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White Sox Thu Jul 22 2010
It's an off day on the South Side of Chicago and the first-place White Sox are coming off a near-sweep in Seattle, denied perfection only by Bobby Jenks' second collapse in four days. So while half the Sox cognoscenti work themselves into a lather debating which of the team's four capable relievers should get the ball in the ninth inning, the other half has plenty of time to indulge in trading deadline fantasies.
Most trade scenarios seem concocted primarily from rumor and speculation -- see if you find any substantive facts in these recent articles about Prince Fielder -- but the majority are built on one premise: The White Sox need to add a left-handed bat to their lineup.
Do they? Why?
Indisputably, Chicago has gotten far more production from right-handed batters than left-handed batters this season:
That's what happens when your primary lefties are A.J. Pierzynski, Juan Pierre, Mark Kotsay, Mark Teahen and switch hitter Omar Vizquel.
But on a fundamental level, why does this matter? Why do the Sox need great left-handed hitters in their lineup? I submit to you they really don't -- not so much that they should look exclusively or even primarily in that direction during trade talks.
There are some late-game tactical benefits to alternating R and L -- an opposing manager often will burn through multiple relievers in a tight game -- but in the end, left-handed batters (except for speedy ones, such as Pierre, who benefit from batting closer to first base) generally carry one presumed advantage over righties: They hit right-handed pitching better.
Across baseball this season, left-handed batters have a .762 to .717 edge in OPS over right-handed batters when they face right-handed pitchers.
This is not, however, the case with the Chicago White Sox, whose right-handed batters have a major-league best .799 OPS against right-handed pitching.
The thing left-handed batters do best is something Chicago's right-handed batters -- Paul Konerko, Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, Andruw Jones, Dayan Viciedo, Brent Lillibridge, et al. -- already have covered.
The White Sox don't need a great left-handed bat. They just need a bat -- anyone who can help this solid but imperfect offense, regardless of where he stands when he takes his cuts.