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.
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 Cary Osborne
Through 28 games last season, the Dodgers hit 47 home runs — the most in the Majors at the time. They also scored 143 runs, which was tied for third-best, with 51 percent of those runs scoring on home runs.
Through the same amount of games this season, the Dodgers have hit 20 homers — 29th in the Majors — and have scored 121 runs, ninth in baseball. Thus far, the Dodgers are getting 24.8 percent of their runs from homers.
The Dodgers have scored 91 runs this season by methods other than a home run. At this time last year, they scored 70 runs by methods other than a home run.
So where did all the homers go?
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 Cary Osborne
Rookie status is gone for Joc Pederson.
The first sign of that is his reflection. The second sign is his looking forward.
Pederson said he knows what led to the derailment of his rookie season midway through — a rookie season that started on a historic pace. But he finds that adversity is good for this baseball player’s soul.