If there’s one thing that Dave Roberts is known for it’s the willingness to change the starting lineup on a daily basis. This season Roberts has rolled out over 90 different lineups. I understand the need to get bench players consistent at-bats and give starters occasional days off. However, some lineup commodity could bode well for the club.
The first half of the order is set for the Dodgers. Roberts has continued to use Chris Taylor at the leadoff spot; he does an excellent job setting the table with an on-base percentage of .364. Seager continues to hit second and is having another solid season hitting in front of Justin Turner, who leads the team in batting average and on-base percentage. Bellinger‘s power presences cleans up the top four spots in the lineup and adds some pop to the top of the lineup that has a combined 57 home runs.
After that, there’s a whole lot of shuffling going on. We’ve seen just about everyone hit behind Bellinger in the 5th spot. Yasmani Grandal has hit 5th 32 times this season, and Logan Forsythe has hit in that spot 24 times. There are five other Dodgers who have hit in this spot at least ten times this season, and Roberts has yet to find the guy to take over that lineup spot.
This lineup doesn’t need many things, but a good number 5 hitter to turn over the top of the lineup could be great for their run production. The club is currently hitting .252 with runners in scoring position and .242 with two outs. Although those numbers aren’t bad, a good number 5 hitter could help improve that stat. This season the number 5 spot has statistically been the worst place to hit in the lineup.
The 5th spot has a collective slash line of .208/.306/.367 while producing 60 RBI and 17 home runs on the season. The number 6 hitters have produced a .262 batting average and have driven in 85 runs. The number 7 hitters are hitting .265 with 70 RBI and 20 home runs, followed by the number 8 hitters who are hitting .240 with 21 homers and 57 RBI. The fact that the five spot has less RBI than the 6 and 7 hitters is alarming.
Ironically the most productive hitter in the number 5 spot is Logan Forsythe. Forsythe leads the team with a .274 average and has driven in 8 runs when hitting 5th. Excluding Forsythe and Bellinger, no other Dodger is hitting better than .235 at that spot in the order. That includes Grandal who is hitting .211 in 116 at-bats at that spot at that position of the lineup. So what does Dave Roberts need to do to begin getting production out of the number 5 spot.
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This might sound crazy but how about moving Chris Taylor down to the number 5 spot. I know Dodger fans don’t love the idea of removing their leadoff hitter from the top of the lineup and possibly taking away some of his at-bats, but Taylor seemingly fits the bill of what the Dodgers need at that spot.
Roberts has continued to hit Yasiel Puig this season and rightfully so. Theoretically, Puig is an ideal fit. He’s a righty, has 24 home runs, and has an improved walk rate. But for whatever the reason may be, Puig has really struggled in the number 5 spot. Puig is hitting .132/.246/.302 when hitting 5th, that is second worst on the team only in front of Chase Utley (.056). If Puig were to be able to produce at the number 5 slot, he would be a no-brainer solution. But Puig has done his best work hitting at the bottom of the lineup, and to be honest him at the bottom brings balance to the lineup.
But why Chris Taylor? Well, Taylor has proven himself this season to be one of the Dodgers best hitters. He’s right-handed, so that avoids the back to back lefty situation with Bellinger. He has some pop in his bat with 19 home runs. And he’s had success hitting with runners in scoring position with a .314 average, 5 home runs, and 48 RBI and he also does damage when there are 2 outs in an inning.
Moving Taylor out of the leadoff spot if far from ideal, but if it means having Taylor come up to hit with an opportunity to drive in runs, why wouldn’t Dave Roberts consider it? Taylor hasn’t faired well in his limited sample size (57 at-bats) hitting 5th but with the funk that the offense is currently in it can’t hurt.
The following question to this scenario would be who moves up to leadoff. Well, that depends on who you ask. Some may say, Granderson, as he still has some speed and is the most experienced at the spot. But he really hasn’t been consistent since getting traded to the Dodgers, and I like some youth at the top of the order, which is why I’d say why not try Austin Barnes at leadoff.
Regardless of where you put Barnes on the field, Barnes has proven to be a tough out for opposing pitchers. Whether you find playing time for him in a platoon role with Grandal and Forsythe or lock him in at one spot, Barnes really needs to start seeing everyday at-bats. Barnes is hitting right around .300 on the season and continues to give Dave Roberts quality at-bats when called upon. His on-base percentage of .414 is even higher than Taylor’s, albeit, in fewer at-bats but the production is there he’s just not getting the opportunities to show it over an extended sample size.
Having your catcher hit leadoff is certainly unprecedented as that position is traditionally not known for speed. But after watching Barnes run the bases this season I think he could very well be one of the fastest players on the team. He has four stolen bases on five attempts, and we’ve all seen him score from 1st on a ball hit in the gap.
The Dodgers have been outscored 93-38 in their last ten games, and it’s time for Dave Roberts to take control of his team and create a more balanced lineup. September typically means resting players and giving an opportunity for young players to display their talent. But it also means Roberts can experiment with the lineups to produce more runs. As we get closer to October Roberts is going to want to see consistency from the lineup For the mean time, let’s try moving some pieces around to strengthen what once was the best lineup in the MLB.