LH Bat Options – Compare and Contrast – A Point-CounterPoint

It seems clear that the Nationals want a left-handed power bat this off-season. And probably preferably a DH, first basemen or corner outfielder or any combination of those positions. So Steve and I started discussing this via Twitter DMs and we decided to turn that back and forth conversation into a Point-CounterPoint article. So here goes.

Don: The replies to my Joey Gallo comment were interesting. I wonder what your thoughts are on Gallo?

Steve: Perfect Rizzo candidate. Surprised it’s not done as it just fits the way Riz approached the 2023 roster and the signings so far this offseason. Of course we want more of a sure thing — but on the left side, every player has their own question marks.

Don: Boras hoping to match Schwarber’s contract. LOL

Steve: Probably. LOL

Don: Are your sources saying Gallo is an option? Or is that just your opinion?

Steve: Yes, but far down the list per my sources, but it seems like the obvious Rizzo move based on his upside strategy that he has been using with bounceback guys.

Don: I suspect that the reason Rizzo has not done this is he is targeting someone else. As soon as his alternatives are gone, I suspect he acts quickly.

Steve: I agree that Rizzo is targeting someone else and I believe it is/was Brandon Belt who one my source mentioned if the price is right. If the price isn’t right, Gallo should fit Rizzo’s budget. Well it has not happened and so goes the rumors that Belt might retire. Joc Pederson is always a name that fans mention as a fit but we now his annual pay will be over $10 million a year.

Unless there is a Boras-Mark Lerner meeting of the minds like Boras and Ted Lerner used to have — I don’t see any high-end Boras clients getting signed by the Nats unless it is initiated by Rizzo. Things might be on shaky ground based on the way the Stephen Strasburg retirement news was leaked per another source. So, from that I think that Cody Bellinger isn’t happening even though some fake news accounts pushed that a month ago.

The other Boras candidate is Rhys Hoskins who Rizzo did have early discussions, as well as Jorge Soler (not a Boras client). My source said after acquiring Nick Senzel, a righty, that Rizzo was looking at lefty power bats. Of course there are more righties available and hence lower prices — so you never know how this will finish up. The other obvious fit could be Carlos Santana, a switch-hitter — but also 38 years old. His numbers were strong on SLG with a .747 OPS.

Don: I agree that Bellinger is not happening. I will pull some numbers together on LH bats. And maybe include Daniel Vogelbach just for yucks. And since this conversation started with Kyle Schwarber vs Joey Gallo, I will include them as well – once again for comparison purposes.

Steve: Sure, let’s see what it looks like.

Don: When I saw the comments about Gallo vs Schwarber, it reminded me of how so many baseball fans when looking at the data understandably focus almost exclusively on the actual numbers. Early in my career (as what is now called Data Science), a senior PhD Statistician told me that I need to work with the subject matter experts to understand what the data means and that the actual values of the numbers were secondary. That is something I have tried to do ever since.

When I saw the scene below in the movie Bull Durham, I chuckled to myself about the difference between hitting .250 and hitting .350.

Steve: The greatest argument for cutting down on strikeouts to make more contact and let BABIP work for you to get that extra hit per week to give you that extra 50 points on the BA!

Don: So here are some key numbers I grabbed from Baseball Reference. I then augmented them with some calculations that I like, and that I think Crash Davis (yes, there was a real Major Leaguer with that name) would as well.

The image is of an Excel file. If you want to download it to add other players or calculations, just click on the image.

The augmented calculations are hopefully clear by their header. To make sure, here they are:

  • PAs Per HR: How many PAs does the batter average per HR. For example, in 2023 Belt hit a HR roughly every 21 PAs (technically 21.26).
  • HRs as % of Hits: What percentage of a batter’s hits are HRs. For example, in 2023 42% of Gallos’s hits were HRs; and 41% of Schwarbers were HRs. No one else is even in that ballpark (pun intended).
  • HRs in a 600 PA Season: Using the PAs per HR metric, how many HRs would the batter hit in a season with 600 PAs. And note that I am using 600 PAs instead of 500 ABs. Pederson is the low guy here with 21 in 2023.
  • OnBase Time per Week (600 PAs): Again, I am tweaking my version of Crash’s per week comment. This is the number of times the player reaches base per week in 600 PAs over the 26.5 week season. Belt is the best guy here. And if you think about the fact that the OBP is roughly the percent of time the batter does not make an out, OBP is a good thing. And is more interesting IMO that BA – since it includes hits as part of the calculation.

Steve: Very nice to see those stats laid out like that. Plate appearances and getting cushy matchups was supposed to help Gallo and Pederson. Belt’s issue has been health. When he is healthy, he is really good.

Don: Thanks. How you present/display data is pretty important.

Bottom line if your first, second, and third priorities is that you want more HRs, Gallo is reluctantly the guy. He is basically Schwarber, at the cost of one less time per week that he gets on base (or echoing the comment about, has one more PA per week that results in an out).

If getting on base (i.e., not making an out) is your priority, Belt is probably the best option.

Steve: Gallo is going to be your bargain signing. The 43% K rate is why he will be a bargain. If only he could change his two-strike approach.

Don: Hopefully you are right that Gallo is a bargain signing. The K rate is certainly an issue; but most of the time an out is an out. Ks can’t be productive outs that advance a runner like a sac fly or a ground ball behind a runner. But, then again, they don’t result in GIDPs.

And isn’t Coles a contact guy? Maybe he can work a miracle and surprise us by lowering it to the still bad mid 30s.

Now it is up to the TN community to weigh in: what is your priority for a LH bat and who is your first choice?

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