Los Angeles Dodgers: The One Batting Order Don Mattingly Must Use More Often
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ winning combination hasn’t been found in consistency but rather the mixing and matching of different players on a lineup card with heaps of eraser shavings.
Due to a bevy of injuries and manager Don Mattingly’s experimental mentality to test out a variety of lineups, as of Monday the Dodgers had used 105 different lineups in 117 games, according to Los Angeles’ Daily News.
As the Blue Crew continue to roll on with a 97 percent chance of making the postseason (according to CoolStandings.com), Mattingly will likely search to find a more concrete lineup in the final month of the regular season.
Here’s a look at the batting order that Mattingly should pencil in more often.
1) Carl Crawford
Now back up to par with his usual performance after his return from a hamstring injury, Carl Crawford is once again a reliable leadoff hitter for the Dodgers.
On the season, the Dodgers’ left fielder is hitting .301 with a .354 on-base percentage when batting first.
Better yet, while his speed is not as lightning-fast as it was when he stole 60 bases for the Tampa Bay Rays four years ago, he is still active on the bases (this year: 11 SB in 81 games) and can easily get in to scoring position by swiping second.
Although he doesn’t provide the flare that Yasiel Puig gave when he filled the No. 1 slot during Crawford’s injury rehab, the veteran outfielder is a steady leadoff hitter who understands the responsibilities of hitting first.
2) Yasiel Puig
On most teams, Yasiel Puig would hit cleanup and never budge from the No. 4 spot.
However, because the Dodgers are filled to the brim with established big bats in their lineup, the No. 2 spot is a perfect place for the Cuban sensation in the Blue Crew’s lineup.
The 22-year-old right fielder is hitting .333 with a .393 on-base percentage and has seven home runs and 14 runs batted in hitting second in the lineup in his first major-league season.
While Puig’s best numbers have come from the leadoff (.469 BA, .485 OBP, 4 HR, 10 RBI) and cleanup (.432 BA, .536 OBP, 3 HR, 9 RBI) spots, he’s only played a combined 25 games in those two spots.
That may make his combined stats seem even more phenomenal, but most of those games were in the very beginning of the season, when Puig was unfathomably electric—before he came back to Earth.
With his outstanding power and speed, Puig is a dangerous weapon for the Dodgers in the No. 2 spot, as he can both drive in any teammates on base and get himself in scoring position for the meat of the lineup.
3) Adrian Gonzalez
Adrian Gonzalez is another player who hits cleanup on any other team, which is a profitable luxury for the Dodgers to have.
Gonzalez has been the Dodgers’ most consistent hitter all season long, repeatedly boosting the team when their offense was struggling.
Although the hype surrounding Puig and even Hanley Ramirez has overshadowed his success, the veteran first baseman has been the Dodgers’ most valuable offensive player this season.
Batting in the No. 3 spot, Gonzalez has hit 14 home runs and drove in 54 runs, holding a .279 batting average with a .319 on-base percentage.
When he hit in the cleanup spot earlier in the season for 25 games, the 31-year-old slugger actually had his best stretch of games, driving in 19 runs and maintaining a .386 average and .437 on-base percentage.
Nevertheless, with Hanley as hot as he is, Gonzalez should remain in the No. 3 spot for the duration of the season.
4) Hanley Ramirez
When he hasn’t been displaced by various injuries, Hanley Ramirez has been the Dodgers’ hottest hitter this season, even hotter than the thrilling Yasiel Puig.
Therefore, the Blue Crew should, and likely will, keep Ramirez as its cleanup hitter.
The Dominican shortstop is hitting nearly every ball that touches his bat with incredible force, evidenced by his impressive 11 home runs and 37 runs batted in the 55 games in which he’s played this season.
Ramirez has demonstrated why the No. 4 spot is referred to as hitting cleanup, as he’s driven in 36 runs in the 45 games in which he’s hit there.
Best of all, Ramirez isn’t just driving in runs and hitting for power but is hitting for average as well, flaunting a .362 batting average and .411 on-base percentage when hitting cleanup.
5) Andre Ethier
Andre Ethier struggled to find a groove in the 2013 season.
While he hasn’t exactly recaptured his swing of years past that thrice yielded more than 20 home runs and 80 runs batted in, Ethier has taken solace hitting behind Ramirez in the No. 5 spot, which is where he should stay.
Hitting cleanup (41 AB, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 195 BA, .261 OBP) and sixth (100 AB, 1 HR, 2 RBI, .240 BA, .319 OBP) simply wasn’t working out for him.
Whether he couldn’t handle the pressure in the cleanup spot, or felt undervalued batting sixth will remain in the recesses of Ethier’s head, but he has nevertheless found a home in the median of the two.
The longtime Dodgers outfielder has been hitting phenomenally in the No. 5 spot, driving 34 runs with five home runs, a .298 batting average and a .382 on-base percentage.
With Ethier finally producing, Mattingly would be foolish to move him anywhere else in the lineup.
6) Juan Uribe
Juan Uribe usually bats seventh in the Dodgers’ lineup, but the team would be better served if he were slotted sixth in the batting order.
Although Uribe’s season numbers, while drastically improved from his performance in his first two seasons with the Dodgers, aren’t eye-popping (.265 BA, .325 OBP, 6 HR, 32 RBI), he has been clutch all season long.
Boosting Uribe up in the order by a slot is a wise move for the Blue Crew, and is supported by the numbers as well.
In the 12 games in which the Dodgers’ third baseman has hit sixth, Uribe hit .297 with an even .400 on-base percentage, belting three doubles and driving in four runs.
Conversely, in the 34 games in which Uribe has hit a spot lower in the order, he has hit .254 with a .280 on-base percentage, four doubles and six runs batted in.
7) A.J. Ellis
The Dodgers’ catcher has been penciled in at second and spots five through eight by manager Don Mattingly.
Statistically, Ellis’ best position in the batting order is the No. 5 slot (48 AB, 2 HR, 4 RBI, .333 BA, .439 OBP), but given that Ethier has settled nicely into the five spot, Ellis is best off batting in his second-best spot: seventh.
Hitting seventh for 24 games, Ellis boasts an impressive .366 on-base percentage and has drove in 15 runs. The ever-patient, well-disciplined catcher has also drawn 14 walks hitting in the seven spot.
Like Uribe, Ellis has been clutch this season, and putting him in the seven spot behind another clutch hitter fortifies the Dodgers tail end of the lineup.
8) Mark Ellis
Mark Ellis is a player who hits well on either end of the order, but not in between.
He has performed well at the plate in both the leadoff and No. 2 spots and has also done well in the No. 8 and No. 9 spots, but hasn't flourished in the No. 5 or No. 7 slot.
On any run-of-the-mill team (i.e., the Dodgers of the past few seasons), Ellis would be a steady leadoff hitter, but with the top half of the lineup shining blindingly bright with stars, the Dodgers' second baseman will stay in the lower half of the order.
Given given that he has underperformed hitting in the No. 5 and No. 7 spot, it only makes sense to keep Ellis in the eighth spot, where in 34 at-bats, he's maintained a .353 batting average and .371 on-base percentage.
Ellis isn't a major producer, but he has been known to come up with key base hits in key situations.
9) Zack Greinke
What's that? Pitchers only play every five games? Oh. Well...there goes that idea.
Of course, the final spot of the batting order has traditionally been filled by pitchers in the National League, but the Dodgers pitching staff has been surprisingly productive at the plate this season.
Clayton Kershaw belted a home run in a spectacular Opening Day start. Carlos Marmol nearly cleared the fences for a game-winning home run in the Dodgers' eventual extra-inning victory over the Mets on Wednesday.
And of course, there's Zack Greinke, who has been making solid contact all season long.
In 48 plate appearances, Greinke has slapped 15 hits and even drawn four walks, boasting a .385 average with a .455 on-base percentage.
Forget chasing the Cy Young trophy, he's headed for the batting title!
All lineup-specific stats courtesy of MLB.com