Dodgers: The Enigma That is Chris Taylor
The MLB season is just over halfway done, and as we quickly approach the All-Star Break, the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves with a league-best 56-28 record ahead of Saturday’s matchup with the Colorado Rockies.
Cody Bellinger’s red-hot start to the season and the complete dominance by the Dodgers’ starting rotation can be pointed to as reasons for their success. However, one of the most important contributions to their winning ways the last few weeks has come from an unlikely and often overlooked source: Chris Taylor.
Not many people knew the name Chris Taylor at the start of his tenure as a Dodger, but that quickly changed when he burst onto the scene in 2017. He hit .288 with 21 homers despite starting the season in the minor league system.
If that wasn’t enough for fans to take notice, his Co-MVP performance in the 2017 NLCS and emphatic leadoff home-run off Dallas Keuchel in Game 1 of the World Series certainly changed that.
Following his breakout 2017 season, however, Taylor saw a significant drop-off in his performance in 2018. He went from slashing .288/.354/.496 to .255/.331/.444 with a National League-leading 178 strikeouts, which is especially problematic considering he spent most of his time in the leadoff spot.
Taylor’s regression seemed as if it was going to continue in 2019 as he got off to a dismal start once again. Through the first 30 games of the season, he was struggling to hit his own weight as he saw his slash-line sit at .167/.263/.242.
With Taylor’s numbers continuing to dwindle and rookies Alex Verdugo and Matt Beaty performing so well, many Dodger fans were forced to wonder how long Dave Roberts could justify putting Chris Taylor in the lineup. And even with new addition A.J. Pollock being on the shelf, it was becoming tough to justify Taylor drawing many starts.
Then Corey Seager went down with a hamstring injury on June 11th, which was a tough pill to swallow, because the shortstop was just beginning to look like his old self. On top of that, it meant moving a badly struggling Chris Taylor into being the everyday shortstop for the Dodgers.
But apparently, the hot hitting comes with the territory, as the 28-year-old picked up right where Seager left off. Since the injury, Taylor is playing some of the best baseball of his Major League career, slashing a ridiculous .426/.476/.741 with 16 RBIs in just 16 games. It’s a streak that has raised his OPS 131 points to .804.
It is safe to say that not even Chris Taylor could have predicted this extreme of a turnaround to his season, but it’s a resurgence that could not have come at a better time for the Dodgers, with Corey Seager hitting the IL, and other heavy hitters like Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner temporarily cooling off.
Consistency has definitely been Taylor’s Achilles heel during his time as a Dodger, so expecting him to keep this up for long is a dangerous assumption.
He has told reporters that he credits his hot streak to a mechanical tweak and the overall consistency of his approach this season, as opposed to last year when he attempted to tinker with his swing too often when he faced struggles.
“Probably around the time when Seags got hurt, I just realized I just needed to start a little earlier,” Taylor told Jorge Castillo of the LA Times. “And that was really the only mechanical adjustment I made.”
If maintaining this approach can translate to Taylor returning to his 2017 form, that bodes extremely well for the Dodgers.
The amazing thing about the utility man is just how much different he can look on a nightly basis. One night, he can look like an All-Star, but the next he resembles the guy who had a .493 OPS on May 1st.
But through his ups and downs, Chris Taylor’s versatility is what allows Dave Roberts to continue calling his number. He has logged starts at four different positions this season (SS, 2B, CF, LF) and has shown the ability to play just about any position excluding pitcher and catcher. The fact that Taylor can slot into the lineup at any one of these positions makes him an invaluable piece to the ballclub.
The good news for Los Angeles is that they do not need Taylor to stay this hot. They don’t need him to hit .430 or be their primary run producer. They have the likes of Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and Corey Seager to take care of that which should take the pressure off him.
But if Taylor can maintain even bits and pieces of his recent play, the Dodger lineup will be something that opposing pitchers dread to face. If you are interested to learn more about us and receive more content, click here!
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