20 May 2007

What's Wrong With The Dodgers


Things should be good for the Los Angeles Dodgers. As of this writing they are in first place, 1.5 games in front of their rivals San Diego and Arizona. But the team highlighted a number of troubling deficiencies after getting swept this weekend by the Angels. Simply said, not all is well for the boys in blue. There's work to be done in all facets of the team.

-Offense
Thus far the team has been anemic on offense. They're not getting the production they need out of the traditional power positions.

  • First baseman Nomar Garciapparra - 1 HR, 26 RBI (tied for team-high in RBI)
  • Third baseman Wilson Betemit - 4 HR, 13 RBI - most of these came in the last two weeks. Betemit has played so poorly that he now splits time with rookie Adam LaRoche, a great prospect who has yet to be inspiring.
  • Corner outfielders Luis Gonzalez and Andre Ethier have combined for 7 HR and 35 RBI.
The team gets on base with regularity. The real problem lies with the fact that there's nobody on the team to drive in any runs. They lead the National League in runners left on base. With 13 LOB during today's loss, they've now stranded 347 runners - far too many for a squad with playoff aspirations.

-Defense
The defense is not much better than the offense at this point in the season. In fact, it's been atrocious. The first problem can't be found in any statistical category. Countless times this season I've seen an opposing runner go from first to third on a routine single. And just as many times they've scored from second. Why? Outfielders Luis Gonzalez and Juan Pierre have jokes of an arm. For Luis it's simply due to old age. He's in terrific shape, and is a great athlete, but the arm just isn't there any more. For Pierre, it's just non-existent. He has absolutely no arm strength. With 2/3 of the outfield unable to throw anybody out, too many easy runs have scored because runners have been able to advance at will.

An easier problem to identify is just how sloppy they are. With two errors today they now have 36 errors for the season, which makes them have the second highest total in the Majors. They're also 28th out of 30 teams in fielding percentage. Just for reference - the Royals and Nationals have higher percentages.

In order to hang on and compete in the NL West, and especially if they want to do anything should they make the playoffs, the Dodgers have to add something to their roster. They could look inward to some of their prized prospects to turn the tide. LaRoche is already up there. James Loney led the Minors in batting average last year, and had an even better spring. But after not making the squad he's struggled in AAA, batting .258. He'd supply the defense and consistency, but lacks in the power department. Matt Kemp has had flashes of brilliance, especially when first called up last season, but he's not faring any better than Loney at AAA.

Trading for a player is another possibility, and third base seems the best place to start. Could Troy Glaus become available? He's got $40 million left on his contract, a lofty sum. But he'll hit far more homers than anyone else on the squad. ESPN's Buster Olney also suggested on Saturday that the Cardinals could be looking to deal Scott Rolen. But his .208 batting average and 2 HR thus far don't suggest he'd be a bigger upgrade than what the team already has.

The Dodgers are in an enviable situation. They've got great pitching. They've got the resources they need to make a deal if necessary. They're in first place. But if Frank McCourt and Ned Coletti are really interested in fielding a true competitor, there's still tons of work to be done.

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