As a team, a huge reason why the Dodgers are struggling is because of their bad hitting. The Dodgers rank 27th in the majors in AVG, 22nd in OBP, 28th in SLG, and 27th in OPS. If they want to compete for a championship, those rankings have to elevate.
I wanted to see if improvement was a realistic expectation from their group of primary starters, so I studied the career tendencies of each player. The results I found were fascinating.
Yasmani Grandal is one of the most pronounced Dodgers position players who is mired in underachievement this season. He’s currently hitting .178, has an OBP of .289, a slugging percentage of .331, and an OPS of .621. These numbers pale in comparison to his career averages of .232 AVG, .342 OBP, .398 SLG, and .740 OPS. Is there reason for optimism that Grandal can save his season in the second half? The numbers say yes. His career second half numbers are better than his first half numbers in all of those categories except slugging percentage. Catchers tend to wear down as the season prolongs, so it makes sense that Grandal’s power indicators decrease the further into the season he gets.
If that ends up being unavoidable, so be it, but the Dodgers would settle for him simply getting on base more often than he has been doing, and the numbers say that it’s a reasonable expectation. He’s a career second half .237 hitter, with a .353 OBP, .370 SLG, and .723 OPS. His slugging percentage tends to plummet in the second half, but more towards August and September. July is actually his best statistical month, as he has a career .281 batting average, a .369 OBP, a .478 SLG, and a .847 OPS during the month of July. This is great news for the Dodgers, as the numbers indicate that Grandal is about to enter into a hot streak as the baseball calendar turns into July.
The struggles of Adrian Gonzalez are extremely concerning, because after a decade of being one of baseball’s premier sluggers, he’s currently on pace to have his worst statistical season since he has been a full time major leaguer. He currently has a .272 AVG, a .347 OBP, a .382 SLG, and a .730 OPS. For some alarming context to some of those numbers, as a full time player, he has never had a slugging percentage lower than .461 in a season. He’s 90 points below that this season. His career numbers are a .290 batting average, a .362 OBP, a .493 SLG, and a .855 OPS. All those numbers are significantly down this season, but the slugging percentage decrease is the one that is extremely concerning. He has never slugged over .500 in a Dodgers uniform the way he did in San Diego routinely, but he slugged .480 last season, so it’s not as if this was a drastic decline that observers could see coming a mile away.
What faith should fans have that Gonzalez can bounce back in the second half? A tremendous amount. Gonzalez’s statistics in our focused categories are far better in the second half of the season. His career second half numbers are a .300 batting average, a .374 OBP, a .505 SLG, and an .879 OPS. Each statistic is better than his first half career totals. Gonzalez has consistently taken a while to heat up, and his career numbers for September are impressive, which bodes well for Gonzalez excelling down the stretch as the Dodgers battle for a playoff spot. He has the highest OBP in September for any month, and the second highest OPS. The Dodgers can reasonably expect Gonzalez to have a great second half, as his numbers indicate that this is when he really starts to get into a rhythm with his offense.
Chase Utley’s career numbers are lofty because of his stretch as the premier offensive second baseman with the Phillies, so any underachievement from Utley can’t be fairly traced back to his career totals. This season he has a .260 AVG with a .347 OBP, a .380 SLG, and a .727 OPS. At 37 years old, that’s probably what can be reasonably expected from Utley at this stage of his career. What should the Dodgers expect out of him in terms of a second half performance? Unfortunately, if his seasonal trajectory is any indication, Utley’s numbers will fall in the second half. For his career, he has a batting average 11 points lower in the second half, an OBP 1 point lower, a SLG 31 points lower, and an OPS 33 points lower.
The Dodgers’ potential resurgence in the second half of this season will likely have to be carried by players other than Utley, because he has typically slowed down as the season has gone on. August is particularly bad for him, as his career totals in 3 of those 4 of categories are the lowest during this month. Bad news gets even worse when realizing that his worst OBP isn’t in August, but September. August is his second worst. Simply put, Utley has likely peaked this year already. His OBP has strong potential to remain about the same, but his slugging percentage will probably start a rapid decline.
Corey Seager doesn’t have sufficient data to pick out any trends in his statistics, but considering the fantastic year he has had so far, he isn’t a part of the problem, and he should be shielded from any negative critiques of the Dodgers’ offense.
Justin Turner hasn’t been immune to the struggles that have plagued most of this Dodgers’ lineup. So far this season his AVG is .250, his OBP is .330, his SLG is .438, and his OPS is .767. His AVG and OBP represent significant drop offs for his career averages, but his SLG and OPS have been normal. The pop he’s had this season keeps those tow stats elevated. His career averages are .279 for hitting, .347 OBP, .422 SLG, and .770 OPS. Can Turner reasonably expect his numbers to improve in the second half? His statistics emphatically say yes. Turner has put up much better numbers in his second halves than his first halves. His career second half totals are a .284 batting average, .361 OBP, .423 SLG, and .784 OPS.
Like Gonzalez, Turner’s best month has proven to be September. His batting average is .306 in the month of September, with a .382 OBP, a .469 SLG, and an .851 OPS. Those numbers are his top monthly totals for his career in each of those categories besides SLG, and even then his September totals are his second best. Turner is a prime candidate to raise his statistics towards the end of the year, and will likely coincide with the Dodgers’ chase for the NL West crown in September.
Similar to Seager’s situation, Trayce Thompson doesn’t have enough big league experience to predict any tends in his statistical performance. He has shown great power this season, yet isn’t getting on base nearly enough. The Dodgers may very well have to cope with his penchant for pop with the frustrating realities of his inability to get on base.
Joc Pederson only has one full MLB season under his belt, so again it’s difficult to make any confident assumptions about his second half prospects. This season he has a higher AVG, SLG, and OPS than he did last year, but a lower OBP. His slugging percentage is dramatically higher, as he has hit just 3 less doubles already than he did all of last season. The bad news with Pederson is that last season his second half was far worse than his first half.
If that’s any indication of how he’ll perform this second half, his outlook for continuing what is shaping up to be an improved sophomore campaign is dubious. It’s more likely that he ends up regressing to about the numbers he put up last year, and it’s even more concerning for the Dodgers because Pederson hasn’t shown the plate discipline to draw as many walks as last season, although his strikeout rate is down.
Yasiel Puig has battled injuries this year, and whether or not that has contributed to his poor numbers is debatable, but the fact remains that this is his worst statistical season to date. He has career lows in batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS. This season he has a .248 AVG with a .291 OBP, a .371 SLG, and a .663 OPS. His career averages are .287 AVG, .360 OBP, .470 SLG, and .830 OPS. He has drawn just 9 walks so far this season, creating that abysmal OBP. His SLG this season is 95 points lower than his career total, as he has managed only 12 extra base hits this season, and an especially minuscule 4 doubles in 205 at bats. Can Puig realistically bounce back with a strong second half performance?
Unfortunately, his career second half numbers are inferior to his first half numbers, so it doesn’t appear likely. He has a batting average that’s 32 points less, an OBP that’s 11 points less, a SLG that’s 38 points less, and an OPS that’s 49 points less in the second half compared to the first half. Puig seems to wear down as the season continues, so any optimism that he can save his season at this point should be severely tempered. His lowest monthly batting average is September, his lowest monthly OBP is July, his lowest monthly SLG and OPS is August. It’s not even that one second half month stands out as his low point. His entire second half is prone to a decrease in production.
The Dodgers have struggled on offense this season, but there should be a fair amount of optimism that they can improve in the second half. Gonzalez and Turner have been known as strong September performers. Grandal is a proven second half contributor dependable for tangible improvement. Seager appears to be showing no signs of slowing down after a fantastic first half. Thompson can provide a source of power. Having said that, there exists some very real impediments to improvement.
Utley’s ability to provide extra base hits is likely going to decline as the season wears on. He has always been a better first half performer, and those tendencies will probably be exacerbated now that he’s 37 years old with so many miles accumulated. Pederson nosedived last season as the summer wore on, and although he doesn’t have much data to predict trends with any strong confidence, his decline last season doesn’t bode well for his potential to improve on his first half numbers this season. It’s a shame, because he has improved a lot so far.
Puig’s numbers have been so superior in his first halves compared to his second halves that nobody should be expecting him to all of a sudden surge after what to this point has been a disastrous season. Accumulating all the trends together should have Dodgers fans feeling somewhat optimistic about offensive improvement. Grandal, Gonzalez, and Turner have better second half numbers in their careers. Seager and Thompson are too young to make any judgements, but they have been solid contributors this season. Although Seager is a much safer bet than Thompson to continue being a spark plug in the lineup, both can realistically be counted on to keep providing a steady stream of production. Utley, Pederson, and Puig are the players not expected to make any leaps in the second half.
Gonzalez and Turner are the most reassuring after the data collection, because they were the top two RBI producers for the Dodgers last season. If the Dodgers want to make the playoffs, these two will have to come up huge down the stretch, and luckily their career numbers indicate their propensity to save their best performances for September baseball. The season is not lost despite the Dodgers’ weak offensive performance as a team. When performing at the level they’re capable of, the trio of Seager, Gonzalez, and Turner is good enough to lead the Dodgers to the postseason.