The book on LSU is simple: throw a lefty. It helps if he throws breaking balls. Jared Mitchell especially, goes from being maybe the best hitter in the country to a liability when there is a lefty on the hill.
But has this strategy actually worked? And are our lefties truly helpless against LHP? I decided to go to the game logs in May and check.
Here are our lefty starters: Mitchell, Dean, Schimpf. That's pretty much a list of our best hitters. The platoon split exists for pretty much every player in baseball history, so its no surprise a team would throw a lefty at LSU given the glut of terrific lefty hitters in our lineup. Here's LHP starters in SEC play over the last month vs. LSU and our big three's combined line against them and Mitchell's below that:
5/2 v. Arkansas - Dallas Keuchel - 4-11 LOSS
8.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 3 K
2-8, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR (Dean)
1-3, BI, K, 1 SB, 1 CS
5/8 v. Florida - Stephen Locke - 10-1 WIN
5.1 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 3 BB, 5 K
4-12, 4 R, 4 BI, 2 K, 1 HR (Dean)
1-4, 1 R, 2 K, 0 SB
5/10 v. Florida - Nick Maronde - 3-9 LOSS
5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 8 K
2-8, 1 R, 1 BI, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR (Schimpf)
0-1, 1 K, 0 SB
5/14 v MSU - Tyler Whitney - 5-4 WIN
6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 2 K
3-10, 2 R, 0 BI, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 2B
2-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 2B, 0 SB
5/15 v MSU - Nick Routt - 7-8 LOSS
8 IP, 6 R, 6 H, 5 BB, 5 K
2-11, 2 R, 1 BI, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HR (Dean)
1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 0 SB
5/20 v Vandy - Mike Minor - 1-4 LOSS
9 IP, 1 R, 6 H, 3 BB, 5 K
0-11, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K
0-3, BB, 2 K, 0 SB
For the record, that's a 2-4 record vs. LHP in May. LSU scored 30 runs (10 in one game), averaging 5.0 RPG when we average 7.8 RPG on the year. Dean was boom or bust, making lots of outs but also hitting lots of homers. Mitchell's combined line was 5 for 17 with one XBH (a double), 1 SB, 1 CS, 3 BB, 7 K, 3 R, and 1 RBI.
In May he hit against LHP 294/400/353. Still getting on base at a good clip, but his power completely evaporates and he does not seem able to run against lefties. Over the season, Mitchell hit 331/468/571. The real concern is the loss of 220 points of slugging.
Mitchell's struggles against LHP is simply not a myth. It's very real. Now, it's gonna sound like I'm his agent or something, but I think you already know my solution. First, let's look down LSU's bench for some right handed hitters:
Who jumps out at you? Yeah, me too. Assuming the platoon split that exists for almost every player in 125 years of baseball hitter, its safe to assume Helenihi would even better than that line against LHP.
This is a problem that screams for a platoon of Mitchell and Helenihi. Maybe not every time LSU faces a lefty, but definitely against the soft tossers. That way, once we get to the pen, Mainieri can unleash Mitchell on the bullpen (handed-ness be damned, I'll take my chances of Mitchell against any reliever).
Something needs to be done against lefties. This is a radical proposal, and one that I have absolutely no expectation to actually be implemented. But I think it's the right decision. Platoon Mitchell.