Patience key to Dodgers' production; club buoyed by in-house rotation replacements
By Sarah D. Morris
Although the Los Angeles Dodgers stumbled a little on the just-completed homestand, they still have the second best record in the National League and third best in the Majors.
The Dodgers have a powerful offense, but it faltered against the Colorado Rockies, whose ERA is the worst in the NL. It happens over the course of a long season. Yet the Dodgers' offense is surprising everyone. Hitting coach Mark McGwire repeatedly has said that the Dodgers aren't a home run-hitting team and should hit line drives, and yet they lead the NL in this category by six.
Since Dodger Stadium isn't known for generating offense, especially in April and May with cool humid nights, it surprises everyone that the Dodgers haven't struggled offensively.
The explanation for the Dodgers' above average offensive production is simple: the hitters don't chase pitches out of the strike zone. When the hitters make pitchers throw strikes, amazing things can happen. Also, the Dodgers rarely overswing. For a long time, the Dodgers didn't understand their offensive abilities and tried to do too much. Now each player trusts the others to perform offensively, so he doesn't attempt to hit a five-run homer.
Despite well-publicized pitching problems, the Dodgers have the fourth best ERA in the NL. Brandon McCarthy is out for the year with Tommy John elbow surgery, and Hyun-Jin Ryu hasn't yet thrown a pitch in a Major League game this season. Manager Don Mattingly thinks he will return before the All-Star break. How long before the break is the question.
Baseball hasn't yet begun swapping players, so the Dodgers have found replacement starting pitchers internally. So far these pitchers have done well.
At 25, Carlos Frias is a flamethrower and has done surprisingly well. He doesn't always locate the strike zone as regularly as the Dodgers would like, causing him to throw too many pitches, and this decreases the number of innings, putting unnecessary stress on the bullpen. He doesn't know how to change speeds to keep the opposition off balance, and the likelihood is good that the league will soon figure him out so that the hitters will hit him hard. Frias is excitable while on the mound, not a good trait for a pitcher. He could have benefited from more time in Triple-A.
Mike Bolsinger, 27, is a completely different story than Frias. Last winter, he came from the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash considerations. His fastball doesn't make people go, "Wow," but he knows how to pitch. He changes speeds well and pounds the strike zone. He doesn't appear to try to strike out everyone. He keeps the ball low so the hitters can produce grounders. He keeps his composure on the mound and doesn't alter his delivery.
Despite experiencing a little hiccup during the week, the Dodgers' bullpen has done an amazing job. It isn't filled with known relievers as it was last year, and that bullpen failed. This year's version has better balance.
Yimi Garcia had been great, but this week he blew two save opportunities. Pedro Baez injured his pectoral muscle and went on the 15-day disabled list. Adam Liberatore finally had a bad outing but should rebound from that. Garcia can be a setup man.
This week Kenley Jansen returned from foot surgery. Mattingly wanted to ease Jansen into the closer's role even though Jansen had a fantastic rehabilitation assignment. On Friday, when he pitched the eighth, he dominated the Rockies. On Sunday he notched his first save of the season. With the addition of Jansen, the Dodgers' bullpen should maintain its early-season dominance.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.