The Orioles will face their 10th left-handed starter of the season today as former Oriole Bruce Chen will take the mound for the Royals. Seeing a lefty for the second time in three days is not good news for the Birds, who are 2-7 versus southpaws this season with a .230 team batting average
The O's struggles against lefties have picked up where they left off in 2010, when the Birds hit .248 against left-handed pitching. In just the second weekend of the season, the Birds dropped two in a row to Rangers lefties Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. In those two games, the O's bat went silent. They didn't recover for six more games as the team then went on a 0-8 run.
Sure, it's early, but the lack of hitting against lefties has to be disconcerting not only to manager Buck Showalter but to president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who made it a point to address the issue in the offseason. Right-handed power hitters like Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee were brought in as free agents. Both veterans have better career numbers against lefties than righties.
Guerrero: .325 vs LHP/.317 vs. RHP
Lee: .290 vs LHP/.280 vs RHP.
While both Guerrero and Lee are underperforming in most offensive categories as compared to their career numbers; both are getting the job done at the plate against left handers so far this year. Each is hitting .333.
Other than Guerrero and Lee, Robert Andino's .346 average against lefties this year makes him the only other Oriole putting up respectable numbers in that department.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is Nick Markakis. He was the only Oriole who consistently put up numbers against lefties in 2010 with a .361 batting average. In fact, he hit lefties better than righties last year and that's unusual for a left-handed batter. So far this season, Markakis is hitting just .231 against southpaws. That's quite a dropoff.
Over the years, we've seen left-handed hitter Luke Scott lobby for at-bats against lefties and, to his credit, Scott has hit lefties fairly well over the past two years. His splits are almost down the middle. This year, however, he is 2-for-19 against lefties with seven strikeouts and two home runs.
Those numbers have to improve, but it won't be easy. The American League East has some of the most dominant left-handed pitchers in all of baseball, like New York's C.C. Sabathia and Boston's Jon Lester.
As for today, if the O's think Kansas City starter Chen is one of the easier lefties to get after in the league, they may be caught off guard. The O's castoff has a 3-1 record in six starts this year and has thrown one complete game. His ERA is a respectable 4.04.