Help wanted: Hitters to aid Kemp, Ethier
Well, I can no longer say that the Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in all of Major League Baseball. I guess I knew this day would come, but I was hoping that it wouldn’t.
The Texas Rangers now stand at 11-2, one game better than the Dodgers at 10-3. Is that reason to moan? No way! If someone told me before the 2012 season started the Dodgers would win 10 of their first 13 games, I would have taken that scenario in a New York minute!
Making things even better is the fact that the Dodgers are already three games up on last year’s NL West champs, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Life is good in Dodger Land right now … or is it?
I can’t help but be left with the following question as I ponder exactly what this season holds for my Dodgers: What happens if Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier come back to this universe and stop carrying the team on their backs?
Kemp is at or near the top of virtually every offensive category in MLB. He has been the primary catalyst in the Dodgers’ hot start. However, besides Ethier, no one else on the Dodgers is really doing anything spectacular at the plate.
Here is why I’m a wee bit concerned about the lack of offensive production from players not named Matt or Andre:
• Kemp is batting .451 and Ethier .300. Care to guess what the Dodgers’ team batting average is right now, even with those nice numbers? Two-four-nine! The Dodgers are hitting a paltry .249 as a team. How bad are the other averages to bring down the stellar work of Kemp and Ethier to that level?
• The Dodgers have hit 12 homers as a team. Care to guess how many Kemp and Ethier have combined for? Eleven! We’ve got to get better power production from guys like Juan Rivera, Juan Uribe (maybe it’s something to do with the first name here???) and James Loney.
• Kemp and Ethier have driven in 36 of the Dodgers’ 59 total runs. That means that 11 other Dodgers have only driven in a total of 23 runs so far this season. Umm, there’s a reason I went into journalism and not math, but that figure isn’t good for the Dodgers.
Two of the biggest hitting culprits so far are Loney and rookie shortstop Dee Gordon. After starting the season 0-for-14, Loney has improved, but he’s still got a long way to go.
Currently hitting .148, Loney has forced manager Don Mattingly to platoon him at first base. This isn’t exactly the way Loney wants to perform at a time when he is playing for a new contract with the Dodgers or a free-agent deal with another team.
Meanwhile, Gordon has been a flash on the base paths and a whiff at the plate. A skinny contact hitter at the top of your lineup should be putting his bat on the baseball. Brett Butler and Juan Pierre used to do it the way a leadoff hitter should: Slap the ball and let your legs do the rest.
Gordon leads the team in strikeouts, which would be nice if he were a pitcher and not a hitter. Gordon has whiffed 13 times in his 52 plate appearances, which means he is striking out once every four trips to the plate. Gordon’s .192 average and .263 on-base percentage will most certainly have to improve if the Dodgers are going to stay at the top of the NL West standings.
There are certainly many more things for which to praise the 2012 Dodgers than there are to complain about. My Dodgers glass is way more full than it is empty. I just hope that some of the hitters break out of their slumps so we don’t have to count on Kemp and Ethier to continue to be Superman and the Incredible Hulk.