A widely documented struggle of last year, the Braves lineup came into this year hoping for major improvement against left-handed pitchers. Last year’s .228/.290/.352 line (76 wRC+) was the second worst line in the majors, with only Seattle showing more southpaw incompetence. Even righties Martin Prado, Dan Uggla, and David Ross had poor results against lefties, while Brian McCann was the only hitter with at least 50 PA against LHP to have a significantly above-average line. Despite small samples rarely exceeding 200 PA, this was a troubling sign for Atlanta.
This year, things are definitely better, boasting a .249/.320/.391 (92 wRC+) line, much closer to average. Of all the regulars, only Jason Heyward is significantly below average (as the above picture facing Tom Gorzelanny shows) against lefties. Ross and Matt Diaz are the only bench players hitting lefties better than Heyward’s .220/.284/.355 line, however. With Fredi’s reluctance to use Ross as more than a last-resort pinch-hitter, this could still use quite a bit of improvement.
While there is clear raw improvement, that is not the only way to evaluate this split. The Braves offense is more important this year, due to the lack of pitching success so far. The difference between LHP and RHP performance could mean turning a decent offense into an iffy offense, something the Braves can’t afford with their pitching. Last year’s wRC+ split was 20 points (96 vs. R, 76 vs. L), while this year’s is only 7 points (99 vs. 92), making for a more “consistent” team.
With the Braves on pace for 91 wins, you can think of the team as a 93-win team facing a RH starter and an 87-win team facing a lefty. Last year, the split would have been closer to 97 vs. 79, where teams can make the Braves look like an average team just by sticking a lefty on the mound. Opponents have seemed to do that, with the Braves having the most PA against a LHP in the majors this year. Facing Mark Buehrle tonight, the Braves are not as good as they could be, but they are a much better team than they were last year.