The Luis Cruz Experiment Just Isn’t Working Out

luis_cruz_looks_inOn August 29th of last season, the Dodgers went to Colorado and jumped out to a 10-1 lead against the Rockies, nearly blowing it by allowing seven runs in the eighth in a game better remembered for an A.J. Ellis grand slam and for being the final one Kenley Jansen pitched before his cardiac issues came up again.

As it turns out, none of those otherwise noteworthy items would end up being the most remarkable memory from that game. In the top of the eighth, Luis Cruz led off against 27-year-old Colorado rookie Will Harris, pitching in his ninth major league game. Harris walked Cruz on six pitches, putting on the first of three leading up to the Ellis grand slam.

Cruz hasn’t walked (unintentionally) in 169 plate appearances since. It’s becoming an enormous problem.

As we all remember, Cruz became something of a folk hero last year, hitting .323/.339/.447 after August 17 as the rest of the Dodger offense crumbled around him. Despite our worries that he never walked, that a .340 BABIP in that time was unlikely to be sustained, and that more than a decade of truly lousy minor league performance carried with it more weight than six weeks of admittedly very good play in the bigs, Cruz’ fans were among the most vocal of anyone, insisting that he’d earned his job and that we were all blind for having missed him.

Yet here we are, nearly a month into the season, and we’re not here to merely talk about how Cruz has underperformed expectations. We’re unfortunately going to have to have a conversation about just how bad this has been on a historical scale. He’s already in the top six of post-integration Dodgers as far as most consecutive plate appearances without a walk, and at least Steve Garvey had 23 extra base hits (including eight homers) when he was somehow going two months without a walk in early 1982.

Let’s start with just this season so far, and…. oh, that’s not great.

2013 lowest wOBA, min 50 PA
5. Dustin Ackley, .174
4. Clint Barmes, .155
3. Aaron Hicks, .148
2. Jeff Keppinger, .137
1. Luis Cruz, .089

So Cruz is the worst hitter in baseball this season among regular players, and it’s not even particularly close. Wonderful.

Yet it somehow gets even darker, because Cruz has done something none of those players has. Not only does he not have a single unintentional walk, he doesn’t have an extra base hit. His four hits are all singles, and that puts him in some rough company. Dating back to 1993, there’s only been a few instances of players to start their season with at least 50 plate appearances of walk-free, extra base hit-free, ball…

Rk Strk Start End AB ▾ H 2B HR BB BA OBP SLG OPS Tm
1 Adam Kennedy 2005-05-02 2005-05-22 56 14 0 0 0 .250 .263 .250 .513 LAA
2 Shea Hillenbrand 2007-04-02 2007-04-25 56 13 0 0 0 .232 .246 .232 .478 LAA
3 Emmanuel Burriss 2011-04-28 2011-06-11 53 14 0 0 0 .264 .264 .264 .528 SFG
4 Anderson Hernandez 2006-04-03 2006-09-11 53 6 0 0 0 .113 .113 .113 .226 NYM
5 Nyjer Morgan 2012-04-06 2012-04-27 51 9 0 0 0 .176 .208 .176 .384 MIL

 

At the top is Adam Kennedy. Of course it’s Adam Kennedy, and Cruz has about two more games to avoid being at the top of this list. Even then, at least some of these guys were dropping some singles in, because I don’t think anyone would be complaining if Cruz was hitting .250. Instead, he’s at .087/.122/.087, and you can thank a Jeremy Affeldt intentional walk and a Darren O’Day hit by pitch for that slight boost in OBP. Even fantastic defense, which Cruz has admittedly provided, can’t make up for the kind of black hole performance at the plate we’re seeing by a player who is popping up approximately 140% of the time.

I get, of course, that the reaction might be “you can’t always talk about small sample size, especially when saying not to call up Dee Gordon or Yasiel Puig, and then put undue importance on only 50 plate appearances.” That’s fair, but the small sample size here isn’t the first month of the season. It’s the six weeks of 2012 that stands out as being the outlier, because there’s 12 years of minor league performance that says that he’s not a major league hitter. If you’re Matt Kemp, with years of top performance on your resume behind you, you get slack to work through your issues. If you’re Cruz, with a .296 career OBP in the minors, it’s not quite the same.

It’s not working, and the team needs a change. So what’s to be done? He’s out of options, so he can’t simply be sent to the minors without being designated for assignment first, though it’s arguable if anyone would claim him. Frankly, I’m not sure that’s the right choice anyway, given that it’s not yet time for Gordon — though that could change if he keeps playing well in ABQ, but the thought of a Gordon / Hanley Ramirez left side sounds just awful from a defensive point of view — and it’s not like calling up Elian Herrera or Alfredo Amezaga or Rusty Ryal is really worth anyone’s time.

As much as I hate to say it, Nick Punto and Juan Uribe deserve playing time as much — if not more — than Cruz does right now. Though he does provide solid defense, so do they. At some point in the next ten days, Ramirez will return to replace Justin Sellers, and that will further diminish the left side playing time for everyone. That won’t solve the problem, however; either the Dodgers will be convinced that Gordon is the answer, or they’ll need to trade every non-Puig prospect in the system for Chase Headley. (Seriously, the cost for him will be astronomical. Think Zach Lee, Joc Pederson, & Garrett Gould, then add someone else, too.)

If Cruz does happen to turn it around in the next few games, I’ll be happy to listen to his vocal defenders and eat crow on this. But I don’t hear much from those fans these days, and we’ve seen little to indicate that Cruz is anything more than a Quad-A type who had a nicely-timed hot streak. It’s time to accept that reality.

626 comments
DodgerFan 1
DodgerFan 1

I agree that it looks bad for Luis Cruz but I think he deserves a few more starts and maybe a few pinch hit opportunities first. Look at Skip Shumacher he only batting 100 and he has been in there playing , granted he is a more proven major league hitter. Cruz did win the job in spring training hitting over 300 and he had 4 home runs so his slump has been very bad timing for him and the club. He did a great job last year and to write him off too quick may be a mistake, but he needs to do something big quickly, after all this is a game of production.

FeltonSuthon
FeltonSuthon

OPS Today:

Ryu 1000, Kershaw 856, Grienke 667

M Ellis 682, Schumaker 549, Ethier 724, Sellers 522, Kemp 564, Hairston 425, Cruz 209

TellMyWifeISaidHello
TellMyWifeISaidHello

I am of the opinion now that they should call up Castle for one of the left side infielders, probably Cruz. I don't think the difference between Castle and Scott is large enough to warrant giving Scott a roster spot.

Sangro Azul
Sangro Azul

I read somewhere Hanley may be back on Apr 30 to coincide with his ("I see u") bobblehead night. Hopefully he's not making the same mistake Kemp made in coming back too soon from injury...

jclainez
jclainez

Did this guy put in the time if the offseason to get better? Or did he just rest on his laurels? Looks like he thought his job was safe --- and he was right. He's horrible. My wife (who doesn't watch baseball) and I went to one of the games in the Baltimore series and said "that guy (Uribe) has the ugliest swing has he played for a while?"... when I told her that he has and that the next guy (Cruz) was actually worse she just stared at me with a look saying "and this is what you're getting for $200+ million?"... she's a Yankee fan since she was little (born in the Bronx) but doesn't really watch however. Just wanted to share. 

DBrim
DBrim moderator

Scott Van Slyke has a .488 BABIP.

DeucesWild
DeucesWild

So I get my tax return and now StubHub won't work. DAMN IT!!!!

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

Interesting that they cut Magill short. Obviously a plethora of moves will have to happen by tomorrow and this weekend (with a likely Hanley return). My guess is he's being called to play long reliever for Lilly on Wednesday.

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

@FeltonSuthon whats your point? That guys with 4 and 7 at bats have higher OPS than guys with 60 at bats? What does this mean I confuse

Batted Bob
Batted Bob

@BearHunter90 It is really redundant to have Punto, Sellers, Uribe, Hairston and Cruz. If I had a choice of who to jettison it would be Uribe every time because he can't hit and he can really only play one position. The other players on that list are either slightly better at hitting (Hairston, Punto) or can play SS (Cruz, Sellers). I don't think this will ever happen but it sure would make me happy. 

Sangro Azul
Sangro Azul

Not to mention the hitters who are actually supposed to be getting some things done (like Kemp)...

socalkid21
socalkid21

The fact that you just said 'scott' then you said 'van' and followed it with 'slyke' That's honestly hilarious. In a thread lamenting Kemp. Hahaha wow.

DBrim
DBrim moderator

Every single team had a chance to take Scott Van Slyke for free.  None of them did it.

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@da purple drank Given the off day, he lines up into Fife's slot in the rotation.

FeltonSuthon
FeltonSuthon

It's a little sarcasm - lighten up a bit.  It does, however, mean the offense is horrible, as I predicted at the end of the 2012 season.  In 2012, Bochy wasted far fewer ABs on clearly underperforming offensive players than Mattingly did - that's among the reasons the Giants win and the Dodgers don't.

TellMyWifeISaidHello
TellMyWifeISaidHello

@Cecil Terwilliger @BearHunter90 I can see that. Sellers will be gone when Hanley is back and I actually think Punto has his uses. So if the decision comes down between Cruz and Uribe. This year Uribe has been better and is owed way more money.  

Sangro Azul
Sangro Azul

So was Kemp and look how that turned out...

DBrim
DBrim moderator

Huh?

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

Not sure if Tony is exaggerating, or if he's SRS.

DINGERS ;)

DeucesWild
DeucesWild

@Antonio G Now I'm even more pissed. I got it working on my tablet and was in the process of checking out and it said the tickets I selected are no longer available. Duuuuuuude...

Batted Bob
Batted Bob

I just want 2 shortstops on the roster. If we DFA Cruz before Hanley comes back then we only have one Shortstop (no Punto, you dont count)

Sangro Azul
Sangro Azul

I was referring to Kemp's shoulder injury. And just stating that just because he's been performing baseball activities foes not necessarily prove he's ready yet. It becomes a little more suspicious IMO when he wants to come back on his bobblehead night. Just an observation...

TellMyWifeISaidHello
TellMyWifeISaidHello

@Sangro Azul Different types of injuries. A hamstring is a very sensitive body part that has a known tendency to re-injure even when given what was thought to be proper healing time. A thumb is a little less sensitive. Just have to hope it doesn't get hit again.

Batted Bob
Batted Bob

@DBrim Kemp went 6 for 13 against Baltimore. Slump is over everyone. 

DeucesWild
DeucesWild

@Antonio G Ended up getting first row Loge level seats instead. I'm cool with that, good view