It’s not that the Dodgers should be terribly embarrassed by last night’s 2-0 loss to Oakland; after all, Sonny Gray is one of the elite pitchers in the game, right up there with Chris Sale, Chris Archer, and Dallas Keuchel in the race for the AL Cy Young. (Corey Kluber should be there too, but he’s got no realistic shot.) Sometimes, you’re going to run into great pitchers, and they’re going to beat you, especially when one of your best hitters (Justin Turner) is sidelined.
But the problem is that a big part of the offense has been struggling for more than just one day. We talk a lot about how the offense has been better than people think it is, and that’s true — even including pitchers hitting, the team’s 111 wRC+ is tied with Toronto for best in baseball. The thing is, that’s still partially influenced by the insane April 131 wRC+ that was never sustainable. It’s not what they are now.
Right now, the biggest trouble is in the outfield, which has been a mess lately. This post was originally going to be about the continued struggles of Joc Pederson, who has had exactly two games with multiple hits this month and just one homer. But Pederson alone isn’t responsible for the following ranking, which shows team wRC+ from outfields over the last 30 days:
1) Angels, 158 (Mike Trout, obviously)
28) Dodgers, 73
29) Orioles, 67
30) Rays, 57
Take a look at the team’s the outfielders in that time (this is not limited to specific playing time in the outfield, so the guys who get backup appearances in the infield will have everything included here):
|Scott Van Slyke||26||23.1%||26.9%||.333||.211||.400||.263||107|
Ethier, after a dip from his hot start, has again been solid this month. Hernandez and Van Slyke have had too little playing time to matter, and Van Slyke’s been getting by on plate discipline, not power. As poor as Pederson’s been, Puig has been even worse, which puts a different filter on all the “are they going to trade him, no probably not” business we’re all living with. Despite this, the offense overall has still been league-average — 100 wRC+ — over the last 30 days, thanks to Turner, Yasmani Grandal, and Adrian Gonzalez. If what you’ve seen still feels disappointing, well, know that with offense down everywhere, “league average” just isn’t as big as it used to be.
In Pederson’s case, it was always clear the league would make adjustments to him as they learned him, and that he’d struggle for a time trying to make adjustments back. He’ll be better than this, of course. The question is just how long will it take, and when will Puig wake up. We all know the Dodgers are getting a pitcher or three by the weekend. There’s not really bats available or places to put them, though. The offense is going to have to come from what they have. The outfield is going to have to improve.