This article is part of our Collette Calls series.
Each season, there are hitters who have breakout seasons and we look back at what led to the surprise production. Often, it comes down to things like new pitches, new swing approaches or better conditioning. It also is often fueled by flukey splits where a hitter who has historically struggled against same-handed pitching turns suddenly feasts on those same types of pitchers. We get fooled into thinking this is a permanent change, only to watch said player sink back to career norms the following season. Let's look back at some of the 2018 players who led us into this trap, so we can then properly adjust to what has happened in 2019 as we begin our offseason plans.
For the surprise performance in a split for a batter to make a difference, the more plate appearances the better, so the 2018 names below had at least 80 plate appearances in the split.
Mallex Smith - Smith has seen his average against lefties drop 73 points from 2018 to 2019. Smith hit .337 with a .817 OPS in 115 plate appearances against lefties as a member of the Rays in 2018, but has hit .264 with a .690 OPS against southpaws in 2019. Smith saw limited playing time in the majors against lefties in 2016 and 2017 and hit .150 over his 100 plate appearances in that time. 2018 gave some hope that Smith just needed more playing time to get the issue against lefties fixed, but the .260 average he