Undoubtedly, the most common conversation topics these days between fans of the Dodgers have been about inconsistencies in several areas of the game, primarily discussions regarding either the sputtering offense or the somewhat unsteady starting rotation, with the bullpen not being far behind.
In the past, there was a bit of reassurance every five days the squad ran out resident ace Clayton Kershaw, but the three-time Cy Young Award winner has lately been untypically out of character. Even when he seemingly throws well, the club still finds it difficult to score runs. Hyun-Jin Ryu has been spectacular, but one wonders how long he can keep up his impressive pace.
But what’s causing the flutters with the production on offense? Does everything fall on the shoulders of Justin Turner? Is it something for management to be concerned about only 23 games into the season?
Looking back at the last two years, the Dodgers had the exact same problems. Ironically enough, in 2016, the lumber caught fire when Kershaw was on the shelf for a little over two months with back problems. As a matter of fact, when Kersh hit the disabled list in early June of 2016, many were ready to give up on the season completely. On April 27 of last season, the Dodgers sat at an 11-12 record trailing the Diamondbacks by 3-1/2 games, right around the time when the Dodgers recalled Chris Taylor for good, in addition to selecting the contract of one Cody Bellinger.
At the time, skipper Dave Roberts was almost certain he knew the problem, but in the end it seems as if the players sparked several successful streaks by an overwhelming amount of group motivation or enthusiasm—something that’s been difficult to detect so far in 2018. Sometimes it appears as if the players aren’t even running the bases hard on routine plays.
“I think that guys are, again, trying to do too much,” Roberts said late last spring. “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.”
Oftentimes managers will mix around players in the daily lineup in hopes of creating a spark, yet the Dodgers change their everyday lineup so frequently that many pundits believe that the variations in the batting orders may be detrimental to the club in terms of continuity. A few players such as Yasmani Grandal and Matt Kemp have been hitting very well, as has Enrique Hernandez in his super-utility role. However, aside from several stellar individual performances, the team appears to be struggling as a unit, most specifically in clutch situations with runners in scoring position.
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 before the Rockies and Diamondbacks distance themselves too far in front of everyone else. Outside of Turner conceivably returning from injury sometime in June and providing an offensive boost, there aren’t really too many options internally. especially with Andrew Toles on the shelf for at least another two weeks. Perhaps the bats of guys like Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager and Bellinger will begin to heat up. Maybe the momentum will surge like it did last May, when the squad posted a 19-9 record for the month.
In the meantime, as much as the lineup variations appear to be a hindrance at the present moment, perhaps the management group of the Dodgers knows a few things that the fans haven’t yet considered. Maybe everything will begin to click soon, with droves of runs crossing home plate on a daily basis. Or, quite conceivably, perhaps the players need some type of motivating factor to boost their enthusiasm like last season, even if it’s something ever so tiny.
While it’s a bit foolish to pin all of the woes on the broken wrist of one infielder, maybe his eventual return will be the catalyst which the team has been seeking.