Right-Handed Pitching Caused Indians Problems In 2013
The Cleveland Indians were very effective against left-handed pitching in 2013, leading the American League in several categories including batting average (.271), on-base percentage (.341), on-base plus slugging percentage (.766) and finished third in the AL in slugging percentage at .425 including 51 home runs (5th in AL).
Their dominance in this category resulted in a record against left-handed starters of 36-20 (.643 winning percentage).
The same story could not be written against right-handed pitching as they posted a record of just 56-50 (.528 win%). The team struggled as a whole, finishing at or below league average in several categories including 11th in the AL in batting average (.247), seventh in on-base percentage (.320), ninth in slugging percentage (.402), eight in home runs (12), and ninth in on-base plus slugging percentage (.722).
As a team, the Tribe had 4163 plate appearances against right-handed pitching. Of which, 1173 of those plate appearances came from right-handed bats.
Of the 1173 right-handed hitters who faced right-handed pitching, the most plate appearances were given to Drew Stubbs (313). Stubbs posted a miserable slash line of .216/.276/.362. The second most were given to Mark Reynolds. He was equally as bad and posted a similar line of .215/.295/.355. The duo combined for 571 plate appearances and posted a slash line of .215/.234/.359.
Two of the Indians switch hitters also struggled from the left side against right-handers. Nick Swisher battled a shoulder ailment most of the year, which affected his swing from the left side, and affected his numbers against right-handed pitching. In 2011 against righties, Swisher had an OPS of .763 and in 2012 .873. But, in 2013 he posted a slash line of .220/.310/.370 resulting in a career low OPS vs RHP of .680 (minimum 75 plate appearances).
Similar to Swisher, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera‘s numbers against right-handed pitchers also fell. In 2011 against righties, he posted an OPS of .777 and followed that up in 2012 with an OPS of .796. Unfortunately, the 2013 season was a down year for him all around and he posted a disappointing slash line of .232/.276/.363 against righties resulting in a career low OPS vs RHP of .639.
Finally, newcomer Michael Bourn also struggled against right-handed pitching. In 2o11, he had an OPS of .775 and in 2012 it was .745 but in 2013 he had his second lowest career OPS vs RHP of .685.
All told the group of Reynolds, Stubbs, Swisher, Cabrera, and Bourn combined for 42.3% (1,759 of 4,163) of the Indians plate appearances against right-handed pitching. Reynolds and Stubbs have moved on and the Indians are hopeful that David Murphy can take a large percentage of their plate appearances versus right-handed pitching.
David Murphy holds a career slash line versus right-handed pitching of .280/.347/.469 which results in an OPS of .813.
Unfortunately for the Indians they are going to have to wait to find out if the production against righties will return. In 2013, he struggled by posting career lows in batting average (.219), on-base percentage (.286), and slugging percentage (.399) against right handed pitching.
The front office and scouting department must believe that his 2013 season will be an outlier as they have committed $12M guaranteed to him over the next two years and hold a club option for a third year.
Maintaining their success against left-handed pitching and getting return to normal seasons from Bourn, Swisher, Cabrera, and Murphy will go a long way toward helping the Indians battle for a playoff spot deep into September.