There is no denying that the Dodgers have started the year off great. At least on paper. Their 14-4 record is best in baseball. Despite the early success, however, their offense has scuffled a bit lately, scoring only eight runs over the last four games. Moreover, the team has had trouble against left-handed pitching in particular, and although the sample size has been very small so far, the Dodgers are certainly hoping this will not be a trend that continues.
By the numbers, the Dodgers currently rank near the top of the league in most offensive categories this year, including the third-highest team OPS (.778) and wRC+ (116) in baseball. Looking at the team’s splits, however, you can see that they have fared a lot better against right-handed pitching than left. Their OPS against right-handers is the highest in the National League (.828) but that mark slips down over 140 points to .682 against lefties, which is 10th in the NL
They’re slashing only .219/.315/.367 vs LHP on the year.
Again, these numbers should be taken with a “small sample size” caveat. Still, it could be something to watch closely going forward.
The struggles this season have not been limited to a few players. On the contrary, they have applied to most of the Dodgers lineup. Only Justin Turner and Chris Taylor have an OPS above .800 against LHP this year. Zach McKinstry has a decent .792 mark over 24 plate appearances (PA) but after him, there is a significant drop off in production.
Corey Seager has had his typical good start, but his numbers against LHP this year (.231/.286/.462) are lower than his career marks. Max Muncy has actually hit lefties better than righties over his career but he only has a .618 OPS and 95 wRC+ against them this year. Edwin Rios is 0-10 on the year and yet to reach base against a lefty. Same goes for Luke Raley over six PA. Before going on the IL last week, Gavin Lux was only 1-10 against LHP. Lux might be one of the more concerning players since the jury is still out on whether or not he can produce against lefties, and if he should be an everyday starter. Lux’s career numbers against LHP have been poor so far in his limited time.
The struggles against lefties are not exclusive to LA left-handed hitters either. A.J Pollock, who killed LHP last year (1.185 OPS in 2020) is struggling so far, posting an OPS of only .618. Will Smith has had reverse splits over his short career, but his slash line of .143/.280/.238 against lefties this year is still well below his career numbers.
Then there’s Mookie Betts, who has been surprisingly bad against lefties recently. He’s only had 16 PA against LHP, so his numbers this year (.182/.438/.273) aren’t too telling just yet. But he did struggle quite a bit against them last year, posting a meager .531 OPS vs lefties compared to his 1.061 mark vs RHP. Of course, last season was also a pretty small sample size and Mookie’s career numbers against LHP have always been solid with fairly even splits. So, this could simply be a small anomaly in his production.
Just to reiterate, we’re talking about an 18-game span this season. That fact must be emphasized. With that said, the Dodgers offensive production against LHP has clearly been less than ideal so far, and it’s something they’re going to have to improve on. Assuming some of the players begin to produce closer to what their career numbers are, that improvement should occur at some point. Last season, the Dodgers were pretty good against LHP, ranking just above the middle of the pack offensively. And that is probably a better indicator of where they should be as the season goes on, even with a heavy left-handed lineup. But only time will tell.