There is a bit of calculation going on with the Phillies this off-season, and their latest signing may very well have an Atlanta Braves’ slugger in mind.
It was a key moment for the Atlanta Braves in that Opening Day game last year when starter Aaron Nola was pulled from the game in the 6th innings, having thrown just 68 pitches and yielding a single run.
It also set a tone for the Phillies in 2018: homers from left-handed opposition batters.
Those were the first 2 of 94 homers hit against Philly in 2018. Teams ranking worse? Only Cincy, Seattle, Baltimore and Detroit.
In actual fact, you could argue that the Phillies got off easy against this pair of LHH hitters. Left-handed batters finished the year with an OPS of .779 and a WHIP allowed of 1.44 (8th worst overall).
Against right-handed hitters, the Phils were much more stingy: 2nd best in baseball by giving up only 77 homers and a .683 OPS. Big difference.
Certainly, though, the Phillies still look at Freeman as a big threat and saw a need to replace a segment of their bullpen that was homer-friendly to hitters like himself. This could also be a minor reason why they are working hard to get Bryce Harper to join their club.
David Robertson is set to be one big answer to this problem.
Though the right-hand pitcher did yield 6 LHH home runs in 2018 (vs. 1 to RHH), this flies in the face of a career in which his reverse power split shows better results against left-handers: 35 HR to just 21 for lefties, with better numbers across the board.
This signing may not be a total panacea for the Phillies, but you have to give them credit: they know about this Achilles Heel and they are trying to directly address the problem.
Robertson will get the ball whenever a late-inning situation occurs that brings up Freeman or McCann or any other left slugger the Braves might manage to conjure up.
That is his entire purpose, and the reason that he’s going to get a guaranteed $23 million over the next 2 seasons.
Freeman, Matt Adams, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Juan Soto, and the newly-arriving Robinson Cano may be the remaining LH threats that they will see on a regular basis, but if they can knock that Big Fly number down to any significant degree, things will certainly have a chance to go better for them.
If nothing else, it’s another example of something that a rival club is doing to make themselves better… and one that takes aim at a key member of the Braves in particular.