May 3, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Luis Cruz (47) returns to the dugout after striking out against the San Francisco Giants during the sixth inning at AT

Painful Loss Highlights Dodgers Need to Make Changes to Roster

At this point it’s just getting ridiculous, and cruel for the Dodgers and their fans. A season filled with injuries of all kind to key players, maddening at-bat’s with runners in scoring position, poor production from expected starters AKA Luis Cruz, questionable bullpen management, and worst of all just simply awful baserunning, took another painful turn in San Francisco and with it a likely return to the DL for All-Star Shortstop Hanley Ramirez, just 4 games into his return from missing the first month of the season.

As discussed over and over on our site, the Dodgers baserunning has been putrid so far this season. That trend continued tonight in two key situations, and ended up with Ramirez being a casualty by trying to go from first to third on a hard hit ball to right field, and injuring his hamstring as a result. It wasn’t clear if Hanley decided to go to third on his own or if Third Base Coach Tim Wallach waved him to third. Regardless the poor decision was compounded by Ramirez injuring his hamstring on the play and more than likely heading to the DL, possibly for the rest of the month. Mistake number one occurred earlier in the game when AJ Ellis failed to score from second on a base hit to Centerfield that was also misplayed by Angel Pagan. Just what Ellis was doing by standing at second and watching the ball drop in centerfield rather than scoring on the play is not clear. What is clear is his misjudgement cost the Dodgers what should have been a crucial and potential game winning run.

If AJ scores on that hit, like he should have, Brandon League pitches the 9th instead of Ronald Belisario, who gave up the game winning Home Run to Buster Posey. League may have blown the save, he may also have closed out the game and given Clayton Kershaw a much deserved win after he pitched his guts out over 7 solid innings in what was surely a difficult start for him after the untimely death of his father. So let’s recap, Adrian Gonzalez missed the game with a sore neck, Carl Crawford‘s sore hamstring limited him to a pinch hitting role, and of course he was forced to leg out a ball hit up the middle, but fortunately he was safe and did not appear to re-injure his hamstring. Finally, Luis Cruz actually raised his pitiful batting average to .098 with a single, but he also struck out twice in crucial situations stranding 4 baserunners in the process.

Cruz’s continued poor play raises an important question, why is he still on the Major League Roster? He has managed 6 singles in 61 at-bats so far this season. He made a stellar defensive play at third base, then committed an error on a routine grounder. Cruz was a great feel good story in 2012, however, his 2013 performance has reinforced the fact that he is simply a career minor leaguer. There was a reason why he had over 1,200 at-bats in the minors from 2001 to 2012. He sported a career .268 batting average with a paltry .298 on base percentage. He also struck out in 25% of his at-bats and committed over 250 errors. In the second half of 2012 he finally got a chance to play everyday and hit .296 in 78 games and 282 at-bats. He became a fan favorite because of the long road he had traveled to make it to the majors.

Unfortunately, all of his success has come to a crashing halt in 2013. He is what he is, a career minor leaguer, who is a decent defender and has little to no plate discipline. Dodgers fans fondness for Cruz has clouded their judgement and caused them and perhaps the front office to overlook the fact that Cruz needs to be replaced on the roster, and his replacement has to be the talented promising youngster Dee Gordon. There is one main hurdle in preventing the Dodgers from replacing Cruz on the roster with Gordon. Cruz has no options left, meaning the Dodgers risk losing Cruz to another team if they designate him for assignment. But really should that stop them from making the move, a move which could improve the Dodgers stagnant offense by adding much needed speed to the lineup, and does anyone expect another team to claim someone hitting .098? It’s just my opinion but if you were an MLB GM would you claim him off of waivers? I wouldn’t.

However, Hanley’s untimely injury may have bought Cruz more time with the Dodgers. Hanley is most certainly headed to the DL which would open up a spot for Gordon who is hitting over .300 in AAA, has significantly improved his strikeout to walk ratio (17 K’s to 14 BB’s)  and despite having 8 errors in 25 games, he’s getting on base nearly 40% of the time and doing what he does best stealing bases (14) and scoring runs (19). Right now the Dodgers need some kind of spark and Dee Gordon would provide that. Tonight’s difficult loss highlighted the Dodgers lack of speed in their lineup, especially with Carl Crawford out. Stick Gordon in the 8 hole forcing teams to pitch to him rather than walk him to get to the pitcher, let him get everyday at-bats and in doing so the Dodgers would virtually have 2 leadoff men with Dee and CC. The bottom of the Dodgers order has provided little to no offense. How could putting Dee in the lineup possibly not improve the offense, it’s not like Cruz or Sellers are hitting at all or getting on base. Even if Dee performs as poorly as he did last year he’s still better offensively than what Cruz and Sellers are providing.

The Dodgers management has stressed all year that they want the best possible defensive team on the field and “want to catch the ball” as best as they can. But how long can they continue to do this and watch the offense struggle and waste quality pitching like they got from Kershaw tonight? The other question is how long will they wait to put Mark Ellis on the DL and essentially field a 24 man roster while their opponents play with 25? It’s been nearly a week since Ellis injured his quad, and while he has participated in some baseball activities he hasn’t run, it’s obvious he’s not ready physically to play in a game, so why are the Dodgers not putting him on the DL.

The club is in complete disarray right now with numerous key players on the DL or dinged up and not in the lineup and in Mark Ellis‘s case simply wasting a roster spot. The club desperately needs to make some changes, it’s obvious by watching their offensive struggles that the club as assembled right now is not cutting it. What do they possibly have to lose by making a move, any kind of move that will add some life to the listless offense. There is simply no reason to stand pat any longer. Players who are not performing need to be replaced by more talented younger players who will play their backsides off because they don’t want to get sent back down to the minors.

Just look around MLB right now and look at how many clubs have turned to young talent to see if they can improve their squads. Jean Segura of Milwaukee seemed to help the Brewers when they just played the Dodgers. The Rockies weren’t shy in giving Nolan Arenado playing time and how did that work out for them against the Dodgers? Dodgers management and ownership has preached the importance of adding talent to the roster and not being shy in spending money to do so. Yet with all of those changes here we are watching Luis Cruz and Justin Sellers flounder offensively, while the club overall continues to struggle to score runs while falling further below .500.

If the object is to put the best talent on the field and the goal is to score more runs than your opponent, then it’s time for Dodgers to make changes to their current roster, who clearly isn’t getting the job done. It starts with putting Dee Gordon at SS and playing Uribe and Hairston at 3rd, and it doesn’t stop there. Chris Withrow is a potential power arm that a struggling bullpen could benefit from. Zach Lee could add another talented arm to the rotation joining fellow rookie Matt Magill if Chris Capuano struggles when he comes off the DL. I don’t want to even mention Yasiel Puig but the Dodgers do have some interleague games coming up in AL parks in which they could use a DH. Again you can have all of the stellar pitching you want, but if you can’t score runs you won’t win games.

No offense but the status quo simply isn’t getting the job done and unless the Dodgers are willing to make some obvious changes to a floundering offense, like other successful Major League teams are doing, then they are going to continue to struggle. A maddening beginning to the 2013 season took an ugly and frustrating turn for the worse Friday night. Dodgers fans can only hope that the decision makers will seize this unfortunate opportunity to make some much needed changes to a roster that has been decimated by injuries. The Dodgers left 13 runners on base against the Giants Friday night, they’ve been doing this all season, it’s time for changes to the roster, if changes aren’t made then the Dodgers are going to fall further behind the leaders in the NL West.

The front office has done a fantastic job of adding young talent to the Dodgers minor league system, it’s time to utilize some of that young talent. One youngster who might be on his way is Onelki Garcia, check out this great article on him from Jim Shonerd at Baseball America.

Tags: Los Angeles Dodgers

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