W2W4: Santana vs. the lefties

In the six starts that Johan Santana has made since throwing a no-hitter against the Cardinals on June 1, the only team he has pitched well against is the one he's facing tonight-- the Dodgers.

Santana's numbers against the Dodgers are otherworldly: 5-0 in five starts with an 0.50 ERA.

But this will be a different Dodgers lineup than the one he faced on June 30, most notably because it will include righty Matt Kemp and his numbers against left-handed pitching, which are ridiculous (21-for-44 with six homers).

Left-Handed Hitters vs Santana
2012 Season

That might not be Santana's biggest concern.

If you were going to pinpoint the biggest difference in performance for Santana between when he's gone good versus when he's gone bad, it would be his ability to get left-handed hitters out.

The chart on the right shows what has turned into a notable issue.

In six starts since the no-hitter, Santana has given up 16 hits to lefties, including home runs to Robinson Cano (two of them), Anthony Rizzo, and Freddie Freeman.

All four of those were particularly costly, because they came with men on base.

Santana's problems have been caused by two things.

He hasn't had the zip on his fastball that allowed him to get swings-and-misses from lefties (check out the miss percentage on his heater in that chart).

When Santana tries to put a left-handed hitter away with a fastball, he'll typically try to locate it up and out of the strike zone. But he has left a few over the middle of the plate, and they've gotten whacked.

The same thing has happened with the slider. Rizzo and Cano took hanging breaking balls deep.

That sort of thing wasn't happening earlier in the season. In fact, Santana's first 47 sliders to lefties resulted in no base runners and 12 outs. His next 79 have gotten 20 outs, but they've also allowed seven base runners (including the two homers)

This would be the sort of lineup against which Santana could get back on track.

Likely lefty starters James Loney, Andre Ethier, and Tony Gwynn Jr. are hitting a combined .231 against southpaws this season, with Ethier's two homers the only longballs in 264 at-bats.