Los Angeles Dodgers: Handing out Some April Grades

Ross Zelen@@RZelenCorrespondent IIMay 4, 2011

Los Angeles Dodgers: Handing out Some April Grades

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers, dealing with a Major League Baseball takeover, numerous injuries and victims of some bad luck, limped to a 14-15 record in April. Manager Don Mattingly has had to make difficult decisions not only because of injuries to starters such as Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake, but also because of poor performances such as the decline of both James Loney and Jonathan Broxton

    Overall, the Dodgers have played very similar to most people's expectations. However, most people picked the Dodgers to finish in the lower part of the National League Western Division. A mediocre record will cause more changes to be made, more than just the promotion of Jerry Sands and his immediate influence. It will be the bullpen, such as Kenley Jansen being sent down to Double-A Chattanooga on Sunday. It will be the bench, which currently consists of Ivan De Jesus (.167 average) and Russell Mitchell, who no one expected to be on the team. 

    May will prove whether the Dodgers will merely sink, or if they can rise up out of inconsistency and run off a string of wins. Can Ned Colletti make a move to help them? Will the ownership issues prevent any moves?

    Let's take a look back at how the Dodgers fared in April by handing out some grades to each aspect of the squad...

Dodger Offense Pulls a B-Minus After a Slow Start

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 18:  Pitcher Jonathan Broxton #51 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts during a ninth inning rally by the Atlanta Braves on April 18, 2011 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 4-2.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Get
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Los Angeles Offense: B-minus

    So far, the Dodgers offense has been the Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp show. Ethier, with a 28-game hitting streak is halfway to the great Joe DiMaggio's 56-game record. Ethier has posted MVP quality numbers this season, with a .374 average, .442 on-base percentage and .539 slugging percentage. Ethier has 13 extra-base hits already this season, second on the team to Kemp's impressive 14 extra-base knocks. Kemp has six home runs this season and an incredible .368 average. He leads the team with 19 RBI. 

    James Loney has really fallen apart so far this season, hovering around .200 without any power production. Loney has been benched in recent games with Sands taking his spot at first. Jamey Carroll has a .342 on-base percentage replacing Rafael Furcal and catcher Rod Barajas has showed off his strength with five home runs, though he is only batting .209.

    Barajas has been struggling to put the ball in play with 24 strikeouts so far, striking out in more than 25 percent of his at-bats. Juan Uribe has also struck out more than 20 percent of the time, drawing ire from fans who complained about his $21 million dollar contract. Uribe has been hot of late, raising his average to around .250.

Dodger Pitching Staff Gets a Mediocre C After Disappointing Fans

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    Clayton Kershaw, seen here during a wonderful start against the Braves, has failed to bring his A-game in every start.
    Clayton Kershaw, seen here during a wonderful start against the Braves, has failed to bring his A-game in every start.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Los Angeles Pitching: C

    After a great 2010 for the Dodgers pitchers, most expected them to have one of the most dominant rotations in all of baseball. This has not been the case, as injuries and poor performance has hindered the Dodgers in the early going. Clayton Kershaw has been extraordinary at moments this season, recording five quality starts already, two of them without allowing any runs. However, two bad starts have mired his ERA and his hopes of competing for a Cy Young award, as he stands with a 3-3 record and a 3.38 ERA.

    On the flip side, Hiroki Kuroda has been very consistent so far this year, leading the team with a 3.10 ERA. With a team ERA of 4.32 ranking 11th in the National League, Dodger hurlers have a lot to improve upon. Hopefully the return of Jon Garland will bring stability to the rotation and Hong-Chih Kuo and Padilla can shore up the bullpen.

    Matt Guerrier (three holds and a 3.96 ERA), Mike MacDougal (0.96 ERA) and Blake Hawksworth (2.87 ERA) have all been solid in relief, but the failures of Jonathan Broxton (5.68 ERA) and Hong-Chih Kuo (15 ERA in only three innings though) have been too much to take for many Dodger fans. Vicente Padilla has been successful in limited appearances and expect Padilla to appear in many more crucial situations. 

Dodgers Show Improvement Defensively, Receive a Solid B-Plus

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 21:  Juan Uribe #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers plays against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on April 21, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Los Angeles Defense: B-plus

    The Dodgers have thrown away games because of poor defense. A ninth inning collapse against the Marlins was the fault of Jamey Carroll missing an easy ground ball and Jerry Sands misplaying a catchable line drive, not Jonathan Broxton for pitching. Overall, however, the Dodgers have played very respectable defense.

    Sure, Casey Blake has made three errors to lead the team, but he is 38-years-old and playing a young man's position. Juan Uribe has played outstanding defense, along with Aaron Miles who has filled in beautifully for Blake. In the outfield, Kemp and Ethier have been nothing short of fantastic, and everyone who has played left field this year has done well.

    Obviously defensive-minded Tony Gwynn Jr. has been exceptional in his playing time, but even the raw Jerry Sands and Marcus Thames, once thought of as a defensive liability, have done well. Rod Barajas has thrown out 22 percent of would-be base-stealers, which is around average for the entire league. The pitchers have also been exceptionally good at fielding their position, with Clayton Kershaw making a couple highlight reels with his athleticism on bunts. 

    Overall, the Dodgers have overcome their few mistakes with a lot of fundamental plays and a lot of Web Gems.

Conclusion: Improvements Must Be Made in May

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 01:  Jon Garland #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers tosses to first base for an out in the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on May 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Overall, the Dodgers need to make some improvements if they want to compete for an NL West title. It will be interesting to see what Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly do as many aspects of the team need immediate help. 

    One thing is for certain though: the Dodgers have enough talent to win their division, it's just a matter of getting it done.