No, this isn’t “panic”. Yes, the Dodgers have been thoroughly mediocre over the last three months, but the fact that this is now a race is almost entirely due to the Rockies being an otherworldly 52-25 over their last 77 games. If the Rockies don’t go crazy, the Dodgers are still 6-7 games up.
Still, what they’re doing isn’t working, and it’s time to do something about it. For everyone who was freaking out about the pitching, don’t overlook the fact that the arms have been fantastic. Last night marked the 14th game in a row that the Dodgers have allowed 4 runs or less (in the first 9 innings, anyway), and it came on the heels of 9 in a row allowing 3 or less. That’s not just a staff you can win with; that’s a staff you should be winning a lot with. It just goes to show how awful the offense has been that they’re now 3 games under .500 for the month at 10-13.
No, despite all of the assertions earlier this year – on both this site and many others – that the 2009 Dodger offense was the best we’d seen in decades, the bats have been absolutely horrible. As much as we’ve enjoying having a stable lineup for the first time in, well, ever, it’s time for Joe Torre to stop just penciling in the same lineup every night and hope for something new. It’s time to shake things up, and while I have faith in exactly zero of these things happening, here’s what I would do:
1) Make Matt Kemp the new leadoff hitter. Kemp’s got it all – something for the new school (.370 OBP, best non-Manny OBP among the starting 8) and something for the old school (27 SB). Rafael Furcal’s just not getting it done from the leadoff spot, and his abysmal .321 OBP is really killing rallies before they even get started. Kemp’s been consistently good all season, but he’s really been hot over the last 14 days (.986 OPS), and why wouldn’t you want your best hitter getting the most at-bats? In 43 career starts at the top, he’s got a .304/.360/.490 line, so I don’t want to hear any arguments that he couldn’t do it.
Conversely, Furcal’s been lousy all season and has been at his coldest at the worst possible time – .182/.200/.227 in the last 14 days. Furcal’s not getting it done. Kemp, by almost any measure, would be a huge improvement. What’s the problem here?
2) Free Mitch Jones! – and take time away from James Loney to play him. I was originally going to say “DFA Mark Loretta” to make room, since he’s been downright Sweeneytastic, but since the rosters expand in just a few days that’s probably unnecessary. However, Loney’s been downright putrid. You can split his stats any way you like, and you’re not going to get anything good. Over the last 28 days? .188/.270/.225. The last 7 days? 1 whole hit for a line of .083/.154/.083 – and he somehow looks even worse than that.
Look, there’s going to be a lot of conversation in the offseason about whether Loney should be our first baseman in 2010 and beyond, but that’s not important right now. What’s important now is that the offense is wasting a ton of good pitching, and Loney is Offender #1. Loretta’s no better, so while I’m not going to be so unreasonable as to suggest that career minor leaguer Jones should be the new starting first baseman in a pennant race, you also just can’t let Loney keep sucking up outs.
Jones continues to destroy AAA pitching (.282/.356/.622 with 30 HR and 86 RBI) and it’s not as though we haven’t seen other older minor leaguers come up and get absurdly hot this year – just look at Garrett Jones and Randy Ruiz. So call up Jones. Don’t make him the everyday starter, but at least put him in a semi-platoon with Loney until one or the other gets hot. It’s not ideal, but neither is letting Loney play every day right now, either.
3) If you’re the manager, stop doing stupid things. I know I harped on this last night, but I’m still not over it. There’s no rational explanation for it. Worse, we haven’t seen any explanation from Torre about why Sherrill and Broxton sat idly by, nor have any of the reporters asked the question. Dylan Hernandez wrote a standard game recap, T.J. Simers has a puff piece on Jim Tracy, and Bill Plaschke is MIA (though, that’s probably a good thing). Way to ask the tough questions, guys.
Speaking of which, I’ve been following Delwyn Young’s Pirates career ever since his ill-advised trade, and while I know that at some point I’ll have to let it go, I found something in the comments of the Dodger Thoughts post that linked to my Mets/Dodgers injury post that intrigued me:
Ok, who is the best hitting 2nd baseman in the NL? Well, after Chase.
Pee Wee 117
This informational interlude is courtesy of the Pee Wee Marching and Chowder Society
At second base, Delwyn Young has plenty of work ahead to reach the point of being average defensively, but he clearly is willing to put in that work — he and Hill are on the field early every day — and his .312 average and power have the Pirates sounding like they would sacrifice a little defense to keep him in the lineup.