Monday, June 10, 2013
Grading last week
By Mark Saxon
It wasn’t a bad week. It may even have been progress. Above all, it will probably be remembered as the week one of the team's most exciting prospects in generations made his debut.
The Dodgers took two of three against the San Diego Padres, inching closer to escaping last place, then built a tiny bit of momentum by winning the first two games of their four-game series with the Atlanta Braves. They scrapped and clawed Saturday, but lost, and then the roof caved in Sunday with an 8-1 loss.
All in all, a competitive week, but nothing dramatic to rescue them from their place at the back of the NL West. And worse, injuries continued to come at them in crushing waves.
Yasiel Puig was amazing. Yasiel Puig was historical. But not even Yasiel Puig’s many adjectives could lift an offense that, shredded by injuries, is increasingly dead weight. Puig had 13 hits in his first seven career games, the most of any Dodger in his first seven games since 1900. He hit four home runs and drove in 10 runs.
And yet the Dodgers scored one or two runs in five of the seven games last week. In addition to key players on the disabled list (Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, A.J. Ellis), the Dodgers had each of the following regulars miss time with injuries last week: Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Mark Ellis.
The Dodgers are trying to hold on until some guys get back, but it’s becoming a Herculean effort.
Defense (pitching and fielding)
The Dodgers continue to be two different teams. When Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke or Hyun-Jin Ryu pitch, they look like contenders. When anyone else pitches, they look like an easy win for the other team. Still, Stephen Fife gave them a nice lift Saturday. Matt Magill looks like he needs a little more minor-league time to harness his command, but right now, the Dodgers need a Triple-A arm while they deal with injuries.
The Dodgers knew Puig would do incredible things from the outfield. They just worried that many of them would hurt, rather than help, the team.
He had some misplays here and there, but so far the spectacularly good has easily outpaced the spectacularly bad. He threw from the warning track to first base to get the final out of Monday’s game and threw out another runner Saturday. Soon, the word will get out and teams will stop trying to take extra bases when it’s hit to right field. When that happens, it will be even better than Puig having to make those amazing throws.
The Dodgers’ defense is compromised when Mark Ellis can’t play, but it’s probably improved when Ramirez can’t play.
It’s looking like the best decision the Dodgers have made this season was to bring up Puig. Of course, a cynic would ask why it took until June to make that move.
Personally, I don’t think that’s a fair critique. Puig had had all of 95 professional plate appearances before this season. And the Dodgers thought they were loaded in the outfield. Puig forced the issue by continuing to play well at Double-A Chattanooga and the Dodgers' other outfielders either played poorly, got hurt or, eventually, both.
Don Mattingly stuck with Brandon League as his closer and that looked pretty good when League saved the first two games this week.
Puig plays like a middle linebacker set loose on a baseball field. There is an aggression to his actions, coupled with speed, strength and effort. It has appeared to add some life to what was, at times, a listless-looking group this season.
Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker played a lot and those guys are gritty, right?
Overall, pretty good week for grit.
State of Contention
The Dodgers began the week 7 ½ games out and they finished it 7 ½ games out. OK, that’s not bad and they have a chance to make up ground with the next three games against Arizona. Still, when you put yourself in the hole the Dodgers did, standing still isn’t a good way to reach your goal. Each week that goes by makes it harder and harder for them to charge back and make the postseason.