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Dodgers have improved against left-handed pitching

LA will face two southpaw starters in final three games in St. Louis

MLB: AUG 10 Dodgers at Phillies
Trea Turner and Albert Pujols have been two of the Dodgers’ best hitters against left-handed pitchers in 2021.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Facing left-handers has proven tougher for the Dodgers than righties, but only in a relative sense, and they’re getting better. Los Angeles also owns the best record in games started against them by southpaws. They have two chances to improve in this series, including Tuesday night when J.A. Happ starts on the mound for St. Louis.

The second game of the series figures to be interrupted a few times by lengthy ovations, with beloved former Cardinals legend Albert Pujols starting at first base for the Dodgers. The future Hall of Famer has excelled in a very specific role, and one that is sorely needed by Los Angeles — punishing left-handed pitching.

Pujols with the Dodgers is hitting .313/.350/.625, a 155 wRC+ with nine home runs against southpaws, only one behind Max Muncy for the team lead. Muncy has 42 more plate appearances against lefties than Pujols.

Back on June 12, the Dodgers lost to southpaw Kolby Allard and the Rangers. That was the 20th start by a left-hander against the Dodgers, and the split was stark. Left-handed starters had a 3.14 ERA against the Dodgers, but lefty relievers struggled to the tune of a 5.00 ERA against LA.

Twenty lefty starts later, things have evened out between southpaw starters and relievers against the Dodgers, who are 26-14 (.650) when a southpaw starts against them.

Dodgers vs. left-handed pitching in 2021

Role IP ERA FIP BB rate K rate BA/OBP/SLG
Role IP ERA FIP BB rate K rate BA/OBP/SLG
Starters 199⅔ 4.28 4.89 8.4% 23.9% .240/.312/.440
Relievers 177⅓ 4.31 4.51 9.5% 23.0% .227/.311/.404
through September 6, 2021

The main difference in the Dodgers’ improvement against lefty starters has been power, with 12 home runs off the starter in the last five such games. In those first 20 lefty starts against them, the Dodgers hit multiple home runs off the starter just twice. In the last 20 starts, the Dodgers have seven multi-homer games, contributing to a 5.51 ERA for southpaw starters against them during that time.

Happ is tied for seventh in the majors this season with 27 home runs allowed in his 25 starts. Among the 72 major league pitchers with at least 120 innings this season, Happ ranks 70th in ERA (6.20) and 69th in FIP (5.41).

Since joining the Cardinals, Happ has been nominally better with a 4.30 ERA in six starts, with six home runs allowed and a 5.38 FIP.

The Dodgers’ performance against lefties has still lagged behind their overall production. The team leads the National League in runs scored (5.05) and wRC+ (105, tied with San Francisco). Against right-handers, the Dodgers are hitting .244/.337/.418 with a 108 wRC+, compared to .234/.311/.423 and a 100 wRC+ against lefties.

Dodgers non-pitchers vs. LHP

Year wRC+ MLB rank
Year wRC+ MLB rank
2016 77 30th
2017 117 3rd
2018 107 8th
2019 110 8th
2020 113 8th
2021 106 10th
non-pitchers only Source: FanGraphs

A 100 wRC+ is exactly league average, which is not where the Dodgers want to be. But the team numbers since the beginning of August against lefties are .246/.315/.465 with a 110 wRC+. Acquiring Trea Turner at the trade deadline helped in many ways, but especially so against southpaws. He’s hitting .386/.434/.659 against left-handers on the season, the top batting average in the sport against lefties, and top-four numbers in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and wRC+ (188).

That includes .323/.400/.645, a 175 wRC+ with four doubles and two home runs in 35 plate appearances since joining the Dodgers.

But on a team level, stripping out the pitchers hitting paints a clearer picture. On the season, Dodgers non-pitchers have a 115 wRC+ against right-handers, second in the majors behind only Houston. Against lefties LA has a 106 wRC+, which ranks 10th and is decidedly above average.

That’s roughly in line with their performance against southpaws the last three seasons, when they finished eighth in the majors in wRC+ each year. There’s still time to get there this season.

Game info

Teams: Dodgers (87-51) at Cardinals (69-67)

Location: Busch Stadium, St. Louis

Time: 4:45 p.m.

TV: SportsNet LA