“Dodger Hitters” is Not an Oxymoron

Dodger Insider writer Cary Osborne provides a wealth of information, much like Jon Weisman did before he moved on to the Big Showtime, but you do have to take it with a grain of salt. Afterall, he is employed by the Dodgers, so there’s that!  However, on February 3rd Cary wrote a column that could give Dodger fans a lot of hope for the upcoming season.

The focus of the article by Cary Osborne was about Turner Ward’s impact on the Dodgers’ hitting.  Here is a telling part of the article:

A funny thing happened along the way in 2016. The Dodgers went from being one of the lesser-hitting teams in the Majors before the All-Star Break to being one of the leaders afterward.

They were 25th in OPS (.708) and 22nd in runs per game (4.20) prior to the All-Star Game and turned that around to ninth (.754) and fourth (4.83) respectively in the season’s final 2 1/2 months. A couple of reasons were an increase in power — a slugging percentage that went from .393 to .429 — and a turnaround in batting average on balls in play, from .280 to .311 (the Dodgers were 29th in the category pre-All-Star and fourth after).

That, in itself was a huge turnaround and one would expect that in Ward’s second year, the Dodgers might, just might do even better.  Osborne said:

It also leads [Turner Ward] to believe that bigger happenings could be on the horizon for the Dodgers, especially with more familiarity with a second-year coaching staff and more continuity.

That’s what I am talking about.  I have said for quite a while that the Dodgers hitters will be better in 2017 due to experience, maturity and now… Turner Ward’s leadership.  Ward expects Pederson to be a 40 HR -110-125 RBI guy and he expects Seager to be a better version of John Olerud…

He really wants to be the best player in the game, and he also has that capability,” Ward said of Seager. “He is a very rare person in this game with the tools he has.”

On the left handed struggles:

On the topic, which was one of the hot-button points for the Dodgers last year, Ward acknowledged a general struggle against left-handers but explained it more as an individual challenge rather than a team one. Thus there wasn’t a general approach that could fix the Dodgers’ problems against lefties. Just because Seager and Pederson, for example, are left-handed hitters doesn’t mean they’re the same hitter. They have different swing paths, they have different angles caused by different stances and different body types. They also different plans based on their individual abilities.

So it wasn’t like Ward could give everyone the same Aspirin to cure the left-handed headache. Ward gave some examples of some of the ways he has seen hitters combat left-handed struggles.

“There are adjustments that players have to be willing to try and sometimes you have to try those in the game,” Ward said. “I can only speak from the experience of other hitters in the past I’ve been able to work with who have been able to literally sit on pitches or go up there and open up their stance a little or change the bat angle just a little bit because the ball comes off at (a different) angle. Sometimes the angle gives less room for your swing to get the depth you want, and so sometimes the player has to make those type of adjustments.”

But Ward said there’s no reason to believe that an individual can’t turn things around during the season. Case in point, Grandal. On July 6, the Dodger catcher was batting .183 with a .672 OPS. By season’s end, those numbers were .228/.816. Ward praised Grandal for his dedication.

Read the article, if you like but he has high hopes for Pederson, Grandal and Puig… Seager?  Even Ray Charles can see how great he will be.

Finally, Ward had this to say about Puig:

“He has been so great to work with,” Ward said. “We really get along good. We could honestly speak what was on our minds. He had no problem doing that, so he challenged me as a coach, and I definitely challenged him. I always look forward to helping guys any way I can, but he is such a talent, great-hearted, giving. I really felt like how he learned to be a better teammate last year. I watched him become a better teammate.”

2017 is Turner Wards second season as Dodger Hitting Coach and I expect incremental improvement!  In fact, I expect the Dodgers to be in the TOP 3 hitting teams in the NL in 2017.

Seven more days until Spring Training!

UPDATE:

Wanna’ buy a piece of the Dodgers?  According to Bill Shaikin of THE LA TIMES the Dodgers have retained an investment banker to solicit bids to sell stock.   The Dodgers five-year exemption from Baseball’s Debt Service Rules expires this year, but of course they are going to say that is not the reason for the sale.  Yeah, that’s the ticket!  Of course, they are going to say that.  They actually have to cut debt – what better way to do it?  Seriously, if the Dodgers want to make some serious coin, sell a couple of billion dollars in stock to fans.  Let them buy individual shares or blocks of stock.  I’d buy some… wouldn’t you?  That way, we could say we own the Dodgers!

Posted by Mark Timmons

We started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. We don’t do game recaps or such things — lots of sites do that well. I value sabermetrics, but don’t think they are the “end-all-be-all.”. This is where you should start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome! We’d like to hear your voice.

This article has 33 Comments

  1. Well that is really encouraging, especially like Hawkeye says above, the bit about Puig.
    I’m very hopeful this year, but I do think that the estimations for Joc are a bit optimistic. I read with interest the BR article posted by Bum I think, that had him as the 5th ranked CF in all of MLB.
    I hadn’t considered him to be that good to be honest, but maybe that is just me.
    If we could get Blanton to sign a one year deal similar to Romo, then that would be great. I love the fact that Romo wanted to play for the Dodgers above the extra money or years, and as I said last week, I cannot understand why a veteran like Blanton wouldn’t want the chance to have one last shot a a WS, rather than take a 2 year deal with the Twins or Rays?
    Surely he’s earned enough money by now?

  2. I don’t recall that the article said that Ward had worked miracles with Dodger hitters against southpaws. And if he was so great why did the team get off to such a horrible start to begin with?

    I have thought that the Dodgers would be a better offensive unit for several years now. You look at the depth in the lineup and all of the guys who have had good years and think that they will be better but each year, they end up being mediocre offensively. I want to believe that next year will be better, but really they have mostly the same group of guys so why would I think that they will be better?

    They haven’t hit well with RISP. They were historically bad against lefties last year. Look it up.

    http://www.espn.com/blog/los-angeles/dodger-report/post/_/id/22198/dodgers-swinging-big-in-hopes-of-ending-lousiness-against-lefties

    A lot of platoons because they don’t have players who hit equally well (or can approximate it) against lefties and righties. Little team speed. (I know – SABRguys don’t like the SB much.)

    I know that Toles is the flavor of the week for some and maybe he is all that – or maybe not. Small sample size, not a stellar September, pitchers adjust – can he? Thompson – was never a good hitter in the minors – will he be in the bigs? Can Kike or Van Slyke hit any better than last year? Will Puig return to his 2013/4 form or is he really what he has shown the past 2 seasons? Can Gonzalez improve on last year’s so-so showing or is he about done? Same with Ethier – is he done after last year?

    The season has many questions to answer. I know that doing the same things the same way rarely results in different outcomes and the Dodgers are largely the same group that has been there for a few years.

    The Dodgers were in the middle of the pack with 4.48 runs/game last year. In 2015 they were again in the middle of the pack with 4.12 r/g. They were 2nd in the league in ’14 with 4.43; middle again in ’13 with 4.01 and 4th from the bottom in ’12 with 3.93. In short they were among the league leaders in runs once in the past 5 years and that was in ’14 (pre Braintrust). If the players are largely the same and the coaches are the same why would the outcome be different?

    1. Hi Rick. You made me think of something I wrote a few years ago.
      .
      Race car drivers know the best way to get past cars and debris that have crashed in front of them. Instead of looking at the cars spinning out of control and piling up in front of them they immediately look for an opening and put their entire attention upon this opening and drive through it. Sometimes the opening is small and not even obvious but whatever opening that seems to exist that is where they look.
      .
      We have a choice and it is to focus on the crash or to focus on our safe passage. If we freeze our stare and concentration on the crash we add to the crash because that is all we saw and it pulled us in. If we can find that one opening, that one opportunity, and put our entire attention and sight on it, we have a better chance tol zip past the crash. Those behind us can follow us into new opportunity or become part of the crash and likewise some will follow us into the crash if that is where we focused.
      .
      Sometimes I think you focus too much on the crash. What you say is correct and I admit too much optimism will hide faults that need correcting.

  3. 1. The players are not largely the same. Since 2014, Seager, Grandal, Pederson, Toles, Hernandez, Barnes, Forsythe and Thompson are new and most, if not all will get PT this year.
    2. This is Turner Ward’s second full year. As mentioned above, the team was 25th in OPS (.708) and 22nd in runs per game (4.20) prior to the All-Star Game and turned that around to ninth (.754) and fourth (4.83) respectively in the season’s final 2 1/2 months. I would expect to see incremental improvement THIS year.
    3. Seager, Grandal, Pederson, Toles, Hernandez, Barnes, Forsythe and Thompson are of that under 30 crowd which I would think will benefit the most from Ward’s work.
    4. I don’t expect improvement from A-Gon or Ethier or maybe even Turner – just more of their same work. It’s the youngsters who should benefit.
    5. My personal opinion is that a hitting instructor has to be the final voice for his players and when Mattingly was here, I think he was involved in the process, which I think undermined McGwire… unintentionally.
    6. Some guys are first, foremost and always… hitting coaches: Guys like Charlie Lau and Rudy Jaramillo. Mark McGwire and Don Mattingly are not of that ilk (in my opinion). Turner Ward is and is highly respected as such in MLB.

    1. Re: 5. My personal opinion is that a hitting instructor has to be the final voice for his players and when Mattingly was here, I think he was involved in the process, which I think undermined McGwire… unintentionally.
      .
      I have always thought that starting with Loney.

  4. Also, TrueBlueLA has a good post about how Pecota ranks the Dodgers:
    http://www.truebluela.com/2017/2/7/14533086/pecota-projections-2017-dodgers-best-record-in-mlb-again

    It ends with:
    Yasmani Grandal, who projects as the Dodgers’ best player by PECOTA at 6.4 WARP — with roughly half of that value coming from catcher framing — said at Dodgers Fan Fest in January that he steers clear of projections and prognostications.

    “I don’t like to see what other people say about our team. I know what our team has,” Grandal said. “I know what we have in the minor leagues and what can help us. It’s just a matter of taking that extra step. We have the talent.”

    1. I know many who do not consider pitch framing to be of any value. Just ask Zach Greinke how he felt about Wellington Castillo.

      1. That’s one of the many reasons I left the other board. People can have opinions, but when their opinions are rooted in fiction, I have issues with that.

        Like it or not, you can see the results of catchers who are good “framers.” I am totally for electronic balls and strikes, but until then, framing is an art form that gets results. Stats bear it out. Some people just “don’t see it.”

        I’ll remind them that they can’t see gravity either, but it’s there. Climb that tree and let’s see you fly!

    1. This is why I do not look unfavorably on certain trades, as others do. Sure, the cost for Hill and Reddick may appear to be steep. Jharel Cotton may in fact be in the A’s rotation this year, but he would not be in the Dodgers. He was passed by several other pitchers. If he was not moved, the Dodgers risked another Zach Lee. Grant Holmes may be a high prospect with the A’s and may some day be in their rotation (probably not before 2019). But he did not progress enough last year that he too was considered to be passed by others; Stewart and Oaks moved from the same Rancho team to AAA last year. Sborz was considered a better prospect and moved to AA. Buehler and Alveraz are considered top of the rotation prospects coming up. So where would Holmes fit in? He was that A level prospect who many say we should move to get ML players now, and after all “he is just a prospect”, until one is moved. Then FAZ is considered wrong in moving THAT prospect. Frankie Montas is the one that may hurt. But who knows if he is going to be able to stay healthy. He had rib resection surgery and then reinjured his rib four months later. While he was not diagnosed (or at least it was not reported) with thoracic outlet syndrome, Montas did have the same surgery as was performed for Josh Beckett, who was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. Dodgerrick can assess this better than me, but my research seems to indicate that players returning from this surgery have not had long productive careers post-surgery.
      .
      In return, the Dodgers got Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. Hill was considered the new legit #2 they did not have. I know many question the trade for “blister boy” because he had limited starts for LA. But IMO he was obtained for the playoffs, and he would have been in a position to be a hero if Kershaw had pitched better in Game 6. Everything was set up for him; he just did not get the chance. Reddick is another story. I believe the thought process was sound. If Ethier had come back from his broken leg at the end of July as was originally diagnosed, the Dodgers would not have included Reddick. FAZ was not convinced that Toles would hold up and be a viable LH bat. So what LH OF bat did they have (other than Joc)? While it is true that the Dodgers did need a good RH bat, the Nats/Cubs/Cards/Mets/Bucs were all RHSP dominant, so they needed a LH bat for the playoffs. We know the results, and it was not pretty. They could have traded for Jay Bruce, but that would have been worse for last year and this year. I may be wrong, but I do not remember any other LH OF that was moved at the deadline. This trade had no bearing on Ryan Braun the RH bat they could have used. So Reddick was not a throw-in; he was a calculated risk. It just did not work out. Not every trade will.
      .
      The trade did have a positive outcome for 2017. They were able to re-sign Hill. I do not buy the argument that they would have been favored to get him as a FA. Hill made it very clear that pitching with Kershaw was special, and he wanted to continue. Without the trade, Hill would not have experienced pitching with Kershaw, and Hill probably ends up on the east coast; probably with the Yankees.
      .
      I guess this is a long winded way to say I agree with Mark that the Dodgers do have an excellent farm system that can be tapped at the deadline if a move is needed. And I do not believe that Friedman will allow any minor leaguer he believes to be a future front line player with the Dodgers to be included. Cotton/Montas/Holmes were not considered to be future front line players for THE DODGERS. They may in fact become mainstays for the A’s, but they would not have been for the Dodgers. Hill and Reddick gave LA the better chance in 2016.

      1. That might be one of the most intelligent comments I have ever read… not including mine of course. Just kidding… aon the mine part!

        This was brilliant: “If he was not moved, the Dodgers risked another Zach Lee.

      2. With Ethier, SVS, Thompson hurt PLUS Puig demoted the Dodgers were wise to add Reddick. Who else was going to play RF if Puig were not brought back and at the time of the trade, that was not necessarily in the plan.
        .
        Mark, Always, and Bum agree about the Hill trade. The Dodgers were two wins away from the WS with Kershaw and Hill on the mound. I think the Cubs were worried at that point.

      3. This was a very good read and great analysis! I might add, Josh Reddick was not chump change. He was one of the better outfielders available on the market. He jsut didn’t perform like it when he got to LA. Those things happen.

        Mark – it’s posts like these that make this blog so enjoyable to read. Such a relief from the constant negativity and bickering on the other blog (which, by the way, I no longer even visit).

        1. It’s hard to not be optimistic about this team, but I know what you are saying – some people would complain if they had a young Bo Derek… and they are good at it!

  5. I guess I am not a glass half empty Dodger fan. I am unabashedly a homer when it comes to the Dodgers. It will be 29 years since their last trip to the WS, so I understand the skepticism. If one does not get their hopes up, the fall will not hurt as much. Me…I believe the Dodgers WILL win every year. Perhaps naïve, yes. But I was around the Red Sox in their magical 2004 run. My son has a 2004 WS ring that proves that teams can win after 86 years of defeat, even if they are not projected to. Boston never quit on the Red Sox in all of their years between WS wins.
    .
    Dodgerrick is correct when he says that the Dodgers were historically anemic when it came to hitting against LHP in 2016. But what was not said is that LAD was very good against LHP in 2015. In the NL, they were #1 OBP, #2 SLG, Tied #1 OPS (with Nats), #4 BA, and #1 Runs. They were top 10 in OBP/SLG/OPS in MLB against LHP. I agree with Dodgerrick that the team is basically intact from 2015. So why do fans believe that the team will replicate 2016 rather than 2015?
    .
    Where they have consistently not succeeded is WRISP. But I think that was more of Mattingly not pushing the 1st to 3rd, or scoring from 2nd on a base hit. Bundy consistently held the runners, and it took getting Roenicke as 3rd base coach to get anything going. It took Woodward half a season to get the players to take the risk, but it was getting better. And if it was not for a blown call at the plate, AGon would have scored in Game 4 of the NLCS, and who knows what would have happened if he was called safe. I suspect that they will continue to improve in this area. I still like Seager in the #2 slot to take advantage of 1st to 3rd opportunities on singles to RF. If not Seager, then Ethier, or Toles. The way Forsythe uses the entire field, I like his chances at hitting behind the runner and getting that 1st to 3rd situation. It is a different team mentality than the one engineered by Mattingly.
    .
    I agree with Mark that Turner Ward will have a positive impact on Dodger hitters in 2017. Many wanted to hang Ward the 1st half of 2016. How could he be such a positive influence with the DBacks and nothing with LAD? The team had to push the station to station mentality skeletons of Mattingly aside and learn to trust Doc Roberts, Chris Woodward, and Turner Ward. It took ½ a year. I believe the Dodgers will build on the 2nd half of 2016. I believe situational hitting will get better. I believe that Ward will continue to prod Joc to make the adjustments that Seager is so good at. I do not know why, but I do believe that Puig (another #2 in batting order candidate), will hit this year. Probably not to the level of 2013/2014, but maybe duplicating his approach after his return from AAA. If he is truly as talented as many baseball people say he is (and I do have my doubts), maybe this is the year the light goes on for a kid who loves the game, but cannot stop being a kid.
    .
    There are a lot of teams that are capable of winning the NL pennant, but none have a better team than the Dodgers. Maybe as good as, but not better.

    1. AC

      I think you make a good point about what the team did against lefties, in 2015, versus 2016.

      And we still have almost the exact same players,
      with the team, this year.

      I think Scotty being healthy, will help a lot, as well, as Logan.

      And if Puig can finally put it together, we will be even better.

      But I do have my doubts about Puig, but I would love for him, to make me a believer, again.

      And with Toles, there was reason his hitting, went down in September.

      He didn’t play much, or get to many at bats, in August.

      That is because Reddick took all of the playing time, once he joined the team.

      And it is hard for any everyday player to hit, when they are not getting enough at bats, or playing time, let alone, a player that started the season, in A ball.

      And by the way, Toles had eight defensive runs saved, in the short time, he was in the majors, so he is more, then just a bat, and he brings great speed, to the team.

      And AC , only if Blanton would have thrown a fastball, just out of the strike zone to Montero, in that first game, instead of another slider, that also hung.

      We would have still had a tied game.

      And Chapman was out of the game, at the point, and we still had Kenley in the bullpen, waiting for us to score, and go ahead.

  6. I was very excited when the Dodgers picked up Ward, I saw how the d-backs did as a team hitting while he was there and thought to myself… “man the Dodgers need a coach like him!” I think it does take awhile to adjust to a new voice in a player’s ear, and now we will see improvement against lefties. I can’t wait… seven days!!!

  7. I haven’t been this optimistic about a Dodger team in a long time. I hope this pessimist doesn’t regret it. My reasons: another year with Roberts as manager; a hopefully healthy Kershaw (please!); enough young, good players finally to push the others. BUT I expect this team to have a good camp, winning more than losing. AND I expect this team to beat on the giants from the first series to the last. I hope I’m not asking for too much.

    1. … and if we need more help due to injury or failure to produce, we have a loaded farms system!
      YOU ARE GOING TO SEE IT GET EVEN DEEPER THIS YEAR!

  8. The rotation could be really crowded if Kazmir and/or Ryu is healthy. Then, there is McCarthy. All three were injured last year – it’s just as likely that all three could be healthy. Then what? FAZ could put together some really big trades this year. I could see a 4-way deal even. The depth is like nothing I have ever seen.
    Stripling and Stewart are better than anyone the Cubs have at #5… maybe #4.

  9. From a big picture standpoint, there is a lot to like about the Dodgers this year – and there is no doubt that they will compete for the postseason. The question is whether they have filled the holes and weaknesses that they have had over the past several seasons.

    When I said earlier that they were the same team, they are essentially the same as last year – Thompson, Toles, Seager, Grandal, et al were there last year. Only Forsyth is new. I acknowledge that many (Thompson, Van Slyke and Ethier) were injured.

    The main point is that the Dodgers have only been above the middle of the pack in run production 1 time in 5 years (2014), so in the Braintrust era they haven’t gotten to elite run production. That can be OK- a team that pitches well and plays good D doesn’t have to score a ton to win – the ’60’s Dodgers certainly prove that.

    Thus – the concern about the 5 inning starting pitcher and overreliance on the bullpen. The ’60’s Dodgers couldn’t score by ’65-’66, but their starting pitching was better than anyone else’s. The 2017 Dodgers have Kershaw, (#1 starter in the world) but after that? It was pretty mediocre last year, relying on the old and infirm and they got what they paid for – a DL full of pitchers. Have they fixed that problem?

    In other words, if the Dodgers have a middle-of-the-pack offense, is the starting pitching good enough to dominate the opposition on non-Kershaw days? If Hill gets 20 starts (optimistic) and Urias maybe 25, they have to get enough quality starts from the kids and the remainder of the old and infirm to win.

    I figure that the Dodgers will be middle -of-the-pack offensively again – same guys, same result. Will the pitching allow them to win? McCarthy certainly can’t be relied on – either can Ryu. I figure Kazmir will be back and better than last year. They have promising kids and Stripling or Stewart will probably get some starts too. Will it be enough?

    And if it is enough to get to the post-season (and it should be), will it be enough to compete with the Nats, Cubs, Giants, Cards, Mets who have more top of the rotation starters than the Dodgers currently do to win?

  10. My biggest concern this year is not so much about the hitting or pitching, I think when the dust of spring training settles we’ll be just fine. However, I do have a concern about team speed. With a few exceptions, the Dodgers are a station to station running team. I hope that we have some improvement in that area this year.

    Also, I’m really impressed with the coaching staff overall. We pretty much made it through the whole year in 2016, without ragging on base coach blunders. Moreover, reading Ward’s comments, as well as Lombard’s comments, it appears they have a tremendous passion for the game, as well as encouraging players to become better.

    1. The Dodgers don’t have many “burners” and Gonzalez and Grandal are below average runners. However, Pederson, Turner, Thompson, Barnes, Forsythe and Seager are all above average runners. Toles and Puig are both very good runners and the coaching of baserunning seems to be top-notch. “Smart” runners are sometimes better than “fast” runners.

    2. The Dodgers are perceived as station to station because that is what they did for five years under Mattingly. They started to get a bit more aggressive that last 1/2 to 1/3 of 2016, and that is when their run production increased. I do not believe you will see a lot of SB, but the team speed is there to take advantage of those 1st to 3rd opportunities, score from 2nd on a single, and hopefully not bat Puig behind AGon who is slow, and can clog up the bases. Pederson, Turner, Forsythe, Toles, and Seager are all smart base runners and can take the extra base. There is a lesser number of those 1st to home on doubles, but Woody will force the issue and make the defenses prove they can make the play. Puig may not be the smartest base runner, but he is aggressive, and will force defenses to make plays. Pederson even got more aggressive with the SB in the playoffs, and I think you will see more SB attempts depending on the pitcher/catcher combo. The Dodgers will run all day on the Cubs’ Anderson/Contreras. No, there is not a Billy Hamilton type speed, but there is situational team speed, and that is more important to increase run production.

  11. I believe the team’s defense, and base running numbers
    have almost doubled in a positive way, since Roberts, and his coaches, took over the team.

    And although the team’s offense, wasn’t good in the first half of the season last year, the team’s offense, was near the top in baseball, in the second half, of the season.

    And one of our most important hitters Turner, was just coming back, from his knee surgery, so it wasn’t suprising, that the team’s offense, suffered, in the first half.

    And the Dodger’s offense in the second half of the season, is what allowed the team, to continue to win, even after, Kershaw went out.

    And I think Ward, does make a difference with our veteran players, because our veteran hitters, are always looking to get better.

    And Ward helped this team, to have a game plan, and hit as a team, last year.

    The Dodgers also had the most comeback victories, in all of baseball, last year.

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