Thursday, May 22, 2014
Stock watch: Adrian, Puig fuel offense
By Mark Saxon
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: He has been uncharacteristically streaky this season, but the upshot has been his usual elite production. Through May 17, Gonzalez had hit two extra-base hits this month. Now, he has homered in three straight games, driving in five runs. Even with his excellent credentials, it might be tough for him to make his first All-Star game in three years. Three NL first basemen -- Justin Morneau, Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman -- currently have a higher OPS.
Yasiel Puig, RF: When he forgot the number of outs and made an unnecessary throw in New York, everybody laughed it off. Last August, it would have been a national story. Why? In part because, when you’re playing this well, people tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. Puig is batting .403 in May with a 1.278 OPS. That’s good, right?
Brian Wilson, RHP: In recent interviews, Wilson has intimated that some of his earlier struggles could stem from pitching in lower-leverage situations. Seems a flimsy excuse considering the Dodgers are paying him $10 million. You would hope he could find a way to motivate himself regardless of the time of the game or the score. Besides, the 1-0 eighth-inning lead he blew in San Diego was plenty high leverage. Interestingly, Don Mattingly has been using him in important parts of games despite his 8.22 ERA and Wilson has delivered lately with three straight scoreless outings.
Clayton Kershaw, LHP: How determined is he going to be when he faces the Philadelphia Phillies Friday night, trying to bounce back from the second-shortest outing of his career in Arizona? The Phillies could be in for a long night. Then again, are the problems Kershaw is experiencing -- a lack of sharp command and an iffy curveball -- fixable in the short term or is it going to be a project? It’s hard to say, but the Dodgers have a lot riding on the answer being the former.
Dan Haren, RHP: One of the brightest story lines of April was the remarkable production from the back of the rotation. Haren got off to a 3-0 start and had four quality starts in five games. But May has felt like a grind for the veteran. Opponents are batting .288 against him this month, he has struck out just 14 batters in four games and his ERA is 4.56 in the month. As usual, he never walks anyone so the rallies have been controllable. If he can keep it together, it’s looking like a nice bounce-back year, but his stuff has raised some doubts lately.
Miguel Olivo, C: The most amazing thing about the dugout fight that led to the veteran catcher’s release (after he allegedly bit off part of Alex Guerrero’s ear) is that it reportedly started over an opponent’s stolen base. In a Triple-A game. The Dodgers released Olivo Thursday. It’s fair to say the blow to his career -- particularly since the Miami Marlins put him on the restricted list last year for reportedly walking out on them -- will be greater than the blow to the Dodgers as an organization.