Dodgers mailbag: Where do the Dodgers most need help?

Yasiel Puig
Yasiel Puig returns to the dugout after striking out looking during the second inning against San Diego on May 21.
(Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

The Dodgers are 33-31. That translates to an 83-win pace, which is about right for this team these days. After sweeping the Braves last weekend, the Dodgers dropped a series to the Rockies at home and a series to the Giants on the road. The offense deserves the lion’s share of the blame, and continues to vex members of the organization and fans alike.

Same as it ever was, then, for these Dodgers, who have been propped up by Clayton Kershaw’s brilliance and little else of a reliable nature. The team faces old friend Zack Greinke tonight in Arizona. There is plenty to discuss before then. As always, you can send me questions on Twitter @McCulloughTimes. Let’s get after it.

Heading into this weekend, I might have said third base. Justin Turner posted an .876 on-base plus slugging percentage from 2014 to 2015, which is why his .660 OPS in 2016 is so disappointing. But Turner hit a game-winning homer on Friday, roped a few hits on Saturday and squared up several balls on Sunday. It’s not enough to say he’s turned a corner, but he is showing signs of a revival as he returns from off-season microfracture surgery.

The bullpen has found its groove in the last few weeks. The starting rotation remains passable, with help coming later in the season from Hyun-Jin Ryu (theoretically), Brandon McCarthy (probably) and Frankie Montas (probably). But the offense needs help. 

I would say the outfield requires the most assistance. Trayce Thompson has been a revelation. Joc Pederson has been productive, though he still isn’t hitting for average, and while his strikeouts have decreased slightly, he continues to punch out in more than a quarter of his at-bats. But the Dodgers need a third outfielder, and the roster hasn’t presented many good options.

Howie Kendrick made some nice plays in the field over the weekend, but his bat remains frozen. Enrique Hernandez has a .639 OPS. Just back from the disabled list, Scott Van Slyke has not received many at-bats.

When Yasiel Puig returns from the disabled list – which the Dodgers hope will happen Monday, against the Nationals – the team could have its third useful outfielder. Puig has played good defense this season. But his hitting has never been less productive.

With Andre Ethier still sidelined and not close to a return, the situation looks somewhat bleak. Imagine where this outfield would be if Trayce Thompson wasn’t mashing the baseball?

In a word: Yes.

There is plenty of worry about the offense. It is not a good offense, at least in terms of scoring runs, which is the point of an offense.

All the things you mentioned are accurate, although Chase Utley has still been productive in terms of getting on base from the leadoff spot, and Adrian Gonzalez has still provided effective at-bats from the cleanup spot despite his lower-than-usual slugging percentage. 

But yes, Howie Kendrick is effectively a non-entity. His .560 on-base plus slugging percentage ranks 190th among the 193 hitters with at least 180 plate appearances. After a decade of consistency, Kendrick has become one of the worst hitters in baseball.

And, yes, Andre Ethier is still hurt.

Yordano Ventura throws a very hard fastball, but he struggles to command his changeup and curveball on a consistent basis. He often becomes overly reliant on his fastball in times of crisis, and despite the pitch’s impressive velocity, hitters can often square it up. He also has shown signs of immaturity on the mound in the last few seasons, barking at opponents and sparking a pair of brawls.

I doubt Rick Honeycutt could do anything for Ventura that Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland has not already done.

Andrew Friedman, Stan Kasten and the rest of the Dodgers front office are being held accountable. You can read the columns of Bill Plaschke and Dylan Hernandez for evidence of this.

I feel like every time something goes awry with a baseball team, a certain segment of fans demands the journalists who cover the team to “hold the front office accountable” or “put their feet to the fire” or whatever. It happens on a daily basis, in more subtle, less aggressive and more measured ways than the dramatics sought by some fans. You don’t just walk up to a general manager and shout “Why did you screw everything up so badly?” You put events in context, allow the principals opportunities to respond and be accountable for what you write.

My understanding is Dave Roberts controls the lineup, while taking input from the front office and the coaching staff. This is not particularly different from a majority of managerial situations. And there’s also reason to believe that Roberts’ views on certain issues – such as using Yasmani Grandal to catch Clayton Kershaw, even though Kershaw has a well-known affinity for throwing to A.J. Ellis – match the views of the front office.

Your friends should do something else with their spare time than worry about the Dodgers’ lineup construction. They should read more books. Books are great! You can get them at the library for free. Just last week I went to the Los Angeles Public Library and picked up six of them. For free! Great bargain.

1. The Dodgers suspended Erisbel Arruebarrena last month for the duration of the season due to his inability to comply with the terms of his contract. It was the second year in a row in which he received a season-ending suspension handed down internally.

2. The Dodgers released Alex Guerrero last week.

I enjoy talking to veteran players who have some perspective on the game and have the willingness to share it. A few guys come to mind: Vernon Wells, Chris Stewart, Carlos Beltran and Chris Young.

I’ve also had some good luck with coaches: Dan Warthen, the Mets pitching coach, was a tremendous resource for a reporter a year out of college trying to figure out how baseball worked. When he was the Mets hitting coach, Dave Hudgens offered insight and candor. And in Kansas City, I spoke with pitching coach Dave Eiland, first-base coach Rusty Kuntz and third-base coach Mike Jirschele on a daily basis.

My preference is Pepperidge Farm German dark wheat. I like to rip it into small pieces and dunk it into tomato soup for breakfast. I just ate tomato soup in a bread bowl at the San Francisco airport for breakfast. Please send help.

I did not, but I did buy a useful pair of Onitsuka Tigers for $21 in San Francisco on Saturday.

I’m at the point now where I find Crying Jordan funny. I wasn’t crazy about it at first, because it just seemed weird, but now I enjoy how frustrated it makes people. It’s become one of my favorite things on Twitter, right up there with when guys Tweet at Adam Schefter, after he breaks a big NFL story, “my wife left me.” Man, that always slays me.

Point I’m trying to make: Same with asking if Joe Flacco is elite. Never gets old.

My assumption is Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins will trade title runs during the course of the summer. I’m not exactly sure how things will play out with the brand split, but it seems like a fairly obvious move to let Dean Ambrose win Money in The Bank, let Rollins take the title off Reigns at SummerSlam or Survivor Series and let Reigns win the Royal Rumble. Ambrose can agree to cash in at Wrestlemania, setting up the all Shield three-way dance as the main event.

This is so simple, and there is probably no chance WWE does it.

Twitter: @McCulloughTimes

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