Los Angeles Dodgers Exposed against Platoon Disadvantage

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It’s about this time of year that fans like you and I begin to worry about how our team may fare come October (if we’re blessed with such an opportunity). We begin to think about who will get what starts, who’s healthy and who’s not, the state of the bullpen (a sore spot for all

Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Dodger fans) and various other issues. One such issue I stumbled across in these various thought experiments was the very left-handed heavy nature of the Dodgers roster on both sides of the ball. The term ‘matchup’ is something we’re all very familiar with (especially if you’ve ever

listened to Don Mattingly speak about the bullpen) and the focus on them only grows more intense in the postseason. The problem is, the Dodgers seem rather vulnerable to these matchups both on the hill and at the plate. Given that the Dodgers have been No-Hit twice in the last few weeks by right-handed pitching, the idea that the Dodgers may have a problem against southpaws may seem a bit counter intuitive but when you break it down it starts to make sense.

If we first stop and look at the offense, the starting 8 would look something like this:

Jimmy Rollins (S)        .781 OPS vs LHP
Chase Utley (L)             .596 OPS vs LHP
Adrian Gonzalez (L)    .811 OPS vs LHP
Justin Turner (L)         .683 OPS vs LHP
Andre Ethier (L)           .515 OPS vs LHP
Carl Crawford (L)         .596 OPS vs LHP
Yasmani Grandal (S)   .733 OPS vs LHP
Joc Pederson (L)          .695 OPS vs LHP

With Howie Kendrick, Yasiel Puig and Kike Hernandez likely to be on the DL for much of September with hamstring problems, you can see this lineup leans very heavily to the left. Especially if you consider that Justin Turner has posted reverse platoon splits this season and both Jimmy Rollins and Yasmani Grandal have seen their power come almost exclusively from the left side.

There isn’t much relief on the bench either with Scott Van Slyke struggling (even with his massive game Monday), Jose Peraza only a few games into his career and Alex Guerrero seemingly ostracised from the lineup. It seems the weight falls on the shoulders of newcomer Justin Ruggiano and Chris Heisey – neither of which strike much fear in an opposing pitcher.

There is hope though and it comes from outside the organisation, no we didn’t trade for Mike Trout but rather the Dodgers simply won’t have to face many left-handers in October. Here’s a quick table to show the starters we’ll likely be up against in the postseason.

MetsCardinalsPiratesCubs
1HarveyWachaColeLester (L)
2DegromLynnBurnettArrieta
3Colon/SyndergaardLackeyLiriano (L)Hammel
4Niese (L)/Matz (L)Garcia (L)MortonHendricks

Apart from Jon Lester, the few left-handers we will have to face whilst respectable are certainly not aces. To even greater benefit, the Mets (our likely NLDS opponent) bullpen currently lacks a reliable left-handed reliever. So the good news is whilst the Dodgers do have a definite platoon disadvantage, many of our NL opponents lack the weapons to exploit it.

Ok so now we can shift our attention to the pitching staff. For the sake of the exercise I’m going to ignore the bullpen as that is a matter entirely of its own. Instead if we look turn our attention to the rotation we get this:

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Kershaw (L)
Zack Grienke
Brett Anderson (L)      
Alex Wood (L)
Mat Latos/Mike Bolsinger

Given that most teams carry a 4 man rotation in the postseason we can lop Latos and Bolsinger off the end. The result of all this is a rotation that is ¾ left-handed with Zack Grienke being the sole right-hander (albeit a very good one). As above we can expect that this is going to create a situation where the Dodgers will consistently be playing against a platoon disadvantage. This disadvantage is only compounded by a lack of reliable right-handed relievers.

However, when we look at the teams the Dodgers will likely face come October, you get something like this:

Mets                  .722 OPS vs LHP
Cardinals          .670 OPS vs LHP
Pirates              .713 OPS vs LHP
Cubs                 .686 OPS vs LHP

Whilst the Mets and Pirates have both been respectable versus left-handed pitching, none of these teams pose a serious threat to the Dodger southpaws. The Mets’ additions of Juan Uribe and Yoenis Cespedes and the return of David Wright has improved the offense greatly their lineup still lacks depth. In the case of the Cardinals and Cubs, most of their thump comes from the left side of the plate, giving LA the platoon advantage. The Pirates seem to be the most balanced on both sides of the ball but will have to get past the Cardinals before facing the Dodgers anyway.

So what’s the result of all this? The Dodgers have a lefty problem…. and they might just get away with it.

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