Saturday, April 25, 2015

Are lineup changes in store for the Dodgers?

The good news from Friday night is that the Dodgers got back on the winning track, a 3-0 victory in San Diego.  Zack Greinke was terrific, pitching seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts, including wiggling out of a bases loaded jam in the second.  Yimi Garcia looked unhittable in the ninth, moving the ball all over the plate for an easy save.  He looks like a future star.

The not-as-good-news?  The offense continues to sputter along, one week after hitting the ball with fury.

Yes, this is baseball, and that's bound to happen over the course of a long 162-game season.  But that doesn't mean you can't adjust when it's time to adjust.

Guess what?  I think it's time to adjust.

The offense put up three runs on eight hits, which is actually an improvement over scoring two runs in the Giants for three straight games.  Three straight loses, too.

Last night's lineup was a typical one for Don Mattingly.  Jimmy Rollins leading off, Yasiel Puig in the #2 spot, Adrian Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick in the heart of the order.  Yasmani Grandal, Carl Crawford, Juan Uribe, and Joc Pederson rounding out the lineup, followed by Greinke.

Is that truly the best batting order the Dodgers can produce?  Well, no.  Alex Guerrero is still sitting on the bench, the same Alex Guerrero who's hitting .472 with four home runs and two doubles in 19 at-bats.  Scott Van Slyke is hitting .417 with a homer and three doubles in 17 at-bats.  Andre Ethier (who did enter after Puig exited with a tight hamstring) is hitting .300 with a .405 OBP.

Those guys are riding the pine, while Rollins, Uribe, and Crawford continue to play.  Rollins had a terrific Opening Day, yet is hitting .180 with a .282 OBP and 15 K's.  That's horrific for a leadoff hitter.  Uribe had his first RBI of the season, but at .250 with one extra-base hit, looks to be on his last legs.  Crawford jacked a home run to extend the lead in the seventh, but that only raised his average to .244 with a .262 OBP.

To sum it all up, those three aren't getting many big hits and aren't getting on base.  Meanwhile, the three riding the bench are doing both quite well.

This is the National League, and automatically, you build your team with pitching and defense.  The Dodgers have the pitching, and will get even better when Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenley Jansen return.

The defense is a major reason why Rollins and Uribe play, especially.  Despite their age, they continue to flash great leather, which is what makes it difficult for Mattingly to just yank them that quickly.  Crawford, on the other hand, will never be confused with a great left fielder.

So what's the solution?  Donny needs to find more balance with his lineups, and not be afraid to bench one of the "starters."  He can say all he wants about how he's concerned with Guerrero's defense, but he clearly has an electric bat right now that's going to waste as a pinch-hitter only every few games.  Get him in there while he's hot.

If Puig is hurt for any amount of time, then plugging in Ethier in right will happen.  But with a fully healthy outfield, we need to see more of Van Slyke in left, even if a right-handed pitcher is on the mound.  Ethier can also get some time, but Van Slyke has so much power that can come out at any time.

As for the actual lineup, here's a look at mine:

1. Yasiel Puig - RF
2. Yasmani Grandal - C
3. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B
4. Howie Kendrick - 2B
5. Joc Pederson - CF
6. Alex Guerrero - 3B
7. Scott Van Slyke - LF
8. Jimmy Rollins - SS
9. Pitcher's Spot

As you can see, the only spots I'd leave alone are A-Gon and Kendrick.  Even with that, I wouldn't hesitate to move Kendrick around if he stops driving in runs.  To his credit, he's surprised everyone with 10 RBIs through 16 games.

In a perfect world, Puig would hit cleanup.  But, he's more effective right now at the top setting the table since he has shown much more patience at getting on base, hence his .380 OBP.  Grandal is a switch hitter who gets on base with sneaky power.

The young guns would be slotted in to begin the second half of the order, as Pederson and Guerrero could be interchangeable depending on the pitcher.  Van Slyke could also hit higher, but could be in a great spot to drive in the people right in front of him.  As long as Rollins isn't getting on base, he needs to be at the bottom, not the top.  I don't care what he's done in the past, he's a flyout machine right now, and if he's going to play, needs to be in a less important spot.

We'll see what Donny has in store this weekend.  Hopefully it's a more creative lineup.

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