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Los Angeles Dodgers Report Card: First Quarter Evaluations

Dennis SchlossmanCorrespondent IMay 21, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 09:  Blake DeWitt #33 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is congratulated by teammate Russell Martin #55 after scoring on a single by Jamey Caroll (not pictured) in the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on May 9, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Rockies 2-0.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The first 40 games of the season are in the books, and when compiling the report card for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the first quarter can pretty much be summed up in two words—roller coaster.

Undoubtedly, injuries have plagued the boys in blue already during the young season.

At some point or another, the Dodgers have had seven players visit the disabled list, and have heavily relied on bench play or minor league call-ups to pick up the slack.

Despite the injuries, Los Angeles finds themselves in third place in the NL West, registering a 22-18 record at the beginning of the day on May 20.

A large number of the wins have occurred during their nine-game win streak, which came to a halt on May 19 at the hands of the division leading San Diego Padres.

When the overall play of the Dodgers is dissected into specific areas, several interesting elements are discovered. Numerous facts, figures, and statistics representing these areas are shown below.

Batting

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In terms of batting average, the Dodgers rank second in the National League with a .274 overall mark.

As expected, Los Angeles hits much better at home (.288 avg.) compared to the road (.264 avg.) But what's interesting is that when facing right-handed pitching, the Dodgers are hitting a stellar .286, as opposed to a meager .239 against lefties.

Despite a more than adequate batting average, the power numbers aren't as impressive.

Los Angeles ranks fifth in the NL with a .427 slugging percentage; their 36 total home-runs rank eighth in the league.

The Arizona Diamondbacks total HR count of 53 allows this number to be put into a clearer perspective.

While the Dodgers also rank second in the NL with a .346 on-base percentage, their total run production ranks fourth (208), and their RBI output also ranks fourth, at 198.

Los Angeles is positioned in fourth place when stealing bases, registering 28 total. The Padres are far and away the leaders of this category in the NL with 49 stolen bags.

Considering individual efforts, the Dodgers are primarily spear-headed by the superior play of three hitters: Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and James Loney.

Prior to landing on the disabled list, Ethier sported a .392 average, 11 home-runs and 38 RBI, all of which lead the National League. Matt Kemp (.282/8/25) and James Loney (.298/4/27) have picked up the slack for Ethier.

Casey Blake, who recently elevated his offensive production, is also a chief contributor with five home-runs and 24 RBI, while Russell Martin is also among the team leaders with four round-trippers.

On the basepaths, although only playing in 19 games, Rafael Furcal still possesses the team lead with eight steals.

Kemp, depite being caught eight times, is second on the team with six stolen bases. Surprisingly, James Loney also has six steals to his credit.

Kemp is far and away the team leader with 34 runs scored. He also leads the team with 18 walks during the first quarter of the season.

Despite having above-average numbers in just about every single offensive category, the Dodgers still lack offensive consistency. When the bats are hot, they are unstoppable; but when the bats are tepid, they are pretty much lifeless.

Overall grade for batting: A-

Starting Pitching

Without  a doubt, starting pitching has been the biggest problem area for Los Angeles during the first quarter of the season.

Opening day starter Vicente Padilla only had four starts to his credit before landing on the DL, and with the injury to their original fifth starter Charlie Haeger, the Dodgers are still suffering.

With a 4.45 overall earned-run-average, Los Angeles ranks 11th in the National League.

Surprisingly, they have a much better ERA on the road (4.07) compared to when pitching at home (4.86).

Coincidentally, the San Diego Padres have the lowest ERA in the NL at 2.74.

The Dodgers have a somewhat respectable batting-average-against figure, as they reflect the sixth lowest in the league with a mark of .252; however, Dodger opponents have thrived on bases on balls.

The Dodgers have the third highest total of free passes given with 159.

Los Angeles ranks third in the National League with 312 strikeouts.

Of the 199 total runs given up, 177 have been earned, which ranks sixth in the NL. Los Angeles does rank eighth in terms of quality starts at 20.

Individually, Hiroki Kuroda, Chad Billingsley, and Clayton Kershaw all lead the team with eight starts. Rookie John Ely has chipped in with four games started.

Kuroda has the most wins with five, followed by Billingsley with four, and Kershaw with three.

Kuroda also leads the team with 53.1 innings pitched. Kershaw is credited with 45.2, while Billingsley recorded 44.2.

Another interesting statistic is pitches per start, where John Ely leads the team with 106.5, followed by Kershaw with 105.4, Kuroda with 98.6 and Billingsley with 92.1. 

Kershaw is first on the team with 52 strikeouts, while Kuroda and Billingsley are tied with 39 Ks apiece.

Kershaw is far and away leader among the starters with walks at 29, while Billingsley has given up 19, and Kuroda 14.

In terms of WHIP (walks+hits per inning), John Ely has the lowest among starters with a .94 mark. Hiroki Kuroda's WHIP is 1.28, followed by Kershaw at 1.36 and Billingsley at 1.41.

Many Dodger fans still insist that Los Angeles needs to sign an additional starting pitcher, while some believe that the staff will be just fine upon the return of Padilla.

Seemingly, Ely has already earned a starting spot for the remainder of the season, but the looming question is what to do until Padilla does indeed return.

One tactic not yet explored by Manager Joe Torre is the use of a four-man rotation.

Regardless, the Dodgers need to show much more consistency with the starters if they plan to make a run at the NL West. 

Overall grade for starting pitching: C-

Bullpen

Despite having probably the most productive bullpen in the National League in 2009, the Dodger relievers have struggled for the vast majority of the first quarter of 2010.

Ronald Belisario started the season on the restricted list, but upon returning still hasn't found his true form.

Corey Wade isn't expected back until June, and the first quarter has been nothing but a nightmare for George Sherrill.

Ramon Troncoso has been very inconsistent, but still leads the Dodgers in appearances with 23.

Despite his misfortunes on the mound, Sherrill follows Troncoso with 21, followed by Jonathan Broxton with 16 and Jeff Weaver with 15 appearances.

The sole bright spot for the bullpen has been Broxton, who leads the team with a 1.15 ERA and 7 saves.

George Sherrill and Ronald Belisario rank the lowest among Dodger relievers in terms of ERA at 7.71 and 5.56 respectively.

Ramon Ortiz, who has been used both as a starter and a reliever posts a 6.30 earned-run average. Ortiz also leads all Dodgers pitchers with five homeruns surrendered.

Hong-Chih Kuo has been excellent since coming off of the disabled list, but continues to be used sparingly by Torre, due to his previous injury.

Kuo leads all Dodger pitchers with a .60 WHIP, followed by Broxton at .89. Sherrill posts a team-low 2.29 WHIP.

Carlos Monasterios, who has also been used as both a spot starter and a reliever, posts a 1.90 ERA in 12 total appearances.

In terms of innings pitched out of the bullpen, Troncoso leads the team with 20.2, followed by Broxton at 15.2 and Sherrill at 14.0.

Los Angeles has lost more than several games determined by poor efforts in the bullpen. There's plenty of talent present; and only time will tell who will be the most productive set-up men for Broxton.

As Torre continues to use an inconsistent mix, look for more consistency in the near future.

Seeing less than stellar production from George Sherrill and Ramon Ortiz makes one wonder where their futures lie.

Overall grade for bullpen: D

Fielding

In 2009, with a healthy Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson up the middle, the Dodgers' infield was among the best in the business. But with Furcal seeing limited duty due to a injured hamstring, and Hudson having moved on to the Minnesota Twins, the Dodgers had to bring in Blake DeWitt at second base, and Jamey Carroll has seen quite a bit of time at shortstop.

As a team, the Dodgers have made 28 errors, which is the sixth most in the NL.

Casey Blake leads the team with six errors, which is one less than Andy LaRoche, who leads all NL third baseman with seven. Jamey Carroll rounds out the infield with the second most errors with three.

In the outfield, Matt Kemp has the only two errors, both being very critical game-breakers when they occurred.

On a bright note, Xavier Paul has the only two assists made in the outfield all season.

Los Angeles has the 11th lowest fielding percentage overall in the NL at .981.

Look for the fielding statistics to improve when Furcal settles back into his normal role at shortstop.

Overall grade for fielding: C

Bench Play

Primarily, the Dodgers have used four players off of the bench: Ronnie Belliard, Reed Johnson, Garret Anderson, and Xavier Paul.

Of those four, Belliard has been the most productive with the bat, going 16 for 54 with nine RBI, registering a .296 average.

Xavier Paul is almost as impressive with a .278 average, going 10 for 36 overall.

Reed Johnson (.258 average) posts three doubles and a pair of triples while going 17 for 66.

Garret Anderson has the most disappointing numbers of the four with a meager .131 average, and has only eight base hits in 61 official at-bats.

If Anderson's numbers don't improve soon, there's not much sense to keep him on the active roster. 

Anderson's performance in the next month should determine his fate with the squad.

Overall grade for bench play: C

*****

Although the grades shown above are predominantly average or below, the Dodgers overall record is an indicator of how valuable the offense has been during the first quarter of the season.

Thus, the batting grade carries a higher weight than the other factors.

Heading into the second quarter, health will be an important factor for the success of the club.

With a minor foot injury to Manny Ramirez and Ethier out of the line-up, the Dodgers went into Wednesday night's game against the Padres with a very thin outfield.

Pitching still remains a huge problem and many questions linger.

If the starters can indeed build consistency and stay healthy, look for Los Angeles to hover atop the NL West during the second quarter; assuming the bats stay somewhat warm.

Looking further into the third quarter, if the Dodgers can add some additional talent via trade without sacrificing too much, they should be a contender down the stretch. 

Overall grade for first quarter of the season: C+

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