Reds struggles against left-handed pitching can be traced to injuries (and suspension)

David Bell is not playing with a full roster.
Cincinnati Reds infielder Noelvi Marte
Cincinnati Reds infielder Noelvi Marte / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

For those with a short memory, the Cincinnati Reds had quite a lot of success against left-handed pitching in 2023. Cincinnati ranked fourth in all of baseball with a .799 OPS against southpaws last season.

But the Reds have struggled out of the gates against left-handed pitching this season. Cincinnati ranks 12th in OPS (.749) and are tied with the Cleveland Guardians for the fifth-most strikeouts (44) against left-handed pitching.

This is not a David Bell problem. In fact, Bell is doing the exact same thing he did last season against left-handers; loading up the starting lineup with right-handed bats. Nor is this a Nick Krall problem. Cincinnati's 40-man roster is loaded with enough players who've had success against lefties. No, this is an issue because of injuries and the suspension of Noelvi Marte.

The Reds are without TJ Friedl, Matt McLain & Noelvi Marte

While it's true that the Reds non-tendered their best weapon against left-handed pitching, Nick Senzel no longer warranted a spot on the roster. He'd been relegated to a platoon bat, and the Reds roster was overflowing with players whose overall talent trumped that of the former first-round pick. There's also the matter of Senzel's injury history. The Reds former outfielder began this season where he ended the last one - on the IL.

But beyond Senzel, the Reds best hitters against left-handed pitchers were TJ Friedl and Matt McLain. Friedl, a left-handed hitter, had a .963 OPS against left-handers in 2023, and McLain was slightly better with a .995 OPS.

Marte didn't display as much power against left-handed pitching during his brief tenure in the big leagues last season, but the third baseman had 10 hits in 32 at-bats (.314) versus lefties in 16 games last season. For all those clamoring to see Elly De La Cruz sit against left-handers, you can thank Marte for Bell's lack of options.

Stuart Fairchild has stepped up in a big way and is hitting .455 against lefties to begin the season. Bell is hopeful that trend continues, as Fairchild could serve a role similar to Senzel's from last season while also providing better defense in the outfield. Bell has also given Will Benson some extra chances against left-handers in the early-going. To date, Benson is just 1-for-7 in those situations.

Getting Friedl back will hopefully mitigate some of the Reds' struggles against lefties, and when Marte returns later this summer, it'll give Bell more options. McLain's injury status is still up in the air following shoulder surgery, and there are questions about whether or not he'll return this season. For now, Bell is working with what he's got.

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