The 2013 Braves Line-up is More Lefty Proof

The Nationals picked Dan Haren to be their number four starter for one very important reason. The Atlanta Braves last season were full of left handed batters and if a team wanted to beat them they had a better chance with a lefty on the mound. Against left handed starting pitching the Braves hit .241/.305/.363 compared to .251/.329/.405 against right handed starting pitching. Because of having Haren fourth the Nats will have Detwiler, Strasburg, and Gonzalez pitching against the Braves, and while this would have been a good strategy last season it may not be so in 2013. 

In five 2012 starts against the Braves last season Ross Detwiler was 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA with the Nats winning three out of five. In 2012 Gio Gonzalez was not as good as Detwiler against the Braves with a final record of 2-2 with a 4.57 ERA. Add in Lannan's start against the Braves and the Nats were 6-4 against the Braves with a lefty on the mound. Think for a second about the Braves 2012 line-up. Michael Bourn for his career has a .642 OPS against left handers, Jason Heyward .665, Freddie Freeman .718,  Brian McCann .756, and while Chipper Jones has a career .889 OPS as a right handed batter against lefties it is far worse than his career .947 OPS as a lefty against righties.  

Michael Bourn is gone to free agency and has been replaced by right handed hitting BJ Upton who for his career has a .798 OPS against left handers. Chipper Jones may have been a worse hitter against left handers but even the weaker side of Chipper Jones is better than any side of Chris Johnson. The player taking Jones' spot in the Braves line-up is Justin Upton who is off to a blazing start with six homeruns in nine games. That will slow down, but for his career Justin Upton has an OPS of .900 against left handed pitchers. Replacing the injured McCann is the right handed power hitting catcher Evan Gattis. Gattis has an interesting back story and while he is a story to root for, a right handed hitter with an 1.266 OPS in his first 25 MLB plate appearances and .920 OPS over five minor league seasons is not a pleasant sight for Nats left handed pitchers.  

The Braves off-season was spent rebuilding their line-up to not just replace what they lost in Bourn, Jones, and Prado, but to make it more lefty proof. In 2012 the Braves were 30-31 against left handed starting pitching and 64-37 against right handers. Improving their overall record against left handed pitching is the quickest way for the Braves to improve their overall record. The Nationals took advantage of the Braves weakness against left handers last season. Detwiler faced the Braves five times, Gio four, Lannan was called up to specifically face the Braves. In ten out of eighteen games the Nationals had a left hander on the mound, and in five of the other eight games the Nats threw Strasburg against the Braves. In total in fifteen of eighteen games the Nationals either had a left hander or Stephen Strasburg pitching against the Braves.  

Davey Johnson has set up this series to be Detwiler, Strasburg, and Gonzalez, but the Braves may not be as weak against left handed pitching in 2013 as they were in 2012. It is hard to call this a mistake as last season's stats and this past Spring Training show Detwiler to be the Nats fourth best pitcher, and against a division opponent having the best available on the mound is always desired. The outcome will be determined by the players, but whereas in 2012 the stats would have been on the Nats side they may not be in 2013. The additions of Upton, Upton, and the emergence of Gattis make the Braves much more lefty proof in 2013 than they were in 2012.

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