harper, Didi Gregorius and Odubel Herrera — hit left-handed, though all have spent time on the injured list this year. And the Phillies have been better against right-handed pitching. Besides, right-handed hitters Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto also are ranked in the top 11 in MLB in batting average against righties, so it’s not always the obvious things that play out. Philly has gotten on a bit of a roll lately and looks to continue that on a West Coast trip. The Phils figure to face Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday and Giants southpaw Alex Wood on Friday. The rest of the week’s games will be against right-handed pitching.

 

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

vs. RH: 24-29 (-590 $ units), O/U: 26-23, RF/RA: 4.0-4.9

vs. LH: 9-4 (646 $ units), O/U: 6-7, RF/RA: 4.6-3.5

St. Louis hasn’t played well lately, and a good reason for it could be performance against right-handed pitching. The Cardinals were on a 2-11 slide entering the week and head off for a tough four-game trip to Atlanta this weekend. They were just 24-29 against righties in 2021 but 9-4 against lefties. However, that latter record represents a very low 19.6% of games, not a big enough number to provide benefit in the standings. As much as the Braves series looks difficult, perhaps this is the weekend the Cards get it turned around as they are scheduled to face three straight lefties — Max Fried, Drew Smyly and Tucker Davidson — in that series, followed by another, Tarik Skubal, on Tuesday in Detroit.

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