The Dodgers have the highest line-drive rate in baseball in 2010, at 20.8%. No one else is closer than the Rockies, at 19.7%, so they’re a pretty good distance ahead of the rest of the league as well. However, despite this, they’re only managing a .306 BABIP, only slightly above league average.
Perhaps the poster child for the Dodgers’ inability to turn their multitude of well-hit balls into baserunners is James Loney. Loney, well-noted for his abilities as an OBP and line-drive machine, is leading the league with a 25.5% LD rate. However, he’s only BABIPing .310, his third-best rate in his five-year career, despite the best line drive rate of his career. Loney has the worst OBP of his career, but if he continues to rake line drives, Dodgers fans and Loney himself have to trust that the hits will start to come.
This game, she’s a cruel mistress. The baseball gods giveth, and the baseball gods taketh away. Often, the only thing a ballplayer can do when everything goes wrong is to go back to the basics: line drives to the opposite field, hitting your spots and finding a consistent release point, using two hands to field and stepping toward your target to make a strong throw. If Loney and the Dodgers continue to hit the ball hard, results will follow.
So wait til next year Dodgers fans, but expect the line-drive method to lead to stronger offense. Check back tomorrow, when we’ll be taking a look at the Toronto Blue Jays and another strong young core that could give the Jays a chance to challenge for the AL East in the style of the ’08 Rays.