Of course the Braves destroy left-handed pitching. They have a roster stacked full of powerful right-handed bats. From Ronald Acuña Jr, to RH Ozzie Albies, to Austin Riley, to Sean Murphy, to Marcell Ozuna, to Travis d’Arnaud, to Orlando Arcia and more. The Braves lead the majors with a 140 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this season, which of course is a ridiculous amount of production. They’re first in average, OPS, and SLG%, and second in OBP. If you throw a left-handed starter against this team, may God have mercy on your soul.
The problem, at least for most of the season, was the offense wasn’t finding that same level of success against right-handed pitching. In April and May, the Braves had a 99 wRC+ against right-handed pitching, which ranked 17th in baseball. A far cry from the number one ranked offense in baseball against left-handed pitching. While the Braves go 8 or 9 players deep in powerful right-handed hitters, they’re not nearly as deep from the left side of the plate. Matt Olson, Eddie Rosario, Michael Harris II, and Sam Hilliard represent the only true left-handed hitters on the team, and while Albies is a switch hitter, he’s always been substantially better from the right side vs the left.
And not only do the Braves not have as many quality left-handed bats on the roster, the ones they have almost all got off to slow starts at the plate against RHP. Rosario, Harris, and LH Ozzie all had a very slow first couple of months of the season, which meant Olson, Acuña, and Murphy were left having to carry pretty much all of the load vs right-handers.
Three guys out of nine hitting is a really good way to be inconsistent at the plate and inconsistent was what they were against right-handed pitching for the first two months of the season. And one big problem with that setup is teams almost always see more RH pitching over the course of a season than LH pitching. It changes year-to-year and player-to-player but generally speaking, hitters face a LHP one time for every two times they face a RHP. So being much worse against RHP is a problem a team needs to solve.
The best way to solve a problem like that, at least before trades become a realistic option, is for the guys already on the team to simply do their job better. The Braves were built with the idea that Rosario, LH Ozzie, and Harris would help carry the load against RHP and the simplest way for the Braves to fix their RHP problem was for those three guys to increase their production.
Enter the month of June.
In the month of June, the Braves have a 152 wRC+ against RHP, the best mark in baseball by a mile, and a significant portion of it is because those three players have gotten scorching hot. Against RHP in the month of June, Eddie Rosario has 7 HRS and a 221 wRC+, LH Ozzie has 6 HRs and a 195 wRC+, and Harris has 3 HRs and a 185 wRC+. Not only have those three begun to carry their own weight, they’ve become a dominant force and turned the Braves’ lineup into a nightmare to face, regardless of what type of pitcher steps on the mound.
And Brian Snitker has used these hot streaks to rearrange his lineup. Ozzie has moved up to the 2-spot since he’s now crushing both types of pitchers, which has moved Olson to the 5-spot, which seems to have jogged some of his offense loose. Rosario has been batting 7th and Harris 9th, giving the Braves a 1-9 juggernaut of a lineup and absolutely no where to go for an easy out. Ironically, the easiest out on the team at the moment is probably the 3-hole hitter Austin Riley, but don’t expect that to last too much longer. With their LH bats finally joining the party, this lineup has become almost impossible to pitch to and runs are possible with every pitch to every hitter.
The Braves fixed their largest offensive deficiency by patiently waiting for the guys they expected to do the job, to actually do the job. Even the most optimistic hopes for those three guys probably didn’t include a stretch this hot, especially not all at the same time. But no one is complaining. There’ll be another point in the season where the offense dries up and runs will feel like they’re impossible to come by, which will make this stretch of bludgeoning other teams with absurd levels of hitting that much sweeter.
But offensive balance is vitally important. Especially in the post-season. Teams can match you up to death if you’re too one-sided in your production. Even with the excellence the Braves’ left-handed hitters have shown in this stretch, I wouldn’t be shocked if Anthopoulos still decided he wanted another quality LH bat for the bench. Especially since Hilliard has been relegated to a pinch-running/defensive replacement role. The quality of RH bats on the team still outnumber the quality of LH bats on the team 2-to-1. Atlanta could still use more help on that side of the plate.
But the problem is no where close to as serious as it was a few weeks ago. The offense has found its balance and the result has been the most lethal lineup in the sport.