Boatload of outfield options awaits Roberts
With Andre Ethier joining the team this weekend and playing left field on Sunday, an already crowded outfield just got more crowded. The Dodgers now have seven legitimate outfield options, and lucky for Dave Roberts just about all have of them have severe platoon splits. Unfortunately for Dave Roberts based on the numbers he still doesn’t really have good options against left-handed pitching.
Splits by OPS:
Seems pretty clear that Josh Reddick and Joc Pederson should never face a LHP in a playoff game, or a pennant race. I’d say the same about Andre Ethier. Andrew Toles has only five at-bats against LHP in the major leagues so his monster OPS can be taken with a grain of salt. The Dodgers don’t really have a left-handed hitting outfielder that should be allowed to start against LHP.
Puig for his career has shown he can hit either type of pitching but has had a noticeable drop-off in 2016 against RHP. Given the plethora of left-handed hitting options, it would make sense for the rest of this year to simply use Puig against LHP. Howie Kendrick isn’t hitting LHP very well himself this year. Neither is Kike Hernandez. This is problematic because the Dodgers have seven outfielders but only one could you say with any conviction should actually be in the lineup against LHP and that is Puig. Hernandez will probably play CF because someone has to play CF against LHP and right now that is Hernandez. Even when Trayce Thompson was active, he was no great shakes against LHP and actually hit RHP better this year.
In a play-in game, the Dodgers would face either the Mets or Cardinals. You could expect the Mets to throw Thor and the Cardinals either Carlos Martinez or Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals could use Jamie Garcia to exploit the Dodgers inability to hit LHP. The Mets could use Steve Matz if he is ready to pitch by then.
If the Dodgers face the Nationals in the postseason Gio Gonzalez is the one left-hander the Nationals can throw at the Dodgers, so for that series their weakness with left-hand pitching may not be exploited to its full potential.
The Cubs have Jon Lester but nobody else that you’d expect to see who is left handed. I doubt they would start Mike Montgomery simply to get a left-hand starter into the rotation.
I don’t want to mention that the Giants can throw Bumgarner and Moore at them because that would mean the Giants either won the play-in game, and beat the Cubs, or won the Western Division and beat the Nationals.
So while the Dodgers are definitely top heavy with left bats, it may not be as big a problem as it seems during the season. Of course, all this will be a moot point if Dave Roberts doesn’t pick the right group of outfielders to face the formidable right-hand pitching he’s going to get tossed at him in the post season. He has shown an affinity for Howie Kendrick against all kinds of pitchers, will he continue to use Howie as a starting left fielder against RHP in the post-season? If he does, will it be the right move?
The Dodgers have a 20 person analytic team to help them navigate the complexity of a modern day baseball organization, will they help Dave Roberts craft the correct lineup out of so many options? Or will it be a gut call?
Either way, tough decisions await Dave Roberts as he makes out his lineup on a daily basis, but it will get even tougher come October.