When the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox, he made it clear that he is most comfortable hitting in the leadoff spot. It of course is where he has been for a majority of his career and won the 2018 American League MVP Award hitting from.
To this point though, Betts has hit mostly second for the Dodgers during the regular season, with a few games started in the leadoff spot against left-handed pitchers sprinkled in.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has tried a few different players in leadoff spot, although to this point, none of them have had much success. Particularly Max Muncy, leading to Joc Pederson returning atop the lineup.
Despite that, Roberts is not considering locking Betts into the No. 1 spot in the lineup at this time. “You talk about the leadoff hitter, the role, the spark, I absolutely understand that,” Roberts said.
“But I think if you look up and down our lineup, there’s really not anyone swinging the bat considerably well. Just to have Mookie in the leadoff role, I don’t think makes everybody in the order get hot. We’re still finding ways to push some runs across, so right now I like where we’re at.”
Roberts has cited matchups all along for his different lineup changes, and that remains the case despite the offense currently struggling. “When you’re talking about one player and lineup construction, where he hits leadoff once a game, the numbers to last year are very similar as far as production,” he explained.
“Now you’re taking in eight other players in a lineup that particular game, that matter as well. So when you potentially give them matchups and make it a little more difficult for the opposing managers, I think that has some value too.”
Roberts trying to get Muncy and Pederson going
The two lefties that have hit leadoff for the Dodgers in front of Betts this season are Max Muncy and Pederson. The former has never hit leadoff before and admitted to being a bit uncomfortable doing so, while the latter has a ton of experience in the spot, setting franchise records for leadoff home runs in both 2018 and 2019.
Neither has swung the bat well this season though as Muncy is hitting .186/.305/.386 while Pederson is at .196/.327/.391.
Other players have struggled as well, but Roberts emphasized the need to get those two going, in particular, and is confident it will happen.
“Having Muncy in there at times, he’s a traditional on-base guy, and he’s just not swinging the bat well. We’ve tried him in the two, five, six, and right now he’s just in a little bit of a funk,” he said. “He’s going to get out of it, I don’t think the leadoff spot is the reason.
“Joc has hit leadoff for us many times past, and he’s not swinging the bat well. It’s just more magnified, these guys have (only) taken 40 or 50 at-bats. I absolutely understand it’s a shorter season, but they’re going to get going.”
Perhaps these players can benefit from being locked into one spot in the order for an extended period of time, although that has never been the Dodgers’ preferred strategy so likely won’t happen anytime soon.
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