The St. Louis Cardinals' Success vs. Lefties Bodes Ill for Giants Starter Barry Zito

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

St. Louis Cardinals hitters have feasted off lefthanded starting pitching this 2012 season. Enter Game 5's lefthanded starter for the Giants: Barry Zito.

The St. Louis Cardinals offense had a very productive 2012 regular season, even if their offense tapered off as the season progressed. In the National League, the Cardinals ranked second in runs scored, second in batting average (BA), first in on-base percentage (OBP), fourth in slugging percentage (SLG), and third in on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). One of the reasons the St. Louis offense was so productive was how well it hit against lefthanded starting pitchers. Through Bruce Bochy, fate, the baseball gods, or some combination thereof, the Redbirds will face a lefthanded starter tonight.

The San Francisco Giants have announced Barry Zito as the club's starter for Game 5 of the NLCS. Zito is a lefty starter. Because of the prevalent mixing and matching that goes into late-inning batter-reliever matchups, I thought we might take a look at how the Cardinals lineup has performed against lefthanded starters as opposed to lefthanded pitchers overall, a split that would include both starters and relievers.

As a team, the Cardinals shelled lefthanded starters. With a lineup featuring the righthanded hitting Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina, David Freese, and the switch-hitting Carlos Beltran, it's easy to understand how well the club collectively performed against lefty starting pitchers. Even after recognizing how many excellent righthanded batters the Cards have, the club's performance against southpaw starters is somewhat staggering.

Below is a chart showing how the likely Cardinals starting lineup members have performed against lefthanded starters this season. The chart has plate appearances, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging percentage, isolated power, as well as tOPS+ and sOPS+. tOPS+ is how the hitter has performed against lefthanded starters relative to how he has performed overall during the 2012 season. sOPS+ represents how the hitters has performed against lefty starters relative to how the league as a whole has performed against lefty starters.

2012 CARDINALS SPLITS VS. LEFTHANDED STARTING PITCHERS

Player

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

tOPS+

sOPS+

Jay

127

.294

.410

.373

.782

.079

103

119

Carpenter

96

.325

.417

.639

1.055

.314

152

186

Beltran

185

.287

.351

.591

.943

.304

121

154

Holliday

217

.316

.401

.615

1.016

.299

130

176

Craig

188

.308

.362

.581

.943

.273

114

155

Molina

171

.353

.420

.567

.987

.214

126

170

Freese

186

.307

.382

.488

.870

.181

107

139

Descalso

102

.279

.374

.337

.711

.058

127

99

Kozma

26

.455

.500

.864

1.364

.409

182

268


The small sample size caveat obviously applies, especially with Pete Kozma's otherworldly numbers in a mere 26 plate appearances (PAs). For what it's worth, Kozma notched 296 PAs against lefties (both starters and relievers) in the minors during the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined and hit .227/.320/.369 against them, according to MinorLeagueCentral.com. That .689 OPS against southpaws is 113 points higher than .576 OPS Kozma posted against righties in the minors during the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined. These stats reinforce the fact that this is Kozma's October and we're all just living in it (and cheering).

Obviously, the Cardinals starters are quite skilled at striking with their bats a ball thrown from the port side. It's not surprising then that the Cardinals collective posted quite impressive numbers against lefty starters this year. The following chart shows the Cardinals performance as a team against lefthanded starting pitchers.

2012 CARDINALS SPLITS VS. LEFTHANDED STARTERS

Split

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

tOPS+

sOPS+

vs. LHSP

1,892

.287

.358

.478

.835

.191

120

129


Enter Barry Zito, lefty starter. tom s. did a great job breaking down his stats in Thursday's morning post and I encourage you to re-read his analysis. Instead of focusing on Zito's numbers, I'm going to focus on the numbers that hitters facing Zito have put up during the 2012 campaign. The following chart contains the same stats listed above for the Cardinals offense.

2012 BATTER SPLITS VS. BARRY ZITO

Split

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

tOPS+

sOPS+

vs. RHB

603

.281

.355

.468

.823

.187

117

118

Overall

799

.263

.332

.426

.758

.163

100

109

vs. LHB

196

.209

.259

.299

.559

.090

48

73


The similarities between the Cardinals' team stats against lefty starters and the stats for righthanded batters when facing Zito are uncanny.

Split

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

tOPS+

sOPS+

Zito vs. RHB

603

.281

.355

.468

.823

.187

117

118

STL vs. LHSP

1,892

.287

.358

.478

.835

.191

120

129


The Cardinals will need good performances from their righthanded hitters tonight in order to win. The righthanded-heavy heart of the lineup began to stir in Game 4. If they can keep hitting, the Cardinals will be in a good position to prevail on Friday night.

On paper, NLCS Game 5 is a match made in heaven for the Cardinals and a match made in hell for the Giants. But that's on paper. The same could have been said entering Game 4 of the NLDS, when the Nationals were putting lefty starter Ross Detweiler on the mound. Cards fans remember how that one turned out.

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