Roberts says offensive woes are merely a blip

Dodgers manager relies on advanced data, not averages

May 12th, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made a not-so-bold proclamation before Wednesday's game against the Mets: "I believe Howie Kendrick is not going to hit .170 this year."

Of course, he had already said as much when he inserted the veteran into the third spot in the lineup, in spite of a .198/.235/.210 batting line in 85 plate appearances.

While Kendrick's struggles have been some of the most acute on the team, he is not the only one feeling the heat for lack of production. Not a single member of the team is hitting .300 on the season and they collectively rank just 24th in batting average over the last 30 days. While that might be worrying, Roberts essentially said he hasn't noticed.

"I don't pay attention [to average], personally," Roberts said. "I look at quality of at-bats, the contact, how hard they're hitting the baseball. There are things we get as far as data to specify how hard the guys are hitting the baseball. For me, I try to take the long view where, if you're getting good at-bats, hitting the baseball hard, then it will turn and you'll start to get some hits."

As far as hitting the ball hard goes, Roberts has a point. Going back to Kendrick, the infielder has a 90.64 mph average batted-ball velocity according to Statcast™, which is higher than league average.

On the other hand, Kendrick has an average launch angle of -0.32 degrees, more than 10 degrees below league average.

"We're swinging at a lot of balls out of the zone and hitting a lot of balls into the ground," Roberts said. "When you're not swinging at strikes and putting the ball into the ground more than you're putting them in the air, it's tough to score runs."

Roberts said he has confidence the team's track record will help them overcome those issues, along with patience.

"It's a narrative every year with teams across baseball, when a team starts slower offensively, 'Are these guys going to hit?' It's something, for me on the coaching side, I never buy into, because it happens every single year. And every single year, guys find a way to get hits and then the baseball card looks the same, disregarding injury or something like that," Roberts said.

Injury notes

• Andre Ethier will receive another scan on his right leg in a week to see if the fractured tibia has healed. The outfielder is still wearing a brace on his lower leg and is up to bearing 25 percent of his weight on the team's Ultra G machine, a device for cardiovascular, non-weight bearing activity.

"Until we get complete clearance that the bone is healed, we have to tread lightly," Roberts said.

• Scott Van Slyke is still two to three weeks away from beginning a rehab assignment. He has begun swinging the bat and hitting off a tee.