SAN DIEGO -- Is the Los Angeles Dodgers’ offense too reliant on home runs?
It’s an absurd question, right? Home runs are the easiest way to score. They’re nice and tidy and nobody has to get dirty. The Dodgers lead the National League with 162 home runs. They never expected to hit this many, but they are hitting them and they’re celebrating them, as they should. They mashed five more in their 8-4 win over the San Diego Padres on Friday night.
What are they supposed to do, apologize for hitting the ball extremely hard?
“Obviously, I’m not going to complain about home runs,” manager Don Mattingly said.
But there will come a time -- and we all know when that time is -- when waiting for somebody to send a ball soaring high and deep might not be the best plan of attack. In fact, we can get a little more specific now that it appears extraordinarily likely that the Dodgers will face the New York Mets in the first round of the playoffs.
Waiting to hit home runs off the Mets pitching staff might make for a long wait.
A lot can change in the next month, but the Dodgers now have a 7½-game lead in their division, the Mets have a five-game lead in their division and, barring a miracle, the St. Louis Cardinals will play the winner of the wild-card game.
Both Dodger Stadium and Citi Field tend to suppress offense and have fences that are more distant than many NL stadiums. Oh, and the Mets’ three best starting pitchers -- Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard -- have combined to allow 48 home runs this season in 457 2/3 innings.
It’s possible those three could be the only starting pitchers the Dodgers would face in a short series, and the Mets’ big three are averaging fewer than a home run per nine innings. The math isn’t that hard. The Dodgers might need to find other ways to score.
Most of this season, the Dodgers have been absolutely awful running the bases. They’re not only slow, they’ve made bad decisions.
But they’ve begun focusing on fixing the problem with a modicum of success lately. They had a big meeting a few weeks ago in Oakland on the subject of creating a little offense on the bases, and the coaches have continued to emphasize smart, appropriately aggressive running. The addition of third-base coach Ron Roenicke, who has a keen eye for picking up good running opportunities, has helped. But mostly what has helped is adding faster, better baserunners, including Chase Utley, Jose Peraza and, on Friday, Schebler.
The Dodgers didn’t just hit five home runs Friday. They also stole three bases, which was probably more surprising.
This season has been an occasionally frustrating one for Dodgers first-base coach Davey Lopes, one of the game’s shrewdest, most disruptive runners in his day, as he has seen the plodding and blundering from close range.
“He keeps threatening me with bringing his cleats out, so I’m trying not to let that happen,” Rollins joked. “We talked about it as a team, running and doing those things. Guys have definitely been more open to it from the top down. Now, we’re starting to get results, and it’s better late than never.”
It might, in fact, be just in the nick of time.