Monday, June 09, 2014

Olney Suggests Dodgers Shake Up Lineup, Strengthen Defense

In saying the Dodgers have a star-driven lineup, but with many parts that don't fit,'s Buster Olney says the Dodgers need to shake things up (link insider only):

Mattingly's current Dodgers team should be better than that because they have much better pitching, with Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Josh Beckett, etc., etc. They also have one of the best young players in the sport in the ever-improving Yasiel Puig.

But they don't fit. They don't have a true center fielder on their major league roster, now that they've determined Matt Kemp cannot play that position adequately. (Scott Van Slyke probably never dreamed he would start in center field in the big leagues, as he did the other day.) Andre Ethier could get a lot of starts at the spot, as he did last year, but he's a corner outfielder.

And they really don't have a shortstop, either; Hanley Ramirez ranks as the worst middle infielder in baseball in some defensive metrics, numbers that match the eye test of a number of rival evaluators, many of whom believe that Ramirez is not good enough to hold down the position unless he's killing the ball at the plate. So far, he's not.

So the Dodgers, just like some of Steinbrenner's 1980s teams, have the highest payroll and a whole lot of stars but little to no glove help at shortstop and center field. It's hard to win without a defensive backbone.

And now Mattingly is concerned about the team's chemistry, about the players pulling together, and after Wednesday's loss, he told reporters that he was sick of talking about the team's failures and suggested they go ask the players.

The Dodgers didn't play Thursday, and yet they managed to lose more ground in the standings because the Giants never seem to lose. As of this morning, the Dodgers are 8½ games out of first in the NL West and their situation is reaching critical mass, as it did last June. that was when general manager Ned Colletti met with the staff on a road trip and encouraged Mattingly to simply stop worrying about the feelings of individuals and play the best players.

Mattingly did this, and the Dodgers proceeded to go on a 42-8 run and reach the National League Championship Series.

Might they head down the same path?

The Dodgers certainly have the options to try. They have a legitimate center fielder in Triple-A who is killing the ball in Joc Pederson (1.071 OPS). They could call him up, start him in center and move Ethier to left field. But there would be fallout: Kemp, whom the Dodgers owe almost $130 million, would have even less opportunity for playing time. He, Ethier, Carl Crawford and Van Slyke would be left to battle over at-bats. The "intrigue meter" would climb again.

The Dodgers also have an outstanding defensive shortstop available to them in Erisbel Arruebarrena. He was sent down by the team Friday, but he has greatly impressed the staff with how he moves, with his range and athleticism. There is no indication the Dodgers are thinking about moving Ramirez to third base in the summer before he becomes a free agent, and they might be concerned with how he would react to such a suggestion.

Dee Gordon's offense has been slipping of late, Arruebarrena is not regarded as a good offensive player, and Pederson would probably go through the inevitable rookie slump as the league makes its adjustments to him, attacking him with lefty pitchers, his kryptonite last year.

But the point is, given their strong rotation, the Dodgers might be better off focusing on fielding the best possible defensive group, and given how they're performing now, what do they have to lose?

As high as our payroll is, the two places where we seem to have a lot of holes is middle infield (Hanley Ramirez is always cited as being horrible defensively, and his frequent double-clutches and missed plays this season seem to underline the point; when HanRam isn't hitting well, there is nothing to compensate for this gap; meanwhile, Dee Gordon has been a pleasant surprise on offense this year to date, but his defense still needs some work as well), and the outfield, whose irony in carrying four starters without a solid center fielder underscores the absurdity of Ned Colletti's Frankenstein-like monstrosity of a lineup. Why money can't solve these two holes, I'm not sure; but we sure have a lot of money caught up in these two areas as it is.

Time for a shake-up? Well, we're certainly running out of time for anything else.


Fred's Brim said...

I thought I heard Hanley being more open to playing third. Was that after Uribe went down? What's his prognosis? If he's going to be gone for a while, can Hanley be asked to help out there?

Fred's Brim said...

And I don't mind Dee at second at all.

Watch him have 3 errors tonight