Okay, Los Angeles Dodgers fans, here is the question of the year: Are you happy about where the Dodgers are as the All-Star break arrives?
Ha, that’s a trick question!
Why? Because I truly don’t think any Dodgers fan can answer that question with a definitive yes or no. If you had told me before the 2012 MLB season started that, at the All-Star break in July, the Dodgers would be in first place or within a game of it, I would have taken that all the way to the happy bank.
However, after watching the Dodgers bolt out of the 2012 gate to the tune of a 32-15 record as the season entered the Memorial Day weekend, I’m not thrilled with things now. Yes, I realize that injuries have devastated the Dodgers this season; that doesn’t erase the fact that the team has played to a 15-23 record since Memorial Day.
Why have the Dodgers struggled since late May? Because they haven’t been scoring runs, plain and simple.
Baseball teams that score more runs than they allow win games. There are 12 teams in MLB that have a better run differential than the Dodgers so far this season. How do I know that run production is at the root of the Dodgers’ problems? Because the Dodgers have allowed the third-fewest runs in all of baseball, behind the Washington Nationals and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As I fume over Chris Capuano getting snubbed for the MLB All-Star team and try to survive the 105-degree temperatures in Atlanta, here are some of my first-half 2012 assessments for the Los Angeles Dodgers:
Matt Kemp’s first 36 games – Before Kemp’s hamstring injury, he was on an other-worldly pace. Despite missing more than half of the Dodgers’ 2012 season, Kemp still leads the team with 12 homers and is second with 28 RBIs. Kemp’s .355 batting average and .719 slugging percentage are also a testament to his blistering pace. The Dodgers can only hope and pray that Kemp’s return next week will be permanent.
Chris Capuano’s pitching – Capuano has been the best free-agent signing of 2012 in MLB. No one expected this of Capuano – a 9-3 record and a 2.62 ERA. Capuano leads the starting staff in wins, ERA, fewest hits allowed and is second to Clayton Kershaw in strikeouts.
Andre Ethier’s run production – When Kemp went down, the target on Ethier’s back for opposing pitchers became bigger. Ethier has been the only other legitimate home run threat besides Kemp, and Kemp’s disappearance made Ethier’s job at the plate that much more difficult. Despite that fact, Ethier has produced 10 homers, 55 RBIs and a .291 average over the first half of the season. Ethier does lead the team in strikeouts with 67, but he has done an admirable job without much protection around him.
Dee Gordon’s speed – Gordon has made some spectacular SportsCenter plays at shortstop and has also parlayed his quickness into a MLB-leading 30 stolen bases. Speed at the top of the batting order is a definite bonus for the Dodgers.
Everything else but Dee Gordon’s speed – Gordon is fast … did I mention that? However, other than Gordon’s base stealing, everything else in this rookie season has been a disappointment. Gordon is hitting a paltry .229 and has an embarrassing .280 on-base percentage. He has also struck out 62 times, only five fewer than Ethier. In addition, Gordon also “leads” the Dodgers with 17 errors. Perhaps some of this can be chalked up to a rookie learning curve, but it’s still cause for concern.
The revolving door at third base – Can we please just end this disastrous Juan Uribe debacle and start from scratch? Uribe has once again been what we’ve come to expect at third base – an overweight, past-his-prime player who is always injured. Uribe, who has missed almost half of the team’s 2012 games, is hitting a putrid .198 with one homer and 12 RBIs. The Dodgers have also tried virtually everyone else at third base except for the ghost of Ron Cey. What a black hole this position has become!
The black hole in left field – Bobby Abreu came after being discarded by the Anaheim Angels (no, not “Los Angeles!”) for a bucket of balls and a Dodger Dog. He has filled in with a .267 average, two homers and 16 RBI. The Dodgers have also trotted out a worn-down Juan Rivera in left. Rivera is hitting .253 with three homers and 27 RBIs, but it’s just getting old watching the Dodgers throw retreads in left and seeing them produce spectacularly average numbers. Rookie Scott Van Slyke has more upside than Rivera and Abreu, but do the Dodgers really want to throw him in left in a playoff-contending season? Tony Gwynn Jr. has also seen some time in left field, but he will never be mistaken for his father at the plate.