by Sam Kluender
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been short of stellar so far this season. In fact, they have been downright awful. The Dodgers came into this season with the 2nd highest payroll in baseball at just over $215 million dollars, trailing only the New York Yankees and their $230 million dollar payroll. A team with that type of payroll should be an extremely good baseball team, or at least .500. Yet the Dodgers, as of May 23th, are sitting on a pitiful 18-26 record. They are at the bottom of the NL West and have the 23rd worst record in the MLB.
Matt Kemp, in a way, personifies the entire Dodgers offense. When he struggles, the Dodgers tend to struggle, and Kemp has been in a season long slump. The Dodgers star centerfielder is hitting .270/.319/.356/.675 with only 2 home runs and 15 RBI's. Oh, and he also has 50 strikeouts which put him in the top 10 in the NL. Likewise, the Dodgers have not been hitting for power. Compared to the rest of the NL, they are down in the dumps with only 31 home runs. You can blame part of this on the ballpark they play in, but even taking the ballpark into consideration, they're still lacking big time in power.
A team doesnï¿½t have to hit a ton of home runs to be good, and a team who hit a lot of home runs arenï¿½t necessarily great either(see the Rockies). Their lack of power isn't the reason why they are struggling so mightily in the offensive category(although it doesn't help). It's their god-awful hitting with RISP. The Dodgers as a team actually have a pretty good batting average and OBP. They rank 13th in BA at .256 and 10th in OBP at .328. They are hitting the ball just well, but they arenï¿½t getting any runs.
Their BA with RISP is at .219 which is towards the bottom of the MLB. Even worse, they are currently running a .293 SLG w/ RISP which ranks dead last. In fact, they are the only team in the MLB with a SLG w/ RISP under .300. In today's world of baseball, pitchers rule the game. Teams arenï¿½t getting as many hits as they used to, so when there are RISP, teams must cash in.
Many notable Dodger players have/have had slumps this season which has lead to this low production of runs. Injuries, however, have played the largest role in this downward spiral. It seems like every player on their team has faced injuries that have either put them on the DL or have been nagging at them for quite sometime. Josh Beckett, Jerry Hairston Jr., Mark Ellis, and Hanley Ramirez, Ted Lilly, Stephen Fife, Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley, Scot Elbert, Shawn Tolleson, and Zack Greinke have all been on or are on the DL. Adrian Gonzalez has also missed some games with random issues with his neck and a crazy skin infection. Matt Kemp is interesting though. There has been no public knowledge of any injuries with Kemp, something looks wrong. He isnï¿½t playing like himself, He isnï¿½t driving the ball much at all and is hitting more ground balls than he ever has.
Let's look on the positive side. Most of the injured players are back and those who are still on the DL, notably Hanley Ramirez, will be back soon. Once Mattingly has all his players back, he can finally set up a pretty scary looking lineup card. The Dodgers have also had some pretty good starting pitching. Kershaw has been pitching like a Cy Young winning all year, Greinke(when healthy) has been great, and their young Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu has been phenomenal.
Right now it is hard to watch the Dodgers play. They still arenï¿½t scoring runs and their committing too many errors, especially in the outfield. That said, there is still a great amount of optimism to be had. Their pitching should stay relatively consistent throughout the season. It is hard to believe Matt Kemp is going to continue to struggle like he has. So when he finally comes around, expect the Dodgers to start winning more series.
Be patient Dodger fans, there is still a lot of season left.