Will This Team Ever Hit Again?

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.

More Proof That The Rotation Isn’t the Problem

Joe Torre looks bored.

Hiroki Kuroda‘s line of three earned runs over six innings would seem fine enough – it’s technically a “quality start” – and he was actually better than that, bringing a shutout into the 6th inning and retiring 10 in a row at one point. The Padres’ rally in the 6th was started on a mere infield single by Tony Gwynn Jr., a ball on which 95% of major leaguers wouldn’t have beat out. In the 7th, Kuroda allowed just a single to Scott Hairston before being pulled and seeing Jeff Weaver allow a double to add that run onto Kuroda’s record.

Once again, the starting pitching was more than good enough to win, and once again the offense, defense, and bullpen were subpar. Taking the last first, Weaver allowed a single and a double while not getting an out, Travis Schlichting allowed four runners and two runs in his inning of work, and Jack Taschner… well, I still can’t figure out what the hell he’s here for. He entered the game having not retired any of his first three batters in two games as Dodger, and promptly walked his first two tonight. He finally got his first out on his sixth batter, but even that was on a well-hit ball that happened to be directly at Matt Kemp. You’re going to have to make at least one roster move in the next few days (when Scott Podsednik arrives) and probably a second as well (if John Ely comes up to start), and there’s just no way that Taschner should remain – getting rid of him is perhaps even more vital than getting rid of Garret Anderson. In fact, the only reliever who got the job done was George Sherrill, of all people, which should tell you a lot.

Of course, the real story once again is that the offense was nowhere to be found, and while I know the Padres have quite the pitching staff, watching 19 men in a row be retired to end the game isn’t acceptable. Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier, Casey Blake, James Loney, and Russell Martin combined to go 0-for-16 (though Furcal drew a walk), and if that’s going to happen, you can make all the trades for mediocre 4th outfielders you want and it’s not going to change a goddamn thing. The guys who are here, right now, have to start hitting. You hope Manny comes back healthy, and you hope he gets hot at the right time, but it certainly can’t be just him.If Ethier doesn’t start to look something like he did at the beginning of the year, if Blake doesn’t stop resembling a bearded corpse, if Martin can’t stop looking like the new Jason Kendall… well, then none of the rest of it really matters, does it?

******

On Podsednik: my earlier post, as you probably saw, was filed from the upper deck at CitiField, so it was very much a stream-of-consciousness response. After some thought, I’ve tempered my response a bit – “horrendous” was probably a bit much. Lucas May’s defense was probably never going to allow him to be a fulltime catcher, and Pimentel, while intriguing, was far from a top prospect.

Still, without May the catching depth is atrocious. After A.J. Ellis, you’re looking at… well Tony Delmonico would be next, but he broke his wrist recently, and anyone else worth mentioning is at least three years away. And while I do think that Podsednik is a nice complimentary piece for this team due to their current situation, it’s still hard for me to be all that thrilled about giving up potentially useful players for a guy who’s not an impact player and has been released twice in the last three years.

That being the case, Podsednik does come in on a nice hot streak, having hit in 23 of his last 24 games, so there’s the chance that he’ll be able to give the team a jump start. Really, we’ll see what how much value the trade really brings to the roster at about lunchtime tomorrow. If it’s Anderson being shipped out, then it’s a big win. If it’s Xavier Paul (who, even though he hasn’t been great, is miles better than Anderson), then the excitement is tempered a bit.

Scott Podsednik Heads West

Let’s play the always fun game, “can Mike get this post up before his phone dies while sitting at CitiField watching the Mets getting crushed.” Reports are that the Dodgers have traded two prospects for Royals OF Scott Podsednik.

In a vacuum, I don’t hate this as much as you’d think. He’s had two decently okay years for KC, and he’s an asset on the bases. Assuming that this expedites the release of Garret Anderson, its a plus. Its not a game changer, but its an improvement.

Of course, it all hinges on who the minor leaguers are. Its impossible to judge this trade until then, so consider this a conditional “okay deal”.

Update: E.Pimentel & Lucas May. I update my position to “huge fail”. Pimentel, as I remember, was having a breakout year, and May was raking in ABQ. The catching depth is now razor thin. Horrendous.

Update 2: I was advised to look up pictures of Podsednik’s wife. I hereby withdraw any and all objections to this trade.