We’ve discussed the importance of good base running and speed in the Dodger’s lineup. Now we’re going to discuss an equally important aspect of a well balanced lineup. That is the art of situational hitting. Some call it timely hitting, and some call it clutch hitting. Whatever you want to call it the skill of hitting with runners in scoring position is extremely paramount to a winning ball club. The whole point of a good offensive approach is to score runners once you get them on base and into scoring position.
Last season the Dodgers took a huge step back in this category. Not only did they take a big dip, but they plummeted to the bottom of all of MLB in situational hitting. For whatever reason, the Dodgers just could not get runners home unless they were trotting around the bases after hitting a home run.
The 2014 Dodgers had a more well rounded offensive team. This explains why they scored more runs. As a matter of fact, those 2014 Dodgers were the best in baseball in hitting with runners in scoring position. The 2015 Dodgers fell to 22 out of the 30 MLB clubs. That is a large drop-off from the previous season. Check out the numbers below as we compare the 14 Dodgers to the 15 Dodgers in this ever critical category.
|1||Toronto Blue Jays||634||388||52||597||171||282||.286||.359||.839|
|2||Kansas City Royals||547||370||33||518||133||213||.281||.347||.772|
|5||San Francisco Giants||537||387||34||506||162||304||.277||.352||.777|
|8||Boston Red Sox||547||370||36||510||158||284||.271||.340||.761|
|12||San Diego Padres||474||323||31||449||135||320||.259||.325||.726|
|13||New York Yankees||557||326||62||531||179||290||.256||.341||.806|
|15||Los Angeles Angels||461||285||33||425||153||259||.253||.340||.731|
|16||Chicago White Sox||466||319||27||443||143||296||.252||.332||.704|
|18||New York Mets||476||319||32||450||176||303||.252||.344||.736|
|22||Los Angeles Dodgers||447||308||37||422||165||305||.249||.336||.730|
|25||Tampa Bay Rays||453||309||31||425||162||331||.244||.329||.693|
|27||St. Louis Cardinals||464||320||26||440||166||343||.242||.326||.683|
It’s almost hard to believe such a large disparity from one season to the next could have happened, but it did. Let’s take a look once more quickly so you can gasp at this shocking turn of events.
2014 Dodgers with runners in scoring position –
|1||Los Angeles Dodgers||575||420||81||10||42||547||184||341||.286||.364||.440||.804|
2015 Dodgers with runners in scoring position –
|22||Los Angeles Dodgers||447||308||62||3||37||422||165||305||.249||.336||.394||.730|
Those 15 numbers are pretty ugly. That comes out to a -128 run differential from 2014 to 2015. So what could possibly explain this? You could say that maybe Andrew Friedman and the moneyball guys just don’t value situational hitting. After all the typical moneyball approach to offense is normally with home runs and walks. Indeed if you look at the way the Dodgers scored all season in 2015, it was mainly via the long ball and free passes. Get guys on base by drawing walks and then score them with home runs. We’ve seen this strategy before and it is never sustainable into October. Yes of course home runs are great, but you have to be able to score runs other ways and you certainly have to be able to get those clutch hits.
Taking a look at the best and worst Dodger hitters with runners in scoring position from last year, we can see that the top hitter is the guy that will no longer be there in 2016. Of course. Howie Kendrick and Enrique Hernandez were the best clutch hitters on the club. Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner were very good as well. Take a look at the top 5 hitters.
This is why not bringing Kendrick back is such a big mistake. He was an assassin with runners in scoring position. For an offense that struggled to score runs, his production is difficult to replace. Now let’s take a look at the 5 worst clutch hitters last season.
Joc and Puig have to be more productive in 2016 in order for the Dodgers to get far into October. Joc’s second half nosedive and Puig’s unproductive year killed the Dodgers offensively. With those guys ineffective the boys in blue had to rely on Kendrick, Gonzalez and Turner to knock in most of the runs. What was supposed to be a balanced attack ended up being exactly the opposite.
We can’t just blame Friedman for this though, that would be stupid. Don Mattingly and the coaching staff have to shoulder a lot of the blame for the lack of situational hitting. Big Mac especially because he was the hitting coach. His hitting philosophies might not have been as conducive with the club’s needs as we originally thought a couple of years ago when he was brought on. McGwire was a power guy anyways so it’s hard to see him preaching moving runners over, or going the other way.
Maybe he did though and I am wrong and the players just didn’t perform because they were trying too hard. Too much pull hitting and swinging for the fences can become like a bad habit. Once you start doing it it can become hard to stop.
The Dodgers were even worse when there were two outs and runners in scoring position. The Dodgers ranked 22 out of the 30 clubs. Take a look below.
|22||Los Angeles Dodgers||573||176||123||22||2||18||163||92||153||.215||.326||.354||.681|
New hitting coach Turner Ward will need to change the hitting philosophy of the club. We’ve seen clubs in recent years like the Giants and Royals use a combination of good base running, speed, and situational hitting to win championships. Home runs are wonderful and they help, but you don’t have to rely solely on them if you want to score runs. The reason is because it is very difficult to score runs in the playoffs. Relying on just the home run to score in October will lead to being bounced out early. The ability to manufacture runs is a priceless skill.