A look at some left-handed pitchers the Dodgers could see in October

Since I wrote about the Dodgers’ struggles against lefties being tied to under-performing players, things haven’t gotten better. They’ve gone 4-6 against southpaws (18-20 overall) and, more troubling, they’ve lost 11 points of batting average on balls in play and 10 wRC+ over that time.

They also have a putrid, and MLB-worst, .213 batting average vs. lefties. I know, I know, “lol batting average,” but it also comes with MLB-worst marks in on-base percentage (.294) and slugging percentage (.335).

Buster Olney wrote about this a bit on Wednesday, but I wanted to go a bit deeper.

The Dodgers’ struggles are odd because they have beaten some really good left-handed starters this season.

Won Vs. LHP
Madison Bumgarner (x3)
Patrick Corbin (x3)
Jorge De La Rosa
Brandon Finnegan
Christian Friedrich (x2)
Jon Lester
Francisco Liriano
Matt Moore
Drew Pomeranz
David Price
Robbie Ray (x2)
Eduardo Rodriguez

But, as in baseball and everything else in life, they’ve also lost their fair share against both good and not-so-good lefties.

Lost Vs. LHP
Tyler Anderson (x2)
Wei-Yin Chen
Patrick Corbin
Brandon Finnegan
Christian Friedrich
Gio Gonzalez
Jon Lester
Jeff Locke
Steven Matz
Mike Montgomery
Matt Moore (x2)
Justin Nicolino
Drew Pomeranz
Robbie Ray
Clayton Richard
Chris Rusin
CC Sabathia
Drew Smyly

Come the postseason, this weakness should be, in theory, mitigated a bit. I’m focusing on just starting pitchers because it’ll be a chess match between managers when it comes to bringing in left-handed pitchers and pinch-hitting right-handed hitters.

First, the left-handed pitchers on the teams who are tracking toward the postseason or are within striking distance of a postseason spot.

  • Cardinals: Jaime Garcia
  • Cubs: Lester
  • Giants: Bumgarner, Moore
  • Marlins: Chen, Nicolino
  • Mets: Matz
  • Nationals: Gonzalez
  • Pirates: None

Not really overwhelming, but Chen and Matz had their way with the Dodgers earlier this season, while Moore has been good against them since his first start against them back in May. Lester is seemingly getting better as the season goes on, which is a scary thought for October.

This was an interesting quote from Olney’s column:

“With Stephen Strasburg out indefinitely, a rival executive mused, ‘Gio Gonzalez might turn out to be the most important pitcher on their staff. Which is unbelievable.'”

Baseball, man.

While they’ll only face one of these teams if they’re fortunate enough to make it to the World Series, there are some big names on some of these American League teams.

Keuchel has struggled this season but is the defending AL Cy Young award winner (he’s also hurt right now and might not pitch, but you never know). Happ is having a career-year, but is also benefiting from great run support. Cleveland doesn’t have a lefty starter, but their righties aren’t exactly chopped liver. Paxton would give the Dodgers trouble with his high-velocity fastball. If only Scott Van Slyke were healthy, then Miley would be completely neutralized. The Rangers are the scariest here, as all three of those lefties are quality and would surely give the Dodgers trouble. Oh, and there’s also that Yu Darvish guy. The Dodgers have already beaten the three Boston starters (Pomeranz while was with the Padres), but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. Duffy is having the best season of any AL pitcher listed above. Norris probably wouldn’t start a World Series game, and Sabathia, well, he carved up the Dodgers last night.

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While I was OK with the Dodgers not getting a guy like Steve Pearce at the trade deadline, not getting a player like him looks really bad now (especially if they make it to the Series). The front office put its faith in Enrique Hernandez and Van Slyke returning to form. It traded for Carlos Ruiz, who hasn’t done much so far (albeit, limited opportunities). Rob Segedin, who is basically the Quad-A version of Pearce, has cooled off after a hot start.

So perhaps it’s time to not sit every lefty when a lefty is on the hill — Joc Pederson comes to mind. Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez already don’t sit against them, so that’s fine. Perhaps a guy like Andrew Toles should see a little more time against them, especially since his approach at the plate seems to be good enough to at least hold his own against left-handers. Hell, at this rate, I’d rather have Chase Utley playing against lefties than Hernandez. Having said that: Andre Ethier and Josh Reddick absolutely should not start against lefties. Neither should Charlie Culberson.

And contrary to popular belief, Austin Barnes is alive and well. In fact, it’s odd to me that a guy the front office acquired hasn’t gotten more run in his almost two full seasons as a Dodger. He can play second and third base and even dabbled in the outfield in Triple-A. Seeing as nothing is working against left-handers to this point, why not give him a shot?

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This is something that will, undoubtedly, be addressed in the offseason.

Van Slyke may not be the same player he once was after wrist surgery, and Hernandez’s fall has been confounding. Justin Turner had a 160 wRC+ against lefties in 2014 and 111 in 2015, but this season, it’s 74. Seventy four. That’s awful. For reference, his wRC+ is the same as Ethier’s against LHP for his career. There’s no guarantee he’ll be back in 2017 (and beyond), but one has to think he can do better than a 74 wRC+ against lefties. The Dodgers only have three regulars with a better-than-average wRC+ against lefties: Yasmani Grandal (122), Yasiel Puig (113) and Seager (105). That’s it.

Maybe some guys will flip the proverbial switch in the playoffs. Who knows. But as long as they keep producing against right-handed pitching, they just might have a shot at this thing.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.