With a 5-2 start to this 10-game road trip, the Dodgers find themselves alone in first place in the NL West for the first time in more than a month. The offense has come alive on the trip, scoring 44 runs in the seven games so far. New additions Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino have played big roles, combining for 22 hits and 15 runs batted in. Matt Kemp has 11 hits, including four doubles, and Luis Cruz has chipped in with seven hits and five RBI in 18 at-bats.
Their production is in contrast to that of Andre Ethier, who has just eight hits in 30 at-bats so far on the trip. All eight hits have been singles, continuing a power outage that's lasted since the beginning of June.
Since hitting .324 with nine home runs through the end of May, Ethier is hitting just .250 and has hit only two home runs. His performance against lefties, excellent in the first two months, has been among the worst in baseball since June 1. Ethier's .869 OPS against lefties in the first two months of the season ranked 9th among all left-handed hitters; his .404 OPS against lefties since then ranks last. Left-handed pitchers have approached Ethier a little differently since June 1, increasing their percentage of offspeed pitches from about 41 percent to 46 percent against him.
Along with his early success against lefties, Ethier's power has virtually disappeared. He has just two home runs since the start of June and has just one home run in his last 47 games. His current streak of 115 at-bats without a home run is the second-longest of his career to a 152-at-bat streak spanning his rookie year and the start of his second season.
Part of Ethier's lack of power can be explained by his batted ball rates. In the first two months of the season, Ethier hit 63 percent of balls in play in the air; that number has dropped to 53 percent since then. In particular, he's having a tough time elevating offspeed pitches. April and May saw Ethier hit four home runs against offspeed pitches, as he hit the ball on the ground only 37 percent of the time. Since then, however, Ethier has no homers on offspeed pitches, and he's hit nearly 59 percent of them on the ground when putting them in play.
In particular, pitches down in the zone and below it, many of them offspeed pitches, have also given Ethier trouble in the last few months. He hit .306 with five home runs against these pitches in the first two months of the season, elevating the ball 57 percent of the time. Since then, he's hitting .237 with no homers on low pitches, putting the ball in the air only 42 percent of the time. With a season-long struggle against pitches up in the zone (.105 batting average, zero home runs), hitting the low pitch for power is critical for Ethier.
The Dodgers' offense lately hasn't missed a beat without Ethier's power, but clearly a resurgent Ethier would go a long way for a team that still struggles to hit the long ball. For Ethier to get back to where he was, the numbers say he'll need to elevate the ball more, especially against offspeed pitches.
PA 210 232
BA .324 .250
HR 9 2
Groundball pct 36.7 47.0
OPS .950 .664
OPS vs LHP .869 .404
With help from Baseball-Reference, ESPN Stats & Information, and the Elias Sports Bureau, here are a few other notes from the past week in Dodgers baseball.