Sunday, April 19, 2015

Deeper Dodgers' lineup paying off dividends

The Dodgers completed a perfect week on Saturday night, claiming their sixth straight victory in a 6-3 win over the Rockies.  After starting the season out 2-3, they're now tops in the NL West at 8-3, a division that features only one team under .500, the current World Series champion Giants. 

There's been quite a few reasons why the Dodgers are playing at such a high level right now, but the biggest is the improved offense.  The front office wanted to make the lineup a threat from the top all the way to the bottom, and so far, that has indeed been the case.  From leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins, to red hot Adrian Gonzalez hitting third, to Joc Pederson down in the #8 spot, there's threats all over.

Those threats have put up quite the impressive numbers in the National League.  Here's a look at just how good they've been through 11 games, with rankings in the NL in parenthesis:

* Runs - 56 (1st)
* Hits - 103 (5th)
* Doubles - 29 (2nd)
* Triples - 3 (tied for 4th)
* Home Runs - 14 (tied for 1st)
* Total Bases - 180 (1st)
* RBI - 55 (1st)
* AVG - .278 (2nd)
* OBP - .363 (1st by far)
* SLG - .486 (1st)
* OPS - .850 (1st by far)

Wow, those are some very impressive numbers.  It should be noted whenever you're discussing offensive numbers in the NL, the Rockies get a boost because of Coors Field.  Don't get me wrong, they have a good lineup themselves, but the home/road splits are always going to be much more different for them than any other team.

What's even more encouraging is that guys like Rollins (.227 AVG), Yasiel Puig (.267), Carl Crawford (.258), Juan Uribe (.214) and Yasmani Grandal (.214) haven't even gotten going too much yet.  They've just made their hits count when they have gotten on base.  You know their averages will start to creep up in due time.

Adrian Gonzalez has obviously been the Alpha Dog of the offense, as he's just blowing away the competition in the NL right now.  He's leading the league in average, home runs, RBIs, runs, OBP, slugging %, and OPS.  He's hit safely in all 11 games, with seven of them being multi-hit games.  He's also taken six walks and struck out only three times.

Now, shocker of shocks, there's no way he's going to keep up such a torrid pace, as he's just lacing the ball practically every time he's up at the plate right now.  But the good news is that as he starts to scatter in some hitless games, the guys I listed a couple of paragraphs above will pick up his slack.  Hence, the offense can keep rolling along.

Finally, the last major reason for the offensive surge has been the bench.  Andre Ethier (.292, a homer, three RBIs), Alex Guerrero (.385, two homers, eight RBIs), and Scott Van Slyke (.286, two RBIs) have all collected big hits.  It's encouraging because the starting lineup is full of veterans who are very productive, but can use some rest along the way.  Ethier has plugged each outfield hole already this season, Guerrero has been electric filling in for Uribe at third, and Van Slyke can play anywhere in the outfield and even a little first base, too.

Coming into this season, I said that there will be games where the Dodgers miss the instant impact that Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp provided in the past.  So far, they certainly haven't missed them.  This lineup is capable of putting guys on base and driving them in from any part of the order.  They don't need to hope a long ball bails them out.  They're getting on base, moving them over, and getting them in.  It looks simple, and they're playing like it is.

With the next two weeks being full of division games, the Dodgers will need that offense to keep clicking as they look to create some early separation.

No comments: