The Decision To Start Brad Hawpe vs. Ricky Romero | The Process Report

The Decision To Start Brad Hawpe vs. Ricky Romero

By Tommy Rancel //

Admittedly, this post comes after the positive result of Joe Maddon’s decision; however, that doesn’t make the process behind it any less interesting. With Toronto lefty Ricky Romero on the mound this afternoon, Maddon decided to give left-handed hitting Brad Hawpe the start as Rays’ designated hitter. As mentioned, the result was good. Hawpe came up with the bases loaded in the fourth inning and proceeded to smash a grand slam off Romero to give the Rays a comfortable 6-0 lead

No manager in baseball is perfect. Not even our beloved Joe Maddon. Despite not agreeing with every move he makes or doesn’t make, I’ve always tried to understand the process behind the move. At first glance, Brad Hawpe in today’s lineup looks questionable. But when you dig a little deeper it’s not as radical as it may seem.

After having success as the Rays’ DH against a lefty last night, Rocco Baldelli was not in today’s lineup. This probably has to do with Baldelli’s condition and the game starting a little over 12 hours after Friday’s game ended. Normally, Willy Aybar would get the start in this spot, but Maddon went to Hawpe because he felt he could have some success against Romero.

Was it a hunch? Maybe, but there are also some facts that back Maddon’s decision.

Although he is a left-handed batter, Hawpe does not have the extreme splits some lefties do. He fares much better against right-handed pitchers with a career slash line of .290/.387/.507 against them, but has held his own against southpaws. In 657 career plate appearances, he is hitting .243/.322/.435 against lefties. That is nothing special, but again not as bad as some others.

Meanwhile, Hawpe has actually been better against lefties than righties in 2010. Small sample size warnings all around, Hawpe came into today’s game with an .801 OPS against LHP and a .763 against RHP. Of his nine home runs this year – including today’s – four have come off lefties.

In addition to hitting lefties at a decent clip this season, Hawpe has also done well against groundball pitchers and those labeled as “power pitchers” by baseball reference (from their website: power pitchers are in the top third of the league in strikeouts plus walks). Ricky Romero fits into those categories as well. On top of Hawpe’s favorable marks against his profile, lefties in general have hit better off Romero than righties (.740 OPS vs. LHB, .646 OPS vs. RHB) this season.

The positive results of Hawpe vs. Romero will likely add to the perception that Maddon is a mad scientist; however when looking at the facts in front of him, the decision wasn’t all that mad. It was simply sound process.



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