A funny thing has happened regarding Andruw Jones this season. Jones, typically a lefty masher, has had a complete and total reverse platoon split this year. Coming into yesterday’s game, in which he went 0-1 against a lefty pitcher, Jones was hitting just .188/.254/.344 against lefties with a .263 wOBA and a 58 wRC+. Compare that to his career numbers against southpaws of .243/.352/.478 with a .355 wOBA/114 wRC+. While his career numbers against righties are fine, .352/112 wOBA, they’ve been different of late and he’s employed by the Yankees as a lefty-masher. This year, he’s crushing righies: .250/.418/.563, .420 wOBA/166 wRC+. Obviously that’s welcomed, but the Yankees need him to start doing his job by crushing lefties again. What’s been the issue this year? What’s made Jones struggle against lefties so much?
First, let’s take a look at how Jones is being pitched and compare it to last year, when he had a .400 wOBA against left-handed pitching. Here are the tables from 2011 and here are the tables from 2012. The biggest difference I can see right away is Jones’s performance on two-seam fastballs. While he’s seeing two percent fewer two-seam fastballs, many more are going for strikes (59.3% in ’11; 70.7 in ’12) and he’s also whiffing on them more (6.5% in ’11; 12.2% in ’12). There aren’t any other significant differences, except that he’s whiffing on about 3% more changeups than he did last year. As a righty against lefties, he’s going to see a lot of changeups, and he’ll need to get better there. In a similar vein, Jones’s strikeout percentage against lefties this year–28.2%–is much higher than his career rate of 20.6%. Aside from the whiffing, there’s also the issue of contact.
Jones owns a career .261 BABIP against lefties, but this year it sits at a supremely-low .214. His line drive and ground ball rates in 2012 are actually a bit higher than his career numbers, suggesting that his BABIP should actually be around or a bit higher than his career mark, let it’s low. Why? Those two numbers suggest some bad luck, but if we peak at Jones’s IFFB%, it’s a lot higher in 2012 (21.1%) than it has been in his career (11.6%), so there’s definitely some weak contact there, bringing down the BABIP. His HR/FB% this year (15.8%) is also down a tick from his career number (17.9%).
The problems are fairly evident: Jones is striking out more against lefties and not hitting the ball quite as hard against them. Based on the GB and LD numbers, I think we should see a bit of a BABIP rebound from Jones which will obviously uptick his production.