Seeking success against left-handed pitching, Orioles take on Happ.

Game number two for the Orioles tonight, and they will get to face their first left-handed pitcher of the year. The Blue Jays will send J.A. Happ to the mound who holds a 4-3 lifetime record against the O’s, with a 3.56 ERA in 12 appearances (11 starts). Last season, Happ started three games against them, and had a decision in two of them; both wins.

It’s no secret that the Orioles have struggled in recent years when facing a left-handed pitcher. Last year, the Orioles had 1,384 at-bats against southpaw pitchers, and finished the season with a .234 batting average, and a .301 on-base percentage. In terms of batting average, that was good for a last place finish in the AL, and for on-base percentage, only the Oakland Athletics finished worst in the AL.

Panning out further, since 2012, the Orioles are 20th overall in the majors in batting average vs. LHP (.249), and 28th overall in OBP (.307).

This year, the Orioles believe they have figured out a way to platoon {at least} a few players in-and-out that have better success against left-handed pitchers. This could be a stretch here, but if I were Buck Showalter, I would think about using this platoon every time they know a lefty is opposing them on the mound.

In left-field, we’ll probably see Joey Rickard, and in right-field, we should see Craig Gentry. Maybe the positions will be flipped, but one way or the other, you should see those two guys in the lineup {beginning tonight}. Rickard, in 90 plate appearances vs. LHP, hit .313/.367/.494 in 2016, and although he hit just .188 vs. lefties this spring, he should haveĀ more success than Hyun-Soo Kim.

What? Rickard bats right-handed, and Kim bats left-handed. It’s natural, don’t shoot the messenger.

Craig Gentry has seen his share of left-handed pitchers over the eight years he’s been in the majors. In 582 plate appearances, Gentry holds a .268/.350/.357 line. Your focus should go to the on-base percentage (the one in the middle for those keeping score at home), that is decent for a platoon guy.

I like our chances with Rickard and Gentry in vs. LHP.

Now, of course this has been said before, and I’m not saying anything that some of you don’t already know. But, it’s good to know that joining the likes of Manny Machado (.393 OBP in 2016 vs. LHP), and J.J. Hardy (.331 OBP in 2016 vs. LHP), there are two speedy right-handed hitters that can get on-base, and hopefully can be brought around to score.

Happ isn’t the only LHP they will face in the season’s first week. When the Yankees come to town this weekend, they are tentatively listing C.C. Sabathia as their starter for Sunday’s matchup. The current Orioles are hitting .258/.291/.419 vs. Sabathia, so the task-at-hand of getting better vs. LHP isn’t going to get any easier.


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