While Spring Training is a time for obsessing who will be on the Dodgers’ 25-man roster on Opening Day, Opening Day itself begins a season’s worth of mania over who bats where in the Dodger starting lineup.
Category: Offense (Page 1 of 6)
If the Dodgers had nothing more than a platoon of Kiké Hernández and Joc Pederson entering the season, I’d be fine with the Dodgers in left field.
In a typical Dodger batting order, left field might basically be the No. 7 spot. If Logan Forsythe bounced back from his 2017 struggles at the plate, the left fielder could bat as low as eighth.
Chris Taylor, CF
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Cody Bellinger, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Austin Barnes/Yasmani Grandal, C
Logan Forsythe, 2B
You don’t want left field to be a black hole in the lineup — certainly, by the time the postseason race heats up, you don’t want any black holes in the lineup. But entering the season, the Dodgers are in fine shape with Hernández, who in his career has an .883 OPS with 19 homers in 382 at-bats against left-handed pitching, and Pederson, who has OPSed .823 against righties with 54 homers in 953 at-bats (23 homers per 400 at-bats).
Each player has gone through an extended slump in his career, but both recalibrated by last October — in the glare of the postseason, no less. And, both Hernández and Pederson will be 26 years old for most of the season. It might seem like they’ve been around for a while, but they’re just entering prime time.
In particular, Pederson is a buy-low candidate. His contact rate has improved each of the past three years. His on-base percentage was a career-worst .331 in 2017, but his batting average on balls in play (.241) was the unluckiest of his three full seasons in the majors. In his poorest year, Pederson’s OBP was only .023 behind Chris Taylor in Taylor’s best year.
One other thread in the Andre Ethier legacy is that he is the all-time Los Angeles Dodger leader in times being hit by a pitch, with 58. But at the rate Justin Turner has been going, Ethier’s reign might not last the year.
Last year, the Dodger third baseman set a single-season franchise record with 19 HBPs, breaking Alex Cora’s previous and literal mark of 18. (Cora also held the Los Angeles career mark before Ethier.) That gave Turner 46 plunkings as a Dodger, putting him within 12 of Ethier — and Turner has averaged 14 HBPs over the past three seasons.
By Jon Weisman
There’s always something you can worry about. The bullpen used to be the Big Glum, unless it was the offense, or the starting pitching, or all the injuries.
Now, it seems nothing is more vexing for the Dodgers than their struggles against left-handed pitching.
That was the dominant theme after Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to CC Sabathia and the Yankees, leaving the Dodgers 18-20 when a southpaw starts against them this year, compared with 63-43 when a northpaw noshes.
“Every time we get a left-hander, we feel good about it and are optimistic, but it has been a tough year against left-handed pitching,” Dave Roberts said, according to Doug Padilla of ESPN.com. “The numbers, obviously, as they say, don’t lie. We have to look back at the video with C.C., but it seemed like he kept us at bay and off balance and we didn’t get very many good swings against him. Regardless, we have to find a way to produce baserunners and ultimately runs.”
It’s certainly noticeable that the Dodgers have the Majors’ worst offense against lefties by nearly every measure, from a .294 on-base percentage to 73 weighted runs created, though I’m not convinced that a record near .500 in 38 games sample spells doom.
In distance, they measured 2,025 feet. On the Richter scale, they might as well have been a 10.
Zack Greinke, the darling of Dodger Stadium for three seasons, was punished in his former home like a Rock’Em Sock’Em Robot.
Five home runs off Greinke — a career-high, including four in the fifth inning — shook Chavez Ravine and sent the Dodgers to a 10-2 victory over Arizona tonight.
With San Francisco shut out in Colorado today, Los Angeles leads the National League West by a season-high four games.
The Dodgers’ five leaders in home runs each took Greinke deep — Adrián González (17) with a man on base in the fourth inning, followed by Joc Pederson (20), Corey Seager (24, with two aboard), Justin Turner (25) and feature creature Yasmani Grandal (24).
We have now entered the 10th anniversary month of the 4+1 Game, the most unforgettable regular-season game for a generation of Dodger fans, and one that cemented Marlon Anderson as a folk hero for the franchise.
It’s been hard not to think of Anderson over the past 20-odd hours since Andrew Toles delivered the biggest hit of what has been a magical debut as a Dodger, the 4-in-1 grand slam that completed Los Angeles’ comeback from an 8-2, eighth-inning deficit to a 10-8 victory at Colorado.
Toles’ slam came, to the day, 10 years after Anderson’s acquisition from the Phillies for 20-year-old Gulf Coast League pitcher Jhonny Nunez. And if you look at Anderson’s record as a Dodger in 2006, you find that he played in 25 games — exactly as many as Toles has played so far.
At this moment, there’s even more to link Toles and Anderson. Among players with at least 50 plate appearances in a season for the Dodgers, Toles and Anderson rank No. 2 and No. 3 in adjusted OPS, trailing only 2008’s Manny Ramirez.
I mean, it’s really quite something.
By Jon Weisman
The Dodger offense has been sensational over the past several weeks, and part of the reason for this post, believe it or not, is to remind people (OK, me) that they can’t stay this hot forever.
Right now, the Dodgers have an .814 OPS since the All-Star Break, which is 30 points higher than the Los Angeles record for second-half OPS of .784 by the 2008 Dodgers. In franchise history, only the 1953 Dodgers have had a higher OPS after the All-Star Game.
By Jon Weisman
Adjective-defier Clayton Kershaw takes the mound for the Dodgers tonight, but in a sense, the spotlight will be at least as much on the Dodger offense as Kershaw.
Dodger hitters batted .119 with a .237 on-base percentage and .190 slugging percentage in their three-game series against the Rockies this week. In 98 plate appearances, they had eight singles, 11 walks and as many extra-base hits (two) as hit-by-pitches.
Even including their 12-run outburst Sunday against Atlanta, the Dodgers are hitting .171/.263/.326 in their past 10 games — winning five of them thanks to some favorable pitching. They have 13 homers in those 10 games: six by Corey Seager, three by Trayce Thompson, two by Kiké Hernandez and one each for Yasmani Grandal and Justin Turner.
Roberts said Trayce Thompson has played himself into everyday status. Thompson could play LF, Puig RF.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) June 11, 2016
The potential for a turnaround is unmistakable. Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Turner and Adrian Gonzalez are a combined 6 for 48 with three singles and three extra-base hits, for an OPS in the mid-.400s. Just a dose of their normal selves would go a long way.
But for that turnaround to begin tonight, it will have to come against a pitcher, Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto, who is sixth among MLB pitchers in wins above replacement. And it will have to come at AT&T Park, which has been very much a mixed bag for Los Angeles.
Weird fact: Since the start of 2015, the Dodgers have averaged 4.1 runs per game overall. But in their past 14 games at San Francisco, the Dodgers haven’t once scored four or five runs.
They’ve been held to three runs or less 11 times (2-9 in those games). And on the three occasions that the Dodgers have busted out for six runs or more, they’ve won only once.
I wouldn’t want to say the Dodgers are due, any more than I’d want to say, paraphrasing Vin Scully, that we aren’t all day to day. But to quote another memorable source: “When it’s time to change, then it’s time to change …”
By Jon Weisman
When a foul ball fractured the leg of starting left fielder Andre Ethier in March, knocking him out of action for approximately three months, his position fell primarily to Carl Crawford and Scott Van Slyke.
By the time the Dodgers played their first home game, Crawford and Van Slyke were on the disabled list as well. But the Dodgers have thrived in left field, thanks largely to the fast starts of Trayce Thompson and Kiké Hernandez.
By Jon Weisman
One of the quirks of the way the Dodgers have begun 2016 — hot enough for them to average 5.33 runs per game after their 15-0 win Opening Day — is how few walks they’ve drawn.
Los Angeles has nine walks in four games, and four regulars — Chase Utley, Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Carl Crawford — have yet to earn their first free pass. (Turner and Crawford did not start Thursday.)
Adrian Gonzalez has been the exception, with four bases on balls. Yasiel Puig, interestingly enough, not only is the lone other Dodger who has walked twice, he has but two strikeouts.
The Dodgers’ success when swinging at the first pitch has been something: 13 for 24 with three doubles and a homer. Even when they swing and don’t put that first pitch into play, the Dodgers have reached base at a .323 clip in those plate appearances, including two sacrifice flies.
That first-pitch homer was hit by Joc Pederson, who has also has two doubles among the five times he has swung at the first pitch this season. As new as the season is, Pederson has given us plenty at the plate to explore.
By Jon Weisman
“It’s still wide-open,” Dave Roberts said, according to Bill Plunkett of the Register. “It might change but I don’t foresee a designated leadoff guy – versus left, versus right, versus any type of pitcher – because any day is different, any pitcher is different. So whatever I feel is the best, which makes the most sense for that night or day, we’ll do.”
For some reason, this seems to get under the skin of some fans, who correlate a consistent presence atop the order with winning. And to be sure, if you’ve got guy who posts a .400 on-base percentage against all pitching and doesn’t have redwoods for legs, that’s a good head start toward victory.
But you’re not doomed if you don’t have that person, and it doesn’t serve anyone to pretend that you do. Whatever advantage might be derived from stubbornly batting the same player in the same batting slot, regardless of who the opposing pitcher is, is surely bettered by creating the best matchups.
Let’s look at the Dodgers’ potential leadoff hitters, casting a wide net …
By Jon Weisman
By now, you should be accustomed to the Dodgers pursuing the platoon advantage at nearly every opportunity, whether through their starting lineups or mid-game pinch-hitting.
For example, Andre Ethier has exactly 400 plate appearances this year, and 359 (92 percent) have come against right-handed pitching. For Carl Crawford, it’s 84 percent.
It got me wondering whether the 2015 squad might be the platooningest team in baseball this year, or in Dodger history. The answer is no, though it has been a while since the Dodgers have had such heavy platoon usage.
Compared with the rest of the Major Leagues, the Dodgers rank fourth in platooning … in a very wide scale. (Click chart to enlarge.)
Of course, these stats can be skewed by how often a heavily right-handed-hitting team faced left-handed pitching across 162 games, but you can get a ballpark idea of what teams are emphasizing.
As for Dodger history … the 1965 Dodgers, which debuted the switch-hitting infield of Wes Parker, Jim Lefebvre, Maury Wills and Jim Gilliam, are the all-time franchise leaders in this category since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958. That team had left vs. right or right vs. left almost exactly 75 percent of the time.
The 2015 Dodgers are at 62.3 percent, which ranks 17th on the list — but No. 2 in the past 20 years, trailing only the 2004 Dodgers (64.8 percent). In an average game, this year’s Dodgers will have 23 platoon-advantage plate appearances and 14 at a disadvantage.
Right-handed hitters Howie Kendrick (357 plate appearances), Justin Turner (292) and Yasiel Puig (230) have faced the most righties from the same side, while Adrian Gonzalez (151) and Joc Pederson (110) are tops the opposite way. The Dodgers only have 400 left-on-left plate appearances in their 143 games this year, an average of 2.8 per game.
Seven of the top 10 platooning squads in Los Angeles Dodger history came along between 1961-1971, all under manager Walter Alston. The other three came from 1990-92, under Tom Lasorda. Perhaps oddly, despite the rise of sabermetrics in mainstream acceptance, no Dodger teams outside of 2004 and 2015 crack the top 20 in platoon advantage.
A total of 20 Los Angeles Dodger teams have spent the season at a platoon disadvantage, including the 2014 Dodgers, which faced same-sided pitchers 53.6 percent of the time. Registering lowest on the platoon scale were the 1982 Dodgers, who were at a disadvantage 59.7 percent of the year.
Why does the Dodger offense, talented as it is, seem to be underperforming? Jeff Sullivan offers a sound analysis at Fox Sports’ Just a Bit Outside. The conclusion might seem mundane unless you go through his process, so I recommend you read the entire story.
Update: Cincinnati slugger Joey Votto has given some words of encouragement to Dodger rookie Joc Pederson when the two have met at first base, writes Pedro Moura in this nice piece for the Register.
— Jon Weisman
[mlbvideo id=”289758183″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]
By Jon Weisman
For the first time since 2008, the Dodgers have seven players with at least 10 home runs, thanks to Jimmy Rollins hitting his 10th in tonight’s 7-2 victory over the Mets.
Yasiel Puig, who hit his sixth tonight, and Howie Kendrick (seven) are also on pace to reach double digits, which would give the Dodgers a franchise record-tying nine players with at least 10 homers.
The 2004 Dodgers are the only such team, with Adrian Beltre, Milton Bradley, Alex Cora, Juan Encarnacion, Steve Finley, Shawn Green, Jose Hernandez, Paul Lo Duca and Jayson Werth.
Justin Turner hit his 13th home run tonight, along with two doubles, to tie a career high with eight total bases. The Dodgers had at least 25 total bases for the 10th time this year.