A good changeup can be an effective weapon for a right-handed pitcher against a dangerous left-handed batter.
Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds (2 for 22), Joey Gallo of the Minnesota Twins (3 for 29), Andres Gimenez of the Cleveland Guardians (5 for 46) and JJ Bleday of the Oakland Athletics (4 for 36) are among the lefties who have struggled the most against changeups from righties.
However, throwing the change to some left-handed hitters – like Max Muncy – has often been a big mistake. We’ll explain more about that a bit later.
He has five hits in his last two games, but Thairo Estrada of the San Francisco Giants isn’t going to be mentioned alongside Major League Baseball’s best hitters any time soon. But a dive into how he performs against various pitch types is pretty eye-opening. And a closer look at contact+ shows why Keibert Ruiz of the Washington Nationals trails only All-Star Luis Arraez (17.54) with 10.54 plate appearances per strikeout.
We’re using total raw value (RV), which measures how a batter performs throughout each pitch of an at-bat instead of just the end result, discipline+, contact+ and BIP+ to reveal a more detailed look at the best hitters in baseball. Discipline+ measures whether a batter is taking balls and swinging at strikes, contact+ measures how good a hitter is at making contact and BIP+ measures the damage done upon that contact.
The league average is 100 for these metrics, so know that when we say Josh Jung of the Texas Rangers has an 837 BIP+ on the 26 sweepers he’s seen from lefties that it’s quite good.
We’ll start out with the best against four-seam and two-seam fastballs before working our way through each pitch type from righties and lefties:
Highest Total RV Versus Four-Seamers From Right-Handers
- Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers (14.9)
- Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (14.4)
- Matt Olson, Atlanta Braves (14.1)
After hitting a combined .251 with 23 home runs over the previous two seasons, Yelich has returned to form with a .277 batting average and 16 home runs in 2023. A big reason is his ability to hit the fastball. He’s fifth in baseball with a .367 average against fastballs from righties (min. 100 plate appearances) behind the Ohtani (.398), Lars Nootbaar of the St. Louis Cardinals (.385), Bryson Stott of the Philadelphia Phillies (.384) and Jeimer Candelario of the Chicago Cubs (.376). Despite missing nearly two months due to injury, Aaron Judge is fifth in total RV versus righty four-seamers and his 405 BIP+ (min. 222 faced) is the best in baseball. Sean Murphy of the Atlanta Braves is second (369) and Luis Robert Jr. of the Chicago White Sox is third (278) among qualified batters. Mike Trout leads the majors with a 154 discipline+ versus this pitch and Vinnie Pasquantino of the Kansas City Royals is first in contact+ (119).
Highest Total RV Versus Four-Seamers From Left-Handers
- Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers (8.4)
- Teoscar Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (6.9)
- Pete Alonso, New York Mets (6.8)
Just how good has Freeman been this season? So good that the first baseman leads the way in total RV against four-seamers from lefties. He also tops all left-handed hitters (min. 50 PA) with a .423 average versus left-handed fastballs. Likewise, Bryce Harper of the Phillies leads the majors in BIP+ of 559 – more than five times the league average – against lefty four-seamers (min. 88 faced). Jake Burger is next at 482, while Orlando Arcia follows at 367. Anthony Volpe of the Yankees is No. 1 in discipline+ versus lefty four-seamers (158) and Matt Duffy of the Royals is tops in contact+ (119).
Highest Total RV Versus Two-Seamers From Right-Handers
- Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (8.0)
- Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves (7.7)
- Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves (7.0)
The previously mentioned Judge also paces the majors with a 323 BIP+ against two-seamers from righties (min. 128 faced), ahead of Nolan Gorman of the Cardinals (284) and slugger J.D. Martinez of the Los Angeles Dodgers (269). Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates has an MLB-best 138 discipline+ against the pitch, while Cleveland’s Myles Straw is No. 1 in contact+ (116). With Austin Riley also fifth with a total RV of 6.8, right-handers might want to throw out the two-seamer against the Braves.
Highest Total RV Versus Two-Seamers From Left-Handers
- Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers (4.9)
- Stone Garrett, Washington Nationals (4.0)
- Jake Rogers, Detroit Tigers (3.8)
At the top of this list is Freeman and… Stone Garrett? Yes, the Nationals should have Garrett in the lineup every time they’re facing a southpaw. He’s not only No. 2 in the majors in total RV against two-seamers, but he’s also second only to Mookie Betts (408) with a 360 BIP+ against the pitch (min. 54 faced). George Springer of the Toronto Blue Jays leads the majors with a 146 discipline+ here, while the previously mentioned Ruiz has the best contact+ at 117.
Highest Total RV Versus Curveballs From Right-Handers
- Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays (6.8)
- Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (5.1)
- Matt Thaiss, Los Angeles Angels (4.9)
Bichette is just behind Yandy Diaz of the Tampa Bay Rays in the chase of the American League batting title and his production against breaking balls is a big reason why. He’s been particularly good against righty curves despite the righty-righty matchup. In fact, no right-handed batter has more hits off righty breaking balls than Bichette (11), who is hitting .344 on the pitch. Minnesota rookie Edouard Julien leads the majors with a 192 discipline+ on righty curves (min. 71 faced), while Luis Arraez of the Miami Marlins, who leads the National League batting race, has an MLB-best 128 contact+. Right-handers should avoid throwing breaking balls to Oakland’s Seth Brown as he owns a ridiculous 677 BIP+.
Highest Total RV Versus Curveballs From Left-Handers
- Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers (3.6)
- Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox (3.3)
- Paul DeJong, Toronto Blue Jays (2.9)
It’s pretty obvious why lefties hate facing Betts. Not only does he lead the majors with a 408 BIP+ against their two-seamers (min. 24 faced), but he also ranks No. 1 in total RV against their breaking balls. Left-handers who think they can fool Juan Soto with curveballs would be wrong. He’s tops in MLB with a 229 discipline+ against the pitch (Ohtani is third). Robert Jr. (634 BIP+), Burger (600) and Javier Baez (496) just mash breaking balls versus southpaws. Above we noted that Ruiz has the best contact+ versus lefty two-seamers and he’s also No. 1 in that category versus lefty breaking balls. He’s also third in contact+ versus righty four-seamers.
Highest Total RV Versus Sliders From Right-Handers
- Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves (9.6)
- Yandy Diaz, Tampa Bay Rays (7.8)
- Thairo Estrada, San Francisco Giants (7.1)
A nasty slider from a righty isn’t the easiest pitch for a right-handed batter to hit, but the MVP candidate from Atlanta has made it look easy this season. Acuna is batting .369 against the pitch and only Diaz (28) has more hits than his 24. Soto leads the majors with a 135 discipline+ overall, so he’s featured prominently in the discipline+ leaders by pitch type. He’s No. 1 (168) versus sliders from righties (min. 134 faced), while Alejandro Kirk tops the contact+ list (118). Nobody has done more damage against the pitch than Judge’s 419 BIP+, which is more than four times the league average.
Highest Total RV Versus Sliders From Left-Handers
- Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles (6.4)
- William Contreras, Milwaukee Brewers (5.2)
- Matt Olson, Atlanta Braves (4.5)
Mountcastle leads the majors with a .478 average (11 for 23) versus lefty sliders among those with at least 20 chances. His 11 hits are tied with Ha-Seong Kim of the San Diego Padres and Kyle Tucker of the Houston Astros for the MLB lead. Despite being left-handed batters, Nootbaar and Mike Yastrzemski have been really good decision-makers in the box against lefty sliders with a 157 and 146 discipline+, respectively (min. 69 faced). Gimenez may struggle against curveballs (noted at the top), but the left-handed batter ranks first in baseball with a 114 contact+ here, while Trae Turner’s 392 BIP+ is No. 1.
Highest Total RV Versus Sweepers from Right-Handers
- Spencer Steer, Cincinnati Reds (5.2)
- Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (3.7)
- Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners (3.7)
Steer, who is hitting .272 with 18 home runs and 66 RBIs, has been one of the best under-the-radar breakout rookies of the season. And he’s feasted on right-handers who try to get him with their new sweeper pitch. Steer owns an MLB-best 1.469 OPS among those with 20 plate appearances against the pitch. Judge leads the majors with a 213 discipline+ against righty sweepers (min. 51 faced), while Gio Urshela has a league-best 128 contact+ but is likely out for the season with a broken pelvis. Kyle Schwarber has the best BIP+ here at a healthy 571.
Highest Total RV Versus Sweepers From Left-Handers
- Josh Jung, Texas Rangers (5.1)
- Josh Bell, Miami Marlins (4.5)
- Matt Olson, Atlanta Braves (2.7)
Jung was a serious AL Rookie of the Year candidate before going down with a wrist injury. His big RV total on lefty sweepers stems from an 837 BIP+ on the pitch (min. 22 faced). Nootbaar’s solid discipline at the plate shines through again with a league-best 220 discipline+ versus sweepers. Steven Kwan owns an MLB-best 149 contact+ here.
Highest Total RV Versus Splitters From Right-Handers
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (2.9)
- Matt Olson, Atlanta Braves (2.6)
- Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners (2.6)
We’re just going splitters from righties here since there aren’t a ton of left-handers who throw them. White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez has faced the most splitters from lefties – just 26 of them. Yelich has the top discipline+ against splitters (174), Tommy Edman has the highest contact+ (123) and Olson is No. 1 in BIP+ (516).
Highest Total RV Versus Changeups From Right-Handers
- Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers (8.6)
- Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers (8.0)
- Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (7.5)
Right-handers attempting to get these guys with changeups have often failed. Muncy leads the majors with six home runs and a 282 BIP+ against righty changeups to go along with a 1.237 OPS, Freeman is 22 for 49 (.449) on the pitch and Ohtani has hit five bombs on the pitch. It’s Soto again who tops MLB with a 151 discipline+ versus righty changeups (min. 108 faced) and Arraez owns a league-best 121 contact+.
Highest Total RV Versus Changeups From Left-Handers
- Amed Rosario, Los Angeles Dodgers (4.9)
- Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners (4.5)
- Matt Chapman, Toronto Blue Jays (4.2)
Rosario, who is hitting .307 with an .844 OPS against left-handers this season, has given the Dodgers a boost since arriving just ahead of the trade deadline. The shortstop is batting .289 with three home runs in 14 games with Los Angeles after hitting .267 with three homers in 94 contests in Cleveland. And no one in the majors has more total RV against lefty changeups. Teammate J.D. Martinez has posted the best discipline+ (166) on the pitch, Mauricio Dubon owns the highest contact+ (119) and Trayce Thompson has the top BIP+ (436).
Highest Total RV Versus Cut Fastballs From Right-Handers
- Yainer Diaz, Houston Astros (8.4)
- Brent Rooker, Oakland A’s (5.3)
- Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates (4.6)
Again, we’re sticking with cutters from righties here as Jose Ramirez has seen the most cutters from lefties with only 48. Estrada, who we mentioned in the opener, tops the majors in contact+ (125) versus righty cutters and ranks third behind Garrett Cooper (142) and Paul Goldschmidt (134) in discipline+ (132). He’s also third in total RV against righty sliders and second in contact+ versus lefty four-seamers. It’s a long way of saying that he’s probably a better hitter than people think.
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