COMMENTARY | The Los Angeles Dodgers were supposed to be one of the top teams coming into the season -- in large part because of a potent offense.
Extra-Base Hits Hard to Come By
The Dodgers have had a hard time scoring runs this season, scoring just 80 runs, tied with the Chicago Cubs for 13th in the National League. Home-run threats Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier would be among the best 1-2-3 combinations, the thoughts went.
Kemp has as many home runs as starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (one).
The three have combined for six home runs through 24 games. This is a large part why the Dodgers are near the bottom of the league in home runs -- just 17 total. This is 12th in the National League.
Justin Upton and B.J. Upton combined have 15 home runs (thanks, mostly, to Justin Upton's 12 home runs).
The Dodgers' 34 doubles rank at the very bottom of the National League -- even below the Miami Marlins and their anemic offense.
The Dodgers just don't get extra-base hits. This is despite being third in the National League in on-base percentage -- but the team gets on base one base at a time, either through walks (second in the National League) or singles (fifth in the National League).
No Hitting With Runners In Scoring Position
One can look at the "clutch" scores at Fangraphs, which compares how players hit with players in scoring position against how the player hits in neutral conditions. The Dodgers rank 12th in the stat (the Atlanta Braves, who have scored more than any other team, are 12th in the stat, thanks to the large number of solo home runs the team has blasted).
In a more standard stat, the Dodgers' batting average is just .206 with runners in scoring position.
The Dodgers have grounded into more double plays with runners in scoring position (10) than they have extra-base hits (7 doubles, 2 home runs).
There is an element of bad luck in this: More hits are finding gloves than normal. The Dodgers have a .252 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) with runners in scoring position. This is compared to a .287 BABIP overall this season.
Bullpen Strained by Close Games
The pitching has been fine (3.70 ERA is 8th in the National League), if a little unlucky (the FIP is 3.49, 3rd in the National League).
The bullpen has been inconsistent, but that is to be expected with most bullpens. Brandon League will probably never be a front-line closer like the Dodgers are paying him to be.
But the bullpen would be helped if the Dodgers would just score some more runs. Despite being 12-12 after their first 24 games, the Dodgers have a -14 run differential. The Dodgers have won just four games by four or more runs.
Hope on the Horizon
One will assume that Kemp will not hit .143/.257/.143 with runners in scoring position over the scope of a full season. He already has had 28 such plate appearances, the most on the Dodgers, and he is near the bottom in production.
One also assumes a .455/.548/.682 statline with runners in scoring position isn't sustainable for Adrian Gonzalez.
With Hanley Ramirez back from injury, if the Dodgers jell and hit at the same time watch out -- they should have one of the most potent offenses in the league. But the Dodgers have to make sure they don't wait too long and fall too far behind the rest of the division.
Matthew Reichbach is a freelance writer and lifelong follower of the Dodgers from their minor league affiliates to the major league club.
You can follow Matthew on Twitter at @3_2count.
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