April 12, 2010, 8:30 p.m. Let's take solace in the notion that while the Dodgers have lost four of their first six, the ways in which they're losing don't add up to all that much. By my count, it's really just four things.
And while I like to play contrarian as much as the next guy, I only see one of the four as cause for genuine concern. To be clear, I'm not saying these are small issues – and to list them alphabetically, they are defense, offense, relief pitching and starting pitching – it's just that only one of the four strikes me as a potential long-term thing.
Dodger defense, if you can call it that. Russell Martin looks a wee bit overly-excited, with his throws finding tarp rollers and infielders not his intended target almost as much as those intended. On one play in Florida, an error was averted only because, when Martin's throw missed second base by a good 30 feet, Blake DeWitt caught the ball in center field almost as if it was a designed play. Almost.
But poor Blake DeWitt. The errors we can live with. Twenty errors over the course of a season by a young second baseman may, or could be, a small price to pay for his getting the experience of 162 games. On the other hand, the plays he's not making, I mean, wow. Too many to count, actually.
For one, it seems like any ball hit in the air is an adventure at Outward Bound, and a good second baseman makes most of the plays. Orlando Hudson makes all of those plays.
I get that Joe Torre wants to get DeWitt as much action on the right side of the diamond as he can, but on days when Ronnie Belliard is at third base, shouldn't the Dodgers just flip the two guys? Zero men playing out of position is better than two, it seems to me. It's not that complicated.
Belliard has played 91 games at third during his career, and those two beautiful plays yesterday notwithstanding, he's no Brooks Robinson, nor anything resembling a natural at the hot corner. He's played 1170 games at second, and is both comfortable and competent there, neither of which you can say about Blake DeWitt.
DeWitt actually plays an excellent third base – really he does – and while it's a small sample size, 109 games at third versus 34 appearances at second, it's worth considering. And sooner rather than later, more rather than less.
To whatever degree Casey Blake's creakiness becomes a problem – and he's 36 so it just might – this is an easily fixable thing.
The rest of the Dodger defense should be fine, and James Loney is looking more and more like Wes Parker every day. I don't like the errors, but there is a solution.
I'm not worried about the starters either. The ace talk has been done to death, and while it has merit, what do you say we drop the topic until trade-deadline time, huh? Or at least a few turns through the rotation.
Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley will log their innings, and Kershaw will win his 12 to 15 games. It's not Vicente Padilla's fault Torre put the Opening Day label on his back. It's one bad week for the number four man. Padilla is better than he looks to this point, and will show his value. Plenty of innings and well-pitched games lie ahead, I promise you.
I like Charlie Haeger too, and again, he'll get his innings in. I'm not overly-concerned. The rotation will be fine; good enough to win with.
As for the pen, obviously George Sherrill looks exactly like he did in the 2009 National League Championship Series, and it's not pretty. Like, duh. I just think that Rick Honeycutt will get the left-hander straightened out. And reinforcements exist. Dodger bullpens turn over more than they used to, and it's worked out well in recent years. It will this year too.
Batting average with runners in scoring position, or RISP if you prefer, is an important statistic, but it can also be a tad misleading, especially this early in the season. Of course, RISP matters over the long haul, and yes, it's a good indicator of the clutch-hitting ability of both the team and the individual, but the runs count, no matter where you score them from, and that's the bigger total in the grand scheme of things.
As just the most obvious example, is a two-run home run hit with a man on first any less significant than a two-run homer struck with a man standing on second? Or third? Similarly, is a leadoff homer worth less than a double followed by a single?
Lots of teams have trouble hitting with runners in scoring position, and some of them win divisions and play for a pennant. Case in point, last year's Dodger club. The 2010 model will hit better in the clutch than did the 2009, and the improvement will be more meaningful than the final statistic.
Los Angeles has scored 36 runs in six games. Complain about that if you like, but RISP is not the problem it's being made out to be. It's just not.
One last point on the first week of play. It's great that Torre has finally shown some appreciation for the day-game-after-the-night-game concept, and while he's applied it to the entire club, rather than just Russell Martin, this is better than ignoring it all together.
But be warned, there are 30 day games after night games scheduled the rest of the way, plus seven with start times still listed as TBA, for to-be-determined. Draw your own conclusions, but I think Blake, Martin and Manny Ramirez can handle a few more contests…
Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…
Here's another cool column from Jerry Crowe, about the Lakers' 1960 plane crash that almost was, in today's Los Angeles Times.
We're not going to get into a Eric Collins beat-down just yet, but it was a rough week for the listeners sans Vin Scully. There was one flub we just had to mention.
With Charlie Haeger on the mound Sunday, Collins and Steve Lyons were trotting out the obligatory lines about the knuckleball (the best way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it's stops rolling and pick it up, ha ha ha.) when Collins tried to fire off the "it's like eating soup with a fork" line. Except, it came out "it's like eating soup with a spoon" instead. More in the coming weeks, I imagine…
Look-Alikes: James Loney and Fred Armisen.
Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…
Remember, glove conquers all….
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