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Wilmer Flores, DLM (Designated Lefty Masher)

Every full moon, some players transform into Babe Ruth against left-handed pitchers

Keith Allison/Flickr

We’re all familiar with the LOOGY, the “Lefty One Out Guy”. He’s a left handed relief pitcher whose entire job is to come into a game in a high leverage situation and get a single left-handed batter out. It’s a very niche role, but some players, like Jesse Orosco and Randy Choate, made entire careers out of it.

I am here today to propose the LOOGY’s offensive counterpart — the DLM, or “Designated Lefty Masher”. The term refers to a right handed batter whose job is to demolish left handed pitching.

The DLM is the perfect counter to any left handed pitcher. Left handed pitchers tend to succeed not because of overwhelming stuff, but because hitters didn’t get to see that much left handed pitching during their development, and are thus unaccustomed to it.

But in the DLM, we find a guy whose offensive prowess against lefties more than makes up for the lackluster performance of the rest of your roster against LHPs.

DLMs are different from usual “good” players in that they’re not good against righties — hell, they’re actually offensive liabilities against righties. Which leads to the DLM moniker: they come into games to mash lefties, and that’s it.

DLMs are distinct from platoons in that platoons are basically a pair of players who alternate time at a position depending on if the opposing SP is a lefty or a righty. DLMs can be included in a platoon or not — the important thing is that a DLM faces the lefty pitcher as frequently as possible, be it in a starting role, or as a pinch hitter.

I would also like to propose the poster child for the “DLM” concept — Mets infielder Wilmer Flores. Flores is unique in that he’s not a really great player against right handed pitchers— in his career, he’s slashed .250/.284/.370 against righties, which is a passable line, but not a great one. A .654 OPS is not really optimal. But against lefties, it’s a whole ‘nother story. Flores has slashed .272/.325/.525 in his career against lefties. That’s a .155 difference in slugging.

Flores’ lefty-dominance was even more exacerbated last season — Flores batted a mind-blowing .340/.383/.710 in 2016 against lefties. Flores was first in the majors in wRC+ against lefties (min 100 PA), with a 192 figure. He finished with 11 HR in only 107 PA against lefties, which is 60+ HR pace over a full season. To call Flores “Ruthian” would be an understatement.

Wilmer Flores is actually used as a DLM already. Wilmer starts almost every game against lefties, often in cleanup, and is usually used as a pinch hitter against lefty RPs. This has lead to bombs like this:

Who else should be a DLM? Let’s take a look at wRC+ splits for players who had at least 100 PA against both LHP and RHP last season:

A few takeaways from this.

  1. Josh Reddick should never face a LHP again as long as he lives.
  2. Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball (170 wRC+ against LHP, 172 wRC+ against RHP).
  3. We have several DLM candidates from last season.

The dot furthest to the right is Wilmer Flores, as you might expect. But other DLM candidates include Brandon Guyer, Yasmany Tomas, Martin Prado, Jayson Werth, James McCann, and Lorenzo Cain.

All of these guys are fantastic against lefties, with 160+ wRC+ figures against lefties, but offensive liabilities against righties, with wRC+ numbers around 80.

Some of these guys shouldn’t be DLMs for reasons other than their bat. For instance, catchers like Tomas and McCann serve much more important roles with their gloves than their bats. The same goes with Cain and Prado, who have graded as good defenders for most of their careers — therefore it’s important to keep them in the field, regardless of whoever’s on the mound. The “Lefty Mashing” thing is just a bonus.

But the remaining players don’t have a defined starting role on their squad, which genuinely qualifies them for a DLM role.

Werth struggled mightily last season both in the field and at the plate, and his hot start, coupled with the Nationals’ lack of outfield options, are the only things keeping him off the bench in 2017. But a 1.031 OPS in 2016 against lefties makes him tough to sit against LHP.

Meanwhile, Guyer’s position listed on baseball reference is “Outfielder and Pinch Hitter”, which speaks to his lack of a real role on the team. Why not replace “Pinch Hitter” with “DLM”?

The DLM is very much a niche position. And hell, some players probably wouldn’t like being used in such a way — players like regular playing time. But having a DLM on a teams’ roster is equivalent to having Babe Ruth playing for a quarter of the season. And given the chance of having Babe Ruth for none of the season, or for a quarter of the season, every team will take the latter.

Edit: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that Flores was disadvantaged against lefties by being a right handed batter.

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