Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I'm just going to pretend the whole trip to Pittsburgh didn't happen.
With the Dodgers struggling against Pittsburgh, talk has turned to the disappointing offense. It seems like everyone except Corey Seager is in the middle of a slump, with Adrian Gonzalez leading the way, hitting .262 with only six homers. Look at some of these stellar batting averages and on-base percentages:
Yasmani Grandal: .183, .297
Howie Kendrick: .242, .296
Joc Pederson: .235, .326
Yasiel Puig: .249, .293
Kiké Hernandez: .189, .280
A.J. Ellis: .210, .310
Scott Van Slyke: .200, .256
One of my favorite stats is OPS+. What is that? Well, to quote fangraphs.com: "This statistic normalizes a player's OPS (on-base plus slugging) — it adjusts for small variables that might affect OPS scores (e.g. park effects) and puts the statistic on an easy-to-understand scale. A 100 OPS+ is league average, and each point up or down is one percentage point above or below league average. In other words, if a player had a 90 OPS+ last season, that means their OPS was 10% below league average.
So, keeping in mind that an OPS+ of 100 means you are league average, here are the OPS+ scores for the current Dodgers, excluding Chris Taylor, who has played only one game:
Justin Turner, 109
Chase Utley, 100
Van Slyke, 70
So, over half the offense is below average. As a team, the Dodgers' OPS+ is 89, which puts them in 11th place in the NL.
It seems to me that the Giants are going to win the division, and the Dodgers will be left trying for a wild-card spot. Their advantage is that they play in the NL West, meaning they have a lot of games left within a weak division and can hopefully pad their win total against the Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks. Let's look at some key offensive team stats and see how the NL West teams rank.
Runs per game
Rockies, 5.34 (first overall in NL)
Giants, 4.60 (fifth)
Arizona, 4.51 (seventh)
Padres, 4.23 (ninth)
Dodgers, 4.15 (11th)
Rockies, .339 (second)
Giants, .333 (fifth)
Arizona, .328 (sixth)
Dodgers, .308 (10th)
Padres, .300 (13th)
Rockies, .470 (first)
Arizona, .436 (third)
Giants, .398 (10th)
Padres, .388 (12th)
Dodgers, .384 (13th)
Arizona, 101 (fourth)
Rockies, 99 (T-fifth)
Giants, 98 (T-seventh)
Dodgers, 89 (11th)
Padres, 87 (12th)
Not a pretty picture.
So the team needs some help on offense. What can they do? If they trade for someone such as Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gonzalez or Ryan Braun, they will need to give up a couple of top prospects. Would you trade Julio Urias? Jose De Leon? Jharel Cotton? Cody Bellinger? There is not anyone in the minors that can provide the immediate boost the Dodgers need. Of the two offensive players the Dodgers have in Baseball America's top 100 prospects, Bellinger is 20 and in double-A, the same as Alex Verdugo.
And I don't really want Braun. Sure, he'd give the offense a boost, but he is 32, and is owed $76 million over the next four seasons. The contract would be a huge albatross starting around 2018 or so.
If the Dodgers do make a trade, I would expect it to be for someone such as Cincinnati's Jay Bruce, who is hitting .279 with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs. He is making $12.5 million this season with a team option for $13 million next season. The question is, will the Reds try to hold the Dodgers over a barrel, knowing they have a lot of prospects to give up, and are the Dodgers willing to give up a prospect?
So, turning around the offense will not be easy, other than crossing your fingers and hoping Gonzalez, Puig, Grandal, etc. come out of their slumps.
If you have ever gone to a Dodgers game when Clayton Kershaw is pitching, you have probably seen some of his pre-game routine, which is fascinating. From his longer and longer throws to his stretching routine, what he does gives a glimpse into the work he puts in to be the best pitcher in baseball.
Before Sunday's game against the Pirates, Kershaw was stretching when the Pirates' mascot, the Pirate Parrot, walked around him while steering a radio-controlled car. He drove the car right next to Kershaw, obviously annoying him.
Now in no way do I blame Kershaw's loss on what the mascot did. However, it was a stupid thing to do, and something you are more apt to see in a high school game, though most high schoolers have more sense than the guy in the Pirate Parrot suit.
You can watch part of the incident here.
More on Gonzalez
The first baseman talked with Andy McCullough about his struggles hitting the ball, saying "Every at-bat has been a grind. I'm thinking about my mechanics. I'm thinking about where my hands are, where my legs are, where I want to hit the ball. And then the ball's by me. And then the next at-bat, I'm like 'I'm not going to think about anything, I'm just going to get the [bat] head out.' And then they throw me a changeup, and I roll over."
The magic number
Each week I will look at a uniform number a current Dodger is wearing and go through the history of that number with the Dodgers. When I was a kid and went to games, I was always curious who wore the number of my favorite players. Then again, I was a strange kid. For "best Dodgers to wear the number," only the stats a player compiles while he was with the team and wearing that number count.
Next up is:
No. 26 (Chase Utley)
Best Dodgers to wear No. 26: Heinie Manush (1937-38), Curt Davis (1940-46), Alejandro Pena (1981-89). There have not been a lot of great, or even good, players to wear 26.
Others to wear No. 26 with the Dodgers: Fay Thomas (1932), Lu Blue (1933), Ray Lucas (1934), Johnny Babich (1934-35), Fred Frankhouse (1936), Merv Shea (1938), Lyn Lary (1939), Bill Crouch (1939), Carl Doyle (1940), Rex Barney (1946-50), Fred Kipp (1957-59), Willie Davis (1960), Derrell Griffith (1963-66), Gene Michael (1967), Paul Popovich (1968), Pat Perry (1990), Henry Rodriguez (1992-93), Carlos Hernandez (1994-96), Eric Young (1997), Eddie Williams (1997), Charles Johnson (1998), Brian Johnson (2001), Hiram Bocachica (2002), Wilkin Ruan (2002-03), Antonio Perez (2004-05), Toby Hall (2006), Einar Diaz (2006), Jae Weong Seo (2006), Luis Gonzalez (2007), Gary Bennett (2008), Eric Milton (2009), Doug Mientkiewicz (2009), Octavio Dotel (2010), Alex Castellanos (2013), Tim Federowicz (2014), Sergio Santos (2015).
What Vin Scully means to me
I asked you to tell me your best Vin Scully memory, and I got a lot of responses. I will publish selected ones in each newsletter. And keep emailing them to me.
Greg Foster: The announcement of the move from Brooklyn coincided perfectly with my new interest in baseball. All winter, as I longed for the season to start, in that way of youthful fans I absorbed almost involuntarily the stats from the 1957 season.
All morning the day of the first spring training game, I waited by the radio, captivated by no fewer than three pregame shows, until Vin and Jerry introduced themselves. I became entranced and hooked, and then committed, when my dad took me out of sixth grade to the Coliseum on April 18 to watch Mays back from seats in deep center field. I thought I had gone to heaven without having to die.
Starting with that dismal 1958 season, and the miraculous subsequent one, Vin brought me, and other California novices, up to speed on the nuances of big league baseball: the difference between the hit and run and the run and hit, the meaning of the count to both pitcher and hitter, the meaning of "the code." He taught new fans the game.
From a distance, without his knowing, this radio man became an authority, as I tried as a boy to learn how to be an admirable adult: wholesome, poised, literate, tasteful. Vin offered the model of how nice people carry themselves. He taught respect for all, from the O'Malleys to the beer vendors, patient, sympathetic to "a tired pitcher, a disgusted youngster, a boy that perhaps had his heart broken in a game of baseball," Vin modeled how to be both avid and charitable to those trying their best, how to negotiate the paradox of hope and heartbreak, how to be a Dodger fan but never to be hateful toward the adversary.
As a lifetime educator, I often marvel at what a great mentor he has been, rejoicing that his classroom was so large.
The TV situation
If you would like to complain about the Dodgers' TV situation, you have three options: The Dodgers, Time Warner Cable and whatever local cable or satellite provider you have that doesn't carry the Dodgers. Here's who to contact:
For the Dodgers, click here or call (866) DODGERS ( 363-4377). (I hope you like form letters).
For Time Warner, click here.
For DirecTV, call (800) 531-5000 or click here.
For your local cable or satellite provider, consult your bill for the customer service number and for the website.
Don't expect Frankie Montas to help the mediocre starting rotation this season. He's out at least six weeks with a broken rib. Read all about it here.