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Dodgers looking for improvement from within vs left-handed pitching

LA hitting .213/.295/.351 against LHP, but underlying numbers are better

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the Seattle Mariners 2-1. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

The Dodgers haven’t hit left-handed pitchers at all so far this season, and face another on on Thursday in Yusei Kikuchi of the Mariners. But there are reasons to believe improvement is coming.

So far, the results have been terrible against southpaws. The Dodgers are hitting .213/.295/.351, 24th in MLB in OPS (.646) and 21st in wRC+ (82). Though just because they haven’t hit lefties let doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t.

“The average and the surface numbers certainly don’t look good. But the expected slug, I think, is a lot better. With the quality of contact and the unluckiness, I think that there’s something to that,” manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday. “These guys have got to continue to take those at bats against the lefties.”

So far, A.J. Pollock has been the Dodgers’ best hitter against left-handed pitching, at .304/.304/.565, his 133 wRC+ better than his 119 career wRC+ against southpaws. All seven other Dodgers with at least 20 plate appearances against lefties have a worse wRC+ this year than in their career.

Looking at batted ball data from Baseball Savant, all but Pollock have a higher expected slugging percentage against lefties than their actual numbers, sometimes absurdly so. Mookie Betts, for instance, is 4-for-26 (.154) with a double (.241 slugging percentage) against lefties, but his expected numbers are a .301 average and .497 slugging.

Dodgers vs. LHP in 2020

Player PA BA/OBP/SLG BABIP xBA xSLG 2020 wRC+ Career wRC+
Player PA BA/OBP/SLG BABIP xBA xSLG 2020 wRC+ Career wRC+
Max Muncy (L) 32 .192/.344/.423 0.176 0.219 0.521 116 133
Corey Seager (L) 30 .185/.267/.333 0.200 0.298 0.666 68 108
Justin Turner 29 .273/.414/.318 0.353 0.272 0.559 117 127
Mookie Betts 29 .154/.241/.192 0.182 0.301 0.497 29 136
Cody Bellinger (L) 27 .171/.216/.343 0.160 0.243 0.401 52 120
Chris Taylor 26 .167/.231/.208 0.250 0.274 0.484 27 108
A.J. Pollock 23 .304/.304/.565 0.333 0.305 0.490 133 119
Kiké Hernández 20 .211/.250/.421 0.231 0.177 0.253 81 122
Source: Baseball Savant, Baseball-Reference, and FanGraphs

There are still areas of concern. Cody Bellinger’s expected numbers against lefties still aren’t very good, which is very much in line with his overall season-long slump. Kiké Hernandez, a career .264/.348/.477 hitter against southpaws (122 wRC+), is 4-for-19 against lefties and his expected numbers are right in line with that.

Unlike late 2018 and in 2019, the Dodgers don’t have a David Freese lying around to plug in against lefties. But for the most part, the main left-handed batters have hit lefties in their career just fine, and other than Bellinger their expected numbers this year are very good.

That the Dodgers have still won six of seven games against left-handed starters is another notch in the “don’t panic” belt.

Nobody wants to hear this when a team is slumping, but the solution here lies in the very same players to keep plugging away, keep hitting the ball as hard as they have against lefties, and hope the results will eventually come.

Game info

Time: 4:10 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA, MLB Network