Dodgers Team News

Dodgers’ Slow Start Reminiscent of Angels’ Failures With Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani has yet to reach the playoffs. He played for the Los Angeles Angels from 2018 through 2023 and didn’t even come close to sniffing an American League pennant chase.

He opted for free agency and chose the Los Angeles Dodgers because of the roster and ability to build a team around him, but through the first few weeks of the season, this team is reminiscent of those Angels teams that Ohtani left behind.

Ohtani doesn’t have Mike Trout but he does have Mookie Betts. Betts and Ohtani have become the greatest one-two punch that baseball has seen in decades but the rest of the lineup hasn’t executed when the opportunities arise.

Through 21 games, the Dodgers are hitting .249 (50-for-201) with runners in scoring position. They have struck out 57 times and collected 20 free passes.

Discussing the lack of run production with runners in scoring position can’t be said without mentioning Ohtani’s .053 average with one hit in 19 at-bats. However, the majority of the chances are for Freddie Freeman and Will Smith to take.

Freeman only has eight RBIs on the season and Smith has 13. The leaders in the clubhouse for RBIs are Betts and Teoscar Hernandez with 18. Our Doug McKain broke down some of these issues on the Dodgers Nation YouTube Channel following the team’s shutout loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday.

“But look, make no mistake about it: this team is in a little bit of an early season funk,” McKain said. “This team still has a lot to figure out. You can’t rely solely on Shohei Ohtani. He’s almost feeling like the Angels’ version of Shohei Ohtani outside of Mookie’s brilliance of course. Betts, a five-hit game Tuesday, he had a hit Wednesday, but you just need a little more execution with runners in scoring position. You need to have more of a bat-to-ball two-strike approach. Sometimes just have the mindset of, ‘Okay, we’re just going to pass the baton and that’s the mentality.’ But right now, you’re seeing a lot of big swings, you’re seeing a lot of guys trying to slug their way out of slumps, and at the moment that’s not the best thing for this offense.”

McKain is right. There’s a saying in baseball, “Hitting is contagious.” That doesn’t mean hitting home runs, it just means stringing hits together. Betts and Ohtani have 31 hits each which is a team-high. Smith is third with 24 while Chris Taylor is at the bottom with just one.

The Dodgers also have to cut down on strikeouts. The team is second in MLB with 198 strikeouts, only trailing the Boston Red Sox by four. Max Muncy and Teoscar Hernández in the middle of the lineup are leading the team with 29 each. Scoring runners doesn’t require a home run, contact to all parts of the field will get the job done.

Read the defense. Take what they give you.

Then there is the bottom of the lineup. Taylor can’t hit water if he was in a boat (.029), Kiké Hernández (.195) finally found his first extra-base hit of the year on Tuesday and James Outman (.193) hasn’t done a great job of being a second leadoff man in the nine-hole. Gavin Lux (.148) hasn’t been the same since coming back from his knee injury. All of their struggles have led to Andy Pages being called up.

“We knew that there was going to be a little bit of a time period where they figure things out at the bottom of the order,” says McKain. “They figure things out from a starting pitching in a bullpen standpoint, they get guys back healthy, but still, you expect more from this group. You expect more from the middle of the lineup, the bottom of the lineup. They’ve struggled all season long.”

The Dodgers are still producing, scoring 106 runs through their first 21 games.

But, it’s the timely hitting that has affected them the most.

It’s time to put selfishness aside. After losing three of the last four series, it’s time for this team to come together and decide how they are going to break out of this funk because if it continues, they will be looking up at another team in first place sooner rather than later.

Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Maren Angus

Maren Angus-Coombs was born in Los Angeles and raised in Nashville, Tenn. She is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and has been a sports writer since 2008. Despite being raised in the South, her sports obsession has always been in Los Angeles. She is currently a staff writer for Dodgers Nation and the LA Sports Report Network.


  1. “Betts and Ohtani have become the greatest one-two punch that baseball has seen in decades”,
    Mike Trout is literally the best baseball player of all time, might have to edit that quote.

    1. Well, they need to edit that quote anyway, but it sure isn’t because Trout is the best player of all time…adding “literally” doesn’t make it true. Great player, but no need to Trout fanboyism here.

  2. The Angels failed with Ohtani because of the failure of management to buy 2 more great (or very good consistent) pitchers, a good short reliever, a stopper and another couple of good players like a Turner or Muncy. They tried to win with Mantle and Maris, but those guys had a complete team behind them. The Angels had mostly jobbers.
    And for chrissakes, it’s still April. Everybody is already writing them off.

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