Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Huff Can't Hit Lefties. And Your Point Is?

Keith Law writes on ESPN.com:

Aubrey Huff was the best bat left on the free agent market, but perhaps not the best fit for Baltimore. The Orioles will now be spending over $10 million per year over the next three years on two so-so left-handed bats who don't hit lefties and who are probably best suited for DH duty.

OK, lets look at this point by point. $10 million per for three years. Check. So-so left-handed bats. You can certainly make that argument. Don’t hit lefties? No, not as well as they hit righties but they are not abysmal. (Huff is actually a career .276 hitter against lefties so at least in his case this statement is just wrong.) But forget how they hit against lefties. How many lefty starters will these guys have to face? With the unbalanced schedule in the AL East, here’s the list of guys they may face on a regular basis:

Randy Johnson – leaving for Arizona
Andy Pettite – a tough lefty
Casey Fossum – lousy against righty and lefty hitters
Scott Kazmir – tough lefty
Gustavo Chacin – lousy against all hitters
John Lester – he may be in the rotation but is young and was worse against lefties too

So that’s three tough lefties if Randy Johnson stays which looks unlikely. Sometimes people forget that it doesn’t matter if you are righty or lefty if you suck. Huff and Gibbons will wear out crappy pitchers no matter which hand the ball leaves from. And the tough lefties? That’s why you have guys like Millar and Payton who wear out lefthanded pitching. Pick apart the signing if you want but throwing out the “don’t hit lefties” card doesn’t stick. They aren’t there to kill lefties.

Huff hasn't been a front-line hitter since 2003, when he looked like a star on the make. After a small step back in 2004, he fell off severely in 2005 and was more of the same in 2006.

This is true. It is one of my concerns.

He no longer has the big power teams want in a defensively-challenged corner bat, and has a questionable work ethic and a rep as a sour guy in the clubhouse -- certainly not what Baltimore, with clubhouse problems of its own and a few guys who visibly dogged it down the stretch last year, needs at this point.

Defensively challenged is a bit harsh. He is better at third than Mora. He is not great but he is more than passable.

As far as his clubhouse rep, I don’t put a lot of stock in that. Millar helped recruit the guy and Millar is the ultimate clubhouse guy. But I don’t know what that proves either.

Become an ESPN Insider to read the rest. I won’t bother.

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