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Black holes and the theory of the Dodgers' relative offense

May 16, 2011 |  6:29 am

Kemp_300 Imagine you are Don Mattingly and look down at your bench. Easy now, you are only pretending.

They are what they are, which isn’t his fault. He doesn’t sign or groom players. He does, however, pick his poison and figures out who to start.

Here’s a free tip: Try not to pick out eight starters with only two guys capable of hitting the ball over the fence.

Which is what he did Sunday, putting his main horses, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, who have cooled, in the third and fourth spots in the batting order, and then mostly a lot of flotsam around them.

At least Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles are doing their job at the top of the order and getting on base, which pretty much ended the team’s offensive highlights in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks.

Elsewhere, it was cover-the-eyes material.

Ethier and Kemp combined to finish 0 for 7, and then behind them came James Loney, Dioner Navarro, Juan Castro and Tony Gwynn Jr. Honest, they were trying to win.

The four of them have two home runs combined. Which is just about what you would expect.

Loney is hitting .230, Navarro .176, Castro was hitless in his season debut and Gwynn is hitting .224.

Gwynn got the start in left field, which is the biggest black hole in a lineup littered with them.

The left fielders this season have been Jerry Sands (.194), Jay Gibbons (.083), Marcus Thames (.176) and Gwynn, with a slight touch of Xavier Paul and Jamie Hoffman.

All together they have zero home runs (Thames has two homers as a pinch-hitter).

"I’m not sure what we can do," Mattingly said. "You’re always looking to get better and improve, but I’m not sure what our choices are.

"You would normally like to get some production out of that spot. We have some different guys at triple A but I don’t think it’s anyone where you go, 'Oh!' "

Oh-no, maybe. Left field has been a problem since the first day of the off-season. The ultimate solution was supposed to be a platoon of Gibbons and Thames.

Gibbons, however, developed vision problems and started the season on the disabled list, which is where Thames is now because of a quadriceps strain. Gibbons saw half a dozen eye specialists before finally claiming he had the correct pair of contact lenses.

However, in 12 at-bats, Gibbons has only one hit and has struck out five times.

"I’m still not 100% satisfied he’s really seeing the ball good," Mattingly said.

Gibbons may have to accept a trip to triple-A Albuquerque to get more playing time and work on his stroke.

Sands might not be far behind. A minor league power hitter, he’s having trouble driving the ball. Almost all his hits are to the opposite field. Of his 14 hits, only two have been to left field, and I must have missed both of them.

"He wasn’t supposed to be here," Mattingly said. "Ideally, he would have spent the season at triple A."

Ideally, the offense isn’t tied with Pittsburgh for fewest runs in the National League. Ideally, you don’t look down the bench and pick the best of too many poor options.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Matt Kemp scratches his head after striking out to end the eighth inning against Arizona on Sunday. Credit: Paul Buck / EPA

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