Right on! LA hitters get to avoid lefty starters

Right on! LA hitters get to avoid lefty starters

WASHINGTON -- If the Dodgers' fearsome offense has a kryptonite, it comes in the form of a left-hander on the pitching rubber.

Whereas Los Angeles hitters hit .264/.331/.441 vs. righties, those figures drop to .213/.290/.332 against southpaws, for a .622 OPS that ranks last in Major League Baseball.

The good news for Dave Roberts' team? The Dodgers will almost certainly face right-handed starters in four of their potential five games against the Nationals in the upcoming National League Division Series, which begins Friday (5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. PT on FS1).

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 LAD 4, WAS 3 video
Gm 2 Oct. 9 WSH 5, LAD 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 WAS 8, LAD 3 video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 LAD 6, WAS 5 video
Gm 5 Oct. 13 LAD 4, WSH 3 video

"If you look at the way we fared this year vs. right, vs. left," Roberts said, "when we're seeing more righties, I think it bodes better for us."

The cause of the Dodgers' dramatic right-left splits is no secret: Much of their lineup bats from the left side. Lefties Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson and Chase Utley play every day, and outfielders Josh Reddick, Andre Ethier and Andrew Toles will get some at-bats in the NLDS as well. Catcher Yasmani Grandal is a switch-hitter, but he has hit better against righties this year and, to some extent, his whole career.

Though their struggles against lefties could derail them at some point in the postseason, it likely won't be against the Nationals.

Most of this series will feature lefty Dodgers hitters facing righty Nationals pitchers, beginning with Washington ace Max Scherzer in Game 1. And while Scherzer is tough to hit no matter which side of the plate you swing from, lefties get to him significantly more than righties. Over the course of his career, Scherzer has allowed a .733 OPS to hitters in the left-handed batter's box, compared to .601 against ones in the right-handed one.

Meanwhile, Washington's only lefty starter is Gio Gonzalez, and he allowed 12 runs in 13 innings over his final three starts of the season. Even better for L.A., Gonzalez has fared only slightly worse against righties than lefties over the course of his career. He'll benefit a bit from facing a lineup of at least four lefties, but favorable matchups certainly won't guarantee his success.

It also helps that the Dodgers' righties -- Howie Kendrick, Justin Turner and the switch-hitting Grandal -- have overcome sluggish starts to deepen the team's lineup in the second half.

"There's really no breaks in our lineup now, there's stress throughout," Roberts said recently. "Howie, Yas, all the guys are swinging the bat. We're as good as any lineup in the NL."

Nationals-Dodgers NLDS preview

Where the Dodgers' reliance on lefties could hurt them is in the late innings, when the Nationals will likely have three southpaws to insert when the situation calls for it. Marc Rzepczynski and Sammy Solis are both tough on lefties but good enough vs. righties to stay in the game if L.A.'s lineup goes left-right-left, and Oliver Perez has excelled in a one-batter matchup role.

Of course, maybe the left-right splits won't matter at all. Dodgers president Andrew Friedman, for one, thinks talk of the team's splits is overblown. In a short series, he suggested, L.A. hitters could overcome their tendencies and reverse the trend.

"Some of it is just more noise," Friedman said recently. "As we look ahead, we don't think what's happened most recently will happen again this month. We'll see. The proof is in the pudding."

Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.