Saturday, August 30, 2014

Slumping Puig and Gordon showing their youth

The Dodgers lost to the Padres on Friday night in 12 innings, 3-2.  They managed to get two hits, but only Hanley Ramirez could deliver RBIs with a double and solo homer.  Yasmani Grandal had the walk-off RBI single with two outs, and that cut the Dodgers' lead in the NL West to 3 1/2 games.

There was a lot to take away from the game, especially the four-man right side of the infield the Dodgers unleashed on Seth Smith in the 12th.  But what I took away is just how much Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig are struggling.

They're young, they're slumping, and it's showing.

Yesterday I wrote about five key questions the Dodgers face down the stretch, and two of those questions were about Puig's power and Gordon wearing down.  Well, those concerns were exemplified even more on Friday, in which both players had rough games.

Let's start with Gordon, who did not have a night he'd like to remember by any means.  He started the game hitting .293, but 0-for-6 in the leadoff spot dropped it to .289.  He's now down to .272 in August, which isn't terrible, but of much more concern is his .286 OBP this month.  His next lowest OBP of any month was .311 in May, and that was with a much worse average of .244.  The bottom line is that he's stopped taking walks, has too many swings and misses, and doesn't look energized.

That's the offensive side of the game, and on Friday, his defense was a glaring weakness as well.  He had two bad throws that really cost the Dodgers in the end.  In the second, his wild throw to Hanley Ramirez at second ruined a potential double play, as they couldn't even get one out and soon led to a run.  In the 12th, his low throw to A.J. Ellis at home only resulted in one out, instead of an inning ending DP.  Sure enough, Grandal walked-off right after.

As I pointed out yesterday, it's obvious that his lack of experience in playing so many games is catching up to him.  Friday was game #128 for him, and his next previous high was 87 back in 2012.  It's only natural to be somewhat worn down.  I just worry that he won't be able to regain his mojo going into October.

Speaking of being tired and slumping, there's Puig.  Don Mattingly admitted that the reason he didn't start Friday night's game was because of frustration, and that he's letting his emotions affect his play.  Donnie hit the nail on the head right there.  There's no doubt a combination of the long season and things not going his way has really plagued him.

Like Gordon, the jump of playing a part of the season to being a full-timer this year seems to be taking a toll.  Last year he appeared in 104 games, and with about a month left in the season, it's up to 123.  And considering how he puts his whole body on the line in every game (or heck, even in every swing), it's no surprise that he's in a big rut.

Probably more concerning for Puig as compared to Gordon is that Puig's numbers have taken an even bigger nosedive.  He came into August hitting .319, but that's gone down to .301.  A 19-for-87 month equates to .218.  He pinch-hit for Dan Haren in Friday's game, but again struck out, leaving him hitless in his last six games, going 0-for-17.

Let's not forget that Puig was also pretty ragged in September last season, but the Dodgers still went to the NLCS.  He seemed like he was ready to be one of baseball's top stars based on how the start of the this season went, as his bat was explosive and he dramatically cut down on his silly mistakes.

Well, that's changed, as he can't get a hit now, makes no adjustments at the plate to correct this, and let's not forget his boneheaded baserunning mistake where he was thrown out at home against the Mets last Sunday, handing them a triple play.  That summed up his frustrations right there.

With the Giants not going anywhere, you know the Dodgers have plenty of work to do to claim the NL West.  Nothing will be handed to them, meaning Donnie probably won't have the luxury of resting his guys much down the stretch like last season.  And from the looks of things, rest is exactly what these two young All-Stars need.

Maybe both guys have already hit their low points, and they'll be ready to play much better baseball in September.  The Dodgers certainly need them to.  Because if not, there's two glaring holes at the top of the order.  We'll see what September has in store for them.

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