Of course the Dodgers would troll me. I work all day coming up with numbers on a slumping quintet of hitters and then they go out and blow up the Trop, beating Tampa Bay 10-4. I mean, of course, they do.
But why let the facts get in the way of, well, more facts. What follows is a breakdown of five Dodgers who are/were slumping and my level of concern about each of them.
Not Worried At All
Corey Seager: Seager came into Tuesday’s game hitting .242/.303/.384. Obviously his “career” line is hamstrung by a small sample size, but he’s still performing below his Steamer projected line of .260/.314/.416. He’s currently rocking a wRC+ of 83, and his strikeout rate of 17% is a click above his overall rate of 16%.
Bottom line is that Seager is just too talented to struggle for an entire season. He’s got a smooth, compact swing, and there have been no signs that he’s been pressing. What we are most likely seeing is the league countering what it saw from Seager at the end of last year. This is an inevitable step in a young player’s evolution. Seager will figure it out, which is not to say it’d be better sooner than later given the Dodgers’ May schedule.
Not Really Worried, But A Little Worried
Adrian Gonzalez: 2016 has started poorly for A-Gon, but not disastrously. He is currently slashing .283/.263/.414 after the win in Tampa Bay in which he went 2 for 5 with a pair of singles. That’s actually comparable with his Steamer projection of .271/.341/.454. So what’s the problem?
The major concern here is that his K-Rate is at 21.3%, which is above his career rate of 17.4%. There is no doubt that we are on the precipice of Gonzalez’ decline years, but he still seems a good bat to give the Dodgers something close to his usual 25 HR-100 RBI serving of butter and eggs. I’d still like to see that K-Rate go down, however.
Maybe A Bit Worried
Justin Turner: Turner’s career slash is misleading, because it includes the years he played for the Reds and the Mets before he came to The Promised Land and morphed into Ginger Jesus. After today’s game, Turner’s slash is .238/.323/.321, not close to either his career of .282/.349/.414 or his Steamer projection of .271/.339/.414.
He’s got a wRC+ of 76, which currently ranks him 22nd out of 26 qualified third basemen. Basically, the concern here is based on Turner’s fragility and the fact that he hasn’t been the guy his entire career that he’s been with the Dodgers. I think he gets it back together, but he’s being expected to be a 3 or 4 hitter on a contending team. So he’s gonna have to really pick it up at some point.
Yasiel Puig: Puig did some things Tuesday. He hit a three-run bomb in the ninth inning today, had another hit, drove in three, and scored twice. That brought his slash up to .247/.205/.412, but his wRC+ was still only 84 headed into the game. After a scalding start in which his BABIP surpassed .350, he has settled down to a far more normalized .290.
People forget that at 25 and $6 million per year, Puig is an incredible value and a bet you keep making regardless of the maturity issues. You still have to keep betting on the talent, but his last 162 games have been far less effective than his first 162, and this regression over the last two weeks has echoed that troubling career arc. He needs to be the guy he was in Tampa on Tuesday for this team to compete.
Howie Kendrick: Kendrick went berserk in Tampa on Tuesday, not so subtly undermining my analysis here. Nevertheless, Howard has looked, shall we say, less than his former self since returning from his injury. Even after his 4-5 explosion on the Rays, he’s still slashing .197/.222/.213 on the season, and he had the dubious distinction of bringing a -15 wRC+ into the game.
Part of what mitigates my concerns about Kendrick is the fact that he’s kind of a bonus at this point. With Utley handling second against righties, and with Enrique Hernandez being a person who exists, Kendrick hitting like he’s swinging a wet noodle isn’t that crucial to the Dodgers’ success. With Scott Van Slyke and Andre Ethier eventually coming back, he won’t be needed in the outfield, and once those guys come back, Kike’ can start against lefties at second.
The Dodgers currently sit at seventh in the National League in runs scored. This lineup needs to hit better, because the Dodger pitching staff is in flux and suddenly full of questions after you get past Kershaw and King Kenta. Any combination of these five guys improving would do wonders for this offense, which faces a nasty gauntlet of pitching this month.