Dodgers Report: Michael Bourn

Is leadoff spot the Achilles' heel?

February, 5, 2013
2/05/13
12:18
PM PT
About a month ago, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly left his home in Indiana to drop by the Dodgers' minicamp in Arizona. First, he diverted to Houston, where he started getting to know his new left fielder, Carl Crawford.

Afterward, Mattingly told reporters that Crawford would willingly bat leadoff for the Dodgers. In Boston, Crawford's spot in the order was a hot topic of debate, with a widely held suspicion that he's about as fond of batting leadoff as he is of paying taxes.

"He said he didn't know where that came from," Mattingly said. "He said he heard that on ESPN. He said he would do whatever we want him to do."

Maybe a better question is why would they want him to? Crawford was a dynamic player in Tampa Bay before injuries and two seasons of Boston turmoil slowed him down, but he has never been even remotely ideal as a leadoff guy. Just not his thing. He's a career .302 hitter in the No. 2 spot, almost 20 points better than as a leadoff hitter.

Hitting leadoff, a spot that demands plate discipline, just doesn't seem to be in his nature. Crawford isn't a particularly selective hitter. He has walked more than 50 times in a season only once, and his career swing rate is 52.9 percent. He swings at 31.6 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, according to Fangraphs, and has a career-high on-base percentage of .364 (in 2009 with Tampa Bay).

He's not exactly the ideal guy to set the tone for what Mattingly and hitting coach Mark McGwire are hoping will be more patient, disciplined Dodgers at-bats this season.

On the other hand, Crawford can be devastating as a No. 2 hitter. With a runner on base, pitchers are more likely to throw him fastballs. They're more likely to throw him strikes. In 2010 he had hits on 57 percent of his bunt attempts, so he can apparently handle the bat pretty well.

But here's the problem (and it's maybe the biggest challenge Mattingly and McGwire face this spring): Who is going to hit first in the order if Crawford doesn't? Nick Punto? Skip Schumaker? Do you really want those guys in your lineup every day? Mark Ellis? Maybe a bit, against lefties, but hardly an exciting prospect.

This is the point in the discussion where we may pause and ask, "Isn't Michael Bourn still available?" Well, yeah, he is -- and according to reports, he's looking for a five-year deal and his most ardent pursuers, the New York Mets, have been willing to guarantee only three. And if we've learned nothing else about the Dodgers this winter, it's that they have tended to solve problems by writing really big checks.

But it's complicated. To accommodate Bourn -- a Gold Glove center fielder -- the Dodgers would have to move two of their best players. They would have to move Andre Ethier out of town (and they insist they don't want to do that), and they would have to move Matt Kemp to right field (something he says he's not ready for). And while, for a minute, it's fun to imagine the defensive prowess of an outfield made up of Crawford, Bourn and Kemp, a quick glance at career stats tells us that Bourn will steal bases and score runs but not get on base regularly enough (career OBP of .339) to justify revamping the outfield to include him.

So for now, the leadoff quandary remains one of the central themes of the upcoming camp. Look at it this way: You've got to build some intrigue over six weeks of spring training or what's the point, right?

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 7, Braves 2

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
10:13
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers, who allegedly has fashioned their hot early-season start around a weak schedule, began what figures to be a challenging six-game homestand by hammering the Atlanta Braves 7-2 on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers got a strong pitching performance from Chris Capuano, and their offense came to life one day after being shut out in the final game of their series in Houston, this time pounding out 15 hits, nine of them against normally formidable Braves starter Jair Jurrjens, who was knocked out after three-plus innings.

The good

Busting out. James Loney, Juan Uribe and A.J. Ellis, who hit sixth, seventh and eighth in the Dodgers lineup and whose averages coming into the game ranged from .211 to .222, combined to go 8-for-11, score four runs and drive in five. Uribe led the way, tying his career high for hits in a game by going 4-for-4 to raise his average from .211 to .286.

Wriggling free. With his pitch count rising fast, Capuano, who to that point had been in and out of trouble and generally pitched like the fifth starter he is, worked deftly out of a first-and-third, nobody-out jam in the fourth to preserve a two-run lead, with an assist from the fact that jam came in a good spot in the Braves' order. Capuano began his escape by striking out Jack Wilson. After Jurrjens bunted David Ross to second, Michael Bourn grounded harmlessly to second, stranding both runners in scoring position. The Dodgers came back in their half to score two runs, doubling their lead.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.319 13 55 62
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 15
RBIA. Gonzalez 71
RY. Puig 62
OPSY. Puig .956
WC. Kershaw 13
ERAC. Kershaw 1.71
SOZ. Greinke 153