The Dodgers have offensive problems
This year the Los Angeles Dodgers have won four and four losses. Except for the exciting opener, the Dodgers have scored at least seven runs in each of their victories. However, in their losses they have not scored more than three runs. Tuesday Kevin Brown made his 2001 debut and pitched a complete game where he allowed three hits. Brown lost because Curt Schilling allowed only two singles by Paul Lo Duca and Eric Karros and he never allowed any Dodger to reach second base.
Before the season started, the media and many Dodger fans worried about the Dodger offense. The Dodgers assured everybody to not worry about their offense. During spring training they focused on how to manufacture runs by bunting, hitting grounders to the right side, and/or stealing bases. Since the season started, the Dodgers have relied on home runs to score instead of doing the little things to score.
The Dodgers' biggest problem has been not many players get on base. Without runners on base it is difficult for any team to score unless they hit home runs. Their on-base percentage is .285, pitiful for any major league team. While the Dodgers have struck out sixty times, they have walked only twenty times.
The Dodgers' leadoff hitters have a batting average of .171 with an on-base percentage of .171. No team can win their division with a poor leadoff hitter. This season Tom Goodwin and Marquis Grissom have shared the leadoff duties, and neither has done satisfactorily.
Goodwin worked on bunting, developing a downward swing, and decreasing his strikeouts this spring. Yet, so far this season Goodwin has attempted extremely few bunts. While hitting nine ground balls, Goodwin has flied out seven times and struck out twice. When he hits a fly, it is almost always unproductive because Goodwin has almost no power. Though a leadoff hitter is supposed to walk often, Goodwin has not walked this year. His on-base percentage is .222.
Last year Marquis Grissom had the worst on-base percentage of any position player in the major leagues. This year Jim Tracy is using Grissom as a leadoff hitter against left-handed pitchers because Grissom has running speed. Though he has hit a home run, he has had only two hits in nineteen at-bats. Since he has not walked, his on-base percentage is .105, lousy for any major leaguer. Not having much power, Grissom has hit six flies and four grounders. He has struck out seven times. If Grissom cannot get on base, he cannot use his speed.
During the off-season the media and some Dodger fans worried if Shawn Green and Eric Karros could offer enough threat to force the opposition to pitch to Gary Sheffield. Though neither Green nor Karros met the Dodgers' expectations, they had decent performances in 2000. Green had a .269 average with 24 home runs and 99 RBI in 2000, and so far this year he has a .296 batting average with two home runs and two RBI. In 2000 Karros had a .250 batting average with 31 home runs and 106 RBI. This year he has hit .200 with two home runs and four RBI. Neither of them has had many opportunities with runners in scoring position. Green has had four at-bats with runners in scoring position, and he has had no hits. Karros also has had four at-bats with runners in scoring position, and he has had two hits.
Gary Sheffield's last year's performance made most people consider him as the best Dodger hitter. Since he has been dropping his back shoulder while batting, Sheffield has been hitting flies. While hitting four ground balls, he has hit fourteen flies. Thus, he has had a slow start. He has a .250 batting average with one home run and two RBI. Sheffield has not had an at-bat with runners in scoring position. He has walked six times while striking out only three times.
This season the best Dodger hitter, Paul Lo Duca, has sat out four games because Jim Tracy chose to have Chad Kreuter and Angel Peña catch. Lo Duca has a .368 batting average with two home runs and seven RBI. His .368 on-base percentage ranks as one of the best on the Dodgers. It is a shame that Lo Duca cannot play daily.
The Dodgers' offense is not as bad as it showed in their losses, but it is not as good as it showed in their victories. If the Dodgers want to score consistently, they must improve their on-base percentage, and they must have a productive leadoff hitter.