We can make jokes about how Ryan Theriot looked gritty in his punchless 0-4, 2K Dodger debut, wonder how Scott Podsednik‘s scrappiness is more important than the 3 meager hits he’s contributed in 15 at-bats, and mourn that Blake DeWitt got only one fewer hit (3) in his Cubs debut than the entire Dodger team did today (okay, especially that last one), but this problem is the same as it ever was. Just like I’ve been saying for weeks, the new acquisitions are basically meaningless if the guys who’ve been here all season don’t start to hit.
Let’s quickly stop to exempt literally the only man who’s not part of the problem, Rafael Furcal, who despite going hitless tonight still has a July OPS over .900 with a team-leading five homers. Furcal’s been arguably the best shortstop in baseball this year. Well done, Rafael.
As far as everyone else… well, look at it this way. The Dodgers are unquestionably below-average on offense right now at catcher, second base, third base, and left field (without Manny). With Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier hardly contributing at all over the last two months, center field and right field aren’t strengths right now, either. At first base, while I think a lot more of James Loney than most people do, I also can’t argue that he’s a first baseman in the class of guys like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Joey Votto, and Adrian Gonzalez – he’s just not.
You could really make the case that the Dodgers are below-average at seven of the eight lineup spots right now, and that’s before you consider that the bench is utterly worthless aside from Jamey Carroll‘s powerless OBP skills.
And that makes it hard to point the finger at anyone in particular, because they’re all terrible right now. Other than Furcal, not one Dodger has an OPS over .770 in July. Not a one. If anyone really stands out, it’s Casey Blake, who’s hitting under .170 for the month and making that guaranteed 2011 in his contract look even worse than I feared it’d be when they signed him nearly two years ago, but it’s hard to pretend he’s the only problem when Matt Kemp has an OBP below .300 for the month.
If you really want to see something terrifying, look at the image to the right. It’s part of the boxscore from tonight’s game, and I’ve highlighted the OBP column. That’s for the season (except for Podsednik, who switched leagues) and it’s pretty terrifying up and down. Once again, Furcal stands out amongst the mediocre and downright terrible.
So what can you do? Well, two things come to mind immediately, and they both involve second base. First and foremost, you just cannot bat Theriot that high in the lineup. I understand that when Andre Ethier returns that will probably bump Furcal up to 2nd and Theriot down lower, but Theriot has proven that he is just not the kind of guy who can get on base all that often. Setting aside the perfectly reasonable question of why the hell you acquired him in the first place, he needs to be hitting no higher than 7th tomorrow, regardless of Ethier’s status.
Secondly – and believe me, I never ever thought I’d type these words – you have to play Jamey Carroll more. I know, I know. But there’s just no argument you can make that Theriot is a more dangerous hitter than Carroll is, and Carroll does the one thing that few other Dodgers seem to be able to do right now – get on base.
Otherwise… well, there’s not much you really can do other than hope that Manny comes back healthy and motivated, and that Kemp and Ethier figure out what the hell is causing their slumps. I’d also put forth that a team who’s ostensibly trying to win shouldn’t be wasting space on Garret Anderson this late in the season, but he’s also not really playing enough to say he’s the main cause of the problem here.
But no, finding a power bat off the bench wasn’t part of the trade haul. Finding a third baseman who can actually hit wasn’t on the menu. It was of course the starting pitching which was the problem, because it’s not like Clayton Kershaw just tossed out something like the team’s 10th excellent start in a row today. And didn’t Octavio Dotel just exude creamy veteran goodness in entering a game in which the Dodgers were losing in walking a tightrope to get out of it? No way James McDonald or Travis Schlichting could have pulled that off, but I’m sure glad McDonald and Andrew Lambo were spent to find out.
Was it really just a few months ago where we thought this was going to be a team with historic offensive highs that would be held back by its pitching? My, how times have changed.