Time Running Out for Dodgers' Struggling Lefty Sluggers to Fix What Ails Them

Time Running Out for Dodgers' Struggling Lefty Sluggers to Fix What Ails Them
Author:
Updated:
Original:

No batter in the Dodgers' lineup stood out in Monday's 7-2 loss to the Padres. An offense that scored the third-most runs in baseball going into the game was held to two runs and four hits by San Diego's Dinelson Lamet and two relievers.

Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that Lamet handcuffed the Dodgers so effectively. In his third season, he has been outstanding. In 10 starts, Lamet has compiled 79 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings, with a 2.12 ERA.and 0.893 WHIP.

Yet Monday's performance included some more futility from the Dodgers' left-handed hitters, which has become an ongoing problem. Gavin Lux hit 0-for-2, dropping his slash line to .163/.250/.349 in what's increasingly appearing to be a lost season. Joc Pederson went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, leaving him with a .178/.273/.383 mark.

Max Muncy whiffed twice in going 1-for-3 Monday, giving him two hits in his past two games. That nudged him up to .198/.337/.395. Maybe his ejection from last Thursday's game and getting in a good dig at umpire Doug Eddings sharpened his focus. He's fanned a whopping 52 times in 167 at bats this season, however.

Cody Bellinger, pushed down to sixth in the lineup because of his difficulties, batted 0-for-3. That dropped the reigning NL MVP's triple slash numbers to .214/.294/.412 for the season.

Whatever changes Bellinger made to his batting stance in the offseason (with even more time to tinker due to MLB's COVID-19 shutdown) clearly scrambled his approach. There's no coil to his swing, which seems to prevent him from doing anything with inside pitches. Trying to adjust for that has also apparently rendered him helpless against high fastballs as well.

Only Corey Seager is hitting well from the left side. And he's been one of the team's best this season, compiling a .315/.363/.607 average with 12 home runs, 11 doubles, and 34 RBI. Mookie Betts, batting from the right, is the only Dodgers position player who's been better.

What's especially concerning as the calendar moves closer to the playoffs is that Muncy and Pederson have typically been among the Dodgers' most reliable postseason hitters. In last year's National League Division Series versus the Nationals, for example, Pederson hit.267 with a .953 OPS, while Muncy posted a .263/.391/.737 line. (Meanwhile, Bellinger struggled with a .211/.286/.253 average and Seager batted .150/.190/.200.)

[Follow Sports Illustrated’s Inside the Dodgers on Twitter.]

Though the Dodgers have a strong chance of winning the next two games with Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May pitching, the futility from their middle of the order has to be a major concern.

Bellinger is hitting.161/.212/.290 versus the Padres this season and .188/.235/.375 at Petco Park. Muncy has a .107/.242/.107 average, with a .077/.294/.077 mark in San Diego. Pederson is at .154/.241/.500, but has hit for power at Petco with a .231/.286/.923 average and three home runs.

Starting for the Padres on Tuesday is Zach Davies, who held the Dodgers to two runs and four hits over seven innings when he faced them on Aug. 12 at Dodger Stadium. Bellinger, Muncy, and Pederson went a combined 1-for-12.

(Amazingly, the Dodgers won that game, 6-0, bludgeoning Craig Stammen for four runs and four hits in one inning.

The immediate concern for the Dodgers is that they could leave San Diego Wednesday night out of first place in the NL West. But home-field advantage won't matter as much in the 2020 postseason.

Even if the Padres do win the division, the Dodgers should still have the second-best record in the National League and get home field advantage in the best-of-three opening round of the playoffs. And in Major League Baseball's now-officially announced postseason setup, Los Angeles will likely play at Globe Life Park in Texas for the NLDS, and stay there for the NLCS and World Series if they advance that far.

For what it's worth from the Department of Useless Information/Small Sample Size Division: The Dodgers went 2-1 at Globe Life Park this season against the Texas Rangers, whom they will not face in the postseason, and who rank among MLB's most disappointing clubs this year.

But in keeping with the tone of this overall piece, it probably should be noted that the Dodgers hit .250/.250/.452 in those three games at the Rangers' new ballpark. Muncy was outstanding with a .364/.429/.727 average.

But Bellinger? He hit two home runs while batting .182/.357/1.084. Pederson? 0-for-7.

The larger concern is that Bellinger, Muncy, and Pederson have 12 games left to fix what ails them prior to the postseason. Is that enough time? Perhaps not when the previous 48 games have provided no answers.

With seven of L.A.'s remaining games against the Rockies and Angels, it's possible that the Dodgers' struggling lefties could improve their numbers against inferior pitching. And maybe that would help their approach mentally. But would that improvement be deceiving? That's not the kind of pitching they'll see in the postseason, especially in the later rounds.

And these are not the kinds of questions any team, let alone one with World Series title aspirations, wants to carry into what was already going to be an unusual October.

Ian Casselberry watchdogs sports media for Awful Announcing. He's covered baseball for SB Nation, Yahoo Sports and MLive, and was one of Bleacher Report's first lead MLB writers. Please follow Ian on Twitter @iancass and give him a listen at The Podcass.