Can anyone play LF against RHP?
The Dodgers have turned their season around with six straight wins, eight out of nine, and homered in thirteen straight games, but they still have a few issues that need to be addressed.
- They need to rectify that .500 road record
- Having to use a Nick Tepesch doesn’t signal that the starting pitching depth has worked out.
- Adrian Gonzalez has reached the 75th game with only six home runs
Plus the bugago about who is going to play left field when a right-hander is on the mound. If a left-hander takes the mound Doc Roberts has a plethora of options, and they are all good. Conversely, when a right-hander takes the mound he has four options and none of them appear to be satisfactory.
Howie Kendrick has become the defacto starter in left field against RHP since May 25h, and the results are not satisfying. Dodger notes point out that Howie has has hit safely in eight of his last nine games, batting .400 (10-for-25) with two doubles, a homer and two RBI since June 13. Yet as a starting left fielder, Howie is not getting it done. His overall OPS as a left fielder is a measly .509. He has been better of late but not enough to say he has earned the job. Since May 25th, as a starter in LF, Howie has a triple stat line of .186 / .263 / .302. Defensively I’ll grudgingly admit he has looked better you can’t convince he’s better out there than any of the other three options.
Trayce Thompson lit up the stat board in May and early June, so he looked to be the heir apparent to LF once Puig came back from the disabled list. Unfortunately as sometimes happens, when exposed to everyday pitching, the hot streak has turned cold as ice. Thompson has gone seven for forty-three over the past fourteen days turning his lock on a starting job into something much more nebulous.
Scott Van Slyke can certainly hit left-hand pitching, and he can certainly play a good defensive left field. He’s never answered the question about can he hit right hand pitching enough to be a full-time player. The splits say to me that at the least he could hit as much as Howie, and possibly even better.
Kiké Hernández is basically in the same boat as SVS. Someone who can torch left-hand pitching but hasn’t been able to put up much of a struggle against RHP. I personally think the Dodgers are doing him a disservice and that he’d be better served to get full time at bats in AAA. He’s great to have on the bench to face left-hand pitching, and filling in at both the infield / outfield spots. But with a team that also has Howie/Trayce/SVS it seems that Herandez is superfluous whose utility could be replaced by the recently acquired Chris Taylor while Kike works on his game in AAA.
As noted none of these four are good options, but I find it hard to imagine that Howie is the best choice. I’m not a big Scott Van Slyke fan, but if Doc Roberts isn’t going to ride out Thompson’s slump, he’d be my choice.
But Doc is the manager for a reason, so maybe his gut will prove correct with Howie leading the Dodgers to a victory tonight.