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Black holes and the theory of the Dodgers' relative offense

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

Comments () | Archives (20)

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I wouldn't change a thing!

Dear Frank McCourt,

Thanks for making the Dodgers a disaster on and off the field.

Your Friend,

Steve Soboroff

Does this surprise anyone? You have an owner that's more interested in padding his bank account, paying for lawyers and buying mansions rather than building a winning team, and he has the nerve to tell the suckers, err, fans that they are good. An incompetent GM that wouldn't recognize talent if it bit him on the ass, and a manager that nobody else in baseball would've hired because he didn't have any managerial experience, and is so happy to be managing anywhere, he really doesn't care if they win or lose. Not that I liked Torre, but why do you think he left? All of this with a roster of replacement level talent that nobody else would use except for maybe , maybe off of the bench, and this is what you end up with, a disaster and an embarrassment of a team. Anybody that pays to see this team play is getting what they deserve, a non quality product. Worse thing is not only are they bad, but they are boooooring!

Loney is a very good minor leaguer. As for Uribe, the Dodgers are basically paying him millions for leading the gnats to the world championship last season. Other than that, he is a worthless, Andruw Jones-like fat tub of goo.

Flotsam? More like floaters that you just can't get flushed down. Ned couldn't address an envelope, much less a major league roster. Perhaps if he'd spent less on Lilly and that pitiful excuse of a ballplayer Uribe, and put it in an impact bat like oh, 99% of even bloggers knew he should do, the offense might not look so little league. Ned's so myopic in his "vision" that he zero's in on one thing and that's it. This year it was pitching to the exclusion of everything else. Of course it was two years too late to do any good. But who couldn't take a look at the offense from last year and figure out that it needed vast improvement, and then go out and sign the likes of Uribe, Thames, Gwynn, Navarro, Barajas, et al.? What says offensive juggernaut in those names? Then Ned proudly proclaims that he doesn't believe in all that moneyball stat stuff, but goes by feel and whether or not they WANT to be Dodgers. Hell, I'd WANT to be a Dodger when no one else will hire me. And if Ned goes by feel, then I can only assume that he's got rigor mortis. The team sure does.

What a way to start off the morning...
to imagine I am Don Mattingly and looking down at the bench....
a nightmare I wish not to consider again!
So then I think well what if Kershaw is getting gassed in the eighth inning and I start thinking of the options in the pen....
the nightmare continues!
Well I know my GM will get me some help...
and just then Ned walks by and well, Ned being the GM I realize help isn't happening...
Maybe the owner will fix this mess....
and now I just can't stop laughing because McCourt is our owner and to think he can fix anything is just a misguided thought....
and now I am crying because I am a Dodger fan and McCourt is our owner

How Ned Colletti still has his GM job (or was ever hired in the first place, to be honest) is beyond me. This franchise is boring and pathetic.

We are reaping the consequences of McCourt's financial problems. Last year we had the chance to sign good players but other teams with more money signed them. Colletti tried to build around Kemp and Ethier but it did not work and it won't work with scrap players (Uribe, Thames), vets (Miles, Barajas) and rookies (Sands, Gwen Jr,...etc) If we were under better ownership we probably would have signed players like Adam Dunn, Beltre, Halladay, Lee, Uggla..etc) Those guys are proven hitters and pitchers. I am sad that this year will go to waste. And the scary thing is Ethier and Kemp we may lose if McCourt doesn't get out of the way for another owner to convince Kemp and Ethier that they WILL build around them with strong type A players. Enough said.

I don't know if I can go a full season watching and reading about this team and the b/s surrounding the organization. With the Lakers doing well the last two years we had a distraction from the slow decay happening to the Dodgers. I love watching Kershaw and Billingsly pitch but I may have to close my eyes and pick the team up next year during spring training.

If seeing is believing, me thinks jay gibbons isn't the only dudger who needs glasses - beyond teammates, also extends to 'coaches', hitting specifically.

As to gibbons case, his rookie manager says "I’m still not 100% satisfied he’s really seeing the ball good." Course, donnie baseball has seen and said things before about the lack of hitting. My favorite remains this gem response to his thence having the 'worst' hitting team in the big leagues so far spring training (remember the quotes? Yeah, you 'member) "Not really. Not at all, actually," he said. "It just doesn't matter." What, me concerned? Uh... mr. baseball, er donnie, remember that cell phone commercial 'can you hear me now?'

Pick it up.

donnie wasn't alone back in spring training. "We haven't found our identity yet as an offensive ballclub" dudgers hitting coach Jeff Pentland said at the time. "I'm not disappointed whatsoever in what they've done so far."

Wonderful. How 'bout now Jeffe, two months and more than 1/4 the way through the season?

The bad omen was spring training started becoming destiny by the time the rarefied light Rocky Mountain aire too had not translated into early regular season success. Just don't tell the manager, who said "I feel like we're going to score", this aft the dudgers were shut out by the Rockies - in Colorado.

"I don't think we're up there just hacking wildly. We've got to be able to scrap some runs up, but I really feel like we're going to be able to score throughout the course of the season."

The edification of mattingly & company continues. 41 games into the abyss, donnie baseball is now (comparatively speaking) in a panic regards gibbons, because "I’m still not 100% satisfied he’s really seeing the ball good."

The blind leading the blinder?

"Gibbons saw half a dozen eye specialists before finally claiming he had the correct pair of contact lenses."

- yeah, so? mattingly & pentland et al saw a half dozen spring training games and tho even then the hitting was problematic, neither expressed any worry according to reports. Flash forward two months up to today & mr. baseball et al's feelings have taken a turn toward reality, appears: "I’m not sure what we can do."

Based upon visual evidence as well the on-field results, nothing. But then, I don't need glasses/my vision has always been a perfect 20/20 in hindsight.

The Titanic is going down...

This is the same team Donnie Baseball said was a good team at the beginning of the season. Donnie obviously would have said anything to become a Manager and to keep his job, but when the changes come to ownership, both he and Ned must go.

What moves has Jamie McCourt made lately to improve the team? Doesn't she own half of the club? I do know she was the highest-level female executive in baseball, a position I believe she spent many, many years in the trenches working her way up to – and thus was justifiably proud of. Certainly that degree of expertise should not go untapped during these trying times.

You pointed out that almost all of Jerry Sands' hits have been to rightfield as if that is a problem. Hitters are taught to go the opposite field nowadays and Sands has been pretty unlucky; BA of .194, BABIP of .255, the stats saw Sands should be hitting .60 points better and he has narrowly missed 3 home runs.

The kid is having good at bats, has a good approach and will make adjustments.

Payback time is coming.

Actor Wesley Snipes was sentenced to three years in federal prison for tax evasion totaling 15 million.

The IRS is investigating McCourt and wife for failing to pay taxes on 100+ million they siphoned from the dodgers. Wonder what the IRS thinks that's worth?

Reparaphrasing Bill Parcells, The team reflects the ability of its GM to put it together.

Once the team is sold out from under McCourt, hopefully no later than the end of this season, the new owner will replace probably 2/3 of the roster by the end of the following preseason. The guy doing that for them will not be the guy who created the roster he will undo.

iow, blame Colletti, who, unless he pulls multiple high-quality rabbits out of his --- real soon, will be gone within a news cycle after the new owner is introduced.

One thing Mattingly CAN do, who says he isn't sure what they can do to improve on the mannikins he has on the bench, is talk to Colletti about presenting to Schieffer trades for specific people Mattingly has spotted around baseball who might fit in better than the bottomfeeders Ned has scooped up. Mattingly may be a better judge of talent than Ned is, tho i don't really know if he's any less bad at it. At least i hope he didn't encourage Ned to sign some of these not-so-major leaguers. Mattingly may not know, i get the impression he doesn't know enough, that the track record of MLB with the teams they temporarily take over has been somewhat liberal and creative in trading outside the supposed budget, iow ignoring the budget without going crazy with it.

Once MLB is paying the bills, June 1??, Mattingly could direct Colletti to give to Schieffer some budget-expanding requests that would regenerate fan interest, which is what MLB is in there to do, fix the Dodgers, bring its popularity back up, stop the bleeding, improve the roster, give fans reason to see that the team has left the dock McCourt had them tied to. iow, start now presenting to LA the Post-McCourt Era of Growing Improvement.

Steve, pls pass this possibility on to Mattingly. I do not get the feeling he and Colletti communicate in this way at all, especially in that part of Schieffer's job is to improve the product, not continue to let the season drift away ad nauseum. If Colletti isn't acting to do so, then pls pass this on directly to Schieffer, so he can tell Ned, or reiterate to him he can bend the budget. Positive player movement has been the result of MLB's modus operandi in cases like the Dodgers'.

And if Colletti's idea of a good catch is another old overpaid retread, we will just be forced to wait until he goes.

I fear Colletti has been instructed by McCourt not to spend a penny more, and that Ned doesn't understand that McCourt is already history and will never weigh judgment on Ned's actions again. Otherwise, i think we'd have already seen some movement beyond exchanging one Triple A'er with another.

Ignoring, for the moment, the individuals who are sorely lacking as the bench players, the more essential problem is that this team doesn't know how to win. Specifically, there is not a mind set that someone WILL step forward and get the key hit. Over the decades, the Dodgers have had players who KNEW how to make it happen. From bench guys like Mota, Sweet Lou Johnson, Dave Hansen, to line ups with the likes of Garvey-Lopes-Russel-Cey, or the intensity of a Kirk Gibson or Bull Dog Hersheiser, there were players who knew how to STEP UP. This is a group of players who wait, who can't or won't take the initiative, and as long as that collective dominates the club, we will see only mediocrity on the field.

They should start rotating Gibbons, Gwynn Jr., ans Sands about every two days or so, until somebody starts hitting. When Thanes gets back throw him into the mix. Just an Idea.

Why is Mattingly even the manager when there were other options? Mattingly is an "awww shucks -- we'll get 'em tomorrow" kind of guy, which isn't going to cut it when your starting lineup sucks. This team is a mess right now and declining attendance is the only possible likelihood right now.

Aside from his pathetic numbers, when is the last time Loney even hit the ball hard? Nothing more than playing pepper with the right side of the infield (reminding me of Shawn Green in his last season)and hitting fungos to the out field. No longer is it surprising that he has only one home run but how he hit the one.

I'm actually anticipating the return of Blake and putting him at first because outside of Mattingly activating himself, I can't think of any other options.


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