The machinations behind the Dodgers daily line ups absolutely baffle me. Let’s use yesterday’s game against the Diamondbacks as an example.
On one hand, the Dodgers made a smart move by dropping Adrian Gonzalez down to fifth in the batting order. I’ve called for that for the past few weeks. We all know Agone has been one of the premier clean up men in his career, but let’s keep it real – Gonzalez has suffered a sever power outage this season.
I’ll drink the Gonzo kool-aid and believe his bat will come around eventually, but that doesn’t mean I want a non-home run hitter in my team’s clean up spot. Apparently, after a Golden Sombrero night, the Dodgers decided they don’t want that either. Dropping Gonzalez to the five hole (until his power returns) is a good baseball move.
However, in the very same game, the one where they made a smart move, they made the absolutely unjustifiable tweak of batting Enrique Hernandez lead off.
Kiké is in a season-long slump. He’s shown occasional flashes of hitting, but so did Carl Crawford. A few hits here and there doesn’t make you a consistent hitter – and it sure as heck doesn’t make you a lead off candidate.
Before the game Kike was 0 for 9 over the past week. For some insane reason, they thought it would be a genius move to let him bat in the spark plug position.
You be Andrew Friedman or Dave Roberts for a minute. You’ve got Kike – in a slump – all season – currently 0 for 9. Is he your first pick for lead off batter? He sure aint my pick.
I’m sure the skipper was shocked – SHOCKED – when Kiké – batting lead off – went O for 3.
The lead off batter’s job is to get rallies started. Common sense says you don’t hand that responsibility to someone who hasn’t started a rally in a month, while shuffling the rest of the lineup following him.
For good measure, they sat Joc Pederson, whose bat was still smoking from hitting two home runs last night. Because lefty-righty mathematics.
Let’s face it, if Scott Van Slyke did not catch lightning in a bottle, and hit that home run, the Dodgers would have wasted another great outing from a starting pitcher, which is threatening to become a pattern with them.
I get it. Sabermetrics is the new religion in baseball, and it isn’t going anywhere. The guys using slide rules and three-dimensional math are running things for the Dodgers now, but they’ve got to realize there will always be a place for the guys with panama hats and big cigars as well. Good ol’ baseball common sense ran the sport’s dynamics pretty well for the first 150 years, and it would behoove the Dodgers to embraced it this season as well.
I guess the charts and numbers said that batting Justin Turner third for the first two months of the season made sense because of his tendencies over the past couple of seasons. However, the old-fashioned eye test should have told anyone with common sense that for two months straight Turner was not getting the job done in that slot.
A hole in the lineup – in one of the most critical batting slots in the order – is going to hurt the offense’s chances, and it did. Turner was a red albatross. (A side note: he broke out of that slump the day after I wrote that albatross story, thank you very much.)
The Dodgers Nation is very happy JT turned that corner, as the sabermetrics followers and his fans knew he would all along – but for the love of Lasorda, did he have to bat THIRD all season for that to happen? Who knows how many games the Dodgers might have won with a better hitting player in that slot.
Hitting is contagious. I believe that. There’s a reason the top half of a lineup consists of the team’s best hitters, all in a row. They build on one another and they feed off one another. They spark and energize themselves, the club, and the fans packing the stadium. THAT’S why you don’t sit a player who is emerging from a slump, seeing and hitting the ball well, and generating home run power. That’s why you don’t sit Joc Pederson and cool him off.
So Friedman and Roberts’ genius move was to bat slumping Kike lead off because that might spark him into finally hitting? OK, that’s a theory (one that I don’t agree with), but do you really have to test that theory on the same night you also jerk the lineup around because the other pitcher is left-handed? Do you put the coldest bat in the lead off spot on the same night you sit the guy who smacked two home runs the previous night?
All of that said, the opposite of contagious hitting is also true. Non-hitting batters at the top of the lineup adversely affect a teams offensive abilities. I’m not talking about a good hitter having an occasional bad night. I’m all for trusting a normally reliable bat to fight through a ten, or even a twenty-game slump. But waiting two months – and longer – while the offense hits a roadblock every time the top of the order comes around is not how to win a pennant.
The Dodgers have fallen into an offensive rut of scoring in the first inning, sleeping through the middle innings, and then getting an occasional solo home run in the later innings. That will win a couple of games on a homestand, and a few more on a road trip, but it’s not the type of consistent offensive attack that is going to win a division, or survive through a tough playoffs tournament. It certainly will not win a World Series.
There are those who insist this team won’t win regardless of whatever may come. I say this team has potential to at least win the NL West. A few roster tweaks will have to occur, but the potential is there.
Until those changes occur, smart maneuvering of the daily line up is critical. Moving Adrian Gonzalez was a good first step. Now we need management to stop stepping in it by crippling the team’s offense by intentionally punching holes into the top of the batting order.