Not sure when Don Mattingly became Earl Weaver, but this long-ball thing is not abating. We’re approaching a third of the way into the season and the Dodgers almost mysteriously still lead the majors in home runs.
Mattingly has been kind of talking around the topic for weeks, continually saying he doesn’t expect the situation to continue and that exactly what kind of offensive team the Dodgers are will emerge as the season plays out.
Fifty-two games in and they still boast more homers (73) than any team in baseball. They’re averaging a home run every 23.5 at-bats, also No. 1. It’s not surprising then that they also lead baseball in slugging percentage (.452). That would eclipse the Los Angeles Dodgers record of .432. They’re also No. 1 in on-base percentage (.339).
The saying is live by the long ball, die by the long ball. So with almost 50% of their runs produced via the home run, you should be nervous.
Everyone seems to agree that it’s not sustainable, but two full months in, on it goes. All, of course, with the team lacking its two biggest power threats from last season (Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez) and with Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford having spent most of the season on the disabled list.
Nope, did not it see it coming. Andrew Friedman & Co. said they hoped to make up for the loss of Kemp and Ramirez with a balanced lineup capable of spreading the power. Still, not even in their best sabermetric fantasies could they have predicted this.
They’ve received an unexpected 16 homers from rookie Joc Pederson, tied for third most in the majors. He clearly displayed power (33 homers) at triple-A last season, but that was at hitting-friendly Albuquerque. This is something else.
The Dodgers’ second-leading home run hitter is Adrian Gonzalez (11), which is understandable, but then comes rookie Alex Guerrero (10), and there’s nobody who saw that coming. Just like with Andre Ethier hitting seven, or at least getting the opportunity to hit that many.
But on they go, and it feels tenuous, if not dangerous. The Dodgers have not proved adept at “manufacturing” runs. They are tied for dead last in stolen bases, having only 13 in 52 games. That’s fairly stunning.
If they’re grinding out bats much better this season, they are not always advancing runners without a hit. They are infrequently going to the run-and-hit and too seldom pushing the action. They’ve bounced into 41 double plays, tied for the 10th most in baseball.
They’ve largely gotten away with it because of a top pitching staff and their ability to go deep, but they can’t expect to lead the majors in home runs all season. Or can they?