Dodgers’ offense taking different approach to scoring

In the early going, the Dodgers’ offense has looked pretty good. The team is 8-6 and scoring runs generally hasn’t been much of a problem. Through 14 games this year, they have 66 runs scored, and through 14 games last season, they had 67 runs scored. But the two offenses offenses scored/have scored runs in different ways.

Last season, the Dodgers were a home run-hitting team, whether folks liked the label or not. They hit a National League-best 187 dingers in 2015. Through the first 14 games, they had 18 home runs, and they also hit 38 (!) doubles and three triples. This year, those numbers are eight, 30 and four, respectively. Despite the hot start and home-run hitting, the Dodgers ended up scoring 667 runs last year — 19th in baseball.

As a team, the Dodgers are 13th in baseball in average exit velocity at 89.1 MPH. That is up by one-tenth from last season overall (89 MPH), so they aren’t really hitting the ball much harder. One glaring difference from last season is the walk rate. Last season, the Dodgers led baseball in walk percentage at 9.2. Through 14 games last year, that number was 10.9. This season: 6.8 percent — 26th in baseball. They are also seeing a league-worst 3.65 pitchers per plate appearance. In 2015, they were seventh at 3.87 P/PA.

The team’s wRC+ is a below league-average at 95, yet it has scored just one fewer run this season than last. Sure, the 15-run outburst on Opening Day might skew things slightly, but they’ve somehow been able to score runs without hitting the ball over the fence or walking.

One big reason the Dodgers are nearly as good at scoring runs this season despite everything else trending the opposite direction: hitting with runners in scoring position. As a team, the Dodgers own a .290 average with runners in scoring position. Last season, they hit .249. With a roster that didn’t see a lot of overhaul from last season, it’s sort of amazing to see the results thus far. Perhaps credit eventually needs to go toward Turner Ward‘s coaching, because while I don’t believe in clutchiness, the nearly 40-point jump when there are “ducks on the pond” is something to follow.

Other things to consider:

  • BaseRuns: -14.8 in 2015 (26th in MLB) to 0.2 in 2016 (13th)
  • BABIP: .292 in 2015 (23rd) to .315 in 2016 (4th)
  • Line Drive Rate: 21.5 percent in 2015 (8th) to 22.9 percent in 2016 (5th)
  • Zone Contact Rate: 85.9 percent in 2015 (21st) to 88.0 percent in 2016 (5th)

A lot of this could change, seeing as we’re just 14 games into the season and the sample size isn’t large enough to determine whether this offensive approach will hold up over the course of the season. As long as they keep hitting the ball relatively hard, they should be OK, but it’d be nice to see them work a few more walks in if the bats go cold.

Having Yasmani Grandal back will help a lot. He’s averaging 97.3 MPH on his batted balls — third-best in baseball. Yasiel Puig has been a different player so far this season, while Adrian Gonzalez continues to be consistently good. And we’ve already sung the praises of Enrique Hernandez and the rest of the Dodgers’ depth, which surely should help over the long haul.

This will be interesting to monitor going forward. Don’t expect the Dodgers to suddenly start hitting a lot of home runs, but do expect them to keep hitting the ball hard.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. 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.