A season rolls on and a club tries different things. The lineup is often an unfinished piece of work, constantly evolving either by design or circumstance.
The past few games aside, the Dodgers have enjoyed a potent offense this season despite having what most would hardly consider a classic lineup. They have no traditional leadoff hitter, and although teams are often successful without one, right now it’s proving a problem.
They started the season with Jimmy Rollins leading off, but after batting .192 in the first spot, he was dropped to second and Joc Pederson became the leadoff hitter. The rookie has not enjoyed any more success leading off than the veteran.
Pederson was hitting .296 with a .458 on-base percentage, mostly in the eighth spot, when he was switched to leadoff April 29. In the No. 1 spot he’s batted .188 with a .342 on-base percentage.
There was an almost odd power surge when he was first moved to leadoff (seven home runs in 13 games), but otherwise it’s been a struggle for Pederson. He’s also striking out slightly more and walking slightly less.
Pederson has good speed, but the outfielder who stole 30 bases last season at triple-A hasn’t been able to find his running game regardless of where he hits. He’s stolen two bases in six attempts this season.
Meanwhile, Rollins isn’t having any more success in the second spot (.210 average, .279 OBP) than when he was hitting first (.192/.294).
Rollins is a career .266 hitter, so you assume his average will begin to climb, and he has been hitting the ball harder of late. Still, the Dodgers have to be aware he’s 36 years old and eight years removed from his MVP season with the Phillies.
The offense has been so successful that it’s been easy to overlook the problems at the top of the order. At some point outfielders Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig will return, and both frequently bat second.
That still would not erase the leadoff problem. Pederson is only 23 and in his first season, so he may yet develop better success leading off, though he did strike out 149 times in 445 at-bats last season in triple-A.
No longer is there a Dee Gordon to act as the logical leadoff man. There simply is no obvious leadoff hitter, a problem that may only grow.