The Dodgers are flying high, winning nine out of their last ten against the Ohio teams. Since May, the team’s been firing on all cylinders. The starters are going at least five, the bullpen is lights out, and the hitting is heating up. What’s surprising is the success can be credited to both stars and unexpected faces. Still, there are a few lingering problems that the Dodgers need to address to keep up with the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Justin Turner was arguably the Dodgers’ best hitter before the season, but no one expected him to hit where he is at the moment. If it weren’t for a hamstring injury, he would be up in the National League Batting Title race. Cody Bellinger was our number one prospect, but few could predict the historic start he’s had. Kenley Jansen was arguably the most dominant closer in baseball, but he’s putting up numbers that shouldn’t be possible. The only person who could predict Alex Wood’s success was Alex Wood. Those were all the good surprises.
However, there are some disappointments as well. Logan Forsythe, who the Dodgers sent away their number two prospect for, is hitting below the Mendoza Line. Rich Hill, who was signed to a three-year $48 million deal last Winter, is not the number two starter the Dodgers were expecting. Lastly, the silent, steady core of the Dodgers’ lineup for the last four years, Adrian Gonzalez, is now a silent non-factor.
The signs came early on. In Spring Training and in April, Logan Forsythe was striking out at an uncharacteristic pace. His ability to hit lefties kept his average up for a while, but now he is struggling to hit any kind of pitching. It’s hard to find stats that project any kind of consistent success Forsythe has against. He’s been behind on fastballs and swung over breaking balls. There is more movement with his hands than necessary and sometimes break too early.
Fortunately, his defense is still there. He was key when Turner went down, and his versatility allowed the third base vacancy to be filled. He’s only committed two errors while manning both second and third. His hitting needs to improve for the Dodgers to maximize their production from key positions. However, it’s difficult to tell if he will make the adjustment to put balls in play more often. Though the Dodgers have offensive options in Chris Taylor, Chase Utley, and Kike Hernandez if Forsythe can’t figure it out, his defense will be missed.
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Hill’s 2017 campaign has been rocky, to say the least. When he’s good, he’s what the Dodgers signed for, but when he’s bad…it confirms doubts about signing a 36-year-old to a lucrative three-year deal. He’s had injury problems, mainly his blister. Hill’s biggest issue has been his lack of command. He’s only pitched one game and not given up a walk. When his command was at its worst, he walked seven Cardinals in four innings.
Another problem with Hill has been his inability to go more than five innings. The lack of command causes him to elevate his pitch count, inhibiting him from going deep into games. His fastball isn’t sharp, and his curve ball is all over the place. If Hill can stay healthy, and get consistent innings under his belt, his command should come naturally.
The player is formerly known as the “Butter and Egg Man,” is quietly stepping away from the spotlight, and perhaps at the right time. The baseball world wondered when the consistent Gonzalez would eventually slow down and not bat .290 with 20+ home runs and 100 RBI. Last year, he showed signs of that decline with a mediocre year by his standards. This year, it’s even worse. Though it would be nice for him to play like his former self, it may not be necessary.
With the rookie sensation and future first baseman, Cody Bellinger, having such a great start, the Dodgers no longer need to rely on Gonzalez to do the heavy lifting. Corey Seager and Justin Turner are also taking on bigger roles in the lineup. Gonzalez is currently on the DL with a herniated disk. Whether or not he comes back depends on the severity of the injury and the duration of his recovery period. He’s had a recent history of neck aches and similar issues with his spine. One thing is for certain though; he will do everything in his power to maximize his production.
It’s hard to pick out disappointments on a team filled with surprises and solid performances. Not to bash on these players, but they have sub-par seasons compared to their expectations. Furthermore, A-Gon and Hill were instrumental to the Dodgers’ success last year, and Forsythe was brought in to fill a purpose which he is not. Ideally, these three will find a way to increase their production and contribute to a team doing special things.