The New York Yankees may have their worst moments against southpaws, but their shortstop Didi Gregorius apparently has no issue with facing them.
You see it almost every game. The manager of a ballclub calls on a lefty reliever to face off against a lefty batter in a key situation. Odds are, a good outcome is about to transpire, but for New York Yankees‘ Didi Gregorius, that result has fallen in favor of the knighted shortstop.
Gregorius has always struggled against left-handed pitching but has recently defied the common baseball law that states lefty-on-lefty is not a fun time to be in the batters box.
Since breaking into the show in 2012 with the Cincinnati Reds, Didi has a dismal slash line of .244/.274/.381 against them and even entered this season poised to earn off-days whenever New York squares off against a left-handed pitcher. That wasn’t malarkey as, again, no one expects lefties to hit lefties well.
Then, the 2016 campaign began for Didi and something sparked.
Following Thursday night’s 4-1 victory against the Minnesota Twins and Friday night’s beatdown, Gregorius’ batting average against lefties skyrocketed to .373 while his slugging percentage took a leap to .413 after he crushed a go-ahead three-run jack off lefty Fernando Abad and singling in a run off Pat Dean the following night.
It is a mystery that no one can solve but maybe that’s the issue. Does the fact that a lefty hitter being at inferior odds against southpaws crawl it’s way into the mind of a hitter? Not for Didi, really, as he just goes out there with the intent to harm no matter which arm the pitcher throws with.
“You gotta face whoever you’re facing, so for me it doesn’t really matter who I’m facing, lefty or righty, because you never really know how that guy is gonna feel today or how you feel today,” he told NJ Media. “So whoever’s on the mound, that’s who you’ve got to be ready for.”
If you don’t know just how epic the Yankees’ shortstop has been against them just look at how he compares to the rest of the league in terms of offensive production against left-handed pitching (via Fangraphs).
Not a single lefty batters who has at least 50 at-bats there in 2016 has a higher batting average than Gregorius does (.373) and he also has the least strikeouts (three) among any left-handed hitter in all of major league baseball.
When compared to all batters facing lefties, Didi is ranked ninth in batting average among all hitters in baseball against lefties on a list which includes switch hitters and righties. He is not only the best lefty-on-lefty hitter in the game but is now flirting with being one of the most efficient hitters overall to hit lefties.
If this hasn’t been weird enough for you… it seems as though Didi the lefty hitting wonder may actually prefer hitting lefties against righties. Once again, we return to the splits.
Compared to his numbers against righties which, hitters like Didi are expected to shine against, his batting average is .120 points lower, his on-base percentage is .131 points lower, and his slugging percentage is at a .085 point depression when he faces righties (entering Friday night).
This phenomenon has grown to the point where Didi has grown decompressed toward facing lefties that he’d rather look over at the opposing manager, wink, and say: “bring on a southpaw.”
Heck, if managers are going to keep calling on that left-lefty matchup for him with the mindset that this is the Gregorius of 2015 (.605 OPS vs LHP), he very well may surpass his career high in home runs that he is only two behind of (nine).
Can we explain this sensation? Quite frankly, no. But the way Didi Gregorius has been dominating pitchers that have given him a hard time during his brief career is nothing short of mysteriously epic.