Manny Ramirez to Stir Up Stagnant Los Angeles Dodgers Offense

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IJuly 2, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 30:  Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates a 8-5 win with Manny Ramirez #99 and Andre Ethier #16 over the San Diego Padres after the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium on April 30, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers would win 8-5.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

It’s official: Manny Ramirez has returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers active roster.

Shortly after beating the Colorado Rockies 1-0 on Wednesday afternoon, the Dodgers placed Ramirez back on the 25-man roster. They sent catcher AJ Ellis back to Triple-A Albuquerque and designated Mitch Jones for assignment in order to clear roster space for Ramirez.

Jones had to be designated for assignment because Manny was not occupying a spot on the 40-man roster during his suspension; so in order to clear enough room for him Jones had to be removed from it.

I don’t need to fill you in on the details of the whole ordeal, because quite frankly, I have been on Manny overload since he was suspended May 7.

This article is instead going to focus on the impact Manny will have on the Dodgers offense when he returns.

No opinions about his suspected PED usage, or if he should be on the All-Star ballot, or if he is still a Hall of Famer, or if he should have been allowed to play in the minors before returning.

No, this article is about what actually matters.

The only thing that needs to be discussed is how Manny can help the Dodgers make a run at winning heir first World Series championship since 1988.

I couldn’t be more excited as a Dodgers fan to see those big dreadlocks waving in the batters box tomorrow night. The Dodgers went a very respectable 28-21 in his absence but Manny is much needed in the middle of a Dodgers’ offense that has struggled recently.

Ramirez will make his first appearance on Friday night at PETCO Park when the Dodgers play the San Diego Padres and couldn’t be rejoining the team at a better time.

In the three-game series against the Rockies that wrapped up yesterday, the Dodgers’ offense scored just five runs. Add in the final two games of the previous series with the Seattle Mariners and they’ve notched just eight runs in the past five games.

Plugging Manny back into the third spot in the lineup will hopefully spark a fire under the offense and will be a welcome sight for manager Joe Torre.

"Hopefully, Manny will give us a more consistent offense," Torre said. "We've been lucky to win a lot of close games. We've made the most out of the runs we've scored. But I think the presence he brings to the lineup is a security blanket for the rest of the guys."

That security blanket will hopefully shore up some gaping holes in the Dodgers lineup.

Juan Pierre did an exceptional job filling in for Manny during his time off. He batted .319 and collected 14 doubles, while stealing 20 bases in his 49 starts in left field.

Pierre will be rewarded for his efforts with getting a couple of games a week in order to give other Dodgers a rest. He will still be an important asset to the Dodgers club, just in an adjusted role.

A benefit of Pierre going to the bench will be Rafael Furcal assuming his more comfortable position in the leadoff spot in the lineup.

Furcal produces much better from batting leadoff and has seen a dip in his overall numbers since Pierre was introduced into the everyday lineup.

Here are Furcal’s number from while Manny was playing and in Manny’s absence.

                          Games    Avg.     OBP     Runs    RBI

Apr. 6-May 6         26      .264      .336      21        9

May 7-Jul. 1           44      .220      .239      14        7

Furcal will benefit from moving to his preferred spot in the order and it should have a chain effect on others who play everyday.

The biggest impact Manny will make might be on fellow outfielder Andre Ethier. Take a look at the production differences for Ethier before and after Manny’s suspension.

                            Games    Avg.    HR    RBI    SO     BB

Apr. 6- May 6          29       .317      6      27      16     20

May 7-Jul. 1            47       .225      9      25      40     16

Ethier clearly benefits from the presence of Manny in the lineup. Although Andre has provided multiple game tying hits and walk-off hits at crucial moments, he has been very streaky without the steady presence of Ramirez in front of him in the order.

Moving Ethier to the cleanup spot will also give him more opportunities to drive in runs. He drove in two more runs in the 29 games with Manny than in 49 without Manny.

Those non-Manny numbers also include last Friday’s three home run and six RBI evening against the Mariners.

The most staggering statistic without Manny in the lineup is the amount of strikeout-to-walks Ethier gets.

Ethier has been pressing extra hard without Ramirez in the lineup, which has resulted in an exceptionally high SO/BB ratio of 2.5-to-1. With Manny in the lineup, the number was a miniscule to 0.8-to-1 SO/BB ratio.

Still not convinced Manny is desperately needed?

Lets look at Orlando Hudson, the shining star of the Dodger off-season. Hudson has assumed the third spot in the Dodgers order. He is not your typical three-hitter as he has more gap power than home run power.

Surprisingly, Manny’s absence had a similar affect on Hudson’s SO/BB ratio as it did on Ethier’s.

                        Games    Avg.    Doubles    RBI    SO    BB

Apr. 6- May 6       29      .342          10         17      12    17

May 7-Jul. 1         47      .269          12         24      42    18

That means his ratio was .71-to-1 SO/BB with Manny, and a 2.33-to-1 ratio without Manny. Hudson shares the similar problems that Ethier did.

Both players started to press extra hard put more focus on each plate appearance to produce important extra base hits for a team that lacks power. The result was less patience at the plate and poor pitch selection.

So with Furcal, Ethier, and Hudson in big slumps without Manny, how have the Dodgers been able to extend their lead in the NL West without Manny in the lineup?

The Dodgers held a six-and-a-half game lead when Manny was suspended and when he steps on the field tomorrow they sit on a seven game cushion above the Giants.

The answer: that “other guy” they traded for shortly before acquiring Ramirez last summer. And that “other guy” they signed in free agency this offseason.

Casey Blake was traded to Los Angeles from the Cleveland Indians last July 26 for two minor league players. His contract expired at the end of the season, but he took a pay cut and resigned with the Dodgers for just $5 million for the ’09 campaign (he made $6.1 million in ’08).

This season, Blake has done more than play a Gold Glove-caliber third base. He has been on an offensive tear ever since the Dodgers lost their prized possession.

While fans were busy discussing the impressive performance of Pierre, Blake was overlooked as the most important piece of the Dodgers offense.

                             Games    Avg.     HR    RBI    SO    BB

Apr. 6- May 6          28        .225       5      15      25    11

May 7-Jul. 1            45        .321       6      33      30    15

One might say that the 35-year-old veteran could regress when Manny returns to the order. I don’t believe that will happen because Blake’s slow start wasn’t a result of Manny being in the order.

Blake was batting either seventh or eighth while Manny was in the order and continued to do so while Manny was gone. From May 6 through May 27 while staying the seventh or eighth spot, Blake hit .422 with 17 RBI in 17 games.

That streak finally forced Torre to bump Blake into the middle of the order. He has actually hit just .266 with 15 RBI in 25 games since moving to the four and five spots in the order.

What this shows is that Blake’s slow start was more an issue of getting into his own rhythm and not related to Manny. At this point in his career Blake appears to be more effective as an anchor at the bottom of the order.

Hopefully, this breakdown of the Dodgers offense has helped shed some light on the immediate impact of Manny’s much anticipated return to the Dodgers lineup.

Ramirez will join the team and take part in a road trip that runs into the All-Star break. That will give the media circus time to go into a frenzy for the next week-and-a-half but then get a pleasant distraction for the All-Star festivities.

The Dodgers’ clubhouse will undoubtedly be swarming with writers trying to ask “hard-hitting” questions about the suspension and everything surrounding it.

Honestly, it’s a complete non-issue. Manny has served his time and now he is back.

Torre said of the how the crowd might treat Manny, "People come out to the ballpark, they want to be entertained. They want to come out here and get away from their own problems. They don't really want to delve into a lot of stuff."

Hall of Fame Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully said it best during the broadcast on Wednesday afternoon.

Scully was talking about how so many people have approached him to ask about the crowd reception. Vin very matter-of-factly said, “Who in the world knows how a crowd will act?”

And Vinny couldn’t be more correct.

Who knows and who cares what the crowd might say or the signs they might bring. Who knows and who cares what the ESPN analysts think about Manny’s affect on the history of the game.

All I know is that Manny Ramirez, the most dangerous right-handed hitter of the past generation and the man who carried the Dodgers into the NLCS last season, returns tomorrow night.

So welcome back Manny, the Blue Crew is in need of your services.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.