Dodgers’ Offense: Glass Half-Empty Or Half-Full?

Apr 17, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson (31) celebrates with manager Dave Roberts (R) after hitting a two-run home run during the fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 17, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson (31) celebrates with manager Dave Roberts (R) after hitting a two-run home run during the fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

If you are a glass is half-empty person, watching the Dodgers’ offense this year is excruciating, but if you are the half-full type, you might actually be celebrating.

Since most of us like our bad news first, let’s rip off the Band-Aid and get to the reality of this year’s lineup. The team isn’t likely to make the playoffs or probably will be ousted at the starting gate, because the old guard (Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Justin Turner, etc.) is on the very wrong side of 30 and looking every bit of it on the field—that is, when they are actually healthy enough to suit up. Outside of Chase Utley, who is having a crazy revival year so far, the older vets have looked absolutely abysmal.

Gonazalez, the team’s “eggs and butter man”, as Vin Scully likes to call him, might be finally succumbing to his years-long battle with bulging disks in his neck. His power numbers are way down (only 4 home runs, 6 doubles), but even more concerning, he is only batting .182 with two outs and runners in scoring position—he’s only knocked in three runners in these situations all year. To put this in better perspective, Gonzalez’s career in the clutch is a .283 avg. with 23 homers and 237 RBIs. Ouch, something is very wrong here. He has maintained a respectable .282 batting average, but his middle-of-the-order prowess—his main value to the team—has just evaporated.

Turner, the other guy the Dodgers count on for big RBIs, is also struggling mightily, most likely the result of his off-season micro-fracture knee surgery. Last year, JT was a feared hitter: in only 385 ABs, he had 16 home runs and 60 RBIs and slashed .294/.370/.491. This year’s numbers? Try .233/.320/.316 with only 1 home run and 9 RBIs in 137 ABs. His .100 batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position is hurting big-time.

This kind of futility from your #3 and #4 hitters will certainly keep a team down, but some of the other old guys in the lineup aren’t helping the cause either. Kendrick’s numbers are even more mind-blowingly low. His slash line is totally sideways compared to his career numbers: .222/.261/.252 this year; .291/.331/.419 for his career. Again, dealing with nagging injuries (hamstring and calf strains) that are harder to heal with age are definitely playing a role in his struggles at the plate.

Crawford is every opponent’s favorite left fielder when runners are on base. Sadly, the man has absolutely nothing left in his throwing arm due to shoulder surgery he had several years ago, and the Dodgers are literally losing runs almost every game he is on the field. Recently, Crawford reflected on his nine years of playing on the unforgiveable Tampa Bay artificial turf; he pretty much blames the turf for his nearly-constant injured status and current pathetic stats (.207/.242/.276)—and rightly so.

Okay, before we all go slit our wrists, let’s talk about the good news, the Dodger youth movement, which is really starting to click. Besides Yasiel Puig, who looks just as lost at the plate as last season, the core guys are really starting to show they can play well at the major league level.

Joc Pederson’s adjustments at the plate—still a bit of work-in-progress—are paying dividends. He is leading the team in home runs with 8 and is tied for first in RBIs with 21 while slashing .252/.368/.541. He is also playing stellar defense in center field.

Rookie Corey Seager is rounding into form. He leads the team with 21 RBIs and sits behind Pederson in homers with 7, and is slashing .289/.341/.503. Most impressive is that the lefty-batting Seager hits left-handed pitching with complete ease, which is refreshing these days. In fact, his home runs are basically split between lefties and righties and his batting average is actually higher against southpaws (.308 vs .286).

Then there’s Trayce Thompson, definitely the most surprising development of the young group, if not the season. If Ethier, Van Slyke, and Crawford hadn’t hit the D.L. before the start of the season, Thompson most likely would have been assigned to AAA. Talk about making the most of his opportunities! In only 81 ABs, he has 6 homers, 5 doubles, 17 RBIs, and a slash mark of .280/.337/.561, not to mention the fact that team officials believe he is the best outfielder in the organization.

These three all-stars-in-the-making will be joined by a slew of other young talent from the re-built farm system, some as soon as this year with standout pitchers Julio Urias, Jose De Leon, and Cuban-import Yaisel Sierra likely September call-ups. Catcher Austin Barnes, outfielder Alex Verdugo, and first baseman Cody Bellinger are also being primed for debuts with the big club in the near-future, and there are even more high prospects behind them. The future is bright, no doubt about it.

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So is your glass half-empty or half-full? It depends on if you are looking for a World Series appearance this year or if you are playing the semi-long game like the Dodger front office. Nobody wants to miss out on the October fun, but if it means developing a roster that will play together and win for many years à la Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey-Baker-Yeager, etc., then it’s time to clink glasses and say “cheers.”