Have the Dodgers Found Their Leadoff Batter?
One of the biggest questions this offseason was who would be leading off for the Dodgers. Ever since Dee Gordon was traded to the Marlins, the Dodgers have been left without a true leadoff hitter. Joc Pederson took over as the leadoff hitter for most of 2015, but after a bad second half it appeared as if Pederson had lost the job. Today our suspicions were confirmed when the Dodgers Opening Day lineup was released with Chase Utley penciled in at the #1 spot.
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At first glance the decision seemed surprising. Chase Utley has only had 37 at bats in the last 3 seasons as a lead off batter. However, when you dig further into the numbers it becomes clear that Utley may have what it takes to pull it off. In those 37 at bats as a lead off batter, Utley has racked up 17 hits, including 2 home runs and 5 RBI. That translates to a slash line of .459/.488/.784. Tonight’s performance only solidified the role for Utley as he went 3-for-5 with 1 double and 2 RBI.
The only question that remains is what will happen when Howie Kendrick returns. Utley presumably would not have been in the starting lineup at all if Kendrick had not landed on the disabled list. When Kendrick comes back he figures to take over at second base once again but if Utley can perform like he did tonight, Roberts will have a tough decision on his hands.
“For me the only difference is that it’s the first batter of the game. You’re still trying to put good at-bats together no matter where you’re hitting in the lineup,” Utley said about batting leadoff.
When asked about Utley after the game, Roberts confirmed that he would be leading off once again tonight against James Shields.
Clayton Kershaw actually lowered his already minuscule Opening Day ERA
The one thing that has remained constant with the Dodgers over the years has been Clayton Kershaw. Entering his ninth season as a Dodger, Kershaw took the mound for his 6th consecutive opening day start. In the previous 5 starts, Kershaw has never lost and had a record of 3-0.
With his unbeaten streak on the line, Kershaw lived up to the hype once again. Kershaw finished the game surrendering only 1 hit and 1 walk over 7 innings pitched while striking out 9. The only hit of the game came in the 3rd inning by Jon Jay on a ball that Carl Crawford clearly did not see off of the bat. After the hit, Kershaw retired the next 13 batters he faced. Kerhsaw’s ERA actually went down to 0.93 in the process.
Vin Scully had this to say about the lone hit off of Kershaw: “Whether Crawford could have caught that ball that was hit by Jon Jay we’ll never know, but it stands out now like a missing front tooth.”
Joc Pederson uses more conventional stance
One thing that became blatantly obvious during spring training was that Joc Pederson was working on something with his stance. What it was that he was working on was not nearly as clear, but his stance seemingly changed on a daily basis. With his front toe facing almost directly at the pitcher and his weight back on his heels, Pederson’s stance looked remarkably uncomfortable. Dodgers fans had to wonder which stance he would finally settle in on and whether it would make any difference. In his first at bat of the day Dodgers fans got what appeared to be an answer with Pederson returning to a stance which appeared much more comfortable. Pederson’s stance looked very similar to his 2015 stance except that he was slightly more bent at the knees. Whatever it was that Pederson was working on in the offseason seems to have worked as he went 2-for-5 with 2 scorching doubles, 1 run, and 1 RBI.
Dodgers win in historic fashion
The Dodgers 15-0 win over the Padres on Opening Day was impressive for many reasons. Most notably, the victory was the largest shutout win on opening day in MLB history. The record was previously held by the 1911 Pirates who won 14-0. The victory also tied the 1912 Giants for the largest opening day margin of victory in National League history.
“I think there was that continuity with that lineup and we really haven’t had that lineup all spring. But I’ve said it all along, that regardless of where I put guys in the lineup, I expect them to conduct the same at-bats,” Roberts said. “Today with Chase and Corey, and the at-bats they conducted and with J.T, those first four guys today were very special.”
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