Apr 13, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hits a three run home run in the third inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Extra Base Hits and Lots of Them

The Dodgers could mostly only muster singles last season with the likes of such sluggers as Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, Justin Sellers and Mark Ellis in the lineup. The Dodgers didn’t have Hanley Ramirez for the first part of the 2013 season, and Justin Sellers wasn’t exactly hitting, well, anything. The Dodgers were a station-to-station team, and most of the reason that they were 9 1/2 games out and 31-42 on June 21, 2013, was that their offense was sputtering and injuries riddled the team. With Mark McGuire the new hitting coach, questions about the offense were brought up throughout the season.

The Dodgers collected 138 homeruns last season. The majority came from Adrian Gonzalez (22), Hanley Ramirez (20), and  Yasiel Puig (19).  Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe both had 12 homeruns, and A.J. Ellis hit 10 homeruns respectively.

Matt Kemp, who was on the disabled list more times than Michael Morse intensely practices his swing during a game, only hit 6

Apr 13, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp hits a solo home run in the second inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

homeruns last season. Matt Kemp already has three homeruns over the first thirteen games of the season. Adrian Gonzalez is at the top of the league with 5 homeruns. Hanley has 2 homeruns, but I expect him to break out to have a big season this year. Five other Dodgers each have a homerun (Ethier, Puig, Uribe, Van Slyke and Gordon).

Dee Gordon has as many homeruns as the Kansas City Royals. Going into April 15th, the Braves are leading the league in homeruns with 20. The Giants, thanks to Brandon Belt‘s hot start, are first in homeruns in the National League West with 17 homeruns. The Dodgers are not far behind, fifth in the league, with 15 homeruns.

The homerun outlook looks similar to last season as far as the Braves leading. The Dodgers placed 10th in the league in overall homeruns last season, and they ranked 24th overall. It’s a great sign that they are increasing their output of homeruns so far this season, and they are two slots higher on the homerun leader board for the NL then they were at the end of last season.

Of course a lot of homeruns is nice, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee wins. The Angels lead the MLB with 21 team homeruns, but they only sit in third place with a 6-7 record. The Dodgers will need to solidify their starting rotation in order to balance the early season extra base hits they have been producing.

It also helps that the Dodgers have played the lost Arizona Diamondbacks five times this season with another series between the two Western teams scheduled for Dodger Stadium next week. As we have seen from the D-backs’ despair, pitching is so very important to a team. Kirk Gibson announced that Trevor Cahill will be moved to the bullpen after his bad start against the Dodgers. The D-backs will start Mike Bolsinger on Saturday. The Dodgers only need to look to Clayton Kershaw‘s return in order to add an instant boost to the team. Meanwhile, these homeruns have been fun and crucial to their ten victories on the season.

The Dodgers lineup is chalk full of talented hitters, and opposing pitchers have had a hard time keeping the Dodgers in the yard. Adrian Gonzalez has shown instances of his former power stroke with his five homeruns (and four straight games with a homerun). If Gonzo’s power is back and Matt Kemp is healthy, the Dodgers could go on another tear.

Matt Kemp’s return is sure to have some rusty bumps along the way. He hasn’t played a full season in two years, and his ankle is still very precarious. Matt’s running game may be slowed right now (and he is markedly slower in the field so far), but his shoulder looks healthy. Kemp has shown that his swing has that reach it once did when he was the true M.V.P. in 2011. I have missed Bison Blasts.

Apr 8, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (13) looks on as Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon (9) crosses the plate after a solo home run in the first inning of the game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers are stacking up extra base hits at a noticeable rate. They have 47 extra base hits in 13 games (32 doubles and 15 homeruns). Last season, the Dodgers did not have 47 extra base hits until their 22nd game. Interestingly they do not yet have a triple, although I’m sure Dee Gordon will change that soon.

Dee Gordon’s 2 doubles and a homerun help the cause, and Juan Uribe leads the league (tied with Paul Goldschmidt) with 7 doubles. Gonzo has 5 doubles, and Hanley has 6. Overall, the Dodgers are tied with the D-backs for most doubles (32) in the NL.

The Dodgers are hitting extra base hits at a much greater clip than last season. Matt Kemp’s and Hanley Ramirez’s health is the biggest addition to the offensive game, but it will interesting to see if everyone can stay healthy in the long run. The Dodgers have a championship caliber team if pitching and offense both come together cohesively. Some defensive improvement would be wise as well.

The Dodgers catchers are pretty punch less right now, and losing A.J. for any length of time will cause them to lose part of his average homerun output of a dozen homeruns or so. Drew Butera has hit only 5 career homeruns. He hasn’t hit a homerun since 2012, and don’t let those two lucky base hits the other day fool you. Tim Federowicz will need to snap out of this horrible slump and contribute at the plate. FedEx only has 2 hits in 30 at-bats. Last season he did hit 4 homeruns for the Dodgers in 56 games.

The Dodgers are hitting a lot of homeruns and doubles, and I’m enjoying the offensive spurt. The increase in extra base hits would probably be due to a combination of factors such as opposing pitching, health, and maybe even a little bit of team chemistry thrown in to the mix. I think we will be seeing more back-to-back homeruns out of this year’s lineup.

The most exciting part is that we are just warming up. Wait until Hanley gets hot! All we need is Clayton Kershaw’s curveball to return in order to squelch the opposition’s long ball.

Tags: Los Angeles Dodgers

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