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Dodgers Dugout: The Dodger offense may not be as bad as you think

Cody Belllinger
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell. Guess what? It looks like Mookie Betts likes batting in the leadoff spot.

The big topic this week (at least before Thursday’s surge on offense) is: Why aren’t the Dodgers hitting?

Because of the deadlines for the newsletter and the fact the Dodgers played Thursday night, I had to write most of this before they scored 11 runs against San Diego. And that’s OK, because that pretty much reinforced the points below.

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So, let’s take a look at the numbers and then talk about it.

Team numbers
Runs per game: 5.05 (ninth in majors)
Major League average: 4.59

Batting average: .232 (21st in majors)
Major League average: .238

On-base %: .313 (18th in majors)
Major League average: .317

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Slugging %: .425 (12th in majors)
Major League average: .409

Home Runs: 30 (fifth in majors)
Major League average: 22

Walks: 65 (11th in majors)
Major League average: 59

The Dodgers are above-average in runs scored and have a winning record despite the low batting average thanks to their power and ability to draw walks (the Dodgers hit six home runs Thursday).

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Now let’s use OPS+ to look at individual players. Remember, OPS+ basically takes a player’s numbers and compares them to the league average. An OPS+ of 100 means you are a league average hitter. An OPS+ of 110 means you are 10% better than average; a score of 90 means you are 10% worse than average.

Above 100 (through Wednesday’s games)
Edwin Rios, 185
Corey Seager, 172
AJ Pollock, 148
Mookie Betts, 142
Justin Turner, 124
Will Smith, 109
Chris Taylor, 106

Below 100
Kiké Hernandez, 95
Joc Pederson, 86
Max Muncy, 82
Cody Bellinger, 39
Austin Barnes, 27
Matt Beaty, 25

I can hear everyone saying “How can Will Smith be above average when he is hitting .188?” Well, and we’ve discussed this before, it’s a mistake to focus only on batting average when evaluating hitters. Batting average is important, but it’s not the only barometer. In 41 plate appearances, Smith has drawn eight walks, struck out only five times and has two homers and a double. That gives him an OB% of .341 and a SLG% of .406, which pushes him to above average range.

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And if you’ll notice, it’s the above average players this season, specifically Betts, Seager, Pollock and Taylor who mainly contributed to Thursday’s big win. Meanwhile, Bellinger, Muncy and Pederson went hitless.

So what about the below-average players?

Hernandez is pretty much where he usually is. Last season he hit .237/.304/.411. This season he is .264/.291/.415.

Joc Pederson, as we all know by now, is a streaky hitter, and he has started the season in one of his bad streaks. In June of 2019, he hit .185/.255/.314. I mean, there’s a reason the Dodgers were willing to give him up for Luis Rengifo at one point.

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Matt Beaty is two for 19. Anyone can go two for 19.

Austin Barnes, and I say this with all due respect to his defense, is not a good hitter.

Max Muncy broke his finger during the abbreviated run-up to the season, so let’s cut him some slack. A healing broken finger can mess up your swing.

That brings us to Cody Bellinger. He is hitting .165/.224/.266. He has empty numbers everywhere. For some reason, he decided to tinker with his swing in the off-season because he was not happy with his second-half performance last year. During that second half, he hit .263/.371/.546, good for a 140 OPS+. In his worst second-half month (August), he hit .235/.336/.582, an OPS+ of 131. He had a well above average OPS+ every month last season. The problem seems to be, he got off to an amazing start in 2019, hitting .431/.508/.890 in April, and for some reason, many people seemed to think he should hit like that all the time.

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I don’t know the inner thought processes of Bellinger, but to me he has always over thought things. He had a great season last year. He had a solid second half. Nothing needed to be adjusted.

By the way, Christian Yelich, who finished second to Bellinger in MVP voting last season, is hitting .175/.288/.456 this season, so maybe there is some sort off MVP voting jinx going on.

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Speaking of Betts

Dodgers with at least three homers in a game since 1901:

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Four homers

Shawn Green, 5-23-2002, vs. Milwaukee

Gil Hodges, 8-31-1950, vs. Boston Braves

Three homers

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Mookie Betts, 8-13-2020, vs. San Diego

AJ Pollock, 9-6-2019, vs. San Francisco

Justin Turner, 5-7-2019, vs. Atlanta

Yasiel Puig, 9-15-2018, vs. St. Louis

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Kiké Hernandez, 10-19-2017, vs. Chicago Cubs*

Corey Seager, 6-20-2017, vs. NY Mets

Adrian Gonzalez, 8-22-2016, vs. Cincinnati

Yasmani Grandal, 7-8-2016, vs. San Diego

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Corey Seager, 6-3-2016, vs. Atlanta

Adrian Gonzalez, 4-8-2015, vs. San Diego

Juan Uribe, 9-9-2013, vs. Arizona

Andre Ethier, 6-26-2009, vs. Seattle

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Hee-Seop Choi, 6-12-2005, vs. Minnesota

Shawn Green, 8-15-2001, vs. Montral

Kevin Elster, 4-11-2000, vs. San Francisco

Mike Piazza, 6-29-1996, vs. Colorado

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Cory Snyder, 4-17-1994, vs. Pittsburgh

Davey Lopes, 8-20-1974, vs. Chicago Cubs

Jim Wynn, 5-11-1974, vs. San Diego

Don Demeter, 4-21-1959, vs. San Francisco

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Duke Snider, 6-1-1955, vs. Milwaukee Braves

Tommy Brown, 9-18-1950, vs. Chicago Cubs

Roy Campanella, 8-26-1950, vs. Cincinnati

Duke Snider, 5-30-1950, vs. Philadelphia

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Gene Hermanski, 8-5-1948, vs. Chicago Cubs

Jack Fournier, 7-13-1926, vs. St. Louis

*-postseason game

Players with most three-homer games:

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Six

Mookie Betts

Johnny Mize

Sammy Sosa

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Five

Joe Carter

Carlos Delgado

Dave Kingman

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Mark McGwire

Alex Rodriguez

Four

Ernie Banks

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Barry Bonds

Steve Finley

Lou Gehrig

Ralph Kiner

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Larry Parrish

Albert Pujols

Aramis Ramirez

Willie Stargell

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Go vote

Miss visiting Dodger Stadium and want a reason to go there in these isolated times? Go vote there.

The stadium will host a voting site for November’s election, the team announced Thursday, partnering with LeBron James’ More Than a Vote coalition.

The site will be accessible to registered Los Angeles County voters over a five-day period for the presidential general election on Nov 3. Exact details will be announced later.

If we are going to vote a the stadium, then they should have the ballots look like the old All-Star ballots. Red and white and marked with a pencil. Have ushers bring them to us. Come on, do it right.

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Joe Kelly speaks

Joe Kelly appeared on teammate Ross Stripling’s podcast on Thursday and, among other topics, talked about the recent incident with the Astros that led to his eight-game suspension.

“I threw a ball. It was nowhere close to the history that I’ve had with altercation,” Kelly said. “The facts are there. I got more games, more fine, more punishment. And then they’re going to bring a BS excuse that well during the pandemic we can’t have altercations.

“I didn’t have an altercation. They had the altercation. I cussed. So did their manager. I walked away. They walked towards me so where’s the altercation there? I want to know. I really want to know what they’re actually thinking. Because what they’re doing right now, there’s no thinking involved. There’s literally no thinking involved.”

Kelly said Astros manager Dusty Baker told him to “get your skinny ass on the mound.”

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“My cuss words get eight games, and his cuss words get zero?” Kelly said. “That makes complete sense, right? Welcome to planet Earth. A debacle.”

You can listen to the entire podcast here.

By the way, Kelly is now on the injured list because of inflammation in his pitching shoulder and, after he appealed, his suspension was reduced from eight games to five games, which he will have to serve when he comes off the IL.

Ask Ross Porter

Former Dodgers broadcaster Ross Porter is back for another season of “Ask Ross Porter.” We have a new email address this season for it. Ross will have access to this email address and will get your questions without me having to forward them. So, if you have a message (like thanking him for his years as a broadcaster) and not a question, feel free to let him know. Send your question or comment to rossporterdodgers@gmail.com.

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Joe Aparicio asks: Hi, Ross. I think Sandy Koufax may have had the best final season statistically speaking of any Hall of Fame starting pitcher prior to retiring. Would you agree?

Ross: Thank you, Joe, for one of the best questions I’ve ever answered. You made me work harder than usual in researching the facts. There are 80 pitchers in the Hall of Fame. In 1966, his last year with the Dodgers, Sandy had a record of 27-9, an earned-run average of 1.73, and 317 strikeouts in 323 innings. He threw his last pitch when he was 30 years old. Nice call on your part. No one came close to those numbers in his farewell campaign. In 1890, Hank O’Day finished 22-13 to bring his career record to 73-110 (he’s in the Hall of Fame as an umpire). Mike Mussina said goodbye in 2008 with a 20-9 season. What I found incredible was a majority of those Hall of Famers had losing records in their final seasons. The fourth highest victory total was 11. No one else concluded even five games over .500. I asked Vin recently if Sandy were the best pitcher he saw in his 67 years behind the microphone, and his answer was, “For a couple of years I don’t see how anyone could have been better.” In his last four seasons, Koufax had a record of 97-27 with an ERA of 1.86.

Andrew Hernandez of Glendale asks: Being a lifelong Dodger fan, one of the familiar faces I’ve come to know was Mike Brito, standing behind home plate in his white hat holding his radar gun. Has he retired?

Ross: I am happy to tell you, Andrew, that Mike has not retired and is still going strong at 85. He has signed over 20 players who reached the major leagues, most of them Dodgers, including Fernando Valenzuela.

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Stan Coleite, a Dodger fan for 58 years, asks: Ross, what was the most memorable game you ever called in 28 seasons?

Ross: Probably all three of Reggie Jackson‘s home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium, each on the first pitch. The broadcast on CBS was heard over on 600 radio stations around the world.

Scott Walden asks: I noticed there are 27 players who hit 500 or more home runs. Duke Snider has the most as a Dodger (389). Why hasn’t this prized franchise had more? Is it because they have emphasized pitching over power hitting?

Ross: One of the main reasons is that Dodger Stadium is considered a pitchers park and not an easy one to hit a homer. To reach even 400, a player would have to average 40 a season for 10 years, and the team has never had a slugger that long. Yes, the Dodgers have assembled some of the best pitchers ever, and their scouting department gets much of the credit.

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Up next

Friday: Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw*) at Angels (Patrick Sandoval*), 6:30 p.m., SportsNet LA, FSW, AM 570, KLAA 830

Saturday: Dodgers (Walker Buehler) at Angels (Andrew Heaney*), 6:30 p.m., SportsNet LA, FSW, AM 570, KLAA 830

Sunday: Dodgers (Dustin May) at Angels (Julio Teheran), 1 p.m., TBS, SportsNet LA, FSW, AM 570, KLAA 830

*-Left-handed

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And finally

Player diary: Kiké Hernández details Dodgers’ first road trip amid coronavirus crisis

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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