Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Maybe Crawford is more valuable than we thought

When I Googled the phrase "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," here is what came up:

"The lack of something increases the desire for it."

When it comes to the Dodgers these days, that can mean a whole lot of things.  Shaky bullpen.  Stars who aren't producing.  An overall lack of run support.

So, who's the one absent that we're missing?  Indeed, it's Carl Crawford.

Crawford went on the DL a week ago after badly turning his ankle chasing down a ball in the left field corner.  In his place as the new left fielder has been Matt Kemp.

Has it worked?  Nope, not at all.  Kemp's 4-for-28 (.143) with 10 strikeouts since then.  He looks absolutely lost at the plate, and just in general for that matter.  That's one reason the Dodgers miss Crawford.

The other reason has been the guy at the leadoff spot, Dee Gordon.  While Gordon is far and away the league leader in stolen bases at 34, 12 ahead of Billy Hamilton, he has been on a free fall at the plate for quite awhile now.

After going 5-for-6 in a win over the Marlins on May 3, his average stood at .357 with a .387 OBP, both fantastic numbers.  Since then... yuck.  After last night's 0-for-4 game, his numbers dropped to .275 and .324.  I'm stating the obvious here, but those are hardly numbers worthy for the leadoff spot.

The problem is that Don Mattingly really doesn't have any other options to hit first.  Chone Figgins when he starts at third?  Maybe, but it's not that appealing.  Andre Ethier?  Seems like a bit of a stretch, and he's not that type of player.  Yasiel Puig can hit anywhere, but considering he's the only one driving in runs these days, he has to hit #3 or #4.

That brings me back to Crawford.  If he's healthy, there's no doubt in my mind he's hitting leadoff again, while Gordon gets dropped to #2 or towards the bottom.  Crawford isn't the same type of player as he was in his Tampa Bay days, but he's more than capable of handling the leadoff role, if even just temporarily.  But we'll have to wait another week or so to see if it happens.

There's no doubt that Crawford is way overpaid at this point in his career, as $21 million a year is nowhere near what his true skills are anymore.  But, after an absolutely brutal month of April that saw him hit .191, he was hitting .333 in May before getting hurt, and showed some great defense in left when Ethier moved to center.  He's turned things around when it was looking pretty bleak.

And with that, Dodger fan should welcome Crawford back with open arms.  They really do miss his bat and glove, and haven't been able to compensate for it in a week.  Let's hope the fact that he took batting practice a couple days ago is a positive sign that he won't be out much longer.

The Dodgers can certainly use him.

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