Back in January, I did a piece about the Dodgers’ left-handed heavy lineup and projected how Dave Roberts might employ platoons this year. I proposed that despite the Dodgers frequent use of platoons over the last few seasons and Roberts’ desire to go with match-ups, those platoons may not be needed as much this year.
Fast-forward about seven months later, and it appears like I may have been on to something. #HumbleBrag.
As it stands now, the Dodgers seem to have a pretty set lineup once post season baseball begins, regardless if they’re facing a lefty or righty. Never mind the fluctuating lineups you’re seeing now, and will likely continue to see until October. Starters will get plenty of rest days to stay fresh. Other players are being auditioned for a possible postseason roster spot.
So, the lineup will remain fluid for the time being. Make no mistake though, the playoffs will be a different story.
As it stands now, you could probably pencil in seven of the eight position players for the Dodgers when they start playing in October. They include: Smith, Bellinger, Muncy, Seager, Turner, Pollock, and Verdugo (assuming he comes back fully healthy.) The batting order will change, of course, but it’s hard to picture any of those guys not starting an important playoff game.
That leaves one spot to platoon Joc Pederson and a righty of their choosing, whether that be David Freese, Chris Taylor, Kike Hernandez, Jedd Gyorko, or Hyun-Jin Ryu.
This type of concrete lineup was not the case last year. Remember when Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger were sitting during World Series games because the Dodgers were facing a lefty? Of course, much of that platooning had to do with how poorly Bellinger was performing against left-handed pitching. He slashed only .226/.305/.376 (.681 OPS) against southpaws in 2018.
Muncy on the other hand was producing well against lefties, yet still being platooned. But perhaps that’s because he really came out of nowhere last year and didn’t have a very long track record of hitting so well. It was probably hard for Roberts to gauge whether he could keep up those numbers.
Regardless of the reasoning for the platoons last year, this season is a lot different. Roberts gave players like Bellinger, Muncy, and even rookie Alex Verdugo, a chance to play mostly every day, and they’ve proven they’re more than capable.
Take a look at the Dodgers main left-handed bats, and how they’ve fared against southpaws this year.
2019 stats vs LHP:
Bellinger: .304/.412/.649, 1.061 OPS, & 169 wRC+
Muncy: .273/.368/.545, .914 OPS, & 138 wRC+
Verdugo: .327/.358/.485, .843 OPS, & 120 wRC+
Seager: .236/.319/.331, .650 OPS, & 78 wRC+
Bellinger has crushed left-handed pitching just about as well as he has against right-handed pitching. Muncy and Verdugo have actually hit lefties better than righties this year.
If there might be one cause for concern, it could be Seager, who hasn’t hit lefties very well this season. However, his career numbers (lifetime .774 OPS vs LHP) are far better than what he’s doing this year, so it’s easy to give him the benefit of the doubt. Besides, it’s not like he’s going to realistically platoon anyway.
Then of course, there’s Pederson, who is the one player that unquestionably should be platooned. His lifetime numbers speak for themselves (career .182/.260/.305, .564 OPS vs LHP.) In other words, if a lefty is on the mound in October, Joc should be nowhere near a bat. He does, however, still offer plenty of value against right-handed pitching, and figures to remain in the lineup when facing them.
Expect to still see plenty of different lineups between now and the end of the regular season. The Dodgers will certainly continue to utilize their depth. But come October, it appears that they have their “A Squad” ready for any opposing pitcher, regardless of the lefty/righty match-up.
Give Dave Roberts credit for finally sticking with his lefty hitters and allowing them to play full time. Also, credit the players themselves for producing when given the chance and showing that they’re up to the task. Many fans have long criticized the Dodgers for being a little too platoon happy. Now, that doesn’t appear to be the case.