Struggles against lefties: A sample-size issue?
By Jon Weisman
There’s always something you can worry about. The bullpen used to be the Big Glum, unless it was the offense, or the starting pitching, or all the injuries.
Now, it seems nothing is more vexing for the Dodgers than their struggles against left-handed pitching.
That was the dominant theme after Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to CC Sabathia and the Yankees, leaving the Dodgers 18-20 when a southpaw starts against them this year, compared with 63-43 when a northpaw noshes.
“Every time we get a left-hander, we feel good about it and are optimistic, but it has been a tough year against left-handed pitching,” Dave Roberts said, according to Doug Padilla of ESPN.com. “The numbers, obviously, as they say, don’t lie. We have to look back at the video with C.C., but it seemed like he kept us at bay and off balance and we didn’t get very many good swings against him. Regardless, we have to find a way to produce baserunners and ultimately runs.”
It’s certainly noticeable that the Dodgers have the Majors’ worst offense against lefties by nearly every measure, from a .294 on-base percentage to 73 weighted runs created, though I’m not convinced that a record near .500 in 38 games sample spells doom.
Yes, even in September, a small sample is a small sample.That they haven’t done better means that concern is valid, but put it this way: If the Dodgers had won only one extra game per month against lefties, they would be 24-14 — which is essentially dominant.
Here’s a link to every left-handed pitcher who has thrown against the Dodgers this year, ranked from most innings to fewest. It’s hit and miss — to be honest, more miss than hit — but if nothing else, it should cure you of the idea that the Dodgers are hopeless against lefties.
Note that some abnormally unlucky batting average on balls in play against many of them. Of the 16 lefties to throw at least seven innings against Los Angeles, the Dodgers have a BABIP below .200 against half of them.
As Buster Olney points out in his column at ESPN, the Dodgers’ four most likely postseason rivals in the National League (Washington, Chicago, New York and St. Louis) run mostly right-handed pitchers, citing only Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Chicago’s Jon Lester as noteworthy lefty starters. There’s also San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner down the stretch if not in October, and given their recent success against him, he’s the exception that might disprove the rule.
Or, perhaps this is the month that Bumgarner shuts down the Dodgers, while they bust out against different southpaws.
“As we finish out the next 18 games, we’re going to see some left-handed pitching, and rightfully so,” Roberts said (via Padilla). “There has to be some point where we break through.”