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Dodgers aren’t creating scoring opportunities, and missing out on offense

LA hasn’t scored more than three runs in a game for over a week

Dodgers vs San Diego Padres in Los Angeles, CA.

The Dodgers are scuffling at the plate, there’s no denying it. After 11 runs in 12 innings last Friday in San Diego, the Dodgers have scored a total of 11 runs over their last 54 innings, dropping four of their last six games.

The shocking stat came courtesy of ESPN, which was widely shared Friday night.

That’s truly terrible, as the Dodgers are hitting just .128/.238/.244 in their last six games, and have topped out at three runs during that time. But for some context, MLB teams as a whole are only averaging only 7.69 hits per game in 2021, which if it holds would be the lowest mark in major league history.

In 1909, the last time the Dodgers had as putrid of an offensive stretch as this, MLB teams averaged 7.92 hits per game. There have only been four seasons with MLB teams averaging under eight hits per game:

  • 1907: 7.99 hits/game
  • 1908: 7.75
  • 1909: 7.92
  • 1968: 7.91

You might remember 1968 from such monikers as “The Year of the Pitcher,” and after that season the powers that be in baseball lowered the mound to tip the scales back toward hitters. So far this year, it is even worse for hitters.

This is not to absolve the Dodgers, who have been awful for the last week. But what exactly is going wrong?

Usually they are the most disciplined team in the majors, swinging at balls outside the strike zone only 24.8 percent of the time, the lowest rate in MLB. In their last six games, they’ve chased non-strikes 27.2 percent, which is up, but still only fifth-lowest in baseball. Not too bad.

What about hard hit rate, the measure of how often the team’s batted balls have an exit velocity of 95 percent or higher? On the season they are at 38.6 percent, which ranks 20th. During the six-game skid, their hard-hit rate is 35.7 percent, down a little bit, but still 24th. Not much of a relative change here, either.

The Dodgers have also been without starters Cody Bellinger and Gavin Lux, saw Mookie Betts and Chris Taylor miss time in the last week, and had their most productive fill-in, Zach McKinstry, hit the injured list as well.

“There’s a lot of guys banged up right now, guys who are big parts of this team. They’re testing our depth, but we got a lot of good players,” said catcher Austin Barnes. “Whoever we have out there that day, we feel like we have a chance to win, so that’s not really an excuse for us. We just need to play better baseball.”

Where the offensive woes start to become clearer is how often they are hitting the ball.

On the season, the Dodgers have a 77-percent contact rate, good for fifth-best in the majors, the same spot they finished last year. But over the last six games they are down to 71.9 percent, which drops the Dodgers all the way to 27th.

As such, the team’s 31.1-percent strikeout rate over the last six games is second-highest in the game, way up from their seasonal number of 23.4-percent, which is the eighth-lowest.

Though the Dodgers’ called strike rate is up, from 17.9 percent on the season to 20.1 percent over the last six games, they aren’t really falling behind more. In their first 14 games, they averaged 21.1 plate appearances with two strikes. In the last six games it’s 21.5 PA, basically the same.

Plate appearances that get to two strikes is no way to live as a hitter, and the MLB-wide line on those PA is .156/.235/.253. But the Dodgers in these last six games are as a team in these situations hitting worse than pitchers, with just 10 hits in 115 at-bats, hitting .087/.188/.174, striking out almost half (49.6 percent) the time.

On the season, the Dodgers have a 102 wRC+ with runners in scoring position, but in the last six games they have a 42 wRC+, 28th in the majors during that time. Even worse, on the season the Dodgers have the second-most plate appearances with runners in scoring position, averaging just under 12 per game. But they’ve shaved that almost in half dating back to last Saturday, with just 37 plate appearances in six games. They have six hits.

“I think it’s more of just trying to create opportunities. If you look back at the last four or five games, we’ve had one opportunity where the defense makes a real big play that flips the game,” said Dave Roberts, with Jake Cronenworth and Fernando Tatis Jr.’s double play in the eighth inning Thursday and Manny Machado’s diving catch in the seventh inning Friday fresh in his mind. “When we’re clicking on all cylinders, we get more opportunities like that. So it’s stay the course.”

Might be easier said than done.

Game info

Teams: Dodgers vs. Padres

Location: Dodger Stadium

Time: 6:10 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA, MLB Network