It shouldn’t come as a shock when I tell you that the Dodgers didn’t have a good lead-off hitter last season. Times have changed in MLB. Less and less teams are using the classic prototypical lead-off guy these days. You know the type. The little speedster that gets on base a lot, steals bases (Brett Butler was the perfect lead-off hitter) and is generally a pest for opposing clubs. Normally it’s a middle infielder and the player is usually smaller in stature. Those guys are called table setters and they can be a nightmare for other clubs. The Dodgers could have used a player like that in 2015.
Nowadays as we are smack dab in the middle of the moneyball revolution, more clubs are putting middle of the order power bats at the top of the lineup instead of using the traditional little speedsters. The point is that more clubs are less afraid to place a guy at the top of the lineup with power and little speed.
The opinion is that speed isn’t as valuable anymore, or so some clubs think that way. What is most important is that the top two guys in the lineup have high on base percentages. As long as they get on base a lot then speed can become secondary. They don’t have to steal bases. They do have to get on base and score. However a little speed is always nice. I still think speed and base running counts.
The Dodgers tried both approaches. They had a power guy and an OBP/speed guy at the top of their lineup throughout the 2015 season. Unfortunately neither of those players worked out well. The Dodgers ranked dead last in all of MLB in lead-off hitting last season. Take a look at the differences from 2014-2015.
Dodgers Lead-off hitting
You can see that the 2014 Dodgers had much better lead-off hitters than the 2015 Dodgers did, but the 15 Dodgers had more power and drew more walks. Even so, the 14 Dodgers still had a higher OBP. The 14 Dodgers scored 16 more runs and nearly 50 points in batting. Of course the 14 club had more stolen bases and better base running. The 2014 club also had Dee Gordon stealing 60 bases and hitting .284 which helped. There was a noticeable drop-off from 2014 to 2015.
Last season the Dodgers had two players that shared the majority of the time at the lead-off spot. Joc Pederson and veteran Jimmy Rollins were the lead-off hitters for most of the year. Neither of them ended up being a good choice. Rollins didn’t get on base enough and Joc didn’t make contact consistently enough for either of them to thrive at the top of the order.
Oddly enough the one guy who seemed to hit well at the top of the order was Carl Crawford. He batted .293 and posted an .853 OPS in 41 at-bats there. Otherwise nobody had more than about 30 at-bats at the lead-off spot last season. Although Kike Hernandez did go 9 for 29 (.310) as a lead-off hitter.
In 2014 the Dodgers had Dee Gordon, but the one guy that the Dodgers were batting lead-off that seemed to hit very well there was Yasiel Puig. For whatever reason when Puig batted lead-off or lead off an inning he was dynamite. If there is one guy the Dodgers need to return to form, it’s Puig.
Yasiel Puig career as a lead-off hitter
Puig might be the answer to the Dodger’s lead-off woes, then again he may not be. Maybe Kike Hernandez gets some reps there, or Howie Kendrick. No matter who gets penciled in at the top, the Dodgers need to find a reliable lead-off bat that can get on base regularly. Having a solid lead-off bat would certainly help them score more runs in 2016.