The reason that the Atlanta Braves might really need an outfield bat
Division of Labor
On paper, this looks ideal: Markakis is a lefty hitter; Duvall a right-sider. Markakis is a hitter (he actually had the second-most hits in all of baseball during the 2010’s decade), and that’s clearly valuable, but he’s less apt to drive the ball into the gaps to score runners on base ahead of him.
In 2019 – the Year of the Homer – Markakis only managed 9 round-trippers… and 62 RBI. His ISO power score was a scant .135, easily the lowest on the club among the regulars. That amounts to a power evaporation.
Meanwhile, Adam Duvall pounded out 10 homers in just 41 games (130 PA) upon his return from Gwinnett. That’s great… but the problem is that he’s not likely to play much in 2020.
Here’s the problem:
In the entire National League in 2019, just twenty-four left-handed pitchers were used primarily as starters. The Atlanta Braves had 2 of these (Max Fried and Dallas Keuchel) and they’ve already signed one of the rest – Cole Hamels – to take Keuchel’s place.
5 others hail from the NL Central, leaving the bulk out west… though Alex Wood, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu – in additional NL East refugee Keuchel – are among the southpaws yet to find a home for 2020.
By contrast, there were 76 primary right-handed starters in the league last year… but in the NL East, the difference is particularly stark:
- METS ROTATION: deGrom, Syndergaardm Stroman, Porcello, Wacha. All right-handed.
- Stephen Matz is a lefty if used as a starter.
- PHILLIES ROTATION: Nola, Arrieta, Wheeler, Efflin, Velasquez. All right-handed.
- NATIONALS ROTATION: Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Sanchez, Ross. Corbin the only lefty… including backup options Voth and Fedde.
- MARLINS ROTATION: Lopez, Alcantara, Smith, Yamamoto, Dugger (currently). Only Caleb Smith is a southpaw.
So for roughly 46% of the 2020 schedule (75 games), the Braves will face teams that have 2 left-handed starters and 18 right-handers.
Over the rest… roughly 3 of 4 games will feature a right-handed starter.
That means a lot of Nick Markakis as this lineup is currently constructed. The raw math suggests something around 29-30 games over the course of the season in which Duvall might start if the Braves strictly observe the left/right protocol.
But can you trust the splits?