The Los Angeles Dodgers starting lineup – in terms of batting order – is always an evergreen source of interest. Right now, the Dodgers tinker and toy with their chess pieces each night to assemble the best combination for a win.
Rarely flashing the same lineup card out there twice, the Dodgers have a new strategy. That strategy is, protect Cody Bellinger; who has been one of the hottest hitters on the planet to start 2019.
First, let’s examine what the Dodgers did in the series opener against Patrick Corbin.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 9, 2019
As you can see, the Dodgers inserted Bellinger (.394, 14 HR, 38 RBI entering Thursday’s game) into the third spot in the lineup. Now, the interesting part to me is the strategy is ‘protecting’ Bellinger with David Freese. Here is what Dave Roberts had to say on the matter.
“Teams are pitching [Bellinger] a little more carefully,” said manager Dave Roberts. “Obviously last night, a couple times with runners on base, to pitch around him and get to Seager. I think there’s a little bit getting out of the strike zone with Cody. Hasn’t been able to stay on the ball as well as prior. But to see somebody locked in for that amount of time is difficult. For him to take walks is still important.”
What lineup protection means is to put the hottest hitter you can behind the focal point (Bellinger) in order to get that player extra pitches to hit. Moreover – the thought process is that with a scary hitter behind a scary hitter – less of a chance exists of the focal point being pitched around.
And so the Dodgers rolled out Freese. While I like Freese (paid handsome money to hit lefties) a lot, he entered Thursday hitting .220 with a .420 slugging percentage. Arguably, better choices may exist to protect Bellinger.
However, a good decision right now is to hit anyone around Justin Turner. Of course, Turner has homered four times in the past two contests. It’s nice to see these two back-to-back in the lineup.
As the season rolls onward, the lineup becomes a rubix cube of sorts. Never quite reaching a stopping or settled point, we should see patterns with what brings consistent success.
Construct your lineup!
In the comments section, what feedback or suggestions do you have for Dave Roberts in making the lineup card? You need not post your entire lineup (unless you would like), but what things please you to see when the lineup is released? What should the Dodgers do less of in building the lineup? Finally, what is the best way to keep Bellinger hot in regards to who hits around him and what spot in the order would you like to see him?
While there is no right answer to any of this – it’s always a fun conversation. Personally, one thing I would love to always see is Bellinger back-to-back with Max Muncy. If the Dodgers feel confident enough to play Muncy on a given night, he’s as good of a bet to protect Bellinger as anyone. Few teams can run out two 40-home run threats in the order beside one another.