By Jon Weisman
When is a platoon not a platoon? According to Dave Roberts, when it isn’t quite a platoon.
Though the Dodgers have leaned heavily on lefty-righty matchups in constructing their offense this season, Roberts explained today some of the distinctions that he sees.
“Certain guys, their out pitch is a changeup,” Roberts said. “Certain lefties, it’s a breaking ball. So when typically, it’s a breaking ball is their best secondary, then it’s harder for the left-on-left — the visual. Guys that have a changeup as an out pitch, typically the left-handers can handle them more. There are other components to it as well.”
Of course, Roberts also varies depending on the batter involved. For example, Adrian Gonzalez is an everyday player, except for isolated rest days (most likely, of course, against lefties).
Corey Seager is partway there. In the Dodgers’ sixth game of the season against a left-handed starting pitcher (Justin Nicolino), Seager is starting for the third time.
Celebrating his 22nd birthday today, the wizened Seager has two doubles and two walks in 12 plate appearances this year against southpaw starters, for a .733 OPS. Last year, Seager OPSed .947 against lefty starters.
In contrast, Joc Pederson has yet to start a game with a lefty on the hill, deferring tonight to Kiké Hernandez (1.550 OPS against lefty starters), Trayce Thompson (.876) and Yasiel Puig (.807)
“I’ve talked about using the roster, and I think that Trayce is good out there in center field and I want to get him at-bats,” Roberts said. “And it makes sense to get him out there against left-handed pitching,”
When the Dodgers have batters who do so well against lefties, it makes sense to use them. But that doesn’t mean Roberts is rigid about it.
Roberts noted that Pederson, Chase Utley and Carl Crawford — none of whom have started against a southpaw in 2016 — all had good at-bats against Miami lefty Craig Breslow on Tuesday.
“So it’s not like I’m pinch-hitting every time a left-hander gets in there,” Roberts said.
Roberts added that there was a good chance Pederson might start next week against one of Tampa Bay’s left-handed pitchers, such as Matt Moore.
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