During the first two months of the season, the Dodgers had one of baseball’s best offenses, ranking in the top six in points, batting average, on-base plus slugging percentage, home runs and walk-to-strikeout ratio.
In June, their lineup became one of the most average in the league, failing to crack the top 10 in any of those categories in a month that could best be described as underwhelming.
The drop can be attributed to many factors. Untimely injuries (Mookie Betts’ broken rib) and a lack of clutch shots (.192 team batting average with runners in goal position). There was also no productive depth or, at times, a consistent team-wide approach to the plate.
But after the dominant start to the season, the last four weeks brought new problems to light towards half-time.
“I think sometimes we put good bats together, do counts and just don’t get a hit here and there,” said manager Dave Roberts. “Other times I think the at-bats are a bit more superficial. There is an ebb and flow of guys who swing the racquet well or who have problems. But I just don’t think we were in step in June.”
The Dodgers won’t have a losing record in June, not after they avoided a sweep against the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday that put them 13-12 on the penultimate day of the month.
They exited Colorado still leading their division with a National League-best win ratio at .622 (46-28).
Still, the Dodgers looked far from dominant all month as injuries continued to pile up on the mound and new questions about their performance on the plate surfaced.
Ahead of their four-game streak this weekend against the San Diego Padres, here are five takeaways about where the Dodgers stand.
No line-up changes…at least not yet
Roberts said he considered changing the Dodgers’ lineup order, especially given the ongoing struggles of Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger, three regulars with numbers below the league average.
For now, however, the manager said he’s going to the status quo, giving all three regulars game time and the first two constant at-bats in the middle of the order.
“I think the middle of the order you can mix and match,” Roberts said. “One could discuss.”
With Muncy, the manager said he believes the slugger is still “on track to a productive season” since being given a “reset” when he returned from the injured list earlier this month.
Though Muncy’s numbers have improved slightly since that time, they still remain far from his career norms. In the first two months of the season, he hit just .150 with a .263 slugging percentage on three homers. In 17 games in June, he already has three more homers and hits .188 with a .359 batting percentage.
“Every day is a blank slate to go out and do something to help the team,” Muncy said. “As long as I can just focus on my process, I have confidence that I can get started.”
Turner has the lowest OPS of the team, but has ranked from third to sixth most nights. Roberts said it was down to the veteran’s bat-to-ball skills and ability to produce in the clutch, citing Turner, who is fourth on the team in RBIs (38) and is batting .286 with runners in goal position this season .
“The ability to run, walk, or count is valuable,” Roberts said.
Roberts said he considers Turner and Chris Taylor, another right-hander who usually bats behind Turner in the lineup, to be “interchangeable,” although he acknowledges Taylor had the better season overall.
“They both have different abilities,” Roberts said. “Of course I like both players.”
Streaking Lux is chasing more power
After Taylor, the other Dodger who seems most deserving of a batting order increase is Gavin Lux, who hits .354 in June and .296 on the season.
However, Roberts said he still likes Lux at the bottom of the order, where his ability to get to the base can “bleed to the top of the order.”
“Gavin, I really defined his role for our ball club, and that’s hitting .300, getting on base, making counts, and he’s doing that,” Roberts said. “So I don’t think we need to change that now.”
Lux said he’s not overly concerned about where he hits in the lineup.
His focus lately has been consistently hitting for power, having hit just two homers and 11 doubles so far this season.
“There’s still more room to grow,” Lux said, explaining that he wants to “take more shots” if he gets into advantageous counts. “I think that’s just a product of continuing to look at bats and figuring it out. But yes, this month has been good.”
Julio Urías finds familiar form
Julio Urías said he’s been watching a lot of videos of himself from last season over the past few weeks.
Not coincidentally, this month he’s also looking more like his old, dominant self.
After a solid but sometimes inconsistent start to the year, which saw him post a 2.89 ERA (and even worse underlying numbers) at the end of May, Urías had a stellar June.
In five starts, he gave up just seven earned runs while pitching at least five innings each time (and going six innings in three of them). He knocked out 34 batters while walking just eight. And he lowered his season ERA to 2.64.
“I’ve made some adjustments to my mechanics and it has allowed me to be more consistent with my command and get through the games the way I did,” he said.
Jake Lamb’s chance
Ever since Jake Lamb signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers this spring, he’s been waiting to return to the big leagues.
It didn’t come at the end of spring training, although the former All-Star made a “strong impression,” according to Roberts.
He also had to wait the first three months of the regular season, although he showed some development with his momentum at the club’s Triple-A partner.
This week, the Dodgers called Lamb and added him to the big league roster before Lamb confirmed it was a pending opt-out in his contract.
“Possibly,” Lamb said when asked if he had decided against it. “But you don’t have to worry about that. Just happy to be here, happy to be here with these guys.”
In his first start on Wednesday, Lamb looked sharp, working on what Roberts called “really some good bats” to score and a walk while playing at left field.
Roberts said the 31-year-old will likely get opportunities as batsman-designated and could spell out Freddie Freeman in blowout games at first base.
“I had fun [in triple A] I go out and play every day,” Lamb said. “I wanted to be there from the start. But I understand and I see where this team is and how the team is set up. I just wanted my chance. … So I’m happy with where I’m at.”
By the end of this weekend, the Dodgers could have some breathing room in the NL West — or find themselves out of the division lead altogether.
That will be at stake when the Padres come to Dodger Stadium for a four-game streak when the teams meet for only the second time this season.
“You want to win them all,” Roberts said. “I don’t know where we are in the table. I know we lead But they will come with some energy, as we have seen. We have to fit in. We have to play good baseball. Anyway, we still have a lot of baseball to play. But of course we want to play our best baseball in this series.”
There will be many fascinating matchups in the series. Dodgers’ Mitch White will take on Joe Musgrove on Thursday. Tony Gonsolin and Blake Snell will take the hill on Friday. Tyler Anderson will face Yu Darvish on Saturday. Clayton Kershaw and McKenzie Gore are set to serve in Sunday’s final.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-06-30/dodgers-takeaways-despite-june-swoon-dave-roberts-isnt-mixing-up-lineup-yet Despite June swoon, Dodgers not mixing up lineup, at least not yet