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With Dodgers unable to add big bat, offense is left shaky

January 4, 2011 |  2:07 pm

The Big Bat, or perhaps better put, the Elusive Big Bat.

To paraphrase Don Henley, it’s not here, it’s not coming.

The Dodgers’ offense is what it is, which is to say, barely improved over what it was last year. When it was one step ahead of horrific.

The Dodgers had no good offensive numbers last season. They were toward the bottom of every major offensive statistical category for baseball’s 30 teams in average (19th), runs (21st), home runs (27th) slugging (24th), on-base percentage (tied for 17th) and RBI (24th).

And now with the major off-season work done, they have added second baseman Juan Uribe.

Doesn’t exactly get the happy feet moving.

Now, Uribe is a fine addition, although they did have to overpay him in dollars and duration ($21 million, three years).

But he is not that big bat they almost desperately need. He is 31 and coming off a career year with 24 home runs and 85 RBI. Over the past nine seasons, however, he averaged 16 home runs and 60 RBI, numbers closer to what can reasonably be expected.

General Manager Ned Colletti spoke of needing to add another bat, presumably of significance, when the season ended. When he signed Uribe in November, he was asked if Uribe was that bat.

"Yeah, I think so," he said. "This is a bat, certainly. Is it the bat? We’ll find out if it’s the bat. But it’s certainly a guy who provides a lot of offense for us.

"I can’t predict what we’re going to do behind the plate or in left field but I do know we have ourselves a player here that’s offense and can also play all over the infield."

What they’ve done since behind the plate is sign Rod Barajas and lose Russell Martin. Left field remains uncertain, unless you’re all giddy about Tony Gwynn Jr.

More recently, asked at Dodgers.com about his off-season, Colletti said:

"At this stage, it’s not so much the big bat or the middle-of-the-order bat that we’re going to be able to acquire. It’s really the other pieces you need to have a chance to win games -- defense, speed, players that can back up and fill in and add to our depth."

At this point, offensive improvement is tied to a frightening series of "ifs" -- if Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney rebound, if Rafael Furcal stays healthy, if Uribe can approach his career season, if Casey Blake is not in unavoidable, age-driven decline, if Barajas can be effective a full season, if the patchwork in left is effective.

The Dodgers will have to collect on most of those "ifs" to provide enough offense to cash in on a strong rotation.

To be fair, there weren’t a whole lot of truly free-agent significant bats available this off-season. But the ones who could have made a difference -- Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Adam Dunn, Adrian Beltre -- went elsewhere, albeit at inflated prices.

Which has left the Dodgers’ offense looking very familiar. And that’s an iffy proposition.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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