Los Angeles Dodgers: Can This Team Win Without Matt Kemp?
At 32-18, they enjoyed a 5.5 game lead in the NL West over the second-place San Francisco Giants.
Since then, they've gone 11-15, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Giants—who have now pulled into an even tie with Los Angeles at the top of the NL West standings.
With Kemp in the lineup, the Dodgers were one of baseball's biggest surprises. Without him, they're what many pundits figured they would be: a middle-of-the-pack club in the National League West.
Coming into play on Wednesday, L.A. owned baseball's second-best team ERA at 3.30—behind only the Washington Nationals. With a staff led by the reigning NL Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers have the pitching to win ballgames.
On the offensive side, the Dodgers have struggled mightily without the slugging centerpiece of their lineup. L.A. is currently 22nd in baseball in runs scored (302) and, since Kemp hit the DL, Los Angeles has averaged just 3.2 runs per game.
Over that span of 26 games, they've been shut out five times—including three straight times this week in San Francisco. While in the Bay Area, with a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics a week prior to the series against the Giants, they were outscored 24-2 in six games.
By contrast, before Kemp was injured, the Dodgers scored 4.4 runs per game and had been shut out just once in twice as many contests.
If the Dodgers can't turn their hitting woes into more production before Kemp returns to action, questions will linger as to how deep this club is offensively.
If Kemp returns and has a slump at the wrong time, like down the stretch during a playoff push, the Dodgers could find themselves falling out of contention after a torrid start to 2012.
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