Dodgers stars are under-achieving

 

The Dodgers couldn’t have expected their 251 million dollar outfield to be performing like this. When you are paying your super-stars Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp that kind of money  you need to get more than what they are bringing to the table.

While the Dodgers ponder a prospect-laden deal to try to acquire starting pitching help, I have to wonder what the Dodgers brass sees. The Dodgers starting pitching is the best in the National League. They don’t NEED starting pitching help. What the Dodgers need is for their entire 20 million dollar year line-up to start playing like stars.

The under-achieving seasons of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez are the sole reasons why this team languishes offensively.  All five  of these players are playing well below their mean. The Dodgers are tied for first place today because of their pitching, not in spite of it. If only the big names in the everyday line-up would do their part.

Kemp looks nothing like the guy who tormented pitchers with his short compact and powerful swing in 2011. Can you remember the last time you saw Kemp swing at a ball away and drive it to the right-center gap, raising his bat like sword in his follow-thru circa 2011 ? Yeah, I can’t either. His body has beaten and battered. The shoulder injury he suffered in Colorado at the tail end of 2012 has clearly changed him. And, its sad because he was destined for an amazing run during his prime years. Not only has the shoulder injury clearly affected Kemp, but his pulled and then torn hamstring, and his bone-head base-running resulting in torn ankle ligaments have hampered his game. In a lot of respects it’s sad to see a guy with so much promise have his body completely abandon him in his late 20’s.  He is not worth 20 million dollars a year. 8 HR’s 38 RBI’s and a .260 average in 87 games are, to put it succinctly, average.

I have no idea what has happened to Andre Ethier. I watch him play and I almost feel that his frustration with the Dodger  crowded outfield has him completely apathetic towards the team’s plight. I remember the  Ethier that would have ripped off his own finger nail for a base hit. While that type of behavior is not healthy, I would like to see a little “fire” from the Andre of old. His offensive numbers have plummeted. His average is pedestrian and his power is virtually non-existent. A .250 hitter with 4 home runs. Captain Clutch he is no more. He is still serviceable in the outfield. But, at 16-17 million a season, he is over-paid and has a contract the Dodgers can’t move unless they are willing to eat it.

The Carl Crawford project has been an unmitigated disaster so far. I know the Dodgers could not have acquired Adrian Gonzalez without taking Crawford’s ridiculous contract, but I thought the Dodgers would at least get a fraction of the production Crawford gave the Rays. I expected him to perform much better once he got out of that toxic situation in Boston. Instead Crawford has been a huge disappointment. Aside from his two home run performance against Atlanta in Game 3 of the National League Divisional playoff last year, Crawford has given the Dodgers nothing but repeated trips to the disabled list. I knew there was risk in taking him as part of the AGon deal, and if presented with the choice, would do it again. But, Crawford has been awful. And, at 19 million dollars a season I see him as the biggest albatross of the over-paid bunch. Out of the Dodgers sub-par performers, his contract is the worst to move. Due to his diminished production, frequent trips to the disabled list, and horrific throwing arm. He is a concrete slab that weighs the Dodgers down.

On one hand Hanley Ramirez is an electrifying hitter and can carry a team all by himself. When he isn’t scalding hot offensively he is simply a defensive liability that hurts a team with his bad range and iron hands at shortstop. Ramirez is a free-agent to be and this promises to be a  tough call for the Dodgers. Hampered the last two years by injuries, Ramirez doesn’t appear to be that game changing type of hitter anymore. But, it’s tough to know since he isn’t healthy. I would love to see the guy healthy, but due to pulled muscles and getting dusted and plunked by opposing pitchers, Ramirez can’t stay out of the infirmary. I love the “I SEE YOU” Ramirez. But, I don’t see that guy much anymore. Instead I see a hobbled and slow short-stop who hurts this team immeasurably with his porous defense on this pitching rich team.

I don’t really WANT to point out Adrian Gonzalez for a sub-par performance but in his case the numbers don’t lie. Despite his big game-winning RBI hit last night Gonzalez’s numbers are down this year and in big spots it has hurt the Dodgers. Since May, Adrian has hit a woeful .224 and has been flirting with the .250 mark since mid-June. His 14 home runs are nice, but they primarily came during an early season power surge. He is not hitting the long ball of late. In the past that was OK, since AGon could always be depended on for a high average and his reliability with runners in scoring position. But, he hasn’t been as consistent in those spots this year. He is on pace for his 20 home runs and 100 RBI’s and the Dodgers and their fans will take it. I am just here to say that if Gonzalez was having a typical Gonzalez season he would be on pace for  130 or 140 RBI’s. Remember, Gonzalez has had Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig on base in front of him all year. He should be driving in at least 120 with the seasons those two have had. Am I nit-picking a bit with AGon ? Of course, but when you are making 21 million a year, we should be critical. Gonzalez is still producing. My argument is, he should produce more.

These five players are making a ridiculous amount of money. All of them except for Hanley are under contract for years to come. So, Dodger fans, this is your core. These are the players that management has chosen to build around. I think that has to change. At some point it’s time to “fish or cut bait.” There is no question the Dodgers have to get rid of at least two of these players. The problem is no one wants them. They don’t produce and get paid way too much money. The questions are clear for Guggenheim and the Dodger brass. Who do you move ? And, how much is Guggenheim willing to eat to shed themselves of these players who were once serviceable, but now are playing the role of anvil for this organization.

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