When the majority of avid Dodgers fans saw Wednesday evening’s lineup for the rubber game against the Rockies, many couldn’t help but feel a bit of disappointment. Not only did manager Dave Roberts decide to award a player or two a much deserved day off, he did it with a bang — permitting Chase Utley, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal to ride the pine with a travel day already scheduled for Thursday.
All this with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez trudging along as a starter, still ailing from a nasty cold which he had been suffering since early in the week.
Granted, Gonzalez’s split differentials have never been substantial either way, and the primary strategy of Roberts was to throw a batting order featuring mainly right-handed hitters at Colorado southpaw Chris Rusin. But common logic would suggest to hand out a vacation day to the sick player instead of continuing to prioritize hitting matchups, which really haven’t gotten the Dodgers anywhere but a few games over .500 this season.
Some fans often criticize the Dodgers’ starting pitching rotation of having a lack of all-around potency, yet on a night which saw Japanese righty Kenta Maeda throw one of his best games of 2016, the Boys in Blue fell asleep with the lumber once again, falling 1-0 and losing yet another key divisional series.
Wednesday’s saber-oriented lineup employed just two hitters, Gonzalez and outfielder Trayce Thompson, with batting averages over .226. The six other position players found themselves lurking right at or below the Mendoza Line.
Still, Thompson, batting cleanup for the first time this season, remains optimistic and thinks the struggles are just a matter of timing.
“I think it’s just timely hitting,” Thompson explained. “I think that’s all we’re missing really because we’re getting some hits. I know we only had four tonight but it’s just not back-to-back, or all at the same time. That’s all it is is timely hitting, really. We’ve been searching for that the last couple of weeks.”
Timing aside, as far as their standing among other National League squads, the Dodgers rank 11th of 15 in OBP, 12th in batting average, 12th in total bases and 13th in slugging percentage — horrible numbers for a club with aspirations of winning their fourth consecutive divisional title.
Roberts suggests that the players are putting too much pressure on themselves individually.
“I think that guys are, again, trying to do too much,” Roberts said after Wednesday’s loss. “There are some empty at-bats and some tentativeness to the swings when you get into a good hitter’s count. We’re missing fastballs, whether we’re swinging through them, fouling them off or we’re late on them. We’re putting extra pressure on ourselves.”
Whatever the case may be, the Dodgers need to find a remedy to their woes with the sticks and right the ship in the very near future. Outside of Andre Ethier conceivably returning from injury at some point and providing an offensive boost against right-handed pitching, there aren’t really too many options internally. Besides Austin Barnes, who was already called up earlier this week, the only other players at the Triple-A level showing at least a little consistent pop and batting over .300 are O’Koyea Dickson and Rob Segedin.
In addition to Maeda’s recent misfortune, there have been three games so far this season where ace Clayton Kershaw had no-decisions after going at least 7-2/3 innings and surrendering two earned runs or less only to see the offense come up short all three times.
It’s understandable to award days off to deserving players periodically, but in the greater scope of the divisional landscape, perhaps it may be wise not to bench an entire a group of players on any given day, and overlook the sabermetric matchups while starting the hottest hitters who have been providing the most punch consistently.