Friday, May 03, 2013

McGwire Waits For Dodgers Bats To Magically Erupt

Okay, I kid. I admit that I agree with Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire that it's just a matter of time before the Dodgers start hitting:

Long drives home and sleepless nights have become a part of Mark McGwire's life now that the former home run champion is the Dodgers' hitting coach.

But McGwire said his job is everything he hoped it would be when he left the St. Louis Cardinals to accept it.

His off-season home in Irvine has become his year-round home, which allowed him to catch his two sons' recent Little League game. The Dodgers' training facilities might be the best in baseball.

As for the Dodgers' low-scoring offense, McGwire believes it's only a matter of time before it is "devastating."

"There's so much talent in that clubhouse," McGwire said. "I know it's going to be all put together."

Over the previous six seasons, the Dodgers have had six hitting coaches. Each of them said something similar. None of them could actualize their visions, except Don Mattingly, who as hitting coach in 2008 had a chemically enhanced Manny Ramirez fall into his lap.

The Dodgers will head into their series opener against the San Francisco Giants on Friday averaging 3.37 runs per game. Only the Miami Marlins were scoring fewer runs per game through Wednesday, at 2.82.

"Underachieving," McGwire said. "Very much underachieving."

But McGwire, who is working with assistant hitting coach John Valentin, sees reasons for optimism.

"We've worked the count very well," McGwire said.

Dodgers hitters have seen an average of 4.00 pitches per plate appearance, which ranked second in the National League and fourth in the major leagues entering Thursday. The teams that ranked ahead of them are all high-scoring teams: the Oakland Athletics (5.59 runs per game), the New York Mets (4.85 runs per game) and the Boston Red Sox (4.02 runs per game).

If those teams are scoring, why aren't the Dodgers?

"I think we can be better being ready to hit the ball in certain counts," McGwire said.

Let's go to the numbers. The Dodgers' team matting average, at .250, ranks 29th in the majors. Our OBP, at .327, ranks eighth in the majors; so maybe there is something to McGwire's claims of worked counts.

But the other contributing factor is, the Dodgers aren't hitting for power. Add in our 28th-best .362 slugging average, and it's obvious that we're getting smoked here: our team OPS is 23rd in the majors, at .688.

The Dodgers have 20 HR on the season, which ranks 27th in the majors; our AB/HR ratio is 25th in MLB at 44.3. (What's keeping us from not being even more completely blown out here is that the Giants' AB/HR ratio is 26th, and San Diego's is 27th.)

We rank 29th in doubles with 37. We rank 29th in triples, with one. We rank 28th in Total Bases, with 320 (Colorado is first, with 457--almost 43% more bases).

We need to find a way to put some sock into our bats, quickly.

Oh, wait. Maybe giving McGwire that notion isn't such a good idea...

photo: Lenny Ignelzi / AP