Today’s Weird Lineup Actually Sort of Makes Sense

After yesterday’s debacle, in no small part fueled by the miscues of backups Jamey Carroll, A.J. Ellis, and Ronnie Belliard, you could be forgiven for hoping to see the regular starting 8 today – especially with tomorrow being an off-day. If you’re like me, you cringed a little bit when you saw Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA post the lineup on his Twitter:

#Dodgers lineup: Furcal SS Martin C Ethier RF Kemp CF Blake 3B Belliard 1B Johnson LF Carroll 2B Kershaw P

Belliard at first? Johnson in left? Carroll at second? The bottom half of that lineup seems downright brutal, especially after yesterday. But with a bit of a deeper look, it starts to become a little more reasonable.

Let’s start at first base, where Belliard gets his first crack at resting James Loney. I realize that along with Matt Kemp, Loney is one of only two Dodgers who hasn’t received a break yet, though I can’t say I’m all that worried about making sure 25-year-olds get a day off two weeks into the season. But if you’re going to do it, now is the day, because Loney has been absolutely putrid against Barry Zito – in 20 career tries, Loney has reached base exactly one time. Once. And even that one time was merely a groundball single between 1B and 2B back on Opening Day of 2008. He’s struck out 6 times, and hasn’t walked at all, so his line is .050/.050/.050. I’m all for acknowledging small sample sizes, but I can see that this seems to be a trend you don’t want to tempt – especially when Belliard has a line of .324/.395/.441 in 38 plate appearances. So I’m totally fine with this.

In left field, this is a little more disappointing, because Manny’s crushed Zito in their careers – a .913 OPS with 3 homers.  However, Manny did leave Friday’s game early, and sat out Saturday’s, with a strained calf, so in the interest of seeing a 38-year-old last the season, I suppose I can see the appeal of combining that time off with Monday’s off-day to make sure this calf doesn’t become a serious issue. It’s too bad, though, because while Reed Johnson has had nice success against Zito as well (.938 OPS in 16 PA), this would have been a great opportunity to let Andre Ethier skip a lefty he’s had little hope against (.540 OPS in 22 PA). Still, if Manny’s calf is the reason here, it’s an unavoidable choice.

Finally, you’re looking at Jamey Carroll at second base. DeWitt’s hardly made himself irreplacable at second yet, especially with the glove, and while he’s just 1-5 against Zito, Carroll does have 8 hits and a .381 batting average. Granted, since he’s Jamey Carroll and has zero power against anyone, he’s also got a .381 OBP and a .381 SLG since all 8 hits have been singles, but it’s still something.

So none of these replacements are really arguable today, and if you look at the total list of Dodger hitters vs. Zito, all that really matters anyway is that Matt Kemp is playing. Kemp’s stepped to the plate 37 times against the $126 million dollar man, and though he doesn’t have a homer (yet), the results are eye-popping: .469/.541/.563 for a 1.103 OPS. Uh, yeah. That’ll do.