6 Underachieving Dodgers and Whether or Not Each Will Turn It Around

Robert PaceContributor IIIMay 16, 2012

6 Underachieving Dodgers and Whether or Not Each Will Turn It Around

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    Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have been keeping the Dodgers offense afloat with their consistent production at the plate, but what about the rest of the lineup?

    The Blue Crew may be off to an impressive 24-12 start, but in order for them to keep up their current pace, other key players like James Loney, Juan Rivera and Dee Gordon will have to step up and hold their end of the rope.

    The Dodgers not only need a few bats to warm up, but they also need some arms to heat up as well; closer Javy Guerra has had a tumultuous start to the season.

    Will these underachieving Dodgers be able to turn things around, or will they merely remain stagnant for the duration of the season?

James Loney

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    James Loney has never been an amazing player for the Dodgers, but he has been able to put up solid numbers for a few seasons.

    After the Dodgers signed him to a $6.3 million per year contract, Loney has had a lackluster start to the 2012 season.

    2012 so far: .227 BA .299 OBP 1 HR 8 RBI

    Projected (at current pace): .227 BA .299 OBP 5 HR 39 RBI

    Loney has had a few slumping months in his career, but none were as unproductive as his April and May to this point. In the past, even when Loney’s batting average has dipped, he has usually been able to still find a way to drive in runs.

    Although he had a below-average 2011 season, Loney was able to get it going towards the end of the season and capped it off on a high note with great offensive performances in August and September.

    Loney’s rocky start to the 2012 season is certainly concerning for the Dodgers, but don’t expect him to be stagnant for the remainder of the season.

    The Dodgers recently picked up veteran Bobby Abreu, who will compete with Loney for a starting position at first base, which should cause Loney to step up his game with some friendly intra-squad competition.

    Loney’s slow start has been defined not only by poor performance but also by a general lack of intensity. He won’t take his playing time for granted any longer if he has to compete for a spot on the team.

    He should pick up his offensive play shortly and begin to play a more important role in the Dodgers' lineup.

    Prediction: .275 BA .325 OBP 14 HR 75 RBI

Juan Uribe

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    Uribe had a great 2010 season for the Giants and was phenomenal for them in their World Series playoff run.

    However, the Giants must have known that he was on his decline because they made an excellent move by getting rid of him while he was hot.

    As a Dodger last season, the Dominican Republic native hit .204 with four home runs and 28 RBI in 77 games (his lowest since his rookie season—72 games played).

    2012 so far: .247 BA .293 OBP 1 HR 9 RBI

    Projected (at current pace): .247 BA .293 OBP 5 HR 45 RBI

    Not only has Uribe been a mediocre player just as he was last year, but he is also at a disadvantage with a nagging wrist injury, which will probably see him on the bench more than the Dodgers would like.

    At 33, Uribe has passed the prime of his career and probably won’t be putting up numbers anywhere near where Don Mattingly and his coaching staff would like for a third baseman.

    His body is getting to the age where it can no longer support his awkward, explosive swing; fans are worried that he may blow a gasket if he swings too hard and misses.

    Uribe seems to have plenty of passion for the game and is a very admirable guy, but his days in the MLB are numbered and I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn't wearing a Dodger uniform at the end of the season.

    Prediction: .233 BA .290 OBP 3 HR 28 RBI

Dee Gordon

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    In the 56 games that he played last season after he was called up from the minors to replace shortstop Rafael Furcal, Gordon showed some eye-catching potential by hitting .304 with 24 stolen bases.

    However, Gordon is off to a slow start this season despite hitting his first major-league home run. He nearly has as many strikeouts (25) in 32 games this season as he did in 56 games (27) last year.

    2012 so far: .218 BA .258 OBP 1 HR 8 RBI 12 SB

    Projected (at current pace): .218 BA .258 OBP 5 HR 39 RBI 59 SB

    As a leadoff hitter, Gordon probably won’t drive in too many runs, but the Dodgers need their 24-year-old shortstop to get on base more and set the tone for their offense.

    He is still get acclimated to big league ball, so it may take some time for him to be where the Dodgers would like him to be.

    With his tremendous speed, he forces pitchers to pay more attention to him instead of the batter when he is on base, subsequently causing the meat of the lineup to see better pitches.

    Although Dee has been struggling to get on base lately, he will work his way out of his current slump sometime in June.

    Prediction: .290 BA .340 OBP 2 HR 40 RBI 65 SB

Juan Rivera

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    A career .276 hitter, Rivera has gotten off to a slow start in the 2012 season and won’t be amending it anytime soon now that he is now on the 15-day disabled list with a torn hamstring.

    While he is expected to recover by mid-July at the latest, he probably won’t see too much playing time when he returns. He will most likely be used as a pinch hitter until Don Mattingly is completely confident that his hamstring isn’t an issue in the outfield.

    2012 so far: .247 BA .276 OBP 2 HR 13 RBI

    Projected (at current pace): .247 BA .276 OBP 10 HR 66 RBI

    With a serious injury keeping him sidelined, Rivera will probably play around 60 games this season (25 to this point) if he’s lucky.

    When he returns from injury, it will probably take some time for him to get back in a groove, so his 2012 season probably won’t be a strong one in his 11-year career.

    Predicted: .265 BA .302 BA 6 HR 30 RBI

Aaron Harang

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    While Harang caused some excitement when he struck out nine batters in a row against the Padres (coincidentally, the 10th batter hit a home run), he consistently gives up too many runs and puts increased pressure on the Dodgers’ offense.

    Harang had a career year last season with the Padres (14-7 3.64 ERA), but when he has started this season for the Dodgers, the Blue Crew have lost four games (two losses charged to him) and won three, which is the worst record of all of their pitchers.

    His stats were averaged out a little bit on Saturday when he pitched eight innings with one earned run—his best start of the season.

    2012 so far: 2-2 4.46 ERA .264 BAA 34 K

    Projected (at current pace): 10-10 4.46 ERA .264 BAA 167 K

    Looking at Harang’s projected stats, you might think that he was having an average season. While that’s debatable, he’s getting hit well by the opposition and (except for his start on Saturday) gives up too many runs.

    Hats off to him for a good outing on Saturday, but Harang will be the weakest pitcher in the Dodgers’ rotation this season. When he begins to face teams for the second time, they will most likely tee-off on him, as he’s not a multifaceted pitcher.

    Predicted: 8-12 5.10 ERA .268 BAA 95 K

Javy Guerra

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    Javy Guerra showed enormous potential last year coming in as the Dodgers' closer towards the end of the season and recording 21 saves (with only two blown saves) and a 2.31 earned run average.

    This year hasn’t been nearly as successful for Guerra, as he has diverged from the positive path that he was on last season as a rookie.

    Perhaps Guerra was a little shaken when he took a line drive off the jaw (and, to the surprise of many, remained on his feet) but whatever the case may be, he has blown three saves early in the season and has been unofficially replaced as closer by Kenley Jansen.

    2012 so far: 1-3 5.14 ERA 17 K 8 SV 3 BLSV

    Projected (at current pace): 5-15 5.14 ERA 86 K 41 SV 15 BLSV

    While Guerra may be off to a slow start, he certainly won’t reach his poor projected stats and should be able to find traction before the All-Star break.

    He may swap roles with Kenley Jansen and fill the set-up man role instead of being the Dodgers' regular closer, but Guerra will be a significant reliever for the Boys in Blue regardless.

    He still has some developing to do at 26 years old, so it may take him a little while to fine-tune his major-league game, but Guerra has a future in the MLB.

    The Dodgers can’t quite rely on him yet to be their everyday closer, but the man has potential.

    Predicted: 4-4 3.20 ERA 90 K 35 SV (if the closer) 7 BLSV

Recap

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    Loney, Uribe, Gordon and Rivera haven’t been swinging it well so far in 2012. While Uribe and Rivera don’t look so promising due to age and injury, Loney and Gordon should step it up and become critical complements to Kemp and Ethier, who will slump eventually as all major league hitters do at some point during the season.

    The Dodgers’ starting pitching has been solid to start the season, so even if Harang is mediocre they'll still be well off on the mound.

    The bullpen has been shaky and might need an established veteran arm or rising star, but Javy Guerra will be able to turn it on once he finds his groove again after a rough stretch to start the season.

    The Dodgers are off to a great start, and in order to preserve their current pace, they will need the majority of the aforementioned players to step up.