Player Thoughts – Jose Cruz Jr.

    Everytime Cruz gets a start, its not uncommon to hear rumbling in the community of Dodger fans about why Grady would start Cruz when he has trouble hitting right handed pitching and, most of the time, he is facing right handed pitching (as there are a lot more right handed pitchers than lefties).  Over his career, as well as this season, Cruz has shown that he is a very good hitter when it comes to facing LHPs. but when it comes to a RHP, he just cant hit.  This season alone he is batting .318 against LHPs and .194 against RHPs.  Cruz has good patience at the plate, draws his share of walks, is a very good fielder, a former gold glove, but when it comes to facing RHPs, this season he is below the famed Mendoza line, which essentially is the point at which its hard to justify having a player in the lineup, regardless of how good they may be defensively or any other things they may bring to the table.  One would think if there is anything he could do to improve.

    I have thought about a few different things that I thought could be the problem.  While some hitters you could just simply say, he cant hit RHPs, Cruz is a switch hitter so that adds an extra variable to the equation.  Its generally thought of that lefty/lefty and righty/righty matchups benefit the pitcher, so switch hitters always bat the opposite of the pitchers hand, ie righty/lefty.  So, the question comes up, is the problem that Cruz can not hir RHPs, or is the problem that Cruz can not hit left handed.  To get an idea I analyzed Cruz’s stats from 2003-2005 to see what I could figure out.  Cruz batted .291 (109/374) vs LHPs and he batted .232 (251/1080) vs RHPs, as we would expect.  As a right handed hitter Cruz hit .291 (111/381) and as a left handed hitter he hit .232 (249/1073).  Its no surprise that Cruz’s average was the same as a right handed batter as it was vs LHPs and vice versa, but what you can tell is that there is a discrepency in the hits and at bats.  That discrepency accounts for the amount of times that Cruz didn’t bat the traditional left handed vs a RHP.  In those 3 years  there were 7 times that he chose to hit right handed against a RHP, and he was successful 2 times.  2/7 equals a .285 batting average.  While it is a small sample, one would think that it could help to prove what the problem is, as if Cruz really was that bad as a left handed batter that he would hit a RHP the same as he normally hits LHPs when batting left handed, and if the problem is that Cruz really just cant hit RHPs, that his numbers would mirror his normal vs RHPs average regardless what hand he is using to bat.  My findings suggest, that his .285 average is very close to his normal average of .291 as a right handed hitter, suggesting that its not a problem hitting against RHPs, its just that he has no business switch hitting as he cant hit the ball left handed. 

    Cruz supporters may argue that he has much more power left handed, but thats simply a product of having more at bats left handed to be able to hit more home runs.  Cruz throws right handed, so he is a natural righty.  In that 3 year period he hit about 2.5 times more home runs lefty, but also had about 3.5 times the at bats.  This season he has hit 2 each lefty and righty, he also has 8 doubles each, but about 2.5 times the at bats left handed.  I know the chances of Cruz abandoning the switch hitting thing are probably very slim, but Jose, you are a very good player, you’re an excellent fielder, but you just cant hit left handed, and this year its killing us when you try.

    Finally, I have noticed that, in about the same amount of at bats (110 vs 111) Cruz is batting .309 at home and .153 on the road.  I don’t know if its coincidence or if Cruz really likes it that much when hes in front of his own fans as opposed to the times he’s living out of the hotel, but this is another substantial difference.  If you combine the 2 stats, and look at times he is home and batting right handed, Cruz is batting .448.  These are some amazing numbers if you think about it.  I just hope one day he decides to try it, and maybe can produce the way we need him to.


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