Even though we’re only one contest into the long, 162-game campaign of 2018, many fans of the Dodgers continue to express their respective coaching expertise in the club’s 1-0 Opening Day loss to the Giants. The lineup provided a bit of a different look to what everyone was accustomed to seeing last year, and I myself had my doubts of its effectiveness, especially as the game meandered into the later innings.
Regardless, the team didn’t execute as a unit offensively. Aside from several solid plate appearances from catcher Yasmani Grandal and starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the club’s offense was completely dead in the water, and it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference if the batting order was laid out differently. However, there’s still a sour taste in the mouths of many fans as a few lineup questions linger about the remainder of the opening series and the early portion of the schedule.
Will Grandal see the majority of the time at catcher? In our Opening Day preview, we discussed the idea that the catcher for the home opener would be a toss-up. Looking at the patterns we saw last season, Austin Barnes garnered the most ABs against southpaw pitching; however, every aspect of Grandal’s game during 2018 Cactus League play was extremely impressive. We also mentioned that Kershaw himself may have had an influence on the selection of his battery mate. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the playing time is divided moving forward. Additionally, the fact that Grandal has just embarked upon his walk year may provide a bit more of incentive for him to play up to his true talent.
Will Yasiel Puig stay in the three-hole? There’s no doubt that Puig deserved a shot at batting in the middle of the lineup after hitting in the lower part of the order last year, but did his batting third in the order upset the fluidity that we saw last season? There’s no question that Justin Turner will be missed for the first part of the year, and skipper Dave Roberts may end up mixing and matching based on the tendencies of the opposing pitcher until JT’s ready to return. By moving Puig up to the three-spot, though, it takes away any type of formidable threat in the lower-half of the lineup. He did show decent patience at the dish in the opener, but it still remains to be seen how he will respond in the lineup’s most important slot, if he does indeed stay there.
Will there be a straight platoon between Pederson and Kemp in LF? For many fans, it felt almost surreal seeing Matt Kemp earn the Opening Day start in left field for the Boys in Blue. However, we don’t have much of an idea for the team’s left field plans as the season progresses. Some believe that Kemp and Joc Pederson will platoon, with Kemp seeing the most action against southpaws and Pederson getting his hacks against right-handed pitching. If this is the case, Pederson will see the most action, as approximately two-thirds of the starters in baseball are righties. We know that Kemp can destroy lefties, but what is often overlooked is his impressive .274/.324/.470 career slash line against RHP. In the meantime, while Pederson is definitely in the neighborhood with a lifetime .231/.359/.463 slash line of is own against right-handers, it will be intriguing to see how Roberts divvies up the playing time, at least in the early goings of the year.
With righty Johnny Cueto on the hill for the Giants on Friday evening, we should discover the answers to a few of these questions and more.
First pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m. Los Angeles time.