No one has logged more time in left field so far this season than Scott Hairston, and he has an OPS+ of 125 to show for it overall.
But there’s been a fair amount of discussion on Twitter about the fact that Hairston, who had an OPF of .931 on June 10, has a .526 OPS over his past 12 games, nine of them starts. The idea seems to be that regular work is Hairston’s problem.
But that’s not it at all. It is a far more simple one.
Scott Hairston is a well above-average hitter against lefties. Always has been. And he cannot hit righties well enough to justify a regular spot in the lineup.
This can be confusing. There’s Hairston, who you just saw murder a pitch, grounding out weakly. What gives?
Generally, what gave is a lefty pitcher, giving way to a righty pitcher.
Hairston’s OPS against lefties is .991 this year. To give you a sense of that, Carlos Beltran, one of the National League’s best hitters, is at .987 overall OPS in 2012.
Hairston’s OPS against righties is .603 this year. To give you a sense of that, Freddy Galvis, one of the National League’s worst hitters, is at .617 overall OPS in 2012.
Nor is this some career anomaly. For his career, Hairston is at .834 against lefties, .693 against righties.
Terry Collins can be forgiven for thinking otherwise, however. Strangely, Hairston posted an .886 OPS against righties last year, .702 against lefties. But that mostly confirms that in such small sample sizes, significant noise is possible. Someone should tell Collins.
In general, think of Hairston like a fantastic, high-performing sports car. As long as you keep him on the road- the road being left-handed pitchers-he’ll perform beautifully.
But put him in the ocean, and he’ll do what most cars do in the ocean. He’ll sink. Would you be surprised when your car sinks in the ocean? You would not.
So there’s nothing wrong with Scott Hairston. He’s just a car, not a boat.
So that leads to a natural question: do the Mets have a boat?
Kirk Nieuwenhuis probably is a boat. He’s at an .816 OPS against righties, .540 against lefties.
Would you be surprised when your boat didn’t drive on a highway? You would not.
Neither Nieuwenhuis nor Hairston is particularly good defensively in left field, and deploying them in a platoon leaves Andres Torres as the everyday center fielder. But the Mets have the makings of a solid left field platoon.
Neither Nieuwenhuis nor Hairston, unfortunately, is a car-boat. Hairston, a veteran, isn’t likely to ever be a car-boat. Nieuwenhuis isn’t a car-boat yet.
And it has nothing to do with wearing down from playing every day.