The Dodgers’ offense has been holding the team back from its full potential because of slow starts to almost everyone. However, two of these guys are starting to find their groove.
The Dodgers have had a hard time scoring runs in the early going. They have a team OPS in the bottom-half of the league, a mid-table ranking in runs scored, and a surprising lack of power. This is in due because of a slow start, but a trip to San Diego last week was just what the doctored had ordered.
But they have started to struggle again, scoring 12 times over the last five games. However, two guys, you would consider important because of the spark plugs their bats can serve as, are quietly starting to heat up. They are Enrique Hernández and Chris Taylor.
Kiké started off slow the first eleven days or so off very poorly. He was a sizable gap in the lineup and virtually an automatic out. As recently as April 10, he had a .651 OPS. However, since then, he is hitting .400/.471/.733 with three home runs and three walks in 34 plate appearances.
He has been clobbering the ball while also playing good defense. He is reminding us of his value. His recent hot streak has his season numbers up to .264/.349/.491 and climbing while hitting well off both lefties and righties. He is finally justifying Dave Roberts’ decisions to use him at the top, or in the middle, of the lineup.
And Chris Taylor is the other energizer bunny that is starting to come around and become a formidable foe at the plate. He is on a seven-game hitting streak during which he is hitting .300/.382/.467.
As the leadoff man, it is crucial that he puts in good at-bats each time up, especially when starting the game. He needs to be able to get on base and set the table for the bats behind him. As the leadoff man, he has the opportunity to establish the momentum.
He currently owns a 6.1% walk rate on the season which is below where you would like it. It is well-beneath last year’s 8.8%. The number is so low because he took just one walk in the first 12 games of the season. He has walked five times in the ten games since (11.6% of his plate appearances).
Regression was expected, just not to the low he was at. Taylor had an unsustainable (to most) .361 BABIP in 2017, and the league finally had video out on him and his strikeout tendencies. But this slow start was less about the numbers and more about the quality of the plate appearances.
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He is finally putting together the at-bats that the Dodgers grew accustomed to, working deep into the count and making good contact (outs and hits). Last year, his numbers came because of the ‘grinder’ mentality he had in the batter’s box. He looks to be back at it and the results are following.
And I say that this duo is the ‘energizer bats’ because they are the kind of players that have made this Dodgers team so special. You have your big bats in Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, a healthy Justin Turner. But Taylor and Hernández are the Dodgers’ complementary pieces that tend to be overlooked, but extend the lineup and have tremendous effects on games.
They are the ones that have created the momentum for the team countless times. They are two of the fan favorites, so when they get going, the roar of the crowd creates new energy. Whenever they play well, they inject the rest of the team with this energy, and they perform well as a whole.
Taylor had a .907 OPS in wins last year. While that number is down to .818 this season, it is still a good OPS and 200 points higher than his number in losses. And Hernández has a 1.144 OPS during the team’s victories in 2018.
It is only a matter of time before Turner returns and the middle of the lineups starts producing. If Hernández and Taylor can continue this play, the offensive depth will continue to extend, and it will be able to return to its explosive tendencies as 2017. So far, it looks things seem headed down that path.