Yasiel Puig and Howie Kendrick were dropped to fifth and seventh, respectively, in the Dodgers’ batting order Thursday, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is sticking with the two through their free-flailing struggles.
Roberts shuffled his regulars to produce a unique lineup in his 23rd game as manager. Catcher Yasmani Grandal hit cleanup for the first time this year. Four left-handed hitters (Chase Utley, Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez and the switch-hitting Grandal) led off against ace Miami Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez.
Puig had a .405 batting average and .500 on-base percentage 10 games into the season. Over his next 12 games, those figures dipped to .140 and .159. This week, Puig reported to the batting cage for early work on the field with hitting coach Turner Ward and coach Manny Mota.
“He’s been getting out of the strike zone a little bit more,” Roberts said of Puig. “You look at the first seven days, where he’s taking balls, swinging at strikes. And I think they’re still throwing ‘em in. He’s offering at those pitches. Then the breaking balls down below the zone.”
Actually, Puig has been swinging more at all sorts of pitches out of the zone. According to Pitch F/x data via baseball-savant.com, Puig saw 150 pitches out of the zone in his first 10 games and swung at 13 of them, or 8.7 percent of the total. In the next 12 games, he swung at 14.8 percent of pitches outside the zone.
Kendrick’s struggles are similar, but not recent. After a groin injury cut short his spring training, it seems the veteran second baseman has been playing catch-up since he reported to the clubhouse. His batting average sat at .143 through Wednesday.
“Howie’s getting some pitches to hit,” Roberts said. “The pitches that should end the at-bats, he’s fouling them off or swinging through them. Then he gets into pitcher’s counts. Then you get the nasty breaking balls, things like that.
“He’s striking out a little bit more than he’s accustomed to, but that lends itself to not ending at-bats when he should.”
Kendrick had struck out in 24.5 percent of his at-bats this season through Wednesday, up from 18.4 percent of his at-bats prior to this year.
The Dodgers signed Kendrick, 32, to a two-year, $20 million contract before the season.