Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Small sample size theater: Harper vs Tauchman

On Monday morning I declared the bend-but-don't-break Twins bullpen cracked.

On Monday evening the Twins bullpen worked five innings and allowed one run agains the Yankees. Nope, not cracked.

I rather expect Lewis Thorpe to be rewarded for his eight outs with a return ticket to Rochester, New York. The bullpen remains hard-worked -- Rocco Baldelli went through four relievers to get those 15 outs -- and there isn't an off-day until next week.

The Twins are back up to eight arms in the 'pen. On Monday C.J. Cron returned to the injured list, his thumb still an issue. That and the optioning out of Zack Littell allowed the additions of Thorpe and Cody Stashak, who has yet to make his major league debut.

Let's talk a little about the shortest of the relief outings Tuesday. After Thorpe -- a lefty -- gave up a two-out double in the eighth, Baldelli brought in Ryne Harper -- a righty -- to face Mike Tauchman,  a lefty hitter who was 3-for-3 on the night. Two pitches later, the inning was over, and Harper was done for the day.

This move contradicts conventional platoon strategy, but Harper so far has a backwards righty -- one more effective against left-handed hitters than against right-handed hitters.

His slash line (apparently including the Tauchman at-bat) against lefties: .230/.269/.338, OPS .607. Slash line against righties: .228/.264/.380, OPS .644.

Harper hasn't yet faced 90 hitters from either side of the plate, but the numbers are closer than one would expect: RH hitters have 87 plate appearances against him, LH hitters 78. So 47% of the hitter Harper has faced are lefties, which seems pretty high but is actually in the same range as Blake Parker and a bit lower than Trevor May. So the Twins aren't, or at least haven't, treated Harper as if he's a lefty-killing specialist.

But they did last night for the Tauchman at-bat. And in his splits lie an interesting nugget:

Tauchman against righties (110 at-bats): .210/.307.430, OPS .737.

Tauchman against lefties (just 33 at-bats): .448/.515/.621, OPS 1.136

I wouldn't care to wager, over the long haul, on Tauchman contining to mash lefties. The Twins did wager for that one at-bat that they were better off with a righty. 

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