A lot has been discussed about lineup creation. While it is somewhat important, it’s not as vital as you might think it is. What’s most important is putting your best hitters in the lineup and more specifically making sure your top three hitters get as many at-bats as possible with runners on base during the games.
The Dodgers generally like to stick with the righty/lefty strategy. They have separate lineups against right handers and left handers. If a hitter performs noticeably better versus a lefty than a righty then odds are he won’t see much time against a right hander. Of course there are always exceptions. This season the lineup has had to be changed a bit because of the wrist injury to Justin Turner. With the Dodger’s best hitter out of the lineup for the foreseeable future the Dodgers have had to scramble a bit to optimize the lineup as best they can.
The initial strategy for the Dodgers is having everyone move up one spot in the batting order. More specifically Yasiel Puig will be moved into the third spot with Cody Bellinger batting cleanup against right handed pitching. The top of the lineup remains the same with Chris Taylor in the lead-off spot and Corey Seager batting second.
When a left hander is on the mound the Dodgers are likely to deploy Enrique Hernandez somewhere in that lineup because he hits left handers pretty well. But he’s got heavy reserve splits and struggles badly against right handed pitching. During the Dodger’s opening day loss to the Giants, Hernandez was penciled in as the cleanup hitter with Bellinger batting behind him in the fifth spot.
What the Dodgers also need to consider is lineup protection for their most productive hitters. With Hernandez batting behind Puig against lefties doesn’t give Puig a lot of protection. If you look at the numbers, Hernandez bats best at the top of the lineup. He’s had just 12 plate appearances (4 for 12) as a cleanup hitter. Meanwhile Bellinger hits best and is likely most comfortable from the cleanup spot. Bellinger has smashed 25 of his 29 home runs as a cleanup guy and has slashed .270/.362/.570 with a .931 OPS.
What’s most interesting is Puig. The wild horse hits best from the number 2 spot in the order. Puig is slashing .309/.384/.525 (212 for 686) with a .909 OPS. Puig has belted 29 home runs and driven in 88 runs from the second spot in the batting order. He seems to do best when he’s at the top of the lineup or when leading off an inning. When Puig leads off an inning he’s batting .320/.388/.546 with 22 home runs. One this is for sure, Hernandez is not a cleanup hitter and should not be batting fourth. Here’s something to ponder. If the Dodgers would go strictly by the numbers, (career norms) than the lineup should look like this whether there’s a right hander or left hander on the mound.
Vs. left handers
Vs. right handers
Enrique Hernandez/Chase Utley
The Dodgers success last season was the top four in their order of Taylor, Seager, Turner, Bellinger. Unfortunately Turner is hurt. But is Puig the best option to bat third? Perhaps Seager would be better in that spot with Bellinger batting cleanup and Puig moved up to the second spot. Hernandez would bat in the fifth hole against left handers and move further down in the order against a right hander. You could bump Grandal or Kemp into the fifth spot against a right hander.
I like Seager as the third hitter. He’s the Dodgers best all-around slugger behind Turner. Perhaps it doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. However a slight tweak in the Dodger’s lineup may squeeze some extra offense out of these guys.