Things to Know about the Los Angeles Dodgers

The Mets head to the west coast to play four games against the Dodgers this week. Here are some things to know about Katy Perry’s favorite team:

Record: 37-48, last place, NL West
Manager: Don Mattingly, lifetime 37-48 (.435%) managerial record. Mattingly isn’t an overly involved manager, calling for an average number of bunts, a low number of intentional walks, and a low number of pitching changes this season.
Park: Dodgers Stadium. The third oldest stadium in the majors, it’s no longer as dramatic a pitcher’s park as it has been in the past thanks to a reduction of foul territory in 2004. But Dodgers Stadium remains a poor park for extra base hits and run scoring.

Quickly . . .
Can they hit? Nope
Can they pitch? Eh
Can they field? Nope
Who’s their best player? Matt Kemp. A triple crown threat in center field. And did you see the NBA All Star game halftime show? Goodness.

Lineup:
LF – Tony Gwynn Jr. – L
SS – Rafael Furcal – S
RF – Andre Ethier – L
CF – Matt Kemp – R
1B – James Loney – L
3B – Aaron Miles – S
C – A.J. Ellis – R
2B – Jamey Carroll – R

The Dodgers might surprise people the second half. I understand this is a weird thing to say about a last place team in a mediocre division, but let me make a case: The Dodgers are 9th in the league in OPS, 6th in park adjusted OPS+, and 5th in all important on-base percentage. They’re not a terrible offensive team. But they’re scoring just 3.83 runs per game, 12th in the NL. The big problem is that they’re hitting .236/.331/.331 with runners in scoring position, a .662 OPS. Only the Marlins and Padres have fared worse by OPS in those situations. They get guys on, they just haven’t gotten them in.

The reason for this is either that the Dodgers are unclutch, that they have a poor approach driving in runners, or that they have been unlucky. If it’s the first one, their numbers with RISP probably won’t change. But if it’s either of the other two – and I would guess it’s the other two – the Dodgers’ offense should improve in the second half. Everyone in the current lineup gets on base: Career minor league catcher A.J. Ellis has a .441 OBP in 225 Triple-A games. Throw in Rafael Furcal, who just returned from the DL, along with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, and the Dodgers’ lineup isn’t half bad.

Pitching Matchups:

7/4: RHP Rubby De La Rosa vs LHP Chris Capuano

De La Rosa (3-3, 4.41 ERA), just 22 years old, was a top Dodgers pitching prospect coming into this season. Making his debut in the bullpen, he broke into the rotation in the beginning of June, posting a 4.88 ERA over five starts. Not a big kid, listed at 6’1″, but his fastball has hit 100 MPH this season and he has 31 strikeouts in 32.2 innings. His problem is control: De La Rosa has averaged 5.5 walks per nine innings pitched this season, though he walked just two over seven innings his last time out, allowing just one run.

7/5: LHP Ted Lilly vs RHP Mike Pelfrey

Lilly (5-8, 4.97 ERA) has had a rough season so far. After posting a 3.62 ERA last season, the fly ball lefty has seen his ERA inflate more than a run this year. His strikeout to walk ratio is basically the same as last season and he has a similar ratio of balls hit in the air and on the ground. The biggest difference is that more balls are falling in as hits, 30% this season against 25% last year. It could be bad luck, or it could be that Lilly, whose walk rate is at a career low, is throwing too many hittable pitches in the zone.

Lilly is pitching on Tuesday, his normal spot pushed back a day because of elbow tenderness.

7/6: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs LHP Jon Niese

Kuroda (6-9, 2.90 ERA) has averaged 2.4 runs allowed per outing this season, but the Dodgers have scored just 3 runs per game in support, which explains his 6-9 record. Rarely spectacular, he has been solid four years running, an overseas pitching import who has worked out for more than a year or two.

Kuroda leads the National League in wild pitches this season, thanks to the splitter he likes to bury in the dirt. Something to look out for with a runner on base.

7/7: LHP Clayton Kershaw vs RHP Dillon Gee

The numbers are impressive enough on their own – 8-4, 3.23 ERA – but Kershaw might be even better than his ERA suggests. The 23 year old lefty leads the league in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings pitched, while continuing to lower his walk rate and get more ground balls. Kershaw’s original claim to fame was the curveball Vin Scully nicknamed “Public Enemy #1,” but since he’s added a slider that now serves as his primary breaking pitch. Already one of the best, and he’s lined up against Mr. Gee. Stay up late for this one.

Little known fact: Vin Scully’s favorite Public Enemy record is “Fear of a Black Planet.”

Bench:
C – Dioner Navarro – S
IF – Juan Uribe – R
SS – Dee Gordon – L
OF – Trent Oeltjen – L
OF – Marcus Thames – R

The Dodgers lead all of baseball in Oeltjens.

Bullpen:
RHP – Matt Guerrier
RHP – Blake Hawksworth
LHP – Scott Elbert
RHP – Mike MacDougal
RHP – Kenly Jansen
LHP – Hong-Chih Kuo
RHP – Javy Guerra

Remember up above, where I argued that the Dodgers’ offense, and therefore the Dodgers as a whole, are better than they’ve played? The bullpen is a good counter argument. This is normally the part where I tell you who the closer is . . . but I don’t know who the closer is. I don’t think they have one. Jonathan Broxton lost the job at the beginning of May and has been on the DL since then. Vincente Padilla recorded three saves earlier in the season; he’s out for the year after having neck surgery. Lefty Scott Elbert saved a game on June 12, and righty Javy Guerra recorded a save a week later. And that’s it. The entire team has two saves in their last 35 games, and they were by two different players. Only the bullpens of the Mets and Astros have higher ERAs than the Dodgers’ group.

And those were some things to know about the Dodgers.

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