Things to Know About the Los Angeles Dodgers

The Mets remain home this weekend to play a three game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Here’s some stuff you might want to know about them:

Record: 15-17, third place NL West
Manager: Don Mattingly
Park: Home games for the Mets, Citi Field.

Quickly . . .
Can they hit? With two exceptions, no.
Can they pitch? Sorta.
Can they field? Not really.
Who’s their best player? Right fielder Andre Ethier.

Lineup:
LF – Tony Gwynn Jr. – L
SS – Jamey Carroll – R
RF – Andre Ethier – L
CF – Matt Kemp – R
3B – Juan Uribe – R
1B – James Loney – L
C – Rod Barajas – R
2B – Aaron Miles – S

Matt Kemp is batting .352/.432/.566 with 6 home runs; Andre Ethier is hitting .370/.436/.529 and comes into this series with a 29-game hitting streak. That’s it. Apparently everyone else in the Dodgers’ lineup is dating Rihanna this season. Jamey Carroll is the only other regular with an on-base percentage higher than .302; Tony Gwynn Jr., Juan Uribe, Rod Barajas and Aaron Miles have drawn 14 walks combined, while Kemp has drawn 15 on his own. Injuries on the left side of the infield — Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal are both on the DL – have forced Carroll and Miles into more action than anticipated, but it’s not a great lineup even without them. James Loney is totally lost, which was unexpected, but Uribe, Barajas, and Gwynn Jr. have always been out-making machines. The early brilliance of Kemp and Ethier is the only thing keeping the Dodgers offense from ranking last in everything – as a team, they’ve scored 118 runs (12th in the NL), but Kemp and Ethier have driven in or scored all but 54, or more than half of their runs.

Rotation:
5/6: RHP – Hiroki Kuroda (vs. Jon Niese)
5/7: RHP – Jon Garland (vs. Chris Young)
5/8: LHP – Clayton Kershaw (vs. R.A. Dickey)
Miss: RHP – Chad Billingsley
Miss: LHP – Ted Lilly

This is their strength of sorts – which I guess is saying, besides Kemp and Ethier, this is the only thing in the Dodger universe not currently imploding. Clayton Kershaw (age 23) and Chad Billingsley (age 26) are both young and both good, and the other three starters are veterans of the strike-throwing variety. The Dodgers’ rotation has pitched the second most innings in the league, struck out the second most batters, and they’ve allowed the fourth fewest walks. They’re in the middle of the pack in ERA because everyone except Billingsley has had a problem with fly balls exiting the ballpark, but as a mostly ground ball staff pitching in Dodgers Stadium, that doesn’t seem likely to be season-long problem.

Game 1 goes to the underrated Hiroki Kuroda, who does everything you want from a pitcher: he doesn’t walk people, gets ground balls, and can get a strikeout when he needs it. Game 2 is inning eater Jon Garland, who is messing around with a brand new splitter and suddenly figured out how to get some swings and misses. Kershaw goes on Sunday; he’s one of the best young pitchers in the NL, and his Baseball-Reference page informs me that his name is an anagram for “Lanky Ace Throws.”

Bench:
C – Dioner Navarro – S
IF – Ivan De Jesus – R
IF – Russell Mitchell – R
OF – Jay Gibbons – L
OF/1B – Jerry Sands – R

Rookie Jerry Sands has a .259 on-base percentage, which is the highest figure here (actually the highest figure of anyone who has been on the Dodgers’ bench this season). To be fair, due to all kinds of injuries and general confusion, Dioner Navarro, Jay Gibbons, and Russell Mitchell have combined for just 18 plate appearances on the year. Because of all this roster chaos, the Dodgers have already used 20 position players this season, and 35 players overall, the most in baseball. Sands has good minor league numbers and bats righthanded, so he could spell lefthanders Loney or Gwynn on Friday against Jon Niese, and recently-activated Navarro probably steals a start or two from Barajas. But this bench is just another reminder that the Dodgers aren’t in good shape right now.

Bullpen:
RHP – Vincente Padilla
RHP – Jonathan Broxton
RHP – Matt Guerrier
RHP – Blake Hawksworth
LHP – Hong-Chih Kuo
RHP – Mike MacDougal
RHP – Lance Cormier

5.34 ERA as a group, easily dead last in the NL. They walk people, give up home runs and all sorts of other bad things. Blake Hawksworth, Mike MacDougal, and recently-activated Vincente Padilla have pitched decently, but everyone else has struggled. Closer/Ent Jonathan Broxton is somehow 7 for 8 in save opportunities despite a 5.68 ERA, but has clearly been pitching hurt and will probably be placed on the DL once the Dodgers find out the results of his MRI. (Which took a while, because they had trouble finding a MRI machine big enough to squeeze him into. Yes, seriously.) Padilla is probably the best guess for their closer in the meantime, but MacDougal and Kuo also have experience closing, and managers are weird with that stuff anyway.

And those are some things to know about the Dodgers.

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