Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Puig Makes Headlines, But 2013 Rests On Kemp's Shoulders

Quick thoughts from ESPN.com's David Schoenfield on Matt Kemp, recently put on the 15-day disabled list, but absolutely crucial for the Dodgers' 2013 postseason chances:

Matt Kemp is hitting .254/.309/.357, which looks more like a Nick Punto line than a Matt Kemp line, a pretty clear indication he probably should have gone on the disabled list several weeks ago when it became obvious his shoulder was limiting his production and ability to drive the ball. So now that he's on the DL and the easy reaction may be, "Well, the Dodgers climbed back into the NL West without Kemp contributing much, so there's no reason they can't climb some more without him, especially if he's just going to rest for a couple weeks."

That may very well be true, especially since they can still run out an outfield of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig. Since Puig played his first game on June 3, the Dodgers have hit .267, third-best in the National League, and produced a .743 OPS, 30 points higher than their season total of .713. Their runs per game has increased from 3.5 runs to 4.3, a total that would rank a solid sixth in the league over the full season.

But that 4.3 runs per game is driven by the unsustainable numbers of Puig and Ramirez, both hitting better than .400 since June 3. Ramirez has actually outproduced Puig since that date, with a 1.174 OPS compared to Puig's 1.114. I state with a fair degree of confidence that neither will hit .400 the rest of the way.

Which is why I still think for the Dodgers to make the postseason they'll need a healthy Kemp at some point. Ethier hasn't hit all that well and isn't really a center fielder and Crawford hasn't managed to stay completely healthy since 2010. For the offense to remain playoff-caliber, the Dodgers are going to have to keep scoring runs at their current pace while assuming a decrease in production from Puig and Ramirez.

The good news is, the Dodgers have been rolling lately even without Carl Crawford finding his early-season groove again, in his recent return (Crawford is 0-for-14 since rejoining the team Friday in San Francisco). Andre Ethier has picked up the pace (as he will tend to do, since he's a streaky player by nature). So if Ethier can just hold on until Crawford starts hitting again, and/or Kemp gets back to the lineup, we should be fine.

Get well soon, Matt!