LaMarre has only appeared in seven games and only batted 12 times; though he entered Wednesday night’s game as a pinch hitter, 33% of LaMarre’s 2018 plate appearances came in that single game.
Most interestingly, LaMarre managed his best game of 2018 while also sticking to a deeply weird either/or he’s adhered to all season: only singles and strikeouts.
In his 12 plate appearances, LaMarre has struck out five times and singled seven times. He has a 41.7% strikeout rate and a Batting Average on Balls in Play of 1.000. LaMarre is too damn efficient for your archaic “three true outcomes.” Ryan LaMarre is a two-true-outcome hitter.
His batting line reminds me of one of those middle-school exercises where you had to deduce the pattern of a set of numbers and determine what came next: 1B, 1B, K, 1B, K, 1B, K, K, 1B, K, 1B, 1B. That’s damn-near palindromic! Looks like the sequence began again Wednesday night in LaMarre’s third plate appearance; a strikeout appears imminent whenever LaMarre bats again.
Though his goofy start to the 2018 season would mark him as a notable Twin by itself, LaMarre is already a historic Twin for another peculiarity: almost no matter what he does on the field, LaMarre is set to post the best Twins season ever by a position player who bats right and throws left. This, as you may have surmised by now, has more to do with the rarity of LaMarre’s breed than his elite baseballing skills.
The bat-right/throw-left position player is baseball’s unicorn. Between 1871 and 2009, only 57 BR/TL non-pitchers played in MLB. The bulk of those players came in baseball’s early days before defensive roles had calcified and lefties were kept from non-first-base infield positions.
The dearth of BR/TL position players is baseball Darwinism, pure and simple: batting right-handed and throwing left-handed represent the worst option both in the field and at the plate: you’re at a platoon disadvantage at the plate and blocked from playing half of the positions in the field. There is such a paucity of elite BR/TL position players that Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick are easily the two best such players of our generation. Rickey Henderson is the only such player in the Hall of Fame and the best of the bunch by a gobsmackingly large margin. (Hal Chase likely would have been enshrined in Cooperstown if not for his penchant for gambling/cheating and subsequent ban from the sport.)
Career WAR leaderboards for BR/TL position players are so pathetic that, in 52 career plate appearances, Ryan LaMarre can already lay claim to being the 33rd best such player in MLB history — with a career WAR of -0.4. The names sandwiching LaMarre on the leaderboard convey just how dated the bat-right/throw-left arrangement is: Cuke Barrows, Homer Hillenbrand, Zeke Bella, Pop Tate, Junior Wooten, and Elmer Foster all share real estate with LaMarre as sub-replacement-level players.
Now, as the dedicated Twins fan you are, you may already know who LaMarre is supplanting as the career Twins Wins Above Replacement leader for a bat-right/throw-left position player. (Yeah, I know, it’s not exactly catchy.) The answer? Twins legend Dave McCarty.
Unfortunately, Getty Images did not have any available shots of him in a Twins uniform, so I selected the most bafflingly staged image I could find. Behold, a man asking himself “why has this photographer forced me to turn 90 degrees to my right as if I’m being booked for public drunkenness?”
The Twins drafted McCarty — who Baseball America named its College Baseball Player of the year after his 1991 season with Stanford —with the third overall pick in the ‘91 draft. McCarty went one pick before Dmitri Young and in the same first round that featured Manny Ramirez, Shawn Green, Cliff Floyd, Aaron Sele, and Pokey Reese. Twenty-four slots after McCarty, the Twins selected Scott Stahoviak with their supplemental first-round pick. The ‘91 draft goes a long way toward explaining adolescent Louie’s frustrations with the Twins’ corner infielders.
In two partial seasons with the Twins, McCarty batted .226/.275/.310 (good for an OPS 45% worse than league average) in 575 plate appearances before being traded to the Reds for middling left-handed prospect John Courtright. Courtright never appeared for the Twins and only logged one big-league inning for the Reds.
McCarty ultimately played 11 professional seasons followed by a stint as a Red Sox television guy. He’s done well for himself: McCarty made nearly $4,000,000 as a ball player, according to Baseball Reference, and he’s only become more remunerated, judging by his LinkedIn profile — he now sells real estate in the Bay Area, the 2018 equivalent of being the kid from Blank Check.
Though he clearly has many dollar bills with which to dry his tears over no longer being the No. 1 bat-right/throw-left position-playing Minnesota Twin via Wins Above Replacement (he’d have a plaque but for the length of the title), McCarty can at least take comfort in being the second-best in a category in which he was horribly bad.
The best right-hitting/left-throwing position player Twins
Kudos to Ryan LaMarre, who probably shouldn’t be getting big-league plate appearances. Whatever may happen with him down the road, let’s celebrate a monumental moment for the new, historic Twin.