4 reasons the Dodgers are off to their worst start in 20 years

Big League Stew

The Los Angeles Dodgers wrapped up a disappointing opening week with their least inspiring performance to date. They were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks, losing Wednesday’s series finale 3-0 after striking out 15 times and being limited to one hit by Arizona’s pitching trio of Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley and Brad Boxberger.

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It’s the Dodgers fifth loss in seven games to begin the season. That marks their worst start to a season in 20 years. This is not at all how they drew it up.

It’s early. We get that. There have been several MLB seasons that didn’t even begin before April 4, so it’s definitely not time to panic. But there are some points worth discussing that could help explain why this first week hasn’t gone the Dodgers’ way.

We’ve narrowed that down to four main points. A couple are head-scratchers. A couple others should correct themselves over time. All of them have contributed in some way to what Dodgers fans hope will be the team’s worst seven-day stretch of the season.

Kenley Jansen’s slow start for the Dodgers should get better with more work. (AP)
Kenley Jansen’s slow start for the Dodgers should get better with more work. (AP)

Kenley Jansen’s struggles

We didn’t see much of the Dodgers closer in spring training. The team wanted it that way because Jansen has appeared in 363 games — postseason included — dating back to 2013. They wanted to lighten his workload, pitching Jansen in only a handful of games leading up to the season. Unfortunately, it appears his late start has left him a little rusty.

Jansen’s velocity has been down early, and opponents’ production against him has gone up. In two appearances, he has allowed what proved to be a game-winning homer to San Francisco’s Joe Panik, and a game-tying, three-run homer to Arizona’s Chris Owings. The Dodgers would lose that game in 15 innings. Those four runs equal 40 percent of the earned runs Jansen allowed all last season. He’s never allowed more than six homers in any single season.

The good news is Jansen insists he’s healthy. The better news is that with each appearance that comes, he should shake more of that rust loose. Though the start hasn’t been good, the Dodgers focus is still on Jansen being at his best in October. Assuming he is healthy, better results should be coming.

Justin Turner is a missing piece of the Dodgers offensive puzzle so far in 2018. (AP)
Justin Turner is a missing piece of the Dodgers offensive puzzle so far in 2018. (AP)

Justin Turner’s absence

The Dodgers have missed Turner’s presence in the middle of the order. Unfortunately, they’ll be without him at least a few more weeks as he recovers from a broken wrist suffered late in spring training.

The 33-year-old infielder was a late bloomer. He didn’t become a true regular until his age-29 season with Los Angeles, after the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets gave up on him. Since then, he has been among the game’s most consistent and productive offensive players. In many ways he has become the glue that holds the Dodgers’ lineup together. With that glue and his .303/.378/.502 over the past four seasons missing, the Dodgers look a lot less daunting offensively.

Creating more offense isn’t as simple as getting Turner back. It will be a huge boost though when it happens.

The Dodgers need a little more power from Cody Bellinger and their healthy hitters. (AP)
The Dodgers need a little more power from Cody Bellinger and their healthy hitters. (AP)

Where’s the power?

Shohei Ohtani hit his second home run in three games for the Angels on Wednesday.

As for the Dodgers’ entire lineup, it has three home runs total in seven games.

Turner’s bat being out is one thing. When Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson have combined for one homer, that’s another problem.

The Dodgers hit 221 home runs last season, good for 11th in MLB. The year before they hit 189, which didn’t crack the top half of the league. It’s not like they’ve had to rely on power to have success, but they could use a boost in that department to open things up. The Dodgers have only nine doubles too in addition to the low homer total.

The Dodgers are 0-2 in Clayton Kershaw starts this season after going 23-4 last season. (AP)
The Dodgers are 0-2 in Clayton Kershaw starts this season after going 23-4 last season. (AP)

Winless ace

The Dodgers are usually unstoppable when ace Clayton Kershaw takes the ball. Just look at last season for example. Los Angeles went 23-4 in regular-season games started by Kershaw.

The third of those losses didn’t come until Sept. 7. This season, the third loss could come this weekend. The Dodgers are already 0-2 in Kershaw’s starts, though it’s hardly his fault.

Kershaw allowed only a Joe Panik home run on opening day, but lost to Ty Blach and the Giants 1-0. On Tuesday in Arizona, he allowed two solo home runs over six innings against the Diamondbacks, but the Dodgers lost 6-1.

The biggest takeaway here is that the Dodgers have scored only one run in Kershaw’s two outings. Yeah, we’re pointing another finger at the Dodgers’ offense, but even Kershaw needs a little help. The Dodgers have a good enough rotation that winning every Kershaw start isn’t as crucial to them as most teams when their ace is pitching. Still, it’s a big part of the Dodgers’ formula that’s missing in 2018.

The good news, again, is that it’s still plenty early in the season. A lot of what we mentioned here will improve. It’s possible a week from now we’ll have already forgotten the Dodgers opening week results.

In the here and now, it reminds us that there’s no easy path for any team, regardless of expectations or talent. The Dodgers have work to do if they want to win a sixth straight NL West championship and then end a 30-year championship drought. It’s on them to get it done.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Yahoo Sports Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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