Optimizing the Indians lineup against left-handed starters

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi threw a bit of a curveball of his own when he announced that CC Sabathia would be starting Game 2 ahead of other pitchers thought to be ahead of him in the rotation including Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery. The combination of Sabathia’s handedness with his postseason experience might have been what pushed Girardi in this direction.

As noted in yesterday’s column about facing right-handed pitching, the Indians’ hitters are near equal in facing right-handed pitching (.259/.332/.453, 108 sOPS+) or left-handed pitching (.270/.351/.443, 113 sOPS+). There are some caveats to it, which tilt the scales towards preferring to face right-handers, but it is still important to note that the Tribe has leveraged their platoons in order to maintain their offensive identity against southpaws.

Here is how can the Indians optimize their lineup against left-handed pitching.

Lead Off

Francisco Lindor has a platoon advantage against left-handers. He rakes .305/.362/.529 and the overall power of the lineup allows the Indians the luxury of putting him first, where he has been comfortable.


The same logic against right-handed pitchers holds true for Jose Ramirez against lefties. He has no discernible difference in his batting line, so he can put his .329/.371/.582 here and give the Indians a lethal start to their order.


Carlos Santana is a bit weaker against left-handed pitchers, but he still gets on base a ton. It makes sense to either have him lead off or slot in the lower leverage spot high in the lineup here.

Clean up

A higher on base percentage against southpaws has been mostly consistent for Edwin Encarnacion though he has seen a power dip in recent years. Not enough to move him off his customary position in the Indians roll call though.

No. 5

There is no logical explanation why the fact that Austin Jackson is hitting .352/.440/.574 against left-handed pitching is not more well-known. A healthy Jackson has always hit southpaws well, so it should not be a huge surprise either. There is an actual argument to be made that he should be hitting clean up. Regardless, A-Jax is great “protection” for Encarnacion, and a producer for the lineup.

To this point in the order, the Indians are a stronger offensive team against southpaws. That is about to change though.

No. 6

Do you believe the .340/.456/.511 in 60 plate appearances for Lonnie Chisenhall or the strong career left-handed pitcher platoon numbers? The problem is that since Jason Kipnis is terrible against left-handed pitching, Jay Bruce is not much better, and Michael Brantley is a pinch-hitter only, there are not many other options than to find out.

No. 7

As noted yesterday, Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes are about even on both sides of the split. So, they will be paired by pitcher. With Corey Kluber set to take the mound in Game 2, Gomes is the choice. He has always been a much stronger hitter against lefties, so having his .245/.339/.509 late in the lineup will be useful.

No. 8

The last outfield position is left with less than ideal offensive solutions, so the Indians might as well bolster their defense until they can chase the starter from the game. A bit of an opposite strategy from when right-handers on on the hill and the Tribe might call on Greg Allen late.

No. 9

Similar to the outfield discussion, the infield is left with less than ideal offensive contributors. Giovanny Urshela is capable of finishing off the defensive identity. It also allows J-Ram to move back to second base as Urshela takes third.

Final Order

  • No. 1: Francisco Lindor, SS
  • No. 2: Jose Ramirez, 2B
  • No. 3: Carlos Santana, 1B
  • No. 4: Edwin Encarnacion, DH
  • No. 5: Austin Jackson, LF
  • No. 6: Lonnie Chisenhall, RF
  • No. 7: Yan Gomes, C
  • No. 8: Greg Allen, CF
  • No. 9: Giovanny Urshela, 3B