Monday, April 28, 2008

Definitely An Improvement

What A Difference a Week Makes, Huh? Although watching Russell Martin playing 3rd base was a bit discombobulating. One more win puts them back to .500, a result I would be fairly happy with considering all the chaos of the spring training, china trip, new players, new manager, and injuries...

But this is the Juan Pierre Outwatch. As Humma is asleep at the wheel (probably actually asleep in a huddle next to the crib of his very little girl), it falls upon me to push onward.

So far with Torre, Pierre has been denied a regular starting position. Instead the Dodgers are basically using a four man rotating outfield, although Juan has been more often the odd man out. Let's see how these guys are doing. In alphabetical order:

Andre Ethier:
.305/.386/.463, 2 HR, 14 SO, 122 OPS+ ; 1 of 1 SB
Andruw Jones:
.159/.266/.256, 1 HR, 29 SO, 38 OPS+ ; 0 SB
Matt Kemp:
.295/.317/.474, 2 HR, 23 SO, 104 OPS+ ; 1 of 2 SB
Juan Pierre:
.250/.328/.288, 0 HR, 2 SO, 64 OPS+ ; 6 of 7 SB

Ethier I'll keep short and sweet. He is producing as advertised, basically a solid .850 OPS guy. Obviously quite valuable.

Matt Kemp is having a bit of trouble with his OBP, although he has raised it about 20 points in the past week (patience, Matt, patience). His power is also starting to come online. I feel fairly confident that this .800 OPS level is something Kemp can be relied on to achieve. The open question is whether he can kick it up to the next level and keep it there, becoming one of the game's elite players, something he has shown flashes of. He is only 23, in theory still several years away from his prime. Let's give him another 500 major league at bats and see what we have.

Juan Pierre is off to a tepid start, even for him. Probably partially a result of not playing every day. His patience has actually been not so bad. I don't know how much is a result of any conscious change in style and how much could just be because of where he ends up in the batting order nowadays (8th batters traditionally get more walks because of the easy out, the pitcher, batting behind them). He is still stealing bases well when he gets on and not striking out much, but his lack of power is not going to change.

Andruw Jones has just been flat out terrible. It looked like he was starting to hit the ball better about a week or so ago, but he still looks clueless at the plate. I don't subscribe to the notion that a strikeout is significantly worse than a lazy fly or a ground out. They can, however, be a symptom of a greater problem. Twenty-nine times out of 94 opportunites, Andruw has flailed uselessly at the ball. He has been walking at a good clip, but in his case I suspect he is actually afraid to swing at the ball. And if you look at his average, maybe he should be. Worse of all, he has only a single Home Run. This from a man who has averaged 33 per year over his entire career (hasn't hit less than 26 since 1998). Right now he is on pace to hit something like 7 HRs. Low average, low power hitters should probably not get 18 million a year, no matter how good they are with the glove.

So that leaves us with the current dilemma: The way Jones amd Pierre are playing, it seems criminal to take at bats away from Ethier and Kemp for anything other than resting them. At their age and positions, that should really only be like once every two weeks.

Center field is a black hole for the Dodgers, sucking in expensive "veteran" talent that was either over-hyped in the first place or coming apart at the seams in front of our eyes. With nearly 30 million a year invested, the Dodgers are not going to put Kemp in center and play Ethier and Delwyn Young. They just won't. If Jones can't get it together, which just is really hard to believe, Pierre is going to find his way back into the every day line-up.

Juan being an everyday player is anathema to this blog's very existence. But if Jones can't find his gear, I may find it very hard to rail too hard against the decision to play him instead of Jones.

I give you until June 1, Jones. Find your swing or may Juan Pierre have mercy on your soul.

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