Coming to Terms With Scooter Gennett and Lefties
Everyone knows Scooter Gennett can’t hit lefties. The young, left handed second baseman has put up a career .128/.150/.141 line off same handed pitchers over the course of his young career, good enough (or awful enough?) for a wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) of -29. Bearing in mind that a 100 wRC+ is considered league average, take just a second to think how truly horrific that stat is. In spite of these damning statistics, however, the Brewers and GM Doug Melvin seem content enough with Scooter that they let Rickie Weeks, Gennett’s platoon partner from last year, leave via free agency (although that wasn’t totally unexpected) and they haven’t pursued any free agents to replace him. Do they know something we don’t?
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Yesterday, Gennett was interviewed by Tim Allen and Steve “Sparky” Fifer on 105.7 The Fan’s “Rupena’s Hot Stove Weekly.” When asked about how he feels about being the everyday second baseman, Scooter says that he “feels great” and is “as prepared as I possibly could be.” He credits watching Rickie Weeks play with helping him acclimate to the Majors so quickly. Of course, the conversation eventually turned to facing left handed pitchers, and Scooter had some interesting things to say:
“Anybody that knows baseball…knows it’s not worth talking about,” Scooter says about his struggles. Gennett is quick to point out that he has never been able to get into a groove verse lefties, as he has been mostly shielded from them over his Major League career. Given that there is such a small sample size (83 plate appearances) Scooter went as far to say that he “laughs at” the idea that he cannot hit left handed pitchers.
Scooter went on to discuss some of the ways he is looking to improve going into 2015. He blames his poor results against left handers on pulling off on the ball too much. He says that given that first base is on his right side, he would find himself opening up too early and not swinging completely through the ball. Gennett also pointed to the fact that despite swinging at 40% of balls out of the zone, he still managed less than 70 strikeouts (67 for a 14.1% K-rate, to be exact). Gennett assures us that his goal is to maintain a line drive, opposite field approach and improve his plate discipline for next year.
Given his somewhat terse responses when questioned about hitting lefties, it’s clear to me that Scooter is sick of hearing about it. Gennett is clearly confident that he won’t have a problem hitting lefties, he just needs to actually face them. He says has a clear idea of what he needs to do to be better in 2015. Do you feel better yet? I don’t.
Facing left handed pitching is nothing new for Scooter over the course of his professional career, as he was an everyday player at each level of the minors. Concerning, however, are his splits against lefties:
As Scooter made his ascension through the system, he got progressively worse at hitting same handed pitching. Even in the minor leagues, especially once he started facing better pitchers in AA and AAA, Gennett was the definition of a platoon player. Scooter has had his chances to “learn” how to face lefties, and he clearly hasn’t learned enough to be an effective hitter against them. Scooter provides only average defensive value based on his -5 defensive runs saved and 0.3 UZR/150 in 2014, which is nowhere near good enough to warrant his flailing against lefties. This should only further ingrain “platoon” into our heads.
Players like Emilio Bonifacio and Nick Punto were both free agents who would’ve formed a solid partnership with Scooter, and Gordon Beckham is a player that is still available that could be a fit. Doug continues to stand pat on the issue, however, which worries me and should worry you as well. It seems to me that the Brewers brass are truly in denial about Gennett’s ineptness against lefties, which means that you and I need to come to terms with the fact that when the Brewers face a guy like Jon Lester, we need to get used to seeing an 0-4 line from our second baseman.
We know Scooter Gennett can’t hit left handed pitching. We know the Brewers are making a mistake by not platooning him. It’s as simple as that.
Unfortunately, given Doug Melvin’s total lack of interest in addressing the issue, it’s just a fact the we are going to have to come to terms with.