Although the pitching is a key to success for the Dodgers when they play over half their games in pitching-friendly stadiums, they must generate more offense than they have in the first six games.
Before Sunday, the Dodgers had only six hits out of 48 at-bats with runners in scoring position. This inability to hit with runners in scoring position hindered the Dodgers last year, and so far this year, it has continued. No team will reach an elite status until it capitalizes on at least 60 percent of its scoring opportunities.
The media constantly points out how potent the Dodgers' lineup is. Since the Dodgers made the famous megatrade with the Boston Red Sox, most people think their lineup resembles an All-Star team. However, since the trade with the Red Sox, the Dodgers have struggled offensively.
Though it's early, the Dodgers have not scored satisfactorily. They miss Hanley Ramirez, whose thumb injury will keep him out of the lineup until nearly June.
Matt Kemp, who had shoulder surgery in October, is off to a slow start, and he is a notoriously fast starter. Kemp hasn't been getting his weight behind the batted ball, resulting in many lazy fly balls, and his timing hasn't been good, so strikeouts have been piling up. Since he didn't play as many Spring Training games as he normally does, he will need more time in the regular season to regain his stroke. Even though his shoulder is technically healed, Kemp continually will be building shoulder strength throughout the season.
Carl Crawford hadn't played since August, when he had Tommy John surgery, and suffered a setback during Spring Training. However, the forgotten man in the trade with Boston has hit better than any Dodger. His hits and amazing speed have acted as an offensive catalyst. If Crawford continues playing the way he has, he has the opportunity to be the most valuable player that the Dodgers obtained from Boston.
Though many fans thought Luis Cruz couldn't produce offensively for the entire season after they chanted his name when he began playing regularly last August, he has displayed incredible defense at both third base and shortstop. Cruz has had a slow start on offense. The Dodgers need Cruz's superb defense, and they can carry his weak offense until Cruz calms down and starts to hit the way he showed last season.
If the Dodgers continue struggling offensively, Don Mattingly might want to consider removing Justin Sellers from the daily lineup. Before Ramirez injured his thumb, the Dodgers sent Sellers to the Minor Leagues because he didn't hit enough. Coming off back surgery, Sellers is still trying to rediscover his stroke.
Since the Dodgers didn't want to promote Dee Gordon, their other shortstop within the organization, they chose to have Sellers play shortstop in the Majors. By sitting Sellers and moving Cruz to shortstop, Mattingly can play Juan Uribe, who homered Tuesday, at third. In the final year of his contract, Uribe wants to erase recent memory of his failures. Though he isn't an everyday player at this stage of his career, Uribe can contribute until Ramirez returns.
On Saturday, the Dodgers traded Aaron Harang to the Colorado Rockies for veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez. Although Harang is a quality Major League starter, he was the odd man out. Coming out of Spring Training, the Dodgers had eight starters, even though Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly began the season on the disabled list. Harang objected when he was relegated to the bullpen.
Harang is a durable journeyman starter, but his name doesn't equate superstardom. The Dodgers' management wants to convince their fans that they are serious about competing for a World Series and they will spend an endless amount of money to obtain the best players. No one considers Harang as the best starter in the Major Leagues.
The Dodgers began the season with rookie catcher Tim Federowicz as a backup for A.J. Ellis. When the Dodgers obtained Federowicz from the Red Sox in the summer of 2011, they immediately labeled him as the catcher of the future. Having him sit on the bench most of the week will hinder his development. Right now, the Dodgers are carrying three catchers, but as soon as they activate Billingsley for Wednesday's start, they will probably demote Federowicz.
Hernandez gives the Dodgers a veteran backup with good defensive skills. This will strengthen an already dominant pitching staff.
Unless the Dodgers improve their offensive production, especially their situational hitting, they won't reach their potential.