Los Angeles Dodgers: The easy solution to an ice-cold outfield

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 20: Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers strikes out as Francisco Pena #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on during the sixth inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on August 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 20: Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers strikes out as Francisco Pena #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on during the sixth inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on August 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ offense has been struggling in large part due to the lack of production from the outfield. If only there was an answer.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are a team that will slug multiple home runs and blow a team out or fails to hit in big situations and loses a close game. That is why the Dodgers are first in the National League in run differential yet have the eighth-best record in the NL.

That has made this team a very frustrating team to watch as the win-loss record should be much better than it actually is.

And while the bullpen has blown a few games, especially recently when Kenley Jansen spent time on the DL, the offense rarely put the team in a good position to throw out of the bullpen. While not every game should have an excuse when the bullpen is constantly only pitching in high-leverage situations, of course, it is going to crack.

At the end of the day, it is the lack of situational hitting and manufacturing runs that is hurting the Los Angeles Dodgers. Los Angeles is the worst team in the MLB in clutch hitting, per FanGraphs, and is 20th in the MLB in batting average with runners in scoring position.

A big reason for the Dodgers’ hitting woes, especially after the All-Star Break, has been the offensive struggles in center field and left field. Yasiel Puig has not been his best self, but he has been the only outfielder to hold it down on a somewhat consistent basis in the second half of the season.

The only highlight of those positions is Cody Bellinger, who sometimes plays in the outfield when Max Muncy starts at first. However, Muncy has not been great either (although he has come up in big spots recently) and keeping Bellinger at first and playing someone else in the outfield may be the better move.

Here is how the left and center field positions have fared since the All-Star Break and in the last 14 days, per Baseball-Reference.

  • Matt Kemp since All-Star Break: .198 AVG, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 21.7 K%; Matt Kemp last 14 days: .229 AVG, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 19.0 K%.
  • Chris Taylor since All-Star Break: .231 AVG, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 31.9 K%; Chris Taylor last 14 days: .182 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 34.2 K%.
  • Max Muncy since All-Star Break: .213 AVG, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 37 K%; Max Muncy last 14 days: .276 AVG, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 31.3 K%
  • Joc Pederson since All-Star Break: .232 AVG, 5 HR, 10 RBI, 20.2 K%; Joc Pederson last 14 days: .083 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 13.8 K%
  • Enrique Hernandez since All-Star Break: .194 AVG, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 8.6 K%; Enrique Hernandez last 14 days: .292 AVG, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 6.7 K%.

As you can see, nobody has really been great in the second half. Heading into the break, Matt Kemp was an MVP candidate, Max Muncy was challenging for the home run lead and Joc Pederson looked to have a resurgent season.

Granted, Muncy has been good over the last two weeks, so I like using him in good matchups. Enrique Hernandez has also been good over the last two weeks in a 30 at-bats sample size. He should maintain his role as a utility, though.

Collectively, this outfield group is doing nothing to help Justin Turner, Manny Machado and Cody Bellinger, who have been carrying the offense. Yasmani Grandal has been cold in August but can easily rebound, Brian Dozier has not been tremendous but often comes up in big moments.

With all of this struggling, it makes you wonder, “Where in the world is Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo?”

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The answer is simple — the Los Angeles Dodgers are likely waiting until September call-ups to bring the pair of left-handed hitters up.

And while that is understandable and you cannot really send any of these guys down, I would like to see one get a 10-day DL stint to reset and give Verdugo or Toles a chance to get comfortable before the big games in September.

Heck, Chris Taylor has been a strikeout machine. In the last 14 days, the chance of him striking out are nearly twice as high as him getting a base hit. Give him a 10-day DL stint with “wrist soreness” or some other injury, like the team has done in the past, and give those at-bats to Alex Verdugo.

Surely, he cannot do worse than Taylor and actually gives the Dodgers something they are lacking: a true lead-off hitter. Dozier is great and all but he is not a true lead-off guy and belongs in the five or six spot in the order.

Verdugo, on the other hand, is a base hit machine and constantly finds gaps in the outfield. While he may not have the power to consistently drive himself in, he is someone who can frequently get on base for Turner and Machado to follow.

The same can be said for Toles, who is quicker than Verdugo, has a bit more pop but may not find the base paths as often. Both guys are tearing it up in AAA, (Verdugo hitting .335 and Toles hitting .318) why not give them a pre-emptive chance?

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At the end of the day, the Los Angeles Dodgers need to figure something out offensively and figure it out quick if the team wants to win its sixth-straight NL West title. The clock is ticking.