FanPost

Why can't the Angels hit left-handed pitching?

We turned this guy into Cy Young. - Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

"we can hit lefties we can hit lefties we can hit lefties"

I say this at the start of every game thread when we're facing a left handed starter, and yet every time the offense decides to do everything except hit lefties. Maybe I jinx them. Maybe they do it simply to spite me. Or maybe they just really, really suck against LHP, a trend which appears to have started in 2015.

This season, the Angels are batting .207/.293/.348 against lefties. Which, spoiler alert, is not good. That's a .641 OPS. That's a 77 wRC+. But hey! Here's something cheerful! That's only tied for 5th worst in the majors! We are not dead last! We did it!

So, why the hell can we not hit lefties?

The Angels themselves don't know, which is troubling, to say the least. Some of the players speculate that they've just faced excellent pitchers, or that lefties just happen to throw really well the day they face the Angels. I could buy that if it was only every once and a while- we do have some tough lefties in the division, after all. But when every lefty just happens to have a career night against the exact same team, I have a hard time thinking the fault doesn't lie elsewhere...

I'm not going to pretend that I can look at guys' approaches and see what they do differently versus a righty/lefty. But I can look at some numbers and pretend I understand them! So let's take a look at a few and to try and figure out what's going on. Or just rage. I'll be pulling all the stats from FanGraphs, because it has the easiest splits tool to use and I'm lazy.

First, in continuing with the theme of the season, we only strike out 16% of the time against lefties, which is the lowest rate in the majors. We also walk at a 9.5% clip, which is about league average. Both those numbers are pretty much identical to our normal K% and BB%, so at the very least, or basic plate discipline and approach seems to be in tact. We're a team that's going to make a lot of contact. The quality of contact, however...

The Angels have a hilariously low BABIP against lefties at .220. This shouldn't be a surprise, since the Angels in general have a low BABIP, tied for 3rd lowest in the majors at .278 against all opponents. Some might say this is a sign of bad luck, and in some cases it is. But I'd also say it's a sign of A) poor contact and B) the shift, which is there to make sure that poor contact doesn't find holes. You can see for yourself how often each Angels hitter is shifted against, and how often they hit ground balls in that direction. Fun. I can't imagine why we lead the league in GIDP...

Here's a chart comparing the Angels batted ball profile and quality of contact against different handed pitching.

LD%

GB%

FB%

HR/FB

Pull%

Center%

Oppo%

Soft%

Med%

Hard%

vs ALL

21.5%

42.7%

35.9%

13.0%

42.5%

34.9%

22.6%

16.2%

44.6%

39.2%

vs RHP

22.4%

43.0%

34.6%

14.4%

42.4%

35.7%

21.9%

15.8%

42.7%

41.4%

vs LHP

19.4%

41.8%

38.8%

10.3%

42.8%

32.9%

24.3%

17.1%

49.0%

33.9%

There are a couple of different things you could look at here, but the gist of it pretty much confirms what the eye test told us: the Angels struggle to make good contact against lefties. I'm not sure you can say hard hit rate necessarily equals success (the M's Hard% is only 24% but they have a team wRC+ of 106 against LHP this season), but it does show some of the differences in contact compared to our profile against RHP, which we're third best in the majors against.

So those are the team stats, which may or may not be helpful. Let's look at individual players:

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

BABIP

wRC+

Tommy La Stella

31

.208

.367

.333

.700

.200

104

Mike Trout

62

.208

.387

.500

.887

.188

140

Shohei Ohtani

17

.286

.412

.286

.697

.571

109

Andrelton Simmons

57

.273

.298

.455

.753

.271

102

Albert Pujols

52

.224

.269

.490

.759

.189

101

Kole Calhoun

60

.135

.250

.250

.500

.135

44

Brian Goodwin

28

.208

.296

.333

.630

.250

75

David Fletcher

64

.203

.266

.288

.554

.193

49

Johnathon Lucroy

43

.238

.256

.429

.672

.242

81

Kevan Smith

33

.407

.515

.593

1.108

.478

204

Zack Cozart

43

.111

.186

.111

.297

.121

-13

Justin Bour

25

.200

.360

.250

.610

.286

85

Wow. This was depressing to type up. Like, really depressing.

So, outside of Mike Trout and Kevan Smith, who I'm pretty sure Eppler got solely because he can hit lefties, we have three guys who can them at around a league average rate. Of those three guys, one is going to be out for months, if not the whole season. Another is Tommy La Slugger, though he hasn't really slugged against lefties. The other guy is Albert Pujols. Ohtani hasn't had enough PA against lefties to judge either way, though in that limited time he has an ugly 41.2 K% against them. For what it's worth, I think he'll end up being fine vs LHP once he gets his timing together.

Everyone else is... just wow. It's almost impressive how bad this is. The numbers speak for themselves.

So is there any chance it could get better?

Maybe. Probably not. We probably can't keep sucking this bad forever?

First of all, a measly 140 wRC+, Trout? Really? We all know Trout's been in a "slump" for about a month now. For his career he's hit .289/.414/.526/.939 with a 160 wRC+ against lefties. Right now, his BABIP is unsustainably low (career .336 across the board) and he has a 19.4 Hard% this season vs a 36.8% for his career. There's no reason he shouldn't be able to get back to his career norms.

Of course, Mike Trout can't carry a baseball team, as we're all painfully aware. So who else can help us against the dreaded left handed pitcher?

Last year, David Fletcher hit .262/.308/.364/.672 against lefties, which, okay, isn't great, but would still be a significant improvement over his current numbers. At AAA in 2017 and 2018, however, he slashed .355/.384/.455 against LHP, and consistently hit them better than righties throughout the minor leagues. Additionally, Fletch has a 46.6% hard contact rate against lefties this season, but his ground ball rate has jumped up to 43.9%, 10% more than last year. Coincidently, his line drive rate has gone down from 32.6% to 24.6%. Hitting the ball hard on the ground tends to not have great results. As the designated leadoff hitter against lefties (and that's a debate for another day. Or for the comment section), Fletch needs to, at the very least, get back to last season's numbers, and preferably improve them.

I was going to look at the rest of the lineup, but honestly I didn't see much reach for hope. Ohtani hit lefties well in Japan and started to at the end of last season, but we'll just have to see if he can find that again. For the rest of the main lineup that hasn't been mentioned, it's mostly a hope that they can hit closer to their career norms, most of which... aren't great. Sure, the .606 OPS Calhoun posted last season against lefties is better, but can you really say that improves the lineup? Lucroy is pretty much hitting them how he hit them last season. Cozart hit lefties well in Cincinnati, but well, he hasn't hit period since coming to Anaheim. Our best chance is probably just to hope that the prospects that come up don't mysteriously lose their ability to hit LHP once they get to the big leagues.

The Angels face 3 lefties in their next 3 games. If their rotation stays on schedule, it looks like we'll also face 3 lefties in the Mariners series next week. I don't even know who the A's have pitching for them this season, but they'll probably call up a lefty just to face us. Unless the offense can figure out how to solve LHP, it's hard to see how this team can ever reach .500.

This FanPost is authored by an independent fan. Tell us what you think and how you feel.