Why a recent Braves move is a strategy that the SF Giants should follow

World Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v Texas Rangers - Game Two
World Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v Texas Rangers - Game Two / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

The Atlanta Braves have been stockpiling left-handed pitchers seemingly with the intent of countering the Los Angeles Dodgers' lefty-heavy lineup. Given that the SF Giants are in the same division as Los Angeles and will play them 13 times in 2024, they might want to follow a similar strategy.

Why a recent Braves move is a strategy that the SF Giants should follow

Of course, the Dodgers have made the biggest moves of the offseason, adding Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto on lucrative, long-term deals. As currently constructed, the Dodgers' lineup core consists of Ohtani, Freddie Freeman, and Mookie Betts.

Ohtani and and Freeman hit from the left side along with Jason Heyward, James Outman, and Max Muncy. From the right side, Betts is joined by Chris Taylor and Will Smith as the primary right-handed hitters.

That lineup does not have many weaknesses. Whether they are facing off against a righty or lefty, it is going to be a tough challenge for the opposing pitcher. That said, the Braves appear to be trying to tip the scales slightly in their favor by loading up on left-handed pitching.

The Chris Sale trade over the weekend is the latest example of that. The left-handed hurler has not been healthy consistently in recent years but he still flashed a solid sinker-slider mix in just over 100 innings with the Boston Red Sox in 2023. Left-handed hitters have struggled to the tune of a .534 OPS across Sale's 13-year career.

The Aaron Bummer trade is another example of this strategy. The Braves acquired the veteran reliever in a six-player trade with the Chicago White Sox in November. Bummer's overall numbers were ghastly as he posted a 6.79 ERA in 61 appearances with Chicago last year. The southpaw reliever has been tough on left-handed hitters, allowing a .199 batting average and .527 OPS in his career.

To a lesser extent, Ángel Perdomo and Ben Bowden are a couple of relievers that the Braves signed to minor league contracts. Both have tallied favorable platoon splits against lefties in small samples.

It feels like the Braves know that they will face off against the Dodgers in meaningful games next year. They want to be prepared. Can using relievers with favorable platoon splits help neutralize the Dodgers' lineup that is full of star hitters.

It is not likely, but if a team is trying to capture a small edge, having a lot of weapons against left-handed hitters is a way to go. Freeman and Ohtani will hit regardless of who is on the mound, but their track record does point to them being better against right-handed pitching. Plus, having a surplus of lefties could force Muncy to the bench given that he has shown more extreme platoon splits in recent years.

How does this affect the Giants? They are extremely light on left-handed pitching. Taylor Rogers, Erik Miller, and Kyle Harrison are the only left-handed pitchers on the 40-man roster. If you are going to face a team like the Dodgers 13 times, you need to be prepared.

It bears mentioning that while the San Diego Padres were solid against left-handed pitching (123 wRC+) last year, the Arizona Diamondbacks (92 wRC+) and the Colorado Rockies (73 wRC+) were much more vulnerable. In fact, no team performed worse than the Rockies against left-handed pitching in 2023. That is 13 games against a division opponent who struggles badly against left-handed pitching.

The good news for the Giants is that there are still a lot of quality, left-handed pitchers left in free agency. Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, and Shōta Imanaga are some of the options still out there. It would behoove the Giants to add more balance to a rotation that leans too much in favor of right-handed pitching. They know who the opponents will be and should follow the Braves' lead on this one.