Jason Kubel prior to the game against the San Diego Padres. IMAGE: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
It’s no secret that the Diamondbacks are struggling to score runs. Some of that can be chalked up to their inability to hit with runners in scoring position, but there’s also another culprit: they’re struggling mightily against left-handed pitching.
With Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, Didi Gregorius, Miguel Montero, Eric Chavez and Eric Hinske all being left-handed batters, teams have been able to neutralize the Diamondbacks when they put a lefty-starter on the mound. With Adam Eaton set to arrive in Phoenix in the near future and AJ Pollock likely headed back to AAA, that will add another left-handed hitter to the lineup at the cost of a right-handed one.
Against righties, the Diamondbacks rank ninth in the majors with a .754 OPS. Against lefties, they rank 24th with a .669 OPS. These splits are problematic and will continue to be so unless the team can make some adjustments. Currently, Kubel (.452), Chavez (.333), Hinske (.600), Montero (.657) and Parra (.658) are all struggling against lefties, showing typical platoon splits. Chavez and Hinske are primarily bench bats that face right-handed pitching late in games, but Kubel, Montero and Parra are expected to drive the offense. Gregorius has hit lefties well in his short time with Arizona, but showed some splits in the minors.
The biggest problem lies in the fact that the team doesn’t have a right-handed compliment to Jason Kubel. His only real value to the team is with his bat since his defense rates so poorly. When lefties take the mound, Kubel is effectively neutralized. Adding Adam Eaton into the lineup may soon be able to fix that defensive issue, but it likely won’t help much in terms of offense against left-handed pitching.
Look for the team to perhaps make a move in the near future to acquire a right-handed outfielder or bench bat with power that they feel more comfortable with than Pollock. Eric Hinske isn’t being used much and could be flipped or the team could put together a package around Pollock to obtain a player more to their liking. Selling high on Pollock might be a good idea and while he’s certainly a functional player, he may not be what the organization needs right now.
This team is in a win-now position and may need to do something to remedy this problem sooner rather than later. Triple-slaching .224/.303/.335 against lefties isn’t going to get it done down the line. With starting pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito, Hyun-Jin Ryu and others likely playing critical roles against the Diamondbacks down the stretch, a strong lineup against lefties is going to be critical. The Dodgers won’t stay in last place forever and the Giants aren’t going anywhere, so improvements must be made. While sample size and slow starts can account for some of the issues, a roster change may be the best solution.