Last year the Dodgers were the worst team in baseball against left handed pitching. So management decided to sit almost every one of their regulars when a southpaw was on the mound. The lineups they put out on those days consisted of most of their bench players and backups. Utility players hit cleanup, subs batted lead-off and fifth outfielders received way too many at-bats during crucial games. The Dodgers did this through the entire season and stuck with the idea all the way through the postseason and into the NLCS. It didn’t work.
I can understand why the Dodgers thought this was a good idea. The right handed hitting regulars just were not hitting left handers at all so the club thought that putting in different hitters against left handers would increase their chances of winning. The problem with that was that those backups and subs were infinitely less talented than the regulars that they were replacing in the lineup. I have to give the Dodgers credit for sticking with a bad idea and running with it until the ship sank. Hey I’ll run with a bad idea myself sometimes.
This season has seen the Dodgers utilizing the same strategy. When an opposing left handed starter is on the mound the Dodgers shuffle the lineup getting most of their right handed hitting backups into the game. We’ve noticed some improvement this year against lefties. The Dodgers are 10-9 against left handers and batting .243 which ranks them middle of the pack versus the southpaws. This is a far cry from the pitiful .214 they hit in 2016.
The improvement is not because of the makeshift lineups they’ve been putting out. It’s because the regulars have been overall better against the lefties. Justin Turner was hitting .333 against lefties before he landed on the disabled list. Cody Bellinger is hitting .278. Corey Seager is hitting .284. Logan Forsythe is hitting .393 (11 for 28).
Yes the Dodgers still struggle against lefties at times but the marked improvement is noticeable. Trust me the reason for the aforementioned improvement is not because Franklin Gutierrez is batting cleanup or Brett Eibner is getting 4-5 at-bats almost every night.
My point is that talent will win out, and the regulars are so much more talented than the bench guys. Sure the backups have played admirably this season and are excelling in the customary role that they’re designed for, i.e. pinch-hitting and late inning defensive duties. But to give the B-squad 4-5 at-bats every other game is not a good strategy for winning.
The Dodgers have to start trusting their everyday players and their immense talent. I like Austin Barnes and he’s a decent backup catcher but Grandal has superior talent. Kike has been better than his historically horrendous 2016 season but Cody Bellinger, and Yasiel Puig are undeniably more talented. Franklin Gutierrez is one breath away from the disabled list at any moment and Brett Eibner has no business being anywhere near a starting lineup.
Of course it’s normal for the backup infielder or the fifth outfielder to be inferior hitters than your regular starters. It’s not normal for those backups to be starting and batting cleanup every other game. Yet almost every time a left hander is on the mound the Dodgers roll out the B-squad and it makes my blood boil. Last night Franklin Gutierrez batted cleanup, Kike Hernandez batted fifth and Brett Eibner played center field s Gonzo, Grandal, and Cody Bellinger all rested. The Dodgers scored 2 runs on 6 hits and lost to the Nationals.
Former manager Jim Tracy used to sit all the starting players every Sunday and it doomed the club to a loss almost every time. It’s never a good idea to start Franklin Gutierrez over Cody Bellinger, or Brett Eibner over anybody. It was a bad idea then and it’s still a bad idea now. Tracy did it because he honestly believed the regulars needed to rest once per week. The Dodgers honesty believe they have a better chance of winning with these guys in the lineup against left handers.
The lesson here is that the best way to win is to put your best hitters in the lineup every game regardless of lefty/righty. Talent always wins over versatility or match-ups. The Dodgers need to trust their talent more than they trust their projections. Talent always wins.