Kyle Schwarber. Dustin DeMuth. Scott Donley. Will Nolden. Craig Dedelow. Joey DeNato. Will Coursen-Carr. Kyle Hart.
All of these gentlemen have something in common. They're all integral pieces to what Indiana is trying to accomplish this season on the baseball diamond and they're all left-handed. While they aren't the only important pieces to the puzzle (our top bullpen arms are right-handed), it cannot be ignored that the entire weekend rotation and three of the four top projected hitters going into the year are lefties. Let's break it down.
If you're unfamiliar with the term "platoon split" in regards to baseball, it's not a difficult concept. Typically, batters will do worse against same-handed pitchers and pitchers will have more trouble against opposite-handed batters. The actual extent of the struggle changes from batter-to-batter and pitcher-to-pitcher (occasionally you'll find guys who actually perform better than the other hand, but this is rare), but decades of baseball statistics have shown a definite trend. Some platoon splits are so small it's not a big deal, while others will look like all-stars against opposite-handed pitching and unplayable against same-handed.
Using these trends, one can reasonably assume that, because of the predominance of southpaws up and down IU's lineup and rotation, the team will have trouble against schools employing a lot of left-handed pitching and a lot of right-handed batting. Without each player's individual splits and only four games in the books, conclusions are premature, but it's a discussion worth having.
For example, Texas Tech has only 4 left-handed batters on their roster and the lefty starters on the Hoosier roster not named Joey DeNato surrendered ten earned runs last weekend. For the batters, they only managed to charge two runs to Texas Tech's left-handed pitching, both off of starter Chris Sadberry, who quite possibly has the best name in the history of collegiate sport. Don't be so sad, berry. Things will work out. Granted, IU only scored 8 runs over four games, period, so it's not like they were only struggling against the southpaws. Texas Tech employed plenty of right-handed pitching except for the last game
In the final game of the four-game set, Texas Tech used left-handed pitchers exclusively and shut-out what was expected to be a very high-powered Hoosiers offense. In fact, after the third inning, only one Hoosier reached second base, on a 2-out double by Nick Ramos. But I'll repeat my earlier assertion: this is far too small of a sample size to raise any sort of alarm about this team's ability to overcome "The Southpaw Problem" but I'm here to cover baseball and while me need more innings before we can start addressing statistically significant issues with the team.
Sam Travis is the team's only proven commodity that bats right-handed and it would be a huge plus for the team to have another right-handed option emerge. I mentioned in earlier articles that Nick Ramos needed to fill a huge void at shortstop for the departed Michael Basil, adding that his defense was more important than his offense. However, should this team struggle with southpaws, the switch-hitting Ramos could provide a huge boost to this team's ability to put runs on the board when the lefties are struggling if he can take the success he had over a small amount of ABs last season and extend it over an entire season's worth of plate appearances.
What's Going Down This Weekend?
The Hoosiers dropped to the 10-16 range depending on which poll you look at. There's no way around the fact that they should have handled a 4-game set against Texas Tech with ease. But they have the opportunity to make up some ground this weekend in the B1G / Pac-12 Challenge out in Arizona. The Hoosiers will take on three Pac-12 teams this weekend, culminating with a game against #1 Oregon State on Sunday. OSU was the school that bounced IU from the College World Series and you can bet IU has not forgotten that.
Dates / Times (Eastern):
v. Washington - Friday, 2/2 at 9 PM
v. Utah - Saturday, 2/3 at 6 PM
v. Oregon State - Sunday, 2/4 at 1 PM