Tuesday Rockpile: How the Rockies could use Free Agency to hit LHP

A perceived problem with the Colorado Rockies lineup is an inability to hit LHP. Bringing in a right handed bat is a considered a major priority for the Rockies in the 2010 offseason. While the stats show that the Rockies were better than average vs LHP, there's room for improvement.

As a rule lefties hit lefties worse (shocker, I know), and it's not just the Rockies. As a whole, the National League's lefties hit southpaws at a .697 OPS clip, a full .050 worse than their production against righties. That being said, the Rockies lefties WERE markedly worse against lefties as compared to righties (again, shocker), but not nearly as poorly as expected. Almost. Carlos Gonzalez mashed lefties, Hawpe and Giambi were downright decent against them, and even Helton and Ian Stewart posted an above .340 OBP v LHP (and yes, this production was better than the average lefty batter). There was one glaring flaw though out of the lefty corps that needs to be addressed.

Seth Smith.

Smith, while a very decent hitter v RHP (.261/.335/.513, .848 OPS, .365 wOBA, 121 wRC+), is absolutely abysmal v LHP (.154/.182/.212, .393 OPS, .176 wOBA, -5 wRC+). It's not even funny anymore.

So it's beyond clear to me that Smith has no business batting against LHP. Given this weakness, it's time to look in a new direction.

The following words have never been written in the history of baseball:

Jeff Francoeur is the answer to the Rockies outfield snafu.

Click past the jump and I'll shamefully explain why.

Off-Topic

Jeff Francoeur is almost a joke when it comes to baseball analysis. His propensity for punchouts and clear disdain for the free pass make his batting production almost entirely batting average based. He carries a reputation for being a power hitter, although he hasn't cracked 20 homers in a season since 2006, when he belted 29 as a Brave.

So, we have a guy who doesn't walk, doesn't really hit for much power, strikes out too much, so what's the point?

He hits lefties pretty well.

Over his career, Francoeur has batted vs LHP to the tune of .299/.343/.481, .824 OPS, .346 wOBA, and a 113 wRC+. To compare, Seth Smith's career vs LHP has looked liked this: .190/.267/.331, .597 OPS, .267 wOBA, 52 wRC+. It's pretty night and day. Top that off with the fact that Francoeur has been known as a positive defender in RF with a very strong arm (although his range IS on the decline...oh no, this again), he wouldn't be a drastic dropoff from Seth Smith and would at least be as productive as Ryan Spilborghs.

A lot of this depends on where the top of the lineup shakes out. If Dexter Fowler continues to find his form at the plate, he already has a career .375 OBP v LHP and would be hard to shake from a lineup spot. Carlos Gonzalez is obviously not losing playing time to anyone. Ryan Spilborghs is still question mark to me personally, as his contract might make him a trade candidate this offseason. Cole Garner was recently added to the 40-man roster, and he's shown success in the minors against lefties, but his future with the club is largely unknown. Given Francoeur's steady decline v RHP, he might be facing a platoon-only offer, and Colorado could be a good fit if he's willing to face that fact.

 

Rockies contact the agents of Jake Westbrook, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland

Troy Renck reports that the Rockies have begun poking around the 2010 free agent market for pitching help. Personally, I would love to have Hiroki Kuroda on board, far more than Jake Westbrook and Jon Garland.

Iannetta taking nothing for granted in 2011 || Thomas Harding, MLB.com

Despite the Miguel Olivo trade, Chris Iannetta is not resting on a gimme-starting job. In fact, even with his 3-year, $8.35M contract, he never assumed that the job was completely his.

I didn't take any time off; I actually worked as hard as I always have in the offseason, so that wasn't an issue.

Iannetta also claims that he never assumed the starting job in 2010 was his, but merely that his spot on the major league roster was secure. He also speaks to his trouble adjusting to sporadic playing time.

Good read by Harding, and it somewhat clears up some of the underlying debate about Iannetta this past season.

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