Dodgers: Struggles Against Left-Handed Pitching Continue Early On

Apr 4, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (30) looks on in the second inning against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (30) looks on in the second inning against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dodgers started off the season with a bang, as they cruised to a 14-4 victory on opening day. The offense was firing on all cylinders by showing the potential the team has. The team and fans were on top of the world and excited to see this offense every night. Of course, opening day came to an end and the second game of the year was the same as last year.

The Dodgers faced a left-handed pitcher, Clayton Richard, who has never been known as a starter to limit hits and runs. He owns a career 4.19 ERA and a .298 BABIP. Those numbers don’t jump off the screen and certainly don’t scream that he should’ve shut the Dodgers offense down.

Richard finished with a stat line of 8 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 2 BB, was very impressive and brought the Dodgers back down to earth after a strong opening day showing. The most frustrating part of the game was watching the team ground into 4 double plays, never allowing a runner to get to second base.

Like I said, Clayton Richard is not considered a great pitcher. So, how could he shut down an offense that is full of potential all-stars? Well, this Dodger’s team has long struggled to succeed against southpaws.

Dating back to last season, this Dodgers team owned a league-worst 78 wRC+. The struggles this team has dealt with was part of the reason they could not get the job done in October and had made this an emphasis on improving upon for the 2017 season.

It still is very early in the year, so it’s definitely not the time to panic, but it is worrisome to see this team struggle against left-handed pitching again. It is even more worrisome as, before yesterday, the Dodgers had killed Richard. In seven previous meetings against Richard, the Dodgers knocked him around for a 5.40 ERA.

The Dodgers made strides during the offseason to correct this problem with the additions of Logan Forsythe and Franklin Gutierrez. The two started for the team on Tuesday and collected 3 of the 5 total hits the team was able to muster up. You can expect these two to led the Dodgers against lefties as they own batting averages of .280 for Forsythe and .289 for Gutierrez for their career.

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As for the rest of the lineup, the struggles of 2016 have preliminary followed them into the new year.

One player that’s been followed by the “unable to hit lefties” narrative is Yasmani Grandal. When looking at his splits we can see some reason for the narrative, but we can also see where the narrative has no traction.

For example, he has much less power against lefties as he’s hit 11 of his 69 career home runs against them. Besides his power decrease, he owns a .341 OBP vs. lefties opposed to a .334 to righties. That shows a lot of his plate discipline as he draws a ton of walks but it also shows his splits aren’t too drastic. It was good to see Grandal hit one of his two home runs during opening day off a left-hander.

Another option the team has is to give Joc Pederson more plate appearances against lefties.  On Tuesday, he sat for Kike Hernandez, who struggled mightily last year to make contact with any pitcher not named Madison Bumgarner. In his career, Pederson only has had 185 AB against southpaws, which shows he has had little experience and little trust from the staff.

This season, I’m hoping the team relinquishes the reigns a bit on him to give him some opportunities. I don’t see Pederson as a platoon player and his usage as one has been questionable for me. On Joc’s opening day grand slam, he showcased his new swing and stride and I would love it if the team gave him a chance as an everyday player.

If you are starting to worry about the Dodgers already, you might be better off not watching the games. Overall, the team’s acquisitions to solve the problem did look to show signs of potential. There were also some signs of struggles that may carry over to this year’s team.

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I’ll agree, it is frustrating, but I think the front office has made good strides to fix the problem, and for others to overcome their struggles. However, if the team cannot find some sort of offense against lefties, they can kiss their World Series dreams goodbye. It’s still only the first week of the season so there’s definitely no time to hit the panic button. This is just an ongoing concern that the Dodgers will continue to face until they prove they can hit lefties.