Let’s jump the gun a little. Okay, a lot.
Let’s assume that Shane Youman is going to pitch well enough to secure a long-term job in the Pirates’ rotation. In nine career games (seven starts), Youman is 2-4. He has walked 17 and struck out 14 in 46.2 big-league innings.
Nothing outstanding there, of course. But three of his four outings this season have met the quality standard, including Sunday’s eight-inning, one-run gem.
Furthermore, as a minor leaguer Youman was 33-13 with a 3.08 ERA entering 2007. He’d struck out 7.38 batters per nine innings, and put up a WHIP—a basic measure of baserunners per inning—of 1.28.
He’s not setting the world on fire, but given the alternatives (Van Benschoten, Armas, et al.), Youman seems to be a legitimate candidate for the fifth starter’s job going forward. If so, he’d join Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm and Zach Duke as lefties in a rotation headed by right-handed ace Ian Snell.
My question is this: Could the Pirates survive with four starting southpaws? After all, we worried a little last year when Gorzo join Maholm and Duke on the staff, believing that opposing batters might be a little too comfortable at the plate seeing so many similar pitchers in a row.
I tried to use a Google search to find out which team featured the most left-handed starters in one big-league rotation, but I didn’t turn anything up. I’m not enough of a historian to narrow down a list off the top of my head, either.
I did find an interesting article, though, that trumpeted southpaws in a righty’s world. (It’s nearly seven years old, but I enjoyed it.)
The more left-handed pitching, the better a team’s chances.
Left-handed starters win more often than right-handed starters. In the American League over the past three seasons (1997-1999), left-handed starters had a winning record (608-581) and a 4.49 ERA. In that same span, right-handed starters had a losing record (1,773-1,893) and a 4.98 ERA.
“After a certain point in the draft, I’d tell our people, ‘Take all the left-handed pitchers you can get,'” former New York Mets general manager Frank Cashen said. “We’d corner the market if we could. A southpaw is a commodity.”
Assuming Duke returns to form after a little rest, and assuming Youman continues to throw capably, would you be in favor of a lefty-heavy Pirate rotation?
Or do you trade from the surplus so that you can plug in a righty for balance?