The Dodger stars are shining, but lineup depth looking shallow early

(Photo: Stacie Wheeler)

The Big 3 has always insisted that it’s a Big 4, and it certainly has been that to start the season, as Mookie Betts (1.234 OPS), Shohei Ohtani (1.012), Freddie Freeman (.892), and Will Smith (.985) are all off to hot starts. And there’s really even a case for a Big 5 at the moment, as Teoscar Hernandez (.916) has joined them as a standout.

Meanwhile, a couple other reinforcements behind them have been lively, if nothing else. Max Muncy (.756) has been inconsistent but has come up big at times, and James Outman (.635) has started off slow results-wise and always has a strikeout rate to watch, but has mostly made hard contact and smacked two homers this past series as he seems to be getting going.

With the big guys up front doing a ton of damage at the moment, it’s almost a bit weird that the Dodgers have played closer to a .500 team than their record. Despite being 10-5 (one of the league’s best records) and having played 3-5 more games than the rest of the league, they sit at just +13 in run differential, good for 11th in the league. While the pen has been responsible for some of that (and is another issue of note), a lot of it is also because their lineup depth has proven to be shallow so far and isn’t allowing a real offensive juggernaut to form.

To wit, the quintet of Gavin Lux, Chris Taylor, Enrique Hernandez, Jason Heyward, and Taylor Trammell (four PA, to be fair) have come up with a woeful combined line of .144/.205/.153/.358. If they were mostly end of the bench types, that wouldn’t be as big of a deal, but they have 124 plate appearances and are counted on to fill 2-3 lineup spots per game on a regular basis. The lack of production has meant that the top of the lineup mostly has to drive themselves in for the Dodgers to score.

The optimistic outlook in response to that is that it’s April 10th, that Enrique is hitting the ball hard over half the time he makes contact, Taylor almost literally cannot be any worse, Lux is still working his way back from major injury, and Heyward barely got a chance to get going. However, realistically speaking, Miguel Rojas probably isn’t the slugger he’s been so far and Austin Barnes probably hasn’t found 2017 in a bottle again, so right now the Dodgers are effectively playing with half of their position players hitting like pitchers. There’s a lot of ifs in terms of ability and/or age in there, and it’ll be necessary for them to step up in a huge way in order for the Dodgers to reach their potential and ensure this isn’t a problem in the long haul.


What’s the solution? Well, patience, probably. As boring as it is, the Dodgers are typically not a reactionary team, and the most you’ll in the next couple months is maybe a Miguel Vargas recall (for Trammell?), as the Dodgers are unlikely to call on Andy Pages or Trey Sweeney for part-time duty, much less ever giving Hunter Feduccia a shot.

So there’s no real hot take to be found here, and it does seem weird to be talking about the problems with an offense that has scored over five runs a game so far. However, while I wouldn’t panic about the top guys no matter how they were doing in early April, the last three spots in the lineup were always more of a question mark, and they’re not answering much at the moment.

About Chad Moriyama

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"A highly rational Internet troll." - Los Angeles Times