What’s that? A southpaw is taking the hill? This would usually spell trouble for the Atlanta Braves‘ lineup. But not anymore.
The Braves so far have erased their inability to hit left handed pitching. For the past three years, they could not solve this issue. On multiple occasions, managers would alter their rotations to have Atlanta face a lefty. In 2012, they compiled a measly 30-31 record against lefties.
Braves fans were nervous that these issues might continue into 2013. They lost two of their most consistent right-handed hitters, Martin Prado and Chipper Jones. GM Frank Wren knew this was an issue he had to address in the offseason.
His moves added a combination of balance and power to the lineup, with the Upton brothers being the main additions. Justin Upton was the best hitter in April, breaking a Braves franchise record for HRs in the month. B.J. Upton has struggled mightily so far, but he hasn’t dragged down the rest of the order.
Chris Johnson, who came with Upton in the trade with Arizona, has caught fire and is near the top of the National League in batting average. 26-year-old rookie Evan Gattis has been sterling with the bat so far. Even though Brian McCann is now back, Gattis can provide pop off the bench and give outfielders a day off.
The Braves quickly addressed the southpaw issue by winning five of the first six games in which they faced a left handed starter. They currently stand at 8-3 against lefties and should continue to thrive if their lineup stays as is. Atlanta has hit an impressive 16 HRs against lefties this season. They have a higher AVG, OBP and slugging percentage versus lefties than righties.
Atlanta will need to keep it going because they will likely face a number of strong lefties should they reach the playoffs. No longer can teams stack lefties against them. The Washington Nationals won’t have an advantage by throwing Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler. The San Francisco Giants will hesitate to send Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito back to back. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates won’t be able to get playoff revenge by using Jeff Locke and Wandy Rodriguez.
These men would have all given the Braves fits in years past. But Upton, Johnson and Gattis are now on board and Atlanta can soon put this problem behind them.