The Milwaukee Brewers signing of Jedd Gyorko may not have made headlines, but it was an under-the-radar move. In an injury-riddled 2019, the veteran infielder was limited to 101 plate appearances and stumbled to a 36 wRC+. Before that, however, he had a solid three-year run with the St. Louis Cardinals, slashing a solid .259/.331/.463 with 61 long balls and a 112 wRC+.
Fast forward to today. Gyorko is one of the few productive hitters on a struggling roster. He’s been very productive, in fact, going deep five times and posting a 153 wRC+, including two bombs in last night’s win against the Pirates.
There’s just one problem — he’s rarely playing. The Brewers have used 19 position players this season, and Gyorko ranks 12th in plate appearances. Craig Counsell has been platooning him about as strictly as possible; 31 of Gyorko’s 43 plate appearances have come against lefties.
The initial plan to use Gyorko primarily against southpaws made sense. For his career, he has posted a .347 wOBA against lefties compared to a .306 mark against right-handers.
This season, however, the Brewers leader in wOBA against right-handers (minimum 20 plate appearances) is Manny Pina at .381, followed by Orlando Arcia at .319 and Keston Hiura at .298. Gyorko’s platoon partner, Eric Sogard, has a .232 wOBA against righties and an overall 44 wRC+. Despite this, Sogard has 86 plate appearances, which is twice as many as Gyorko has gotten.
It has seemed at times that Counsell is constructing his lineups based solely on handedness, not truly favorable matchups. On Thursday, with a right-hander on the mound, he started Jace Peterson at second base and only pinch-hit for him with Gyorko once a southpaw entered the game. Starting the lefty Peterson was not a better matchup — his career wOBA against righties is lower than Gyorko’s.
At this point in his career, how good is Jedd Gyorko against same-sided pitching? It is not perfectly clear. On the one hand, his career numbers against them are slightly below average, and the last time he hit them fairly well was back in 2017. On the other hand, he did have an overall 105 wRC+ against them over that three-year stretch in St. Louis.
One thing is clear, though. The Brewer offense has been awful, and Gyorko’s career production against right-handers would be among the best on the team right now. If the Brewers get lucky, perhaps his hot streak against southpaws will carry over to same-sided pitchers. No more platooning. It’s time to free Jedd Gyorko.