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In defense of the Dodgers, we submit ... their defense

June 2, 2011 |  8:33 am

Actually, it’s true. Just past the one-third mark of the season, the Dodgers are statistically one of the top defensive teams in the majors.

They entered Wednesday with the second-best defense in baseball, trailing only the Phillies in total errors (25) and fielding percentage (.988).

It’s not like it’s some total accident, either. Don Mattingly heavily emphasized defense during spring training and sent a clear message.

"We felt like we had to get better defensively,’’ Mattingly said. "Especially I felt like our outfield play was really sketchy last year.

"It was one of the areas we really looked at and had conversations with guys about that we wanted to change. We wanted to really make sure we stayed focused on where we played people.’’

There were extra drills, extra throwing for outfielders. Fundamentals were stressed.

It’s not like the Dodgers were a terrible defensive club last year, it’s just that they were fairly mediocre (four-way tie for 10th in fielding percentage, 10th in errors).

A good defensive team also covers more ground, hits the cut-off man and gets the ball back in quickly from the outfield. The Dodgers currently have the most outfield assists in baseball.

"We’ve thrown the ball really well, and different guys too,’’ Mattingly said. "I notice it even more on plays where we don’t necessarily throw guys out but where we hold them to singles.’’

The defensive uptick is also a tribute to the play of infielders Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles, who have had consistent playing time due to injuries suffered by Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal and Juan Uribe.

"We just stressed we wanted to play good defense,’’ Mattingly said.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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