Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and please remind me not to visit Boston any time soon.
Adrian Gonzalez has been the linchpin of the Dodgers' offense since they acquired him. He has had at least 90 RBIs for 10 consecutive seasons, including all four full seasons with the Dodgers, and led the league with 116 RBIs in 2014. He is never an easy out and still grinds out every at-bat even though he is clearly hurting. He is a Gold Glove first baseman who has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting three times. His career slash numbers are .289/.361/.490 with a 132 OPS+.
But that Adrian Gonzalez has disappeared and been replaced by some guy who looks like him this season. This new Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .255/.327/.309 with only five extra-base hits, all doubles. He has forearm tendinitis, a herniated disk in his back, generates no power and has lost a step on defense.
Gonzalez takes a lot of pride in never having been on the DL in his career, and rightfully so. But it's time to set aside the pride and go on the DL. He's beginning to remind me of the one guy every office has: the employee who never uses a sick day, so they drag themselves into the office each day despite having the cold or flu, spreading their germs and making everyone else sick. Gonzalez's anemic bat is infecting the entire offense.
Adrian Gonzalez is one of my favorite Dodgers of all time. But with Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers finally have a backup who can play first base and hit as well. So, with all due respect to Gonzalez, take a break. You've played at least 156 games every full season in the majors. Fans and players admire and respect you, and fans will respect you even more if you end the streak and go on the DL to get yourself as close to 100% as possible. The Dodgers are going to need you at full strength to make the playoffs, and a first baseman who slugs .309 isn't helping anyone.
The Dodgers made the first of their interesting roster decisions earlier this week when they sent Scott Van Slyke to the minors after activating Franklin Gutierrez from the DL. It was the right decision, and hopefully Van Slyke can rediscover his swing.
That leaves another decision when Joc Pederson gets off the DL, perhaps as soon as today. Whom to send down? Perhaps Gonzalez goes on the DL, so no one has to be sent down. If not, then it comes down to Enrique Hernandez,Chris Taylor, Andrew Toles or Bellinger. I'd go with Hernandez. His defensive versatility is no longer a big plus because Taylor can play second, third and short, Bellinger can play the outfield and Toles can be the backup center fielder. Hernandez hit .190 last season (OPS+ of 65) and is hitting .212 this season (OPS+ of 98).
Actually, I'd part ways with Chris Hatcher and go with just seven relievers in the bullpen, but that's just me.
The big elephant in the room is Chase Utley, who is hitting .104 and looks completely overmatched at the plate right now. It seems unlikely that the Dodgers will release him because everyone on the team and in the front office has such respect for him they are going to give him more time to work his way out of this slump. Also, Utley took less money than other teams offered to come back to the Dodgers and one of the teams apparently interested in him was the Giants, so if the Dodgers release Utley, he could go to their arch-rivals. And you just know that he would come back to haunt the Dodgers if they released him and he went to another team.
In a perfect world, Utley would retire and be named a coach, so the Dodgers could still have his clubhouse presence without the -4 OPS+. But this isn't a perfect world.
You may have noticed that a record number of players across baseball are going on the DL this season. It's not that everyone is suddenly getting injured more often, it's the effect of the two new disabled lists. Instead of a 15-day disabled list, MLB now has a seven-day and a 10-day disabled list. So it's much easier to put a player on the DL when he has a minor injury. Take Hyun-jin Ryu for example. He has a bruised hip. If you put him on the 15-day DL, he is going to be out two weeks and miss three starts, when really all he needs is three to four days. So they put him on the 10-day DL, bring up a reliever, and Ryu misses only one start. Stuff like that is happening everywhere.
The Dodgers are trying to win their fifth consecutive division title. Let's take a look at this year's record and how it compares through the same point in the last four seasons.
2017: 15-14, third place, 2 1/2 games behind Colorado
2016: 14-15, second place, one game behind San Francisco
2015: 19-10, first place, four games ahead of San Diego
2014: 17-12, second place, half a game behind San Francisco
2013: 13-16, fourth place, 4 1/2 games behind Colorado and San Francisco
Ask Ross Porter
Once again, former Dodgers announcer Ross Porter is back to answer select reader questions. Email me a question for Ross, and I will pass it on. Here's this week's answer:
Tom Armstrong asks: Complete games are a thing of the past in baseball. Ross, can you tell me what starting pitchers on the 30 major league teams are averaging in innings this season?
Ross: Entering play Wednesday, there had been 182 pitchers make major-league starts this year (an average of six per team). They had accumulated 4,438 innings in 778 games, which works out to 5.7 innings a start.
Eric Stephen reports that last year, Dodgers starting pitchers averaged 5 1/3 innings per start – the second worst in the majors. They turned in 116 fewer innings than in 2015, and 55 fewer innings than in any non-strike season for the Dodgers in 58 years.
Here's the breakdown on the Dodgers starters this season, as of Thursday morning.
The average start for a Dodgers pitcher this season has been 5.5 innings. There have been 11 quality starts in the first 29 games.
Friday, 7 p.m., Dodgers (Kenta Maeda) at San Diego (Jhoulys Chacin)
Saturday, 5:30 p.m., Dodgers (Brandon McCarthy) at San Diego (Clayton Richard)
Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) at San Diego (Trevor Cahill)
There will be one more game on KTLA this season:
May 7, 1 p.m., at San Diego
Watch Vin Scully get inducted into the Dodgers' Ring of Honor. See it all here.