Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis, Righties vs. Lefties


With the game on the line in the bottom of the 13th inning at Camden Yards on Tuesday evening, the Red Sox brought lefty Robbie Ross into the game to face Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis. It was a difficult task, given that the O’s had runners at first and third with none out. Davis lined a single through the draw-in infielders looking to cut off the run at the plate, and the game was over.

The better choice for Boston would have been to walk Davis and load the bases for Adam Jones, setting up a force at home. But honestly, the truly bad decision was to bring in a lefty to face Davis. That seems at first glance to be the appropriate decision until one looks deeper into the numbers.

Chris Davis is now hitting a perfect .300 against left-handed pitching, while batting a much more modest .249 against right-handers. It is more than just a small sample size. There are 173 plate appearances against lefties. This has not always been true, as Davis has career numbers 17 points higher against righties (.260) than lefties (.243). But reverse splits are certainly true in 2015.

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Perhaps if an opposing manager is trying to go with his best numbers and chances in terms of keeping Davis in the ballpark, it is better against a left-hander. Davis has only 10 of 42 homers this year against southpaws, or once in about 17 plate appearances. For right-handers, it is about once every 13 trips to the plate.

Boston twice brought left-handers into the game to face Davis. At the end, Ross replaced righty Jonathan Aro, who had earlier gotten Crush to ground out. And in the bottom of the eighth, Tommy Layne was brought in for a lefty-lefty matchup. He threw once pitch in the game, a ball that Davis drilled to the wall in left-center field. CD just barely missed getting it out of the park.

It must be September, as the Red Sox went through nine pitchers while the Orioles used seven. It was a long, long night. I know; I was there and did not get home until 1:15 a.m.  So, we can talk more another day about Ubaldo Jimenez, Brian Matusz and others.