Sept. 11, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Los Angeles Dodgers outfielders Matt Kemp (left) and Andre Ethier head to the dugout following the third inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

The Biggest Shutdown in Baseball?

The most glaring weakness with this Dodgers team is the lack of offense. Some may contend that it is the biggest shutdown in baseball, bigger than the shutdown of Washington Nationals Pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Right now, I am struggling to remember the last game when the Dodgers had a big inning. So I looked at the schedule and saw that two weeks ago, on Wednesday August 29th, they beat the Colorado Rockies 10-8. During this game, they had a six-run inning and a four run inning. The six-run inning consisted of an error producing run, a run-scoring single by Shane Victorino, a two-run scoring single by Adrian Gonzalez, and a two-run home run by Hanley Ramirez. The four-run inning consisted of an A.J. Ellis grand slam. In the 10 games since this offensive outburst, the Dodgers’ highest scoring output in a game was five runs, in their 5-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. In this 10-game stretch, Shane Victorino was 8 for 37 (.216), Andre Ethier hit 9 for 37 (.243), Matt Kemp was 3 for 30 (.100), Adrian Gonzalez was 10 for 42 (.238), and Hanley Ramirez hit 9 for 38 (.237). Not one  of these five Dodgers hit even .250 during this stretch. The heart of the Dodgers’ batting average was particularly paltry during the recent San Francisco Giants series. In Friday night’s 5-2 loss to the Giants, Victorino, Kemp, Gonzalez, Hanley, and Ethier were a combined 0-20 with five strike outs. In Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Giants, Victorino, Gonzalez, Ramirez, and Ethier were a combined 2 for 15 and struck out six times.

As I watched the Giants series, in particular the Friday and Sunday night losses, I thought back to one of the last playoffs runs for the Dodgers, specifically the 2008 season, when the Dodgers made a run to the NLCS where they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies four games to one. The second half of 2008 has some parallels to the 2012 second half, in particular being in contention for the playoffs, lots of August losses (13-16 in August 2008 and 14-14 in August 2012), and the mid-season acquisition of a Boston Red Sox slugger (Manny Ramirez in 2008 and Adrian Gonzalez in 2008). However, with each passing game, it seems that this is where the similarities end. For example, unlike that year, this year’s new Dodgers are not paying immediate dividends like the new Dodger did in 2008. Whereas Shane Victorino has hit .245 with 9 stolen bases since being acquired from the Phillies and Adrian Gonzalez has hit .227 with 10 RBIs since coming from Boston, Manny Ramirez hit .396 with 74 hits, 17 home runs and 53 RBIs for the Dodgers after his acquisition on July 31, 2008.

Now, I know that a baseball team is not one guy. I get that the Giants are getting contributions from a combination of players – Buster Posey, Angel Pagan, and Marco Scutaro. I know that the Dodgers were not just Manny Ramirez during their 2008 run to the NLCS. (Remember, the Chicago Cubs repeatedly walking James Loney in the 2008 division series?) However, it does not hurt to have one player hitting .396 in the dog days of August and September. With the exception of Jeff Kent, every Dodger on the 2008 team would likely admit that Manny opened up the Dodger lineup from his acquisition at the end of July to the NLCS. Also, each team has their MVP, particularly during their postseason run that acts as a catalyst for the rest of the team -Ryan Braun for last year’s Milwaukee Brewers, David Freese for the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals in their postseason run. For the NL West leading Giants, there is Buster Posey. From August 1st to September 9th, Posey batted 46 for 125 (.368). During the span of August 31st to September 9th where Victorino, Hanley, Kemp, Ethier and Gonzalez failed to hit at least .250, Posey was 13 for 36 (.361), including batting 4 for 10 during the recent Dodgers-Giants series.

So who is it going to step it up and free up the rest of the Dodgers’ batting order in September? Who will be that catalyst? It seems like Matt Kemp may not have fully recovered from the hamstring injury and certainly the collision with the Coors Field wall. Adrian Gonzalez was seemingly going to be that guy. Remember, his three-run home run greeting in his first game as a Dodger? Remember, after the Boston trade, both ESPN Analyst Curt Schilling and MLB Network Analyst Mitch Williams picked the Dodgers to win the National League West, largely because of Gonzalez? And despite being activated from the disabled list today, the Dodgers will not infuse their lineup with the speed and freshness of Dee Gordon. Dee will only return as a base runner.

Or maybe it is too much to expect this newly constructed Dodger line-up to yield the one hitter us Dodger fans are asking for. Maybe there will be no catalyst. Still, us Dodger fans just ask for at least one Dodger (besides Clayton Kershaw, for as Giselle Bunchen would say, Kershaw cannot pitch and hit) to step up and step up quick, before the Wild Card is out of reach too.

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Tags: Adrian Gonzalez Andre Ethier Dee Gordon Hanley Ramirez Los Angeles Dodgers Manny Ramirez Matt Kemp Shane Victorino

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