Los Angeles Dodgers: 5 Positive Notes for the Struggling Blue Crew
The 2013 season has not started the way the Los Angeles Dodgers had anticipated it would.
Marred by injuries, stymied by slumps, the Blue Crew is 11-12 nearly a month into the season. This team, with a sky-scraping payroll, has struggled to manufacture runs and above all, win games.
The Dodgers had recently reached the .500 mark for the first time in eight games after posting back-to-back home wins against the Milwaukee Brewers, but drifted back to choppy waters on Saturday night with a loss to the Brewers.
However, amid the plethora of the Dodgers’ downfalls, there have been some positive happenings.
There’s no denying that the Blue Crew have struggled early on, but there are some encouraging trends that suggest they may soon break out of their slump.
1. Kemp’s Beyond His Slump
It’s taken the Dodgers’ star center fielder Matt Kemp some time to find his groove in the 2013 season after having surgery on his shoulder in the offseason, but he seems to have finally done so in the past week.
Although he began the season hitting .182 in the Dodgers’ first 15 games, Kemp has hit .433 in his past eight games, notching multiple-hit games in five of those games.
The Dodgers have plenty of power in their lineup, but Kemp is their most important hitter because he often sets the tone for the team as its principal leader.
Despite his recent success at the plate, Kemp still looks like he’ll need some more time to work his way up back to his old self, but he’s nevertheless hitting the ball again, which is great news for the Dodgers.
2. Crawford Is Living Up to the Hype
He could hit, field, was fast as lightning and always gave his all in everything he did on the field.
That’s exactly the player he’s been with the Dodgers so far.
Crawford is filling the Dodgers’ longstanding void in the leadoff spot particularly well, hitting .298 with a .385 on-base percentage.
On top of that, he’s active on the base paths and has been reliable in leftfield.
3. A-Gon Is Thriving
Other than being scratched from the starting lineup on Saturday due a skin infection on his leg, Adrian Gonzalez has experienced no hitches in the beginning of his first full season in Los Angeles.
Although the first baseman, who spent five seasons playing in his native California with the San Diego Padres, fared well in his abbreviated season first season with the Dodgers (.297 BA, .344 OBP, 3 HR, 22 RBI), he has performed much better so far this season.
Not only does the 6'2", 225-pound leftie look more comfortable on the diamond this season, but he has also been the Blue Crew’s top offensive performer thus far.
Twenty-three games into the season, Gonzalez leads the Dodgers in batting average (.354), hits (29), on-base percentage (.427) and runs batted in (17).
Although the production from the remainder of the Dodgers’ order has been scattered, Gonzalez has been a consistent offensive force for the team this season.
4. Mark Ellis Is a Machine
Mark Ellis has flourished this season sandwiched between Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp in the batting order.
Because of his reserved personality, the 10-year veteran’s accomplishments often go under the radar, but his performance so far this season yearns for acknowledgement.
Nearly a month into the season, Ellis flaunts the highest batting average at his position in the entire major leagues (.342)—over both the Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia and Yankees’ Robinson Cano.
Ellis’ offensive performance early on in his second season in Los Angeles is very encouraging to the Blue Crew, considering that he hit a mediocre .258 last season after hitting .247 in April.
Above all, the 35-year-old is a fielding machine at second base. With 80 total chances (putouts plus assists) in 23 games, Ellis has been flawless in the field and has yet to make an error.
5. The Rotation Is Chugging Along
The Dodgers’ starting rotation has been just that this season—a rotation of various pitchers.
Although the team had a surplus of starters with the influx of South Korean ace Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke and Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly returning from the disabled list, the Blue Crew is down to three of its original starters (Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett).
The team even had its replacement for Chad Billingsley, Stephen Fife, fall to injury, increasing the tally to four injured Dodgers starters in the first month of the season.
Nevertheless, the Dodgers have managed to keep afoot despite the earth-shaking shifting around in the rotation.
Thanks to solid efforts from Kershaw, Ryu and even Fife’s replacement, rookie Matt Magill—who struck out seven and gave up two runs in 6.2 innings pitched in his major-league debut on Saturday—the Blue Crew’s rotation has survived the setbacks.
After 23 games, the Dodgers’ starting rotation ranks in the top 10 in MLB in ERA (9th, 3.54), total ER (9th, 54) strikeouts (8th, 129), and WHIP (9th, 1.22).