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June 11, 2019

How to beat the 2019 Phillies: be left-handed

Sports Phillies
Jerad-Eickhoff-Phillies-Homers_061119_USAT Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports

The Phillies starting pitchers have been dreadful against left-handed hitters this season.

If you watched Monday night's slugfest — one that the Phillies were on the losing end of after surrendering eight home runs in a 13-8 bloodbath — you already know this from the eyeball test: Philly can't handle left-handed hitters.

The majority of the damage done by Arizona was with their lefty or switch-hitting bats. And Philly has very little it can do to stop southpaw hitters. 

When Gabe Kapler lifted Jerad Eickhoff Monday to try and minimize the damage, he turned to left-handed reliever Ranger Suarez. The rookie gave up four runs. After a quiet inning from righty Edgar Garcia, lefty reliever Austin Davis gave up two more runs.

The Phillies are desperately missing lefty specialist Adam Morgan, who has a 1.69 ERA and will hopefully return from the injured list soon. Beyond that, Philly is susceptible to any and all left-handed hitting.

Below are the numbers from the Phillies' five current starters and their three current left-handed relievers. Notice the advantage lefty hitters have had this season:

 BAA vs LBAA vs RERA vs LERA vs RHR L 
Jake Arrieta.301.2495.613.3310
Zach Eflin.252.2413.822.188
Aaron Nola.311.2396.443.426
Nick Pivetta.259.3143.866.233
Jared Eickhoff*.293.2179.472.8210
Jose Alvarez (L).240.3403.553.863
Austin Davis (L).400.2115.404.761
Ranger Suarez (L).167.4620.0015.430

*Note: The Phillies decided to place Eickhoff in their bullpen Tuesday after his ugly seven run performance earlier this week. It is yet unknown who will take his spot in the rotation.

The Phillies have allowed 57 home runs to left-handed hitters, the most in the majors by a wide margin. They are on pace to allow 265 homers total (h/t Todd Zolecki) which would be an NL record after allowing just 171 last season. 

“It's definitely a problem,” Phillies manager Kapler said via MLB.com. “It's definitely something we have to get out in front of and figure out how to solve. That's a lot of work on the part of the staff. That's our responsibility to get out in front of that."

Against left-handed hitters, the Phillies have given up the most homers, the third highest on-base percentage, the second highest slugging percentage and the third highest batting average against. 

This directly correlates into the standings. Teams loaded with left-handed bats (of which, by the way, the Phillies have exactly two, Bryce Harper and Jay Bruce) have given the Phillies fits. They dropped a series out west to the Dodgers (Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seger, Joc Peterson), to the Rockies (Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl, Daniel Murphy), and the Brewers (Christian Yelich, Mike Moustakas and others). Those teams will be standing in Philly's way come the postseason.

Getting healthy will help. The bullpen pieces currently on the DL are much better against lefties. But the first few times through the opponent's order, the Phillies starters are being torn apart, as can be seen in the table above.

Having a left-handed starter, a player who can step in every fifth day and force their opposition to adjust their line up in the middle of a series could help. And you can be sure, as the Phillies shop for pieces ahead of the trade deadline, a left-handed arm will be a priority. 

Because if it isn't, the recipe for beating the Phillies is painfully simple. If the Diamondbacks can do it, so can everyone else.


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