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Dodgers: The Long List of Concerns with Kiké Hernandez

We all love Kiké for his personality but his bat leaves a lot to be desired at times.

MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 13: Enrique Hernandez #14 of the Los Angeles Dodgers fields the ball against the Milwaukee Brewers during the first inning in Game Two of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 13, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Kiké Hernandez is a fun player and a fan favorite for good reason. He is fun to watch and has always been the king of theatrics — a definite clubhouse glue guy. He is a lovable human being, for sure, but his on-field performance has not been as good as you might think.

His poor start to the 2019 campaign is not exactly an outlier. To start things off, let us take a quick glance at what exactly his 2019 has looked like with his raw stats and peripheral stats.

Kiké has slashed a well below-average .222/.298/.399 line this season to add to an 89 wRC+ and 0.6 WAR through 46 games. Against southpaws, Kiké has unsurprisingly performed a lot better and has actually been elite: .298/.397/.491 with a 141 wRC+ in 68 plate appearances. Against righties, where he sees most of his plate appearances (110 to be exact), he is slashing a sub-standard .178/.236/.347 with a 57 wRC+ mark. That is good for a .583 OPS and somehow, he has accrued as many at-bats as he has against them. His strikeout rate sits at a frightening 30.9% against RHP as well.

CINCINNATI, OH – MAY 17: Enrique Hernandez #14 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws out a runner after diving for a ground ball in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 17, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Dodgers won 6-0. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

It is not a stretch to say Kiké should only be playing against southpaws and act as a late-inning defensive replacement considering his numbers altogether. Also, he should be dropped in the lineup regardless of handedness. On the year, Kiké Hernandez is slashing a dreadful .206/.276/.324 line out of the leadoff spot and holds just a career .304 OBP when he starts games off. That is rather low and warrants change.

Hernandez has also put up just a 36th percentile xwOBA this season. The peripherals do not even support him nor hint at positive regression. His BABIP is fairly in line with his career averages and his walk rate has declined 1.2% from 2018 and his strikeout rate has skyrocketed from 16.9% to 25.8%.

His defense has been excellent, nonetheless, with a 6 DRS at second base in the early going.

He should not be blamed entirely for his poor performance, however. Manager Dave Roberts has to be held accountable for actually putting him in the game when he has no business being in the lineup. On occasion, Hernandez even bats fifth against right-handed pitching. Obviously, there is something wrong with that.

2018 was an entirely different story for Kiké. He was excellent on both sides of the ball. The strangest part of his year, though, was the fact that he crushed righties more than he did lefties. Honestly, it probably gave Dave Roberts some hope. Coming into the 2018 campaign, Kiké reportedly made some major adjustments to his swing and they paid off. A 123 wRC+ against righties and a 113 wRC+ against lefties will get it done, no doubt. He even chipped positive UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) marks at 4 different positions. This season, however, stands alone when looking at the rest of his body of work.

Since Kiké’s first full season in a Dodger uniform in 2015, he has been truly a sub-par player. His versatility holds value but he simply has not been utilized properly. For some reason, Dave Roberts has thought it to be a good idea to not only play him against righties, pulling him out of a platoon role, but to also bat him in the top half of the order when he does so. Since the start of 2015, Kiké has just a .745 OPS and 102 wRC+. I do not know when we came to believe that he is an above-average player but he truly has never been one outside of the 2018 season. Giving credit where credit is due, an OPS over .800 and a 3-win season are very solid.

To put the thoughts above into perspective, it took Hernandez approximately 45.3 games to accumulate a singular win above replacement which is pretty decent. Throughout the rest of his Dodgers tenure, it has taken him a whopping 91.8 games to accrue one WAR. That means that if given a full 162 games in a Dodger uniform, he would post an average of 2.2 WAR. That is solid for a platoon player, definitely, but the Dodgers do not utilize him as such.

As much as we can pick apart Kiké for mediocre performance, it just simply is not his fault. The organization believes in him as an everyday player and it is totally unjustified. He should only be placed in positions, in the lineup or on the field, where he can succeed. Bat him fifth against lefties and play him at second base and the results will be there.

A few months before the season even started, I made the following prediction:

It looks pretty good right now.

The argument that exists that we have no one better to play second base against righties has some weight to it, but the recent call-up of lefty Matt Beaty could impact that. Simply playing Beaty at first against righties and moving Max Muncy over to second will help the offense run even smoother than it is now. For those concerned with Max Muncy’s defensive ability at second base, he has been above-average there, posting 1 DRS and a positive UZR in just 70 innings. This move is a viable option. Chris Taylor is also rostered and is capable of playing a solid second base but his bat has been there even less than Kiké’s has. Still, as mentioned earlier, Kiké has an OPS of just .583 against RHP in 2019.

He is a valuable member of the Dodgers team and is a part of the reason why they are as good of a team as they are. He is a passable bat and a solid defender that can truly be above-average at approximately six positions. That has immense value. The idea that Kiké is some kind of star, though, is one that has no substance. He is not an everyday regular and the organization needs to realize that soon.

We all love Kiké’s personality. I mean, how can you not love someone who wears tight yoga pants on the field and banana costumes in the clubhouse? He even twerks on occasion. Still, the theatrics should not sugarcoat what truly is a very average body of work that he has placed under his belt with the Los Angeles Dodgers and which he is once again presenting in 2019.

Written by Daniel Preciado

My name is Daniel Preciado and I am 18 years old. I am a sophomore Sport Analytics and Broadcast Journalism dual major at Syracuse University. When I am not in New York, I live in Whittier, California --- not too far from Chavez Ravine. I am pretty old-school for being an analytics guy and I will always embrace debate. Also, Chase Utley did absolutely nothing wrong.

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  1. He’s a 230 hitter at best and well liked by all. Too bad Roberts puts him in the batting order where he just doesn’t belong. It’s embarrassing to see him bat 5th and 1st on occasion. He is holding a roster spot one of the young guys can at least be given a chance. A completely unnecessary player considering they already have Taylor and Muncy as well.

    • Muncy doesn’t have the defensive versatility that Kiké has and Taylor doesn’t have the bat that Kiké has. In no way am I questioning whether or not Kiké belongs on the roster, because I will tell you right now: he 100% does.

  2. Great read! I think Kike could certainly turn things around though. In addition to being put in better lineup positions for success, if he can stay in the strike zone more and change his two strike approach from “swinging for the fence”, to a more Bellinger-like “just put the bat on the ball”, he’ll up his average and OBP. Great breakdown in the article though, enjoyed it.

    • Jason, I agree with you 100% that Kiké should swing at the first pitch or second pitch more often. Strike one and strike two down the middle every time just doesn’t make sense to just stand there and then, for the next pitch and on there’s pressure to swing and will usually strike out. Put him in the 5th spot.

  3. You should not be able to write here ever again.This doesn’t even warrant an article. He has definitely cooled off, but started the season great. I’m positive he is not going anywhere anytime soon. He plays every position on a team that currently sits 32-18 best in NL. I guess Roberts has no idea what hes doing, since Kike was apart of back-to-back world series teams. A completely necessary clubhouse guy, and super utility piece to a great dodgers squad. No concerns!

    • Batting him in the middle of the order is preposterous; perhaps if he wasn’t a constant out-man the result of the WS may be different. Batting him 3rd in game 5 after he had gone 2 for 29 was blatantly stupid. Every word Daniel wrote in right on the money. Kike is a utility guy and late inning defensive replacement. Period.

  4. Very valid observations on Hernandez, but remember I still believe his place in the order is somewhat dictated by the puppet master upstairs because it is ridiculous for Roberts to keep him 5th in the order against ANY pitcher, and certainly never leading off. But this along with other things Roberts does with the lineups on a daily basis is just downright infuriating to many. But again these types of strategies will perhaps get the Dodgers by in the regular season but when facing elite teams in the PS, forget it.

    • Absolutely. I believe most of the reason Kiké struggles is because he simply is not in positions to succeed.

      • Yes and perhaps one other thing to consider, and maybe Kike still believes so, but he just may not be suited for playing every day as a regular. But in any event his place again in the batting order is NOT batting 1st, 3rd or even 5th.

  5. Kike’s defense and dugout presence i think is of great value. I would like to see him bunt more often. Why not giving kike a try in the bullpen where the real problem sits.

  6. It seems that much of Kike’s “issue” can be attributed to his placement in the line up. Because of this, I will remain hopeful that the “power(s) that be” make the necessary correction. I believe when that happens, Kike will have a chance to turn it around. Like most, I love Kike’s personality and want to see him succeed. Therefore, its imperative that these types of “strategics” get ironed out now in regular season. That way, our Dodgers have a better chance of making post season (where we belong. )

      • I am more concerned with Seager and Turner. Granted, CS has been off a year but IMO should be doing a little more than he has. Same for JT. Kike is out there daily and trying to get something going. He will come around.

  7. WOW! Fickle Dodgers fans with very short memories, seemingly ignoring the 2018 season, first month-plus of the 2019 season, and the gold glove quality defense of Hernandez at second base (anyone who thinks that Max Muncy is anywhere close to being as good as Hernandez defensively is not paying attention to the the differences in range, arm strength for turning double plays, and footwork). Kiké can drive me crazy when he forgoes using the whole-field when hitting and tries to pull every pitch for a home run; but this young man is supremely talented. Thankfully Dave Roberts has the patience to work with Kiké through these periods — the bottom-line, the Dodgers are a better team with Kiké than without him.

    • Nowhere did I claim Muncy was a superior defender to Kiké Hernandez. He simply is not. However, Muncy is a more than passable defender at second base and has an exponentially better bat than Kiké: .894 OPS against LHP (he is a LHH) and an .845 OPS against RHP. Pretty good.

      • But your recommendation to put Matt Beaty at first base with Muncy moving to second base should not be a Muncy to Hernandez offensive comparison, it should be a Beaty to Hernandez comparison as you are advocating for Beaty to replace Kiké in the lineup. Perhaps I misinterpreted your comment “…For those concerned with Max Muncy’s defensive ability at second base, he has been above-average there, posting 1 DRS and a positive UZR in just 70 innings. This move is a viable option…” I have seen the Dodgers miss double play opportunities because Muncy is unable to turn the ball over at second base anywhere close to Hernandez, or Taylor for that matter. Muncy’s best defensive position is first base, period. As far as Kiké’s offense, 2018 and March/April of this season should not be so easily ignored. Kiké has earned a chance to get out of his slump, and I am totally on board with Roberts for giving him the opportunity. His spot in the lineup? No doubt some head-scratching decisions, but a .640 winning percentage indicates that Roberts and the front office are doing something correct.

    • I absolutely agree that the Dodgers are a better team because of Kike….Cody…..Max…JT…Alex etc. Its all about the sum total of these individuals that make up the Dodgers. Nobody has forgotten how great Kike is…quite the contrary….most of us seem to be saying that we really like Kike. But Kike’s placement in the line up needs to be re-evaluated. So, Go Kike and GO DODGERS!!!

        • I’ve been saying this for years. Roberts had him leading off and batting clean up. He sits Joc Pederson against lefties religiously but keeps Hernandez in the line up nearly every game. His performance with RISP is below average evidenced by his RBI’s compared to the number of games he’s played.

    • Hello SoCal. I concur as far as his defense at 2nd is much better than Muncy there anyway. And let’s not forget he also plays very well at SS, LF, CF, and RF when needed. My only concern is where he is put in the lineup. Now with that said, should Kike turn it around at the dish in the manner he was in 2018, then yes, move him up in the order but for now, leave him at 2nd base but lower in the batting order.

  8. I guess the Dodgers are satisfied with winning just the NL-West a la Atlanta(1991=2005). Wasn’t Stan Kasten the Braves GM during those seasons? How the Dodgers do things, roster, line-ups, manipulation of the 10-day DL/IL seems to work in the 162-game season(marathon), but come the playoffs(sprint), its a different animal. Maybe its just “bad-karma” or “juju” as to what happens to the Dodgers in the post-season. Or just baseball-gods getting back for Dodgers manipulation of IL. I look at the American League, Astros(on pace for 100+ win season, Yankees(same but don’t even have Judge, Stanton, etc. in their line-up), Minnesota, they were lousy in 2018, but look like world beaters in 2019!

  9. To reply to the Kike Hernandez post, I’m Not a fan of Hernandez. He is a utility/role player and not an everyday player. I don’t care if he is likeable, he hit well when the season began, but now is an automatic-out.

  10. Good article, Dan.

    I’ve never understood why the Dodgers – a team with brilliant people in the front office and tools at their disposal to make decisions with so much riding on it – would hit Kiké fifth (or clean-up) in a World Series game for any reason.

    Whatever braintrust or software, or persons are recommending that needs examined. At the same time, I like the ++ defensive plays he makes. The cement has hardened offensively, but I have come to appreciate the fact that he never slacks on defense when he’s not hitting a ton. I know there is nothing worse when you aren’t hitting than having to play defense.

    • Definitely Clint. He gives his all on basically all defensive plays. I have seen him be lazy and catch pop ups with one hand (he has even dropped a couple because of it), but it seems as if all players do that in today’s game.

    • Spot on, Clint. That really is mind boggler as far as Hernandez batting 3rd, 4th or 5th in a WS game. No excuse for that. But an excuse Dodgers may have is that options from the right side of the plate are very limited, but that’s on the puppet master upstairs.

  11. Daniel very informative article. Congrats and best wishes in the future. Now for my little humble opinion. Enrique is one of my favorite Dodgers, I feel he is one of the glue players in their roster. Even thought I would personally give him a chance at least until the All-star Break, reading your article about all the numbers, it seems clear that the best scenario for our team is to platoon him with Muncy at second base. Also would put him in very frequently as a defensive replacement in left when Pederson is playing and also to give a breather to Verdugo. Thank you.

  12. Great article, Daniel. Strong opinions with many stats to back up your thoughts. At 18 years old, you bring hope for the future of sports journalism. I look forward to reading your articles for many years.
    As for Kike, like many other Dodger fans, I am hoping he turns it around but I think we are seeing the truth about him.
    GO DODGERS!!!

  13. Remember Willie Davis he learned over time that contact was the best way not swinging for the fence. Dodgers need to teach bunting and moving the runners again. Kiké could become the squeeze guy if taught. The Hitting coach take notice.

  14. Thank you for defending Muncy’s Defense. First impressions, and squirmish feelings are wearing off, as well they should. He has been amazing at all 3 Bases. I am most squirmish when he plays 3B, because that is where he started early last year and was most error proned, but that has improved drastically, and 2B is his favorite and most natural position. He is proving it in all 3 positions. Kike is awesome at 2B, but credit for Muncy is greatly deserved, and much appreciated by this #1 Muncy fan. 🙂

  15. He is a super utility guy and nothing more. Dodgers way over use him and I can’t undertand why. He isn’t an everyday player.

  16. Right here is the right site for anyone who wants
    to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue
    with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a
    brand new spin on a subject that has been discussed for many years.
    Excellent stuff, just great!

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