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Roberts Report: When lefty/righty splits matter most

Let's cut C.C. Sabathia some slack.

Now that I have your attention … I don't really mean that. I mean, 13 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings against the A's? The A's? Sheesh. At least allowing nine earned runs in four innings to the Tigers was somewhat explainable.

As I looked over that box score, I saw a lineup that, ice cold or not, was made to face C.C. Sabathia, or any lefty, for that matter. Hitting lefties just happened to be the Tigers' specialty; it was like an opposing team guarding Kobe Bryant with a single, isolated defender or leaving Randy Moss open for the "go" route. The struggling Sabathia never had a chance, in my mind, against the Tigers' all-right-handed lineup.

Lefty/righty splits can be overrated when it comes to hitters. For instance, just because a hitter might struggle against lefties in general doesn't mean he struggles against that lefty. Batter versus pitcher history must be taken into account, too. But when it comes to a pitcher versus an entire lineup, at least one that features hitters who, in general, hit well versus pitchers with like throwing arms, then lefty/righty splits can be a much safer bet. If an entire lineup tends to hit lefties much better than righties, it means something. Whether you're in a daily- or weekly-transaction league, these splits can help greatly with lineup decisions.

It got me thinking, who's the next sacrificial lamb for the Tigers? Which opposing lefty will get whiplash watching the balls fly around the park. Coincidentally (perhaps), there are no lefties in line to face the Tigers until at least late next week … but the Tigers aren't the only team to fear either. For instance, the Blue Jays also murder lefties, and they get Nate Robertson on Sunday. And the Reds, noted righty killers, have such challenges as Ben Sheets and Brad Penny, as well as Jeff Suppan and Chris Sampson, coming up. With that, I offer you …

The three teams I don't want my lefty pitcher to face

1. Detroit Tigers: With Curtis Granderson out, this lineup features nine right-handers hitters versus lefty pitchers (Carlos Guillen is a switch-hitter). When Granderson is in, he's the only lefty. Among the starter's adversaries: Miguel Cabrera and his 1.040 OPS versus lefties (from 2005 to '07), Gary Sheffield and his .989 mark, Magglio Ordonez (.975), Edgar Renteria (.906), Carlos Guillen (.872), Brandon Inge (.828), Ivan Rodriguez (.826). In fact, in that lineup versus Sabathia on Wednesday, every batter had a better OPS versus lefties than righties over the last three seasons. Gulp!

2. Milwaukee Brewers: No team had a higher slugging percentage versus lefties, only two teams had a higher OBP, and no team hit more homers against them than the Brewers in 2007, and the personnel that did the damage is much the same. The Brewers' current everyday lineup features either six or seven right-handed hitters, depending upon whether Gabe Gross (lefty), Tony Gwynn (lefty) or Gabe Kapler (righty) is starting in center field. When Mike Cameron returns, it'll be a regular seven right-handers. Prince Fielder, the only regular lefty hitter, does see a noticeable drop in performance versus lefty pitchers, but Ryan Braun (.450 average, .516 OBP, .964 slugging versus lefties in 2007) more than makes up for that.

3. Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays finished 17th in the majors in OPS in 2007; against lefties, they finished second. One would think that would place them above the Brewers on this list, but in this case, they don't have the same personnel this season. Namely, they lost lefty killer Troy Glaus. New acquisitions David Eckstein and Scott Rolen are righty swingers, but their three-year splits show they hit righties better. Still, when you face a lineup of Vernon Wells (.331 average against lefties versus .254 average against righties since 2005), Frank Thomas (1.024 OPS versus lefties since 2005), Alex Rios and Aaron Hill (both hit lefties better than they hit righties), you're in for trouble.

Not the pushover you thought: Pittsburgh Pirates. It's true. Sure, they don't have Craig Wilson (remember him?) anymore, but many of their top hitters -- Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Xavier Nady, Jose Bautista included -- specialize in hitting lefty pitchers.

The three teams I don't want my righty pitcher to face

1. New York Yankees: OK, so I'm not sure I'd want any pitcher to face this team; the Yankees led the majors in OPS in 2007. But they're especially deadly against right-handed pitching -- at least those pitchers who have even a smidge of trouble with lefty hitters. Because when all is right (i.e. Jorge Posada is back at catcher), the Yankees feature a lineup of seven left-handed hitters and just two righties. And the two righties, yeah, you might have heard of 'em: Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. That's it. I shudder to think about what they'll do to Baltimore's Steve Trachsel this weekend.

2. Cincinnati Reds: This goes well beyond that girthy middle of the lineup, which includes lefty sluggers Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. The Reds hit right-handed pitchers quite adeptly in 2007 (sixth in the majors in OPS), and their two biggest lineup additions for 2008 are Corey Patterson and Joey Votto, both left-handed hitters. Just for good measure, Edwin Encarnacion hit 20 batting-average points better versus righties than lefties combined between 2006 and 2007.

3. Atlanta Braves: The Braves boast a combination that no other lineup in baseball can claim: two switch-hitters in the middle of the lineup, followed by a lefty-hitting catcher. And that trio -- Chipper Jones, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann -- hit back-to-back-to-back jacks Thursday. Teixeira mashes lefties, but Chipper and McCann mash righties. Throw in Kelly Johnson and his .470 slugging percentage against right-handers and you have plenty to fear.

Not the pushover you thought: Florida Marlins. Not only are they not pushovers, but the Marlins entered play Thursday with a .551 slugging percentage against righty pitchers. The next highest: Arizona Diamondbacks, .469. Lefty hitters Jeremy Hermida and Mike Jacobs hit righties well, but here the biggest difference is that right-handed hitters Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla and Josh Willingham also are very adept against their like-handed counterparts. So let's just say Tim Redding's "favorable fill-in start" at home against the Marlins isn't as favorable as you might expect.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.