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The myth of ‘Safeco Joe’ Saunders

By Gary Hill

The splits for Joe Saunders have received a great deal of attention. The moniker “Safeco Joe” was slapped on him early in the season thanks to his heavily-weighted positive performance at home.

Joe Saunders was hammered for six earned runs and three homers in 1 2/3 innings by a predominantly right-handed Pirates lineup Tuesday night. (AP)

The Pirates knocked him around at Safeco Tuesday night, but his road numbers still do not matchup to the home output.

Home: 4-3, 3.56 ERA, 48 IP, 44 H, 6 HR, 32 K
Road: 1-5, 6.46 ERA, 46 IP, 62 H, 7 HR, 17 K

Despite the lopsided nature of Saunders’ home/road splits, they are not the numbers that deserve the highest priority when analyzing his performance. There is a massive gulf in output from right-handed hitters compared to left-handed hitters this season.

Lefties: .192 BA, 0 HR, 5 2B, 5 BB, 21 K, .497 OPS
Righties: .313 BA, 13 HR, 29 2B, 25 BB, 28 K, .926 OPS

Saunders has always maintained a healthy split in performance between lefties and righties, but it has been taken to a new level this season.

The Pirates stacked their lineup with righties Tuesday night. There was only one left-handed hitter who drew the start and he was 0 for 1. Meanwhile, righties went 6 for 10 with three homers.

Saunders was 1-2 with a 5.97 ERA in May. Three of his five starts were on the road. More importantly, four of his five opponents are in the top 15 in OPS against left-handed pitching. He is 2-3 with a 3.68 ERA in June. Three of his five opponents are in the bottom five of OPS against lefties.

It looks like a new moniker is needed.

“Lefty Crushing” Joe?

“Safeco Joe” does flow much better, but does not tell the story about what is actual going on.