Things have gone terribly wrong for the Dodgers in the month of April. It’s not important to place blame on anyone in particular, but it is important to find out where the problems lie and fix them. You just can’t do that without placing blame, because how would you know where the problems lie? The Dodgers are only 9-11 this season, and are sitting in fourth place in the NL West, 4.5 games behind Colorado.
Other than the obvious injuries to the pitching staff, the Dodger’s issues are many, and multi-faceted. Let’s go over what they are in random order.
The Dodger bullpen has been an utter train wreck this year. I’ve been very disappointed because I thought they were going to have a strong pen. So far I have been proven wrong. The bullpen’s inability to hold leads late in games is a kiss of death for an offensively challenged team. Is it too much to ask for to have one season with a decent bullpen? It’s so deflating watching hard earned leads going by the wayside when inferior reliever after inferior reliever come in to blow whatever lead or tie is currently available.
The Dodger bullpen is ranked 18th in Baseball with a 4.03 ERA. They rank 22nd in WHIP, and have walked the ninth most batters in Baseball (28). The main problem is they can’t throw strikes. They constantly come in and walk the world. It’s very unnerving watching them miss with pitch after pitch. Step your game up guys! Stop walking people. Seriously, throw strikes! Stop letting every single inherited runner to score.
The Bullpen Management
If the bullpen has been terrible, (hint they have), they’re not getting any help from Don Mattingly’s bizarre and sometimes frustrating usage of the bullpen. The non Brandon League relief pitchers are nothing but one and done guys. The Dodgers don’t use a long man for some reason. So he just uses everyone for one inning at a time, Rarely does he ever bring in a reliever for two innings. So he’s been using the bullpen in the fifth or sixth inning almost every game. Clue, the bullpen is not better than the starting rotation. Why go to it so early?
If there is no long-man, then please assign someone the job. I don’t care who it is. It’s better to have someone do it, then nobody. Otherwise you just have one pitcher after another coming in for an inning then leaving. A merry go-round of guys pitching one inning, blowing the lead or tie, and then disappearing into the Dodger bullpen the next frame to hide in shame.
I say let Matt Guerrier do it. Let him be the long-man mop-up guy. That would be the ironic job for him to ride out the rest of his bloated contract. Let him clean up other pitchers crap, so he knows how it feels when all of the other guys had to come in and clean up his messes.
“Hey Matt, Belisario just crapped all over the mound, grab your mop and get out there. “
By allowing relievers to have two inning outings, or more than one inning appearances, you stretch out your bullpen. You play a game of conservation, instead of just playing a short game. Otherwise you end up seeing five or six relievers used in every game. This is not an efficient way of doing things. So stop it.
The Dodger offense has been shooting blanks since opening day. The Dodgers are not as bad offensively as you may think. They can put a ton of runners on base, but getting those guys home has been an entirely different story. The Dodgers rank 13th in batting, (.253), rank fifth in OBP (.337), and third in walks (79). The Dodger lineup is a very patient hitting team. However, the Dodgers rank 29th in Baseball in runs scored (64), ranking ahead of only the Marlins. So how does a top five ranked OBP team only score 64 runs? The problem is three-fold.
Matt Kemp’s slow start
Kemp’s slow start is a huge reason for the dip in offense. Kemp has his average now up to .247 (18 for 73), and is finally showing signs of life. The Dodger’s success is directly linked to Kemp’s success. If Kemp struggles, the Dodgers will too. He’s the catalyst, and makes the offense go. The off-season shoulder surgery probably has played a part in his slow start. It looks like he’s starting to come out of it though. He hit his first home run last night, and had three hits the other night, and two more the night after. Overall I think he has had like six or seven hits over the least three games. Yes he is 8 for 19 on this current road-trip. Once Kemp starts bludgeoning the ball like he normally does, the offense will start to score more runs.
This is a huge problem I have been pointing out that has been going largely unnoticed. The Dodgers are one of the worst and least aggressive base running teams in the Majors. This is how the offense gets so many runners on base, and then fails to score them. It’s a combination of poor base running skills, and lack of speed.
The numbers support this. I’ve written about this before. The Dodgers are one of the worst teams in going from first to third on a hit, or scoring a runner from second on a hit. The Dodgers are one of the worst teams in the majors in just taking extra bases. The Dodgers rank 27th in hitting advancement opportunities with men on base. That is the measurement of how often each team advances runners from first to third, and second to home on hits. It’s also factors in the team’s ability to take extra bases. The Dodgers HAR rating is a -1.53. You know how you don’t score runs? By playing station to station Baseball. I have seen an improvement over the last few games, but I want to see more consistency on the base paths. These guys are slower than molasses in January.
Runners in scoring position
This has grabbed all of the headlines, and indeed it has been horrendous. The Dodgers are batting .190 (32 for 168) with RISP. Their .559 OPS ranks them 27 out of the 30 MLB teams. No need for explanation here. Either you get the big hits with men on base, or you lose.
Other lineup Shenanigans
On some days, the lineups Mattingly puts out, just don’t make sense. Guys who collect three hits are benched the next day (Justin Sellers), and guys who are hitting below the Mendoza line are inserted into the lineup in key positions. Why do we need to bat Skip Schumaker lead-off when he is batting .135 (3 for 23) this year? If you must play him, then fine, but can you please stop batting him lead-off? Not to single out Schumaker here, but to point out the poor lineup choices. Too much emphasis is placed on random match-ups of small sample sizes. Stop tinkering with the lineup every game. Play the hot hands, stop playing the cold fish off the bench.
What else can you say? There are the problems. We shouldn’t be burying our heads in the sand. It’s time to start facing the realities. The problems aren’t just going to go away, or fix themselves. We can’t keep lying to ourselves and ignoring the issues at hand. If these problems aren’t solved then the Dodgers will continue to play mediocre Baseball the rest of the way. So far they have, and it won’t change until stuff gets fixed. Days will tick off the calendar faster than the Dodger bullpen can blow a lead. (That’s pretty quick by the way) So here they are, fix them. Do it now in April, while there is still time to salvage the season. Otherwise it’s going to be just another long sad forgettable year.