Brian Cashman must feel cursed. For years, the New York Yankees general manager has been on a mission to find balance in his lineup, and just when he thought he had finally captured it, it vanished.
The Yankees have fallen on hard times, and it's in part because of injuries and inconsistent production by left-handed hitters. It's forced New York to revert back to relying on righties to carry the load at a time when seemingly everyone on the roster not named Aaron Judge has slumped.
"Take a look at their numbers since Matt Carpenter left the lineup," one AL scout said. "Yes, Matt Carpenter. If he or Anthony Rizzo or even Andrew Benintendi were right-handed, we wouldn't be having this discussion. These players are key to the Yankees because they're lefties."
The phrase "you can never have enough left-handed pitching" is often heard in MLB front offices, but the concept extends to the batter's box as well. Every July, executives play musical chairs with the limited number of lefties who become available and the teams that have realized they need to add them, mostly with one specific thing in mind: October.
"Those guys have so much value, especially in the playoffs when you're facing so many elite right-handers," one executive said. "You can get to the postseason with different kinds of lineups, but boy, are some lefty hitters needed once you're there."
Recent history agrees: Last year's two World Series participants, the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros, ranked No.1 and No. 2, respectively, among all 2021 playoff teams in OPS from left-handed hitters. From the right side of the plate, they ranked just sixth and seventh out of 10 teams.
"I wouldn't say that it's a singular focus on left-handed hitting as much as making sure that we have balance throughout the lineup," Astros GM James Click said via an email. "Whether it's in terms of handedness or other skills like speed, power, opposite-field hitting."
That, of course, is easy to say when your team employs left-handed mashers, such as Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker. Cashman's boppers, on the other hand, were born right-handed -- meaning the Yankees have had to actively acquire lefties.