David Freese Should Not Start Against Left-Handed Pitching
Despite having a strong track record against left-handed pitching it is time for David Freese to start getting fewer at bats against lefties
Entering the season veteran third baseman David Freese had one major job for the Pittsburgh Pirates – hit left-handed pitching. Throughout his Major League career Freese had hit LHP well. However, the problem is, Freese no longer does this.
When you combine Freese’s struggles against LHP this season with the success of young third baseman Colin Moran, what to do is rather obvious. Freese should no longer start against LHP.
After going 0-for-3 with a strikeout against San Diego lefty starter Eric Lauer on Friday Freese now owns a .204/.286/.222/.508 slash line against LHP this season. He has struck out in 20.6% of his at bats, his wOBA is .236, and his wRC+ has plummetted to 45.
When the Pirates traded Gerrit Cole in January one of the players they acquired was third baseman Colin Moran. This immediately made Moran the Pirates’ third baseman of the future. Despite being the third baseman of the future and hitting LHP well at Triple-A last season, Clint Hurdle has been hesitant to start Moran against LHP this season.
When Moran has faced LHP he has done well, though. Moran owns a healthy 18.2% walk rate and a .364 on-base percentage against LHP this season. The Pirates need to let Moran develop against LHP, which means letting him start over Freese at third base when the opponent has a lefty on the mound.
Despite the discrepancy in performance against LHP between the two Freese owns 54 at bats against LHP this season to Moran’s 33. This is something that needs to change not only for the betterment of the Pirates but also for Moran’s development as an every day player.
Arguably the worst part of Freese’s continuing to start against LHP is that he bats clean up when he does. Having a hitter that is struggling to this level in the middle of your lineup can be a rally killer. Freese grounding out into a drawn in infield with runners on second and third and one out in the top of the 1st inning, and striking out with runners on the corners and no one out in the top of the 3rd inning last night were two examples of this.
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With Freese no longer being an effective hitter against LHP it leads one to wonder – what value does he bring to the team? Some may say his veteran presence in the clubhouse, or that he is a good bat to have off the bench. Personally, I’d rather see Kevin Newman or Kevin Kramer have Freese’s spot on the roster. But that is a debate for another day.
What should not be debate though is what Hurdle should do when filling out a lineup card to face a LHP and that is to not put Freese on it.