Last year, a few stubborn fans who didn’t care to comprehend simple math believed it to be a season-long jinx. But only ten games into the 2017 campaign, the struggles the Dodgers have been wrestling with against left-handed pitching have become so obvious that other teams are realigning their pitching rotation when they see a series vs. Los Angeles appear on their respective schedules.
Even veteran lefty Brett Anderson, who made only four appearances in all of 2016 after battling an injured back, meandered through the Dodgers lineup on Thursday afternoon with relative ease, helping the Cubs win the affair 4-0, capturing the series victory.
Some pundits had their own theories last season, but this year opinions seem to be varied. However, after the Dodgers were dominated by Padres’ southpaw Clayton Richard in the opening series of 2017, third baseman Justin Turner had his own viewpoint.
“I hate to go back to last year, but it feels like they were anxious at-bats against left-handers,” Turner told reporters after facing Richard. “Not waiting guys out, getting mistakes over the plate. But we’ll get better.”
Skipper Dave Roberts narrowed it down even farther towards the end of 2016, saying that is was basically a matter of chasing too many bad pitches 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 last fall. “It’s as simple as that.”
Yet it isn’t that simple at all. Bill Plunkett of the OC Register made an interesting statement last autumn after a road series in New York based on the types and specific styles of southpaws who had success against the Dodgers.
“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.”
One idea we discussed here at TBPC was having a rehabbing lefty or even a former Dodger southpaw legend throw really hard batting practices to the players in the pregames. 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’s 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 easy as hoping that players like Enrique Hernandez or Scott Van Slyke, who both have been notorious lefty killers in the past, will completely turn things around overnight.
Regardless, hitting coach Turner Ward and his crack staff of mathematicians back home certainly have their work cut out for them as the season progresses.
Despite returning home to Los Angeles and hoping to establish a much-needed run of momentum, Arizona is coming to town, and after starting veteran righty Zack Grienke in the opener on Friday, plan to throw lefties Patrick Corbin on Saturday and Robbie Ray in the wrap-around finale on Monday. In the opener against Colorado on Tuesday, southpaw Kyle Freeland is slated to take the bump for the Rockies.
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