(Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)
The good news surrounding the four-game weekend series against the Diamondbacks is that the Dodgers will be taking hacks against three right-handed pitchers, with the lone southpaw coming in the form of Robbie Ray in the finale on Sunday.
And what’s even better is Los Angeles defeated Ray the last time out on September 7. A two-run jack by Yasiel Puig and an RBI double by Corey Seager were the offensive highlights of the contest, while rookie Brock Stewart threw five quality innings in the 3-1 victory.
The bad news, however, is that series like these won’t help the Dodgers’ bats improve against left-handed pitching — a problem that’s been evident over the course of the entire season. Before the start of Thursday’s game, the team as a whole is hitting a paltry .213/.293/.334 against southpaws, compared to .262/.328/.439 versus right-handed pitching.
Many pundits list various reasons for the huge discrepancy, but the players themselves can’t put their fingers on one particular cause. It’s almost getting to the point where a good number of fans think it’s something borderline psychological.
Third baseman Justin Turner, a right-handed batter by trade, has been bitten terribly by the lefty pitching bug. For the season, he’s been mashing righties to the tune of .301/.354/.572, while hitting a meager .196/.299/.329 against southpaws. As far as his long balls, 22 of his 27 home runs came against right-handed pitching. While considering the traditional rule that states approximately two of every three starting pitchers will throw right-handed, it’s still a huge difference.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez has a career slash line of .272/.335.425 against lefties, yet in 2016, he’s only hitting .245/.296/.313. And it gets even worse when looking at perennial southpaw killer Enrique Hernandez, who’s having a terrible season at the dish all around. Last season he hit a phenomenal .423 against southpaws, while this season he’s batting only .194.
Bill Plunkett of the OC Register explained that it’s been left-handed pitching in general, not just flamethrowers or soft-throwers, that have been a nemesis throughout the season.
“The lefties can be young or old, hard-throwers or remade soft-tossers like Sabathia at this point in his career. The Dodgers were also shut down by three left-handed relievers in Monday’s win and went 4-for-40 against left-handed pitching in the first two games of the Yankees’ series.”
Skipper Dave Roberts pointed out to Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times that he feels his hitters have been taking both a fidgety and impulsive approach, resulting in a great deal of balls being chased off the plate.
“If you look at our right-handed hitters against left-handed pitching, we go out of the zone way too often,” Roberts said. “It’s as simple as that.”
One idea we discussed was having the current duo of lefty rehabbing pitchers, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood, throw really hard batting practices as part of their respective rehabilitation programs. The other, is to simply stick with the lineups that have been winning the most games, regardless of what the splits or matchups indicate. When the Dodgers run out a predominately right-handed lineup against a lefty, it’s much easier for the pitcher to find a comfortable zone and rhythm when constantly throwing at the same angle, instead of being kept off balance by batters at opposite sides of the dish. Besides, it likely that the opposing manager runs out a righty reliever at some point in the game, only to force the Dodgers to empty out their reserve of left-handed bats on the bench.
What the team is doing right now simply isn’t working. And it’s not as simple as hoping that players like Hernandez will turn things completely around overnight.
The bottom line is with a five game lead and 17 contests remaining, it could be the perfect opportunity to try and employ a few different in-game shakeups and alternate strategies. If the situation does indeed happen to get worse, it could give opposing clubs a primary area of weakness to attack come playoff time.