The Indians are the worst team in baseball at hitting left-handed pitching

Tom Szczerbowski

Your 10-year-old nephew, the one playing Little League right now... if he's left-handed, he can probably get the Indians out.

There are a lot of things wrong with the Indians right now:

New acquisition John Axford has done so poorly he was removed from the closer's role...

The supposed-to-be-awesome Danny Salazar has done so poorly he was demoted to Triple-A...

The team has made 43 errors in 43 games, which is the absolute worst in baseball. Let's see, I'm no math expert, but I believe that gives them an average of exactly one error per game. There are 162 games in a season, so... (sorry for all the complex calculations) that puts them on pace for 162 errors. No MLB team has made that many since the 1993 Colorado Rockies, who at least had the excuse of being an expansion team.

Ugly, ugly stuff. Today though, I'm here to mention a different thing the Indians are doing worse than any team in recent history: Hit left-handed pitching.

The Indians are batting .212 as a team against lefties so far this season. That puts them last among all 30 MLB teams. They're not hitting for much pop when they do hit them either, leaving them with an MLB-worst .326 slugging percentage and an MLB-worst .612 OPS (and keep in mind that National League teams have pitchers getting a chunk of their at bats, yet the Tribe has done worse than any of them).

sOPS+ takes OPS in a particular split (in this case, hitting lefties) and compares it to the league average at that split. It's the same idea as OPS+, but only for whatever split you're interested in. The Indians' sOPS+ for hitting lefties is 71. Remember how Carlos Santana is in a brutal slump to begin this year, so bad that many Tribe fans want him out of the lineup? Well, his OPS+ this season is 78. That means that as a team, the Indians have been 7% worse than Carlos Santana so far this season. Yikes!

The last team with a lower OPS against left-handed pitchers than the Indians have right now was the 1982 Houston Astros. The last team with a lower slugging percentage was the 1981 San Diego Padres. The last team with a lower batting average was the 1971 Milwaukee Brewers.

Just about any way you slice it, the Indians are hitting lefties worse than any team in more than 30 years. And among AL teams, they're hitting lefties worse than any team since the designated hitter was implemented in 1973.

Regression to the mean tells us the Indians will almost certainly boost their current numbers, but even if their team batting average against southpaws goes up 20 points, it'll be the fifth worst in the American League over the last twenty years. Even if they boost it 30 points, it'll be among the 20 worst.

Same thing with with the slugging percentage, a 20-point boost will still place it among the five worst in the AL for the last two decades, and it will take a 45-point improvement to avoid the bottom 20 of the last 20 years.

The current OPS of .612 needs even more work to avoid landing among the very worst of recent history. Only three other AL teams in the last 20 years have been below .640 and only 16 have been below .670.

If you've got any left-handed friends, give them a call. There may be an AL Central team interested in giving them a job.

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