Is Lefty/Righty Balance Really That Important?

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Dodgers

When you’re in that period between pitchers and catchers reporting and Spring Training games actually starting, it seems like it’s easy for the local media to find a theme for the day and harp on it.  On Tuesday, it looked like the theme was the “lopsidedness” of the potential 25-man roster.  Both Haudricourt and McCalvy had blog posts on the subject, and while I find it an interesting note, I’m having a hard time believing it’s as big a deal as everyone seems to be making it out to be.

I’m not pretending to be a guy in the know here, and I can understand why you could possibly be putting yourself in a strategic disadvantage by having a lineup that’s nearly completely right-handed and a bench that’s completely left-handed.  Even possibly having three left-handed starters in the rotation seems to be troubling for some, but I’ve already written about why I’m not worried.

I do get worried, though, when it starts to look like the team might sacrifice having a better player on the roster just because he hits from the wrong side of the plate.  Last year’s lineup was predominantly right-handed (Prince Fielder was the only regular lefty until switch-hitting Felipe Lopez came to town) and they seemed to do fine — they scored 785 runs, good for 9th in the majors and 3rd in the National League.

When it comes to your bench players, do you like to have a balance to keep the opposing manager honest?  Sure.  But do you keep Jim Edmonds and George Kottaras off the roster for Lorenzo Cain and Angel Salome or Jonathan Lucroy just because you want right-handers off the bench?  The likes of Cain and Salome or Lucroy need to be playing every day, and if they’re not going to be everyday players in the majors, they need to be in the minors getting the reps necessary to improve.  And really, if you’re worried about your starting lineup being too right-handed, wouldn’t it make sense to have quite a few lefties coming off the bench?

Macha says he’ll try to remedy the situation by sprinkling in the left-handed bench bats every so often, and if Corey Hart continues to struggle, I would imagine a flat-out platoon would be possible in right field.  A platoon in center with Carlos Gomez and Jody Gerut also seems possible.  We’ve seen Rickie Weeks long enough to know that, unfortunately, odds are unlikely that he’ll make it through the entire season.  And considering Macha’s inability to trust young players, would it really surprise anyone to see Craig Counsell make a start or two at short every week?

The whole thing will probably work itself out when it comes to injuries and ineffectiveness this spring, but here’s to hoping someone doesn’t get a bad break just because Macha felt weird sitting on the bench with so many lefties.  This team needs so many things to go right in order to contend, I would hate to see them make bad personnel decisions to start the year just for the sake of balance.

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