Chris Taylor leads the National League in strikeouts.
“I’m shocked,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Shocked. I expect him to be a guy that has better bat-to-ball skills.”
Taylor did, before revamping his swing last year and emerging as a surprise slugger. After hitting one home run in the first 291 at-bats of his career, he hit 21 home runs in 514 at-bats last year. He also batted .288.
This year, Taylor has 15 home runs, and he is batting .248. He is refining his swing to have a little less uppercut and a little more line drive, reversing the increasingly popular hitting style in the hope of making more contact with the ball.
“I think,” Roberts said, “that he’s tried to lower the launch angle . … I’m not saying it’s a line drive, because a lot of hitters are sensitive to what you’re trying to say, but the ball is coming off at a different trajectory. That’s allowing him to not miss fastballs, and be more on time.”
That’s good, but wait a second. You have to be sensitive about calling someone a contact hitter?
“Yeah,” Roberts said. “That’s what the game has come to.”
“A productive out? A line-drive hitter? That’s not always looked at as a compliment, which is crazy.”
Dylan Floro blossoms
The single biggest out for the Dodgers on Friday in the series opener with the Colorado Rockies was recorded by Dylan Floro, a relief pitcher claimed on waivers last year, then designated for assignment 15 days later, without a major league appearance. When the Dodgers reacquired Floro from the Cincinnati Reds on July 4, he wondered whether he would be anything more than another revolving arm on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster.
Floro is in his seventh professional season. He had pitched in 15 major league games in his first six seasons before finding a home in the Reds’ bullpen this season.
“When it first happened, to be honest, I said I hope it doesn’t turn into where I’m going up and down again,” he said. “I felt like I was in a good situation with the Reds, trying to get ahead and improve myself. So far, this year, it’s been unbelievable.”
Floro has pitched so well that, when the Dodgers had to protect a two-run lead in the seventh inning Friday, he was the guy. The Rockies had the bases loaded and two out, and Floro struck out most-valuable-player candidate Trevor Story.
“I was pumped up,” Floro said. “It was exciting. All the fans standing up there screaming. It’s been a long time since I pitched in something that meant so much.”
So long, in fact, that his last truly big game came for college powerhouse Cal State Fullerton. Floro, 27, played for the Titans from 2010 to 2012, on pitching staffs that included current major leaguers Noe Ramirez (Angels), Chris Devenski (Houston Astros) and Michael Lorenzen (Reds).
“It’s a good baseball school,” Floro said. “We don’t have football, so baseball is the football program.”
Third baseman Justin Turner also played at Fullerton, where football was dropped after the 1992 season. On Saturday, as the Dodgers watched college football on clubhouse televisions, Turner had a ready retort to the teammate who teased him about how Fullerton was doing.
“Undefeated since 1992,” Turner shot back.