The Dodgers have one of the best offensive units in MLB. They score a lot of runs and that’s a big reason why they are on pace to break the franchise record for regular season wins. A huge part of the reason they are producing such historically great run production is because the top four hitters in their lineup (Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and Cody Bellinger) are among the top run producers in baseball.
While the 1-4 guys are some of the best hitters in baseball the Dodgers have a hole in their lineup that has been a problem since the beginning of the 2017 season. The Number 5 spot (behind Bellinger) has been one of the weakest spots in the Dodger lineup. This spot has been primarily occupied by two players this season, Joc Pederson and Logan Forsythe.
Both hitters have struggled this season for various reasons. For Joc early season injuries have derailed him offensively and defensively. Joc has battled a strained groin and a massive collision with Yasiel Puig which caused him to miss time earlier in the season.
Joc has been struggling. There is no denying that. Over his last 28 days Pederson has slashed a remarkably unproductive .121/.227/.276 (7 for 58). He’s had just two extra-base hits in that time frame and has reached base just 11 times on a hit or a walk. He’s done poorly against left handers too, posting a .586 OPS and a .191 batting average in 53 plate appearances. Overall Joc is slashing .216/.330/.420 (53 for 245) with 11 home runs and 33 walks over 288 plate appearances.
Granted that is a small sample size, but it’s all we have to go on for him this season. If we delve a little deeper into his problems this year we see that his BABIP (average on batted balls in play) is at .243. That could mean he’s hit into some poor batted ball luck, but there are other issues that raise some more concerns.
For instance his BB% has decreased from 13.2% in 2016 to 11.5% in 2017. While his swinging strike percentage has decreased from 27.5% in 2016 to 21.5% this season, His line drive percentages (20.6% in 2016, and 18.5% in 2017) have also decreased from last year to this year as well. His ground ball rates have also increased from 39.7% in 2016 to 48.4% this season. He seems to be pulling off the ball more this year evidenced by his 49.5% pull percentage. He only hits to the opposite field 20.7% of the time.
So Joc is hitting less line drives than ever before. He’s hitting the ball on the ground much more often than in the air and he’s getting on base at the worst clip of his career. Not good.
Joc isn’t the only number five guy that is having a hard time this year. Second baseman Logan Forsythe is having issues too. Forsythe is batting just .236 (59 for 250) with 3 home runs and 24 RBI in 306 plate appearances. He’s posted a .675 OPS and his lack of power has been astonishing. Considering he hit 20 home runs with Tampa Bay just a year ago.
Forsythe does get on base a lot thanks to one of the best plate discipline skill sets in the National League. Forsythe has drawn 49 walks and has a .363 OBP. His 16.1% BB rate is awesome. But he’s had just 13 of his 59 base knocks go for extra-bases this year. That comes out to a laughably low .076 ISO power mark and just a 92 wRC+
Basically Forsythe has been punch-less while still being able to see a lot of pitches and draw walks. How have both men done in the fifth spot?
Pederson is batting just .178 (8 for 45) with 2 home runs in the number 5 spot in the order. Forsythe has fared a little better slashing .266/.385/.316 in the five spot. However he’s done that with little power. He’s posted a .702 OPS and just 4 (no home runs) extra-base hits.
The number five spot in the Dodger’s batting order is very important because that’s the guy who hits behind Cody Bellinger. These are the guys that are providing lineup protection for young Cody and it seems to be a big hole. Of course it hasn’t stopped the Dodgers from producing a lot of runs overall, but it could lead to problems down the road when opposing clubs figure out that they can simply walk or pitch around Bellinger to get to lesser bats I.E. Pederson or Forsythe.
It seems as though the Dodgers have figured this out somewhat, announcing that Joc will be dropped in the order to the number seven position. I am assuming Forsythe will continue to bat fifth for now. While that is a bit better, it’s still not great.
What the Dodgers should consider doing in order to fine tune the lineup and make sure Bellinger has proper lineup protection is to put Yasiel Puig, or Yasmani Grandal in that five spot. I know Puig has performed very well in the eighth hole, but I think he would perform well batting in any slot considering his immense talent. In the meantime let’s hope that opposing clubs don’t figure this out and continue to pitch to Bellinger.