The Dodgers haven’t been good in August, and that’s as simple as it gets. They’ve gone 8-12 in the month, and it’s been akin to their struggles in April as Chad noted yesterday. The bullpen has given up 10 leads or ties in the seventh inning or later over the last 13 games. However, it hasn’t all been bad.
The offense has definitely been inconsistent, but their collective August 119 wRC+ is tied with the Mets for the fifth best in baseball. Prior to their 3-1 loss last night, their August wRC+ was 124, tied with the Cardinals and the Diamondbacks for the best in baseball. In contrast to the Dodgers, the Cardinals have the best record in the MLB this month at 17-4, while Arizona has the second best record in the NL at 14-8. I’d tell you more about how bad the bullpen has been, but you’ve seen it in action every single night. Here are the batters doing the most to keep the Dodgers afloat this August.
Justin Turner – .391/.481/.696
Turner has been as hot as anyone in baseball in August, boasting a 14 game hitting streak and 16 game on-base streak since coming off the DL on August 2 until the August 21 game against the Cardinals. He’s been looking like the Turner of old with impressive plate discipline, while hitting for average and power. Despite being hitless in his last eight AB’s, he’s still put up a 219 wRC+ this month which is good for the fourth best mark in all of baseball. His .391 batting average is third in the league, and his .481 on-base percentage is second to only Paul Goldschmidt (.506). Over his first 192 PA this season prior to August, Turner was slashing .259/.354/.398 with a 110 wRC+, and he’s now up to .298/.392/.485 with a 142 wRC+. From Bill Plunkett at the Orange County Register,
“I hit early in BP in Oakland and it didn’t feel right,” Turner said of his swing. “I was talking to Brownie (assistant hitting coach Brant Brown) and saying I felt like I was fighting my body. There’s a drill you do where you open up and he’s offset to the side and you can kind of feel some space in there. It felt really good so I said, you know what, I’m just going to open up and see how that feels and it felt real good. That night in my first at-bat, I hit a ball off the wall in right center, had a couple hits in that game. It’s felt good ever since.”
Cody Bellinger – .371/.444/.529
Bellinger had a 14 game on-base streak which ended last night, and it would’ve been 19 games dating back to July 30, but he was 0-1 on August 4 pinch-hitting against the Astros. He’s come back down a little bit going 1-12 this series against the Cardinals, but he’s still put up a 162 wRC+ on the month, good for 25th of 270 qualified batters. A brief look into what has changed is that his strikeout rate is down from 25.0% to 19.8% this month. Besides that, his batted ball profile shows that he’s also making less soft contact (20.6% down to 10.9%) and trading his fly-balls for line drives (up from 16.7% to 29.1%). Those changes are almost always good things. His average and on-base percentage are almost identical to last year, and while the power from last year is definitely down, he was never going to replicate a 50 home run pace. In what some might call a “Sophomore Slump”, Bellinger is ninth in wRC+ among first baseman (118), and sixth in fWAR (2.6). That’ll work for me, and he’s trending in the right direction at a crucial time for the Dodgers.
Max Muncy – .234/.294/.574
Muncy has battled overall plate discipline issues in August, but has shown signs of life as of late. Just in the last week, he tied the game in Seattle with an emphatic home run against Edwin Diaz — probably the best closer in the game, and then tied the game somehow by going opposite field for a single on a 103.3 MPH sinker off of Jordan Hicks. The bullpen did eventually blow both games, but it doesn’t make his performance any less impressive. Overall in August, Muncy has a 131 wRC+ but that’s including what is hopefully the worst part of his slump, where he struck out nine times in 13 plate appearances to start the month. Since then, Muncy has a 158 wRC+ to go along with a .973 OPS while “only” striking 34.7% of the time. His walk rate is down as well at only 7.9% since August 6, compared to 15.7% on the year but he wasn’t going to hit like Mike Trout forever. Hopefully his true talent lies somewhere in between, and he can continue getting back to being a strong offensive threat moving forward.
Enrique Hernandez – .286/.366/.457
Hernandez is another hitter who’s been trending upwards with a 125 wRC+ on the month. Most notably, his walk to strikeout ratio of 1.7 is fifth of 270 batters with at least 40 PA in August. That’s only three strikeouts to five walks in just 42 plate appearances on the month, which is a small sample size, but if you split up his season into two parts, you can see that the plate discipline has been constant over his last 200+ appearances.
That looks like a drastically different hitter with a very similar slash line. Since the beginning of June, Hernandez has walked 22 times to just 28 strikeouts, a ratio of 0.79, a ratio that is good for 24th of 324 batters with at least 100 PA since June 1. Back to just this month, Hernandez has also been making better contact, with his soft contact down to 11.8% from 24.0%, while his hard contact has increased from 31.2% to 38.2%. As we’ve seen with hitters like Turner, Muncy, and even to an extent Joc Pederson, it’s difficult to be a bad hitter while having control of your strike zone. For example, potential MVP Mookie Betts has a 12.2% walk rate and a 14.0% strikeout rate, almost identical to what Hernandez has been doing for a better part of the year. Hernandez is nowhere close to Betts, but plate discipline is an extremely important skill, and if Hernandez has really improved here, he can definitely help the Dodgers push for the playoffs.
Brian Dozier – .232/.372/.420
Since joining the Dodgers on August 1, Dozier has hit well, with a 122 wRC+ compared to a 92 wRC+ with the Twins. Overall, he’s been really good, but those stats are inflated by his first week with the team when he was really hot. In his first week as a Dodger, he slashed .333/.481/.762 with a 227 wRC+, compared to .188/.322/.271 with a 74 wRC+ since. Again, it’s tough to pick apart three weeks, and power hitters like Dozier are usually pretty streaky. His plate discipline has improved since he’s joined the team, with an 18.6% walk rate and 15.1% strikeout rate. Similar to Hernandez, that walk to strikeout ratio of 1.2 is good for eighth of 270 qualified batters this month. Overall he’s been an upgrade on both sides of the ball, and the team needs every bit of offensive production it can get moving forward.
Manny Machado – .266/.333/.443
While Dozier is coming down from a hot first week in August, Machado looks to be catching his stride after a handful of bad games to start the month. Machado has just a 109 wRC+ in August, but outside of those first four games, he’s slashing .297/.366/.516 with a 136 wRC+. His strikeout rate is still a bit higher than usual over that stretch at 19.7% compared to 15.0% overall on the year. His strikeout rate is at 22.6% as a Dodger compared to 12.3% as an Oriole however, over his last 10 games (48 PA), he’s walked five times while striking out just five times making both rates identical at 10.4%, which is more in-line with his typical plate discipline. If Machado gets going down the final stretch here, there aren’t many players in the game as good as him and it’ll be fun to watch.