Dodgers need the good Enrique Hernandez to come back

The Dodgers beat the Giants on April 15. That made it a good day (as well as it being Jackie Robinson Day). They got that victory thanks mostly to a career-best game by Enrique Hernandez. He was hitting .440/.481/.800 when action concluded that evening. Obviously, that wasn’t sustainable (not even in a video game), but some level of production for the Dodger super utility player was expected.

Since that game, Hernandez has struggled — mightily.

April 16 through May 4
17 games (nine starts), .083/.233/.083, 3 hits (all singles), 7 BB, 10 K, .115 BABIP

Here’s the breakdown against lefties and righties.

vs. LHP
0-for-14, 5 BB, 4 K

vs. RHP
3-for-22, 2 BB, 6 K

He’s still hitting lefties well on the season (.320/.452/.640), but he’s in a significant slump for a guy who has proven to be hell on lefties in the past. He’s also just 6-for-36 with one extra base hit against right-handed pitching on the season with a 19 wRC+, so I wouldn’t expect him to pick it up against same-handed pitching anytime soon, either.

He has played a little more against righties than expected due to injuries to Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke, but he hasn’t done anything to disprove the notion that he’s just a platoon player.

Hernandez has stopped hitting the ball hard — at least, as hard as he was hitting it early on. Through April 15, he had a 95.8 MPH exit velocity — well above league-average. Since then, he has lost 6 MPH on his batted balls. Opposing pitchers have shifted where he’s being pitched.

Through April 15, pitchers were pounding Hernandez on the inner half of the plate. In turn, he was pounding the pitches.

vs. LHP

 

Enrique Hernandez heatmap pitches rhp 4.15.16
vs. RHP

Since, left-handed pitchers have been working him low-and-in …

vs. LHP
vs. LHP

… while right-handers have been working him low-and-away.

Enrique Hernandez heatmap pitches rhp 5.4.16
vs. RHP

Heatmaps courtesy of Baseball Savant

For a guy who came into the season as easily the most important bench piece and a really important player, Hernandez is struggling quite a bit since his bust-out game against Madison Bumgarner and the Giants. But the entire offense has struggled since that time, and I am in no way blaming the offensive woes on a guy who has 43 plate appearances in the last 17 games. But he does need to make the necessary adjustments so he can get back to being a productive player.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.