Flanagan gets to the heart of left-right

INSIDE PITCH

April 20, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

Credit Mike Flanagan, working his first telecast of the year, with last night's most analytical observation.

The left-hander turned commentator, who goes into the Orioles' Hall Of Fame this year, recognized a situation he faced many times during his career. The California Angels loaded their lineup with nine right-handed hitters against left-hander Jamie Moyer.

It's the type of matchup that is supposed to favor hitters, but Flanagan noted that a platoon alignment often can work to the benefit of the pitcher. Especially one with the style of Moyer, who for the last year has given a good impersonation of Scott McGregor.

"Jamie's the kind of pitcher who is basically going to zero in on one area against right-handed hitters, low and away," said Flanagan. "With no left-handers in the lineup, he really didn't have to make any adjustments."

Moyer's "out" pitch is a changeup that takes on the appearance of a screwball, breaking down and away from right-handed hitters. "Against a left-hander, that same pitch is down and in, which is usually a dangerous area, so he'd have to make some adjustments," Flanagan pointed out.

That doesn't necessarily translate to left-handed hitters' having more success, but Moyer's numbers suggest that is the case. His variety of off-speed pitches restricted right-handers to a .256 batting average last year; left-handers hit .304.

If that trend continues, it could be that opposing managers will rely less on a platoon system against Moyer. Years ago, a few managers took that approach against former Orioles left-hander Mike Cuellar, but without any discernible difference in the end result.

How much the right-left matchups came into play last night is one of those wonderful things about baseball that we'll never know. But for 7 2/3 innings, Moyer was as quietly effective as he was most of last year.

He threw a couple of upstairs pitches to Rex Hudler, who's not noted for his power, and Tim Salmon, who is, but was generally very effective. And when Lee Smith was able to roll a 7-for-7 in saves, Moyer became the only Orioles' starter besides Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald to get into the win column.

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