by Adam Goudchaux, Contributing Writer and Loyal Dodgers Fan
Remember MAY 12, 2012?
The LA Kings were merely a hot hockey team that hadn’t won but a few playoff games. The Lakers were still alive in the NBA playoffs. The NFL was a loooooong 5 months away.
The Los Angeles Dodgers? They had just come off of taking 2 out of 3 from the San Francisco Giants and were in the midst of a nice 14 wins out of 20 game clip. And they had a comfortable 6 game lead on those very Gigantes in the West.
What a difference a month and a half makes.
The Kings…Stanley Cup Champs if you need them.
The Lakers…eliminated in 5 by the OKC Thunder in the 2nd round with owner Jim Buss saying publicly he foresees no major changes to the roster. I hope he’s just posturing, but I’m not holding my breath.
The NFL…a loooooong 71 days away.
The Dodgers…6 game lead melting away to just 2, coming off of an 8-0 drubbing at the hands of the Giants, infested with injury bugs and gaping holes in the infield akin to the plot of Prometheus.
In previous blogs I had hinted that the Dodgers early season success was being enabled by a hint of smoke and maybe a few mirrors, but it seems that the mirrors are shattered and the smoke can only do so much. Don Mattingly, who has won my approval this season with his manage from the gut style and his penchant for knowing when to get thrown out of a game to light a fire under his team’s ass, can only, as Vin Scully put it, “Pull out that pocket full of miracles” so many times.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the character that one-run games build, but there is something to be said for easy wins. Manufacturing one-run early in the game and depending on your pitching to carry the rest of the load is no way to win consistently. Games are easier to handle when you don’t have to treat runs like precious artifacts.
Unfortunately, for the Dodgers and their fans, that’s exactly what a typical game feels like these days.
Now it’s up to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti and President Stan Kastin to fill the gaps, like so many opposing hitters seem to be doing against Dodgers pitching lately.
Ted Lilly, who was having a great season at 5-1 with a 3.14 ERA, now on the DL, isn’t helping much. His return as of now is still open ended though he has been playing catch. A Good sign. Aaron Harang at 5-4 with a 3.81 ERA is serviceable. Clayton Kershaw, although still impressive with his 2.73 ERA, 5-3 record and 95 K, is NOT the pitcher he was last season. Then again, Kershaw really caught fire in the 2nd half of the season last year. Let’s hope history repeats itself. Chris Capauano = brilliant. One of the few retreads Ned Colletti has picked up that seems to be paying off. 9-2 with a 2.60 ERA and 84 K. I was privileged enough to see him pitch is best game of the season; a 2-1 victory over the White Sox: 8 IP, 12 K, 6 H, 1 BB… stud.
That leaves Chad freakin’ Billingsley. Our supposed number 2. Our Drysdale to Kershaw’s Koufax. Um…no. Number 2’s aren’t staked to 5-0 leads over the Angels only to leave the game in the 5th losing 6-5. I am SO done with this guy.
He rarely gets past the 5th inning because he’s the equivalent of a 19th century textile mill: inefficient, low-production at high risk and lot’s of waste. He has no clue how to keep his pitch count down, every time you look up he’s in a hole with hitters and I’ve never seen a major pitcher suffer from the “just one bad inning syndrome.” Sometimes it’s “just one bad pitch syndrome.” His career numbers look pretty damn good: 3.71 ERA, 74-58, 8 K per 9 innings. Don’t be fooled. The Dodgers were when they signed him to a 3 year $35 million contract last season.
Then there’s the position players. I think our outfield is pretty damn set. I like the Ethier and Kemp signings. I like platooning Juan Rivera, Bobby Abreu and Tony Gwynn in left . The only obvious problem out there is the injury to Matt Kemp, possibly the game’s greatest all-around player. It’s not merely that Kemp is injured. It’s the kind of injury that’s alarming.
The dreaded hamstring. I think it was Indiana Jones who said, “Hamstrings why does it have to be hamstrings…” I think that was snakes but you get the point. Hamstring issues come and go for no apparent reason and they usually, gulp, haunt players for their entire careers. Kemp is expected back after the all-star break, but again no breath being held. Great timing on the injury. It came right AFTER the Dodgers locked him up for 8 years to the tune of $160 million.
Our infield is a veritable who’s who of who? And not in a good way. Yes, there are good examples of that phenomenon. Namely when those who’s who of who’s are surprisingly effective. This lot isn’t. Juan Uribe at 3rd is batting .212 1 HR 12 RBI and gets on-base 26% of the time, but hey at least he’s among the league leaders in fat.
Dee Gordon at short is among the league leaders in skinny. Unfortunately, he is also among the league leaders in errors 13, in not getting on-base .281 and in not having a good batting average .232. Piss poor numbers for a lead-off hitter.
Mark Ellis WAS decent at 2nd until he went on the DL, with a leg injury that put him in the hospital. I mean, for weeks, in the hospital. Yikes. He’s also expected back after the all-star break.
James Loney is the Chad Billingsley of the Dodgers infield. Homegrown product, great glove, deceptive numbers and no power. Loney is in Mattingly’s doghouse already, as he no longer has a guaranteed spot in the lineup, especially against left-handed pitchers.
You HAVE to get power from either 3rd or 1st preferably both to be successful in the majors. The Dodgers are getting power from neither. If I were Mattingly here’s what I would do with the infield. Make surprise bright spot Elian Herrera the official second baseman, keep Uribe and Gordon at 3rd and short and when Ellis comes back, bench Gordon and move Herrera to short and Ellis to second. At least Uribe has a good glove at 3rd. The only problem with Rivera at 1ST is you lose defensive prowess when he starts.
Oh and Mattingly needs to kiss catcher A.J. Ellis’ ass for being the surprise stud he’s been this season.
It is clear to me that there are no better options in AAA or they would’ve used them by now. That’s a whole other endemic problem with the Dodgers. The depletion of their once mighty farm system. You know the one that produced 5 rookie of the years in a row in the 90’s? Their dependence on foreign oil errrr other team’s cast-offs has to stop. If you want an example of a great farm system take a look at the Angels’. God that pains me to say.
Supposedly, Stan Kastin’s specialty is building up farm systems and I understand that doesn’t happen overnight. He only took control of the team in April. He needs more time.