Apr 15, 2010, 12:44 PM EDT
Three regulars are absent from the Red Sox’s lineup for today’s game against the Twins. Jacoby Ellsbury is still recovering from bruised ribs suffered Sunday in a collision with Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron was a last-minute scratch with a strained abdomen, and David Ortiz has been benched in favor of Mike Lowell.
Ortiz taking a seat will obviously make the most headlines, but even setting aside his 13 strikeouts in 26 at-bats so far this season it makes sense for the Red Sox to replace him with Lowell against a tough left-handed pitcher like Francisco Liriano.
Like nearly all left-handed hitters Ortiz is significantly less effective against left-handed pitchers, and last season he hit just .212 with a .716 OPS against them. Combined from 2007-2009 he hit .253 with a .777 OPS versus lefties compared to .291 with a .977 OPS versus righties. Meanwhile, during that same three-year span Lowell hit .314 with an .881 OPS versus lefties.
At this point Lowell is simply a better hitter than Ortiz against left-handers, and the decision is made even easier by the fact that Liriano has a massive platoon split as well. Since returning from Tommy John surgery he’s held lefties to .243 batting average and .632 OPS, whereas righties have tagged him for a .279 batting average and .840 OPS. Add it all up and Terry Francona would be making the right call today even if Ortiz wasn’t struggling.
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