Sunday, July 01, 2012

Olney On What The Dodgers Need: A Win! (Get It?)

Yeah, yeah, we're all in on the joke, Buster. Just for that, let me recap how you got to this tongue-in-cheek conclusion (link insider only):

Teammates say that Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis is very good at working with a computer in assessing information. When the rest of them are playing cards or sleeping on a team flight, Ellis will be staring at a laptop screen, preparing.

Not long ago, he made a printout for teammate Clayton Kershaw, of his starts in the first half of the 2011 season.

Kershaw is 5-4 this season and has been swimming upstream against the perception that he is having an off year after winning the NL Cy Young Award last year with a 21-5 record. Kershaw has had his fill of the "what's wrong with you" questions, but he also is hypercompetitive and tends to feel responsible when the Dodgers lose.

What Ellis showed Kershaw was that Kershaw actually is pitching better in the first half this season than he did last year. After his first 15 starts of 2011, Kershaw had a 3.28 ERA with 76 hits allowed in 98.2 innings. When Kershaw takes the mound tonight against the New York Mets on "Sunday Night Baseball," he will carry a 2.76 ERA; he's allowed 86 hits in 108.1 innings, with 103 strikeouts and 27 walks.

Sure, there are things he wants to do better. A lot of the damage against him this season has come against his slider, a pitch he fully incorporated last year for the first time -- a pitch that has sometimes gotten away from him this season. "It's a feel thing," Kershaw explained, talking about how he sometimes gets too much on the side of the ball, flattening out the pitch.

But the only number that's down markedly is the number of wins he's gotten, and this is what Ellis was trying to get across to him -- that there's only so much he can do, and right now, getting a win for the Dodgers would mean throwing scoreless innings.

The Dodgers were shut out Saturday for the fifth time in their past six games. They were out-homered in June by Jose Bautista, who had 14; in fact, there were 17 individual hitters who had more homers than the Dodgers, who generated six.

In June, the Dodgers scored little more than half the runs put up by the Pittsburgh Pirates in this turn in the calendar. Tony Gwynn, Jr. acknowledged that as the team's slump has deepened, some of the Dodgers have tried to do more than they can do -- and in an ugly cycle, this urgency has prevented them from doing what they can do.

There is help on the way for the Dodgers. Mark Ellis, deeply respected by teammates for his presence and ability to run an infield, is expected back on Thursday. Matt Kemp has been running, as part of his rehabilitation of his strained hamstring, and is aiming to be back in the lineup in the first game after the All-Star break. There is trade talk, of course.

"What we need," said Kershaw, "is a win."

The Dodgers have simply stopped hitting; they were dominated by Johan Santana on Saturday. James Loney's playing time is up in the air.

• Some members of the Dodgers organization had more questions than answers Saturday, wondering about who the team might be bringing in with trades. They tried to trade for Carlos Lee, but so far, they've been rebuffed; Lee's initial indication to the Astros on Saturday morning was that he was inclined to reject the trade, as is his right. Lee told reporters that he intends to talk to his wife before making a final decision.

If Lee doesn't change his mind, the Dodgers will try somebody else, sources indicated Saturday. "There are always other things you can try," said one source.

Meanwhile, over at the LAT, Dylan Hernandez is calling Loney's future pretty precarious. Over at, Steve Dilbeck reaches the same conclusion:

Lee said he expected to make a decision by Sunday, so that’s the good news. Either way, it’s not good for Loney, who is currently in a 0-for-25 skid and batting .236 for the season with .303 on-base and .323 slugging percentages.

Mattingly said the Dodgers haven’t run out of patience with the underperforming Loney; they’re just being pragmatic.

“It’s really been kind of going into the last two years now, we’re kinda looking at more of a backwards progression with a little bit of a good second half [in 2010],” he said. “So now it’s starting to look like it’s getting in the opposite direction, where you’re not getting as much production.

“Before we always complained about James when he wasn’t hitting home runs but was driving in 90 runs and hitting .290. I’ll take that all day long. And that’s really what we talked about. I’m not worried about him getting home runs, I need somebody to be that third wheel with Matt [Kemp] and Dre [Andre Ethier].”

And Lee is supposed to make some big difference in that regard? He would be an upgrade, certainly, but so would a lot of guys right now. Guys who might buy their own ticket to leave one of the worst teams in baseball to join a contender.