Billy McKinney is using a roster spot on one of the best teams in baseball but he is not producing much of anything. It is obvious that the Los Angeles Dodgers see McKinney’s potential and are willing to give him a chance. McKinney has an opportunity to become an OPS machine due to his outstanding plate discipline. But his batting average and slugging percentage have been very low. In other words, McKinney is not producing hits and the hits he does generate are generally not for extra bases.
McKinney’s slash line is a repugnant .162/.300/.257 for the Dodgers this season. His OPS is .557 and his OPS+ is only 56. But take notice of his on-base percentage. McKinney’s OBP is .300 with a lowly batting average of .162. This is due to the fact that McKinney has been walking almost as much as he has been striking out. Billy has 14 walks and 21 strikeouts for the Dodgers this season. McKinney’s .162 batting average is lower than it ought to be due to him having the lowest batting average on balls in play of his career at .208. His career batting average on balls in play is .258, which suggests that McKinney has been having bad luck. McKinney’s career slash line is .217/.290/.410 with an OPS of .699.
Is McKinney the Next Muncy or JT for the Dodgers?
Not only should you take note of McKinney’s OBP, but you should take note of his age. Billy just turned 27-years-old, which is around the age where a lot of position players enter their prime. This is not to say that McKinney will be in prime form this season, but next season and the 2023 season may see Billy begin to perform at an elite level. McKinney is under team control until 2026, so if the Dodgers keep him, they will have him for most of the prime seasons of his career. The Dodgers signed Max Muncy when he was 27-years-old, but the Dodgers had Muncy for the entire season that year. The Dodgers acquired McKinney one season earlier in McKinny’s career than in Muncy’s. Muncy turned 28 during his first season with the Dodgers.
The Dodgers signed Justin Turner when he was 29-years-old. Turner was undoubtedly excited to return to Southern California, where he was born and attended both high school and college. Muncy and McKinney are both from Texas. Other than where they are from, there is a main difference between Turner, Muncy, and McKinney: Turner and Muncy began producing immediately for the Dodgers. McKinney is not producing as of yet. The Dodgers seem like they want to give McKinney big league at-bats. McKinney had 556 big league at-bats before becoming a Dodger. Turner had 841 and Muncy only had 215 big league at-bats before becoming Dodgers. The Dodgers continue to wait for McKinney to break out as a solid major leaguer and seem poised to give him the at-bats to accomplish that feat.
McKinney Is Not Producing, Much Like Bellinger
There is another player on the Dodgers roster who has numbers eerily similar to Billy McKinney: Cody Bellinger. Bellinger has amassed a slash line of .171/.247/.319 with an OPS of .566 and OPS+ of 54 this season. But there are obvious differences between Bellinger and McKinney. The main differences appear in the trophy cases for the two players. Bellinger won the Rookie of the Year award in 2017 and was an all-star. Cody was also an all-star in 2019 when he won the National League MVP award. In addition to those awards in 2019, Bellinger won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award. Bellinger is also one year younger than McKinney, having just turned 26-years-old. This is not to mention that Bellinger is returning from injury and had shoulder surgery in the offseason. Cody has earned his at-bats from his past production while McKinney is being given an opportunity.
The McKinney or Beaty Debate
In an article earlier this season, we suggested that the Dodgers ought to start Matt Beaty over Billy McKinney. It is definitely true that Matt Beaty has better offensive numbers. Beaty’s slash line this season is .262/.358/.374 with an OPS of .732 and an OPS+ of 102. Every one of these offensive numbers is higher than McKinney’s. But if you ask Beaty what his best position on the field is, he would likely tell you that it is the left batter’s box. He has joked about this in the past. This may be because Beaty is a subpar fielder. Beaty’s defensive runs saved above average is negative nine for his career. McKinney’s defensive runs saved above average is one for his career.
You may have noticed that the Dodgers are playing McKinney in right field more than anywhere else. 22 of his 23 games played have been in right field for the Dodgers. This is likely because McKinney’s defensive runs saved above average is five for his career in right field while Beaty’s is minus three. In addition, Beaty’s career range factor per nine innings in right field is 1.23 while McKinney’s is 1.93. The league average is 2.00, so both players are below average, but Beaty is far below average. McKinney’s career fielding percentage for right field is .971 while Beaty’s is .929. The league average for fielding percentage in right field is .984, so both players are subpar, but Beaty is way below average.
Offense or Defense to Catch the Giants?
It seems to make sense to keep McKinney on the roster over Beaty in terms of defense. The only position where Beaty is a decent fielder is at first base and McKinney is also a decent fielder there. The Dodgers already have Muncy, Pujols, and Bellinger available to play at first base, so there really is not a need at that position. But the Dodgers are in a pennant race like none other and McKinney is using a roster spot and is not producing offensively. Beaty would likely produce offensively if given the opportunity. He was producing this season already. So should the Dodgers use Beaty’s offense or McKinney’s defense as a means to catch the Giants in the NL West?
Take a look at a few statistics for the Dodgers both before and after Billy McKinney’s activation on July 22nd that people do not seem to be discussing:
- 11-17 record in one-run games prior to July 22nd
- 7-4 record in one-run games since July 22nd
- 1-10 record in extra-inning games prior to July 22nd
- 3-2 record in extra-inning games since July 22nd
- 59-38 overall record and .608 win percentage prior to July 22nd
- 23-11 overall record and .676 win percentage since July 22nd
What About Trea and Scherzer You Ask?
Some may point out that there were a couple of other big-name acquisitions that came on July 30th. Those would be the acquisitions of Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Both of them have been outstanding for the Dodgers and we will be publishing an article on their early Dodger achievements tomorrow. But for now, consider that Scherzer starts games and that the close games are generally decided by the bullpen, offense, and defense once the starter is out of the game.
Trea Turner has been nothing short of outstanding for the Dodgers offensively. But after the seventh inning for the Dodgers, Trea is 3-for-17 at the plate with a .176/.263/.235 slash line and an OPS of .498. He has a double, a stolen base, two runs scored, one run batted in, has been hit by a pitch, and one walk to go with that slash line. Trea Turner has been very good in extra innings, however. This is an extremely small sample size, but Trea is 1-for-2 with one run batted in and one walk.
Billy McKinney is 2-for-15 after the seventh inning for the Dodgers, which is a .133/.316/.200 slash line and OPS of .516. He has a double, a run batted in, has been hit by a pitch, and three walks to go with that slash line. McKinney is 1-for-3 with one run batted in and one walk in extra innings this season for the Dodgers. So, McKinney and Trea have put up very similar offensive numbers both after the seventh inning and in extra innings.
Mckinney Is Not Producing Offensively but Should Continue Playing
We have discussed how McKinney has had bad luck on balls in play so far, so his batting average and slugging percentage should rise. He is a better fielder than Beaty with more range and a much higher fielding percentage in right field. McKinney has a chance to throw up monster OPS numbers if he can enter his prime and continue getting on base. The Dodgers are turning their record around in close games, including extra-inning games, and have a much higher winning percentage since acquiring McKinney. This leads us to conclude that Billy McKinney is undoubtedly contributing to the Dodgers’ recent success and ought to continue playing – even without contributing much in the offensive statistics. There is an old adage that goes, “offense wins games but defense wins championships.” The Dodgers are looking to repeat as World Series Champions and they will likely need good fielding to do it.
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