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Dodgers

Dodgers Dugout: A look at how the Dodgers hit in clutch situations

2019 MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard
Cody Bellinger
(Gregory Shamus)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and what happened to all that nice, cool weather we were having in L.A.?

Clutch hitting

There’s a belief among a large segment of Dodgers fans that the team does not do well in the clutch. They will point to times when a player fails to get a hit with a runner on second as proof, or point to the fact the Dodgers leave runners on base.

Let’s talk about runners left on base. It’s counter-intuitive, but the teams that lead or are near the league lead in left on base are often the teams with the best offense. Because they have more runners on base than other teams. For example, if the Dodgers beat a team 9-1 on a two-hitter, and the Dodgers leave six on base and the opponent leaves one on base, which team had the best offense? The Dodgers.

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Also, I’m a big believer in confirmation bias. You think the Dodgers don’t hit in the clutch, so every time they leave a runner in scoring position you say “See! Proves my point” but when they get the hit, it gets pushed aside. It’s like driving a new car. Even notice how you suddenly start noticing how many cars on the road are the same make and model of your car? It’s not that there are actually more of those cars on the road, you just notice them now because you have the same car.

So, instead of guessing, I always encourage everyone to look at the numbers. There are dozens of websites that can answer all sorts of baseball statistical questions. My favorite is baseball-reference.com. Let’s use that site to see how well the Dodgers do in a couple of specific clutch situations: with runners in scoring positions and with two outs and runners in scoring position. These numbers do not include Sunday’s game.

Runners in scoring position

League average: .264

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1. Colorado, .298

2. Cincinnati, .272

3. Pittsburgh, .271

4. Arizona, .271

5. Dodgers. .267

6. Washington, .266

7. Atlanta, .266

8. Philadelphia, .265

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9. San Diego, .262

10. New York, .261

11. San Francisco, .257

12. Chicago, .254

13. St. Louis, .253

14. Miami, .252

15. Milwaukee, .239

Dodgers are fifth. That’s pretty good. A lot of teams are bunched up in the .260s.

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Now let’s look at two out and runners in scoring position.

League average: .243

1. Pittsburgh, .276

2. Colorado, .265

3. San Diego, .264

4. San Francisco, .263

5. Dodgers, .246

6. Arizona, .245

7. Philadelphia, .244

8. Chicago, .241

9. Cincinnati, .240

10. Washington, .239

11. New York, .238

12. Atlanta, .231

13. Milwaukee, .230

14. St. Louis, .216

15. Miami, .199

Again, the Dodgers are fifth. Pretty good. There were seasons where you could say the Dodgers weren’t good in the clutch, but not this season.

Now let’s look at individual players and see how they do.

Austin Barnes

Season: .204

With runners in scoring position: .146

With two out and runners in scoring position: .154

Matt Beaty

Season: .278

With runners in scoring position: .414

With two out and runners in scoring position: .214

Cody Bellinger

Season: .338

With runners in scoring position: .274

With two out and runners in scoring position: .200

David Freese

Season: .302

With runners in scoring position: .321

With two out and runners in scoring position: .200

Kyle Garlick

Season: .216

With runners in scoring position: .182

With two out and runners in scoring position: .143

Kiké Hernandez

Season: .224

With runners in scoring position: .208

With two out and runners in scoring position: .256

Russell Martin

Season: .240

With runners in scoring position: .207

With two out and runners in scoring position: .125

Max Muncy

Season: .268

With runners in scoring position: .220

With two out and runners in scoring position: .175

Joc Pederson

Season: .238

With runners in scoring position: .286

With two out and runners in scoring position: .294

A.J. Pollock

Season: .234

With runners in scoring position: .273

With two out and runners in scoring position: .294

Corey Seager

Season: .268

With runners in scoring position: .311

With two out and runners in scoring position: .233

Chris Taylor

Season: .265

With runners in scoring position: .373

With two out and runners in scoring position: .360

Justin Turner

Season: .295

With runners in scoring position: .288

With two out and runners in scoring position: .364

Alex Verdugo

Season: .306

With runners in scoring position: .292

With two out and runners in scoring position: .250

Of course, we can parse clutch numbers in so many ways it’s possible to find one area the Dodgers don’t hit so well. Let’s take a look.

Runner on third, less than two out: .333. The Dodgers have had 194 plate appearances with a runner on third and less than two out and have 131 RBIs. That’s the fourth-best percentage in the league.

Late and close (7th inning or later, tied or tying run on deck): .254 (second in NL)

We could go on all day until we play gotcha. And the more we parse the stats, the fewer at-bats we get, rendering the stat more meaningless. But the point is, you can’t really argue that this team is bad in the clutch this season.

Austin Barnes

Let’s face it, Austin Barnes has struggled at the plate for two seasons now. He is hitting .204/.300/.348/71 OPS+ and is the worst hitter in the lineup. So how long do you stick with him before turning to Will Smith? Jorge Castillo covered this very topic and you can read that story here. Here are some key quotes:

“I think we just keep trying to focus on the everyday thing,” Barnes said. “Try to get better.”

Dave Roberts: “What I could’ve said before going on the IL, I think he was trying way too hard and pressing. He’s frustrated that he’s not getting hits, but I still think the at-bat quality, for me, it’s getting better. I know the results are not there. I’m not blind. But I believe that Austin’s going to turn for us.

“He expects production out of himself. And our ballclub [does]. I don’t think we want to concede that eight spot as being a non-productive spot in the lineup.”

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So, what do the Dodgers do? They could come up with a phantom injury and put him on the IL again. They could trade him at the deadline. They could release him. They could send him to the minors. They can wait and hope he starts hitting.

Barnes does play good defense, so he does have that going for him. I don’t see them releasing him, so that’s out. I don’t see other teams willing to give up much to acquire him in a trade, but he could be part of a package I guess. They sent Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig to the minors in the past, so that is a possibility, but the Dodgers prefer their hitters working with the major-league coaches.

And keep one thing in mind. Major league teams like the keep the service time of young players down, because that means they can keep them under contractual control longer. That’s just part of the reality of today’s game. And with such a large lead in the NL West, the Dodgers can afford to be patient. I think they maintain status quo for as long as they can, hoping they can avoid having to call up Smith until rosters expand in September.

Kudos to Joe Kelly

I love any chance I get to use the word kudos. Anyway, remember 2005? After helping Boston win their first World Series in a million years, Derek Lowe signed with the Dodgers in the offseason and had already made a start for them when, on April 11, he flew to Boston to be on hand for their home opener where he could receive his World Series ring with the rest of the team. He was on field and everything, wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform.

Maybe it’s petty of me, but that bothered me. Don’t put on the jersey of another team when you are playing for the Dodgers. Anyway, cut to this season. Joe Kelly helped the Red Sox win it all last year. This season, he returned to Boston with the Dodgers during the season over the weekend. Was a big production made of him getting his ring? Did he put on a Red Sox jersey?

No, because he received his World Series ring a couple of months ago, outside the home clubhouse at Dodger Stadium, quietly and away from the spotlight when Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner happened to be in town. Kelly said he showed up 10 minutes before first pitch. Werner gave him the ring, they took a picture, and that was it.

“I’d rather have it that way than get a ring out here in front of my teammates,” Kelly said Friday.

And that’s just one more reason to like Joe Kelly.

Ask Fred Claire

Just like last year, former Dodgers GM Fred Claire will answer select questions from readers. Just send your question to me by clicking here and I will pass the question on to Fred. Answers will appear in a future newsletter.

Up next

All times Pacific

Tonight: Dodgers (TBA) at Philadelphia (Zach Elfin), 4 p.m.

Tuesday: Dodgers (TBA) at Philadelphia (Vince Velasquez), 4 p.m.

Sunday: Dodgers (TBA) at Philadelphia (Nick Pivetta), 4 p.m.

*-left-handed

And finally

Don Drysdale appears on “You Bet Your Life” in 1959. Watch it here.

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston.


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