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Dodgers Dugout: The gaping hole in the Dodger lineup

Los Angeles Dodgers' Max Muncy (13) in action during a baseball game.
Max Muncy
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)
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Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and if Max Muncy is back to his old self, the Dodgers will be that much more difficult to beat.

The Dodgers have been sort of running in place the last couple of weeks. After defeating Arizona on May 29, they were 33-14 and had a three-game lead in the NL West. Since then, they have gone 4-6, but are still in first place, two games ahead of San Diego. In there was a messy three-game sweep by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The bullpen shares a big part of the blame, but, in the grand scheme, every team is going to have a 10-game stretch where they go 4-6. Some teams will have a much worse stretch. The good teams ride it through. The Dodgers do this every season.

Up next are the San Francisco Giants, always a key series. The Giants aren’t quite as good as they were last season, but they are not a team to be overlooked by any means. They are 30- 26, 6.5 games back. If they swept the Dodgers, it would be a massive confidence boost.

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The Dodger offense has been a juggernaut. They lead the majors in runs scored per game (5.25). They scored 10 runs Thursday after a returning Muncy went two for five with a double, homer and five RBIs.

Which brings us to today’s newsletter topic: The Dodgers are doing this well despite getting very little from their cleanup hitters. It’s not an obvious problem like the bullpen has been the last few days, but it could become a problem as we go deeper into the season.

The good folks at baseball-reference.com provide a ton of stats, including how teams do at each batting lineup position. Let’s take a look at how the Dodgers rank at each lineup position compared to the other 14 teams in the NL. We’ll do the top five, where the Dodgers rank if not in the top five, and the last-place team.

Leadoff hitter (mainly Mookie Betts)
1. Dodgers, .304
2. New York, .300
3. Atlanta, .262
4. Colorado, .258
5. Chicago, .255
15. Philadelphia, .194

No. 2 hitter (mainly Freddie Freeman)
1. St. Louis, .323
2. Miami, .318
3. Dodgers, .279
4. San Diego, .276
5. Atlanta, .276
15. Milwaukee, .204

No. 3 hitter (mainly Trea Turner)
1. Dodgers, .280
2. Philadelphia, .269
3. Pittsburgh, .262
4. San Diego, .261
5. St. Louis, .258
15. San Francisco, .176

So far, so good.

Cleanup hitter (mainly Muncy and Will Smith)
1. Washington, .317
2. Colorado, .311
3. New York, .278
4. Chicago, .256
5. Atlanta, .246
15. Dodgers, .194

Hmmm, that seems less than ideal. Dodgers cleanup hitters do move up to seventh in OB% and 12th in slugging. But you don’t really want your cleanup hitters batting less than .200.

Let’s break them out individually.

Hanser Alberto, .500 (1 for 2, 1 RBI)
Justin Turner, .222 (8 for 36, 2 doubles, 1 homer, 6 RBIs)
Will Smith, .193 (17 for 88, 1 double, 5 homers, 11 RBIs)
Edwin Ríos, .177 (3 for 17, 2 homers, 4 RBIs)
Max Muncy, .175 (11 for 63, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homers, 13 RBIs)

No. 5 hitter (mainly Justin Turner)
1. Washington, .283
2. Cincinnati, .278
3. Miami, .273
4. St. Louis, .252
5. San Francisco, .251
15. Dodgers, .183

Wow, even worse.

Let’s break them out individually

Will Smith, .500 (4 for 8, 1 homer, 4 RBIs)
Edwin Ríos, .207 (6 for 29, 1 homer, 1 RBI)
Justin Turner, .200 (18 for 90, 6 doubles, 1 homer, 15 RBIs)
Chris Taylor, .167 (3 for 18, 1 double, 1 RBI)
Max Muncy, .119 (1 homer, 6 RBIs)
Cody Bellinger, .000 (0 for 3)
Hanser Alberto, .000 (0 for 1)

No. 6 hitter (mainly Justin Turner and Will Smith)
1. San Francisco, .282
2. Colorado, .270
3. New York, .261
4. St. Louis, .260
5. Miami, .258
14. Dodgers, .209
15. Cincinnati, .206

No. 7 hitter (mainly Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger)
1. Philadelphia, .280
2. San Francisco, .270
3. Dodgers, .268
4. Chicago, .264
5. New York, .262
15. Pittsburgh, .187

No. 8 hitter (mainly Chris Taylor)
1. Colorado, .307
2. New York, .287
3. Cincinnati, .283
4. Philadelphia, .267
5. Milwaukee, .263
8. Dodgers, .246
15. Arizona, .204

No. 9 hitter (mainly Gavin Lux)
1. Dodgers, .270
2. Miami, .269
3. Washington, .256
4. Colorado, .249
5. St. Louis, .247
15. Pittsburgh, .207

So, the Dodgers lead the majors in runs per game despite getting subpar production from their Nos. 4, 5 and 6 hitters.

The bullpen

The bullpen, usually a bright spot, has faltered the last few days. They gave up five runs in six innings against the White Sox on Thursday and four runs in four innings on Tuesday. Four runs in 4.2 innings against the Mets on Sunday and three runs in 6.2 innings Saturday. And, of course, Brusdar Graterol melted down twice in the series against the Pirates before that. Let’s look at their numbers the last two weeks.

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Caleb Ferguson, 0.00 ERA, 2.1 IP, 0 hits, 2 walks, 4 K’s
Evan Phillips, 1.17 ERA, 7.2 IP, 5 hits, 2 walks, 9 K’s
Yency Almonte, 1.50 ERA, 6 IP, 2 hits, 2 walks, 7 K’s
Justin Bruihl, 2.08 ERA, 4.1 IP, 4 hits, 0 walks, 1 K
Daniel Hudson, 2.84 ERA, 6.1 IP, 6 hits, 1 walk, 11 K’s, 3 saves
Craig Kimbrel, 6.00 ERA, 6 IP, 5 hits, 2 walks, 8 K’s
Brusdar Graterol, 6.48 ERA, 8.1 IP, 8 hits, 0 walks, 6 K’s
Alex Vesia, 6.75 ERA, 5.1 IP, 9 hits, 4 walks, 8 K’s
David Price, 6.75 ERA, 4 IP, 7 hits, 2 walks, 6 K’s
Phil Bickford, 10.15 ERA, 2.2 IP, 4 hits, 0 walks, 1 K
Michael Grove, 27.00 ERA, 1 IP, 3 hits, 1 walk, 0 K’s

Ask Shawn Green

Up next in our “Ask...” series is former Dodger Shawn Green, who had perhaps the greatest offensive day in history when he went six for six, with four homers, a single and a double, along with six runs scored and seven RBIs, against the Milwaukee Brewers on May 23, 2002.

Green is still the Dodgers single-season home run leader, with 49 in 2001. He played with the team from 2000-04.

Green will answer selected questions from Dodgers Dugout readers. Send in your questions for Green by emailing me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com.

Kershaw is back

After making a successful rehab start at Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Sunday, Clayton Kershaw is expected to be activated to start Sunday against the Giants. He probably will not pitch more than five innings.

Obscure Dodger stat of the week

After mentioning clutch hitting numbers in the previous newsletter, there was a debate about who the best and worst clutch hitters in Dodger history were. So let’s take a look at who were the L.A. Dodgers’ best hitters with two out and runners in scoring position, minimum of 100 at-bats (excluding pitchers). Brooklyn is not included because these types of stats are incomplete from then, so it would be unfair to include them.

Best

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Corey Seager, .327
Mike Piazza, .318
Hanley Ramirez, .318
Duke Snider, .315
Lou Johnson, .313
Eric Young, .313
Paul Lo Duca, .311
Jeff Kent, .304
Henry Rodriguez, .300
Kal Daniels, .296
Steve Garvey, .295

Worst
Dave Anderson, .179
Rick Monday, .185
Austin Barnes, .189
Steve Yeager, .190
A.J. Ellis, .193
Joc Pederson, .194
Derrel Thomas, .196
Mariano Duncan, .196
Yasmani Grandal, .198
Dave Hansen, .200

Up next

Tonight: Dodgers (Walker Buehler, 6-2, 3.84 ERA) at San Francisco (Jakob Junis, 3-1, 2.51 ERA), 7:15 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020

Saturday: Dodgers (Julio Urías, 3-5, 2.78 ERA) at San Francisco (TBD), 4:15 p.m., Fox, AM 570, KTNQ 1020

Sunday: Dodgers (TBD) at San Francisco (Carlos Rodón, 4-4, 3.51 ERA), 1 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020

*-left-handed

Stories you might have missed

Elliott: The voice of the Dodgers and Angels? Make that the voices

Late bloomer Tony Gonsolin finally ‘starting to hit his stride’ in Dodgers rotation

Clayton Kershaw targeting Sunday return; Dodgers expect Brusdar Graterol to rebound

And finally

Shawn Green hits four home runs against the Brewers. Watch and listen here.

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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