Where Have All the Southpaws Gone?

The date is August 28, 2013. The number one song in America is “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell, because the world is a bad place filled with terrible men. Lee Daniels’ The Butler starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey is the top movie at the box office, because maybe some folks aren’t quite so bad. The world has yet to be introduced to Taylor Swift’s smash hit 1989, so while haters continue to hate, we’ve no snarky GIFs of Tay dancing in the “Shake It Off” video with which to respond to them. The president is Barack Obama, and the Syrian Civil War rages on in the Middle East. It’s hard to believe how much the world has changed, folks.

On that Wednesday evening at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, LHP Tom Gorzelanny took to the mound to start for the Brewers against his former team. He gave up four runs, all earned, and struck out five over 5.1 innings in a 7-0 shutout loss for the Brewers. It was the last time a left handed pitcher started for the franchise.

Since that date, 123 different southpaws have started 2,933 games in the big leagues (through Wednesday). When Chase Anderson takes the mound this evening, he will be the 358th consecutive righty to start for Milwaukee. With no lefty starters banging on the door of the big leagues in the Brewers’ system, it looks like for now, that streak will only get longer.

Does this matter? Kinda, yeah. Miller Park skews positive for left-handed hitters: according to the BP Annual, the three-year park factors for Miller Park are 113 for Runs/LH and 121 for HR/LH, while those numbers are 103 and 113, respectively, for righties. Lefties at Miller Park have an all-time OPS of .771 and hit home runs every 28.0 at bats, and righties have compiled a .737 OPS while hitting dingers every 29.6 at bats. Left-handed hitters are historically more susceptible to same-hand platoon splits than righties, and Milwaukee is putting itself at a disadvantage by failing to neutralize opponents’ lefties at home.

It would seem that the franchise has caught on to the dearth of left-handed pitching depth in the system. The team spent first round draft picks on southpaws in 2014 (Kodi Medeiros) and 2015 (Nathan Kirby), acquired Wei-Chung Wang in the 2013 Rule 5 draft (you may or may not remember him, probably not, wasn’t a big deal or anything), and traded for Josh Hader in last July’s blockbuster that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston.

Still, those players are still quite a ways away from starting in the big leagues, so the streak doesn’t seem likely to be broken any time soon. Let’s take a look at the pitchers who are most likely to be Milwaukee’s first lefty starter since 2013:

Chris Capuano
Where is he?
In the Brewers bullpen
When could he do it? Monday, April 18
Likelihood that he’ll break the streak: Not *super* likely. The Brewers have plenty of young, talented arms in Colorado Springs that can fill the fifth spot in the rotation while Matt Garza is sidelined, and the safe bet is that they’ll call up Zack Davies in a week and a half when the need for a fifth starter arises. Capuano is 37 and while getting a spot start would be a fun story for the fans, I wouldn’t hold my breath or anything. Capuano’s last start was July 28 of last year, when he gave the Rangers a five spot and failed to get out of the first inning in a game the Yankees won anyway when they scored 21 unanswered runs.

Brent Suter
Where is he? 
Triple-A Colorado Springs
When could he do it? The dog days of summer
Likelihood that he’ll break the streak: Nah. Suter is probably the least likely of a Sky Sox rotation that includes Davies, Jorge Lopez, Junior Guerra and Hiram Burgos to find himself getting a spot start in the big leagues. Davies, Lopez and Guerra are already on the 40-man roster, so he’d need to be added, and the 31st-round pick in 2012 is not considered a top prospect for the organization.

Josh Hader
Where is he?
Double-A Biloxi
When could he do it? September
Likelihood that he’ll break the streak: This is probably your best bet right now, though it might not necessarily be this season. While many scouts continue to insist that Hader and his slight 6’3”, 160 lbs. frame is destined for the bullpen, Hader has continued to impress with big strikeout numbers and a solid three-pitch repertoire. The 22-year-old shot up prospect lists with a flashy 0.56 ERA in 16 innings in the Arizona Fall League, and he carried that over to his Opening Day start in Biloxi last night, striking out five over four shutout innings. Last season, the Brewers rewarded Jorge Lopez for his strong year in the Southern League with a cup of coffee in the big leagues in September, and Hader could certainly be on the same path.

Related Articles

3 comments on “Where Have All the Southpaws Gone?”

Leave a comment