Piquing too soon: Dodger injuries raise concerns

1) The Dodgers did not start a throwaway lineup Friday. Behind the best pitcher in baseball, they started five regulars.

• Hanley Ramirez sat because of an injury.

• Carl Crawford sat for any or all of three reasons: He had a .569 OPS this season against lefties and a .596 OPS in September, along with a season-long need for rest.

• Adrian Gonzalez is the only name that seemed out of place on the bench, but given that he is also left-handed and Madison Bumgarner was on the mound, you could understand.

2) Before the game Friday, I described the scenario of “a game that was essentially a tossup deciding whether or not Dodger fans would be elated or deflated.” That’s what Friday’s game was.

After Juan Uribe’s two-run homer broke a scoreless tie and Andre Ethier was hit by a pitch with two out, Giants leftfielder Juan Perez made one of the best catches I’ve seen all year (against A.J. Ellis) to rob the Dodgers of a third run and the chance for more.

Moments later, in the following inning, San Francisco scored three runs on four hits against Clayton Kershaw, the last two runs coming on a dink single by Brett Pill. An error by backup leftfielder Scott Van Slyke, fielding the previous hit, didn’t help matters.

Carl Crawford might have made the play that Van Slyke didn’t, and as a result, maybe the Dodgers wouldn’t have lost Friday’s game. On the other hand, Crawford also grounded into a double play as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning, right before Ethier doubled.

Most nights since June 22, the Dodgers have cashed in more opportunities than their opponents. On this night, the opposite happened. This is the tightrope we walk.

3) Ramirez is hurt, and it might not be a simple injury – it’s an irritated nerve in his back. Matt Kemp has played 8 1/2 innings since July 5. Though a .210 batting average on balls in play isn’t helping, starting catcher Ellis, with a .281 on-base percentage and .263 slugging since July 24, might be worn down. And now Andre Ethier has a shaky ankle.

Talk all you want about lineups and momentum, but this is the only issue for Dodger fans to worry about as they head toward the playoffs. Will they be at full strength?

* * *

Some fans will look at late-season losses by a playoff-bound team like a leaky gas tank, the idea being that the losses themselves weaken the team. They are not discrete events, but rather events that have impact on the future. Momentum is something that needs to be actively protected, or it will dissipate into the universe like helium from a balloon.

Either that, or the losses reflect a team that has stopped caring about winning, and that apathy is a disease that will carry into the postseason, when you can’t afford it to.

Do either of those scenarios really make sense? Or does it make more sense that the next game is a new game, and the same hunger and talent that fueled a historic midseason run won’t have evaporated just when you need it the most?

It is plausible that the Dodgers are tired. It is evident they are not 100 percent healthy. The best way to deal for Don Mattingly to deal with both those issues is not to overplay his hand. Yes, losing doesn’t feel good, and having a higher playoff seeding could be great. I’m still hoping the team wins 100 games, though they now need to go 14-1 to do it. But we should all agree that it’s not worth wearing down the active roster further if it will weaken the team in the playoffs.

A manager in this situation finds the best possible balance between giving players the rest they need and keeping the fires burning. Some days, it’s debatable how best to find that balance, and if things go wrong for Los Angeles next month, countless among us will look to September for the seeds of self-destruction.

But can you really identify a better strategy right now than:

• Giving injured players time to heal.

• Giving healthy players an occasional rest, and giving bench players an occasional start to keep them fresh.

• Continuing to push those on the field to make the best effort on the field to win.

Any student of 1988 knows that the Dodgers needed their bench to win that World Series. The same was true in 1981. If a championship is the goal in 2013, there are three things you need to do – amass your talent, avoid injuries as much as possible, and be as prepared as you can be to overcome them when they arrive. This is the Dodgers’ challenge, and it’s not an easy one.

Giants at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.

  • Bob_Hendley

    Nicely laid out.

  • package206

    I read with interest your thoughts about Donnie’s lineups and I cannot help but wonder whether some players need to continue to play to keep sharp as opposed to sitting on the bench. I also wonder whether sitting to many regulars keeps momentum going. Personally, I question many, many moves made by Mattingly. He seems to outthink himself sometimes with pitchers and in game moves. I know one thing for sure. What I saw from him in Cincinnati last weekend was deplorable. You make good points defending him but you can also look at them in other ways.

    • foul tip

      What any manager in his position would do now is prep the best he can for postseason.

      Whatever moves he makes between now and then may differ from those we might. But I’d expect the last few games of the season to feature pretty much the starting lineup most of any given game and the planned playoff rotation, with rest and injury recovery time pretty much done by then. Kinda like the end of Spring Training leading into regular season.

      Not directed at you, but some fans want the starting lineup out there every day regardless of rest or nagging injury or need to keep the bench sharp. They seem to feel slighted when it’s not. They need to get over such short-sighted thinking. They probably won’t, since it’s emotion-based.

      If DM played only the regulars when there’s no realistic need and ran them into the ground and they didn’t perform postseason, he’d be torched for that, too–justifiably in that case.

      Playoffs are a crapshoot anyway, but common sense goes a long way.

      • gen3blue

        That last sentence is so true. Regardless of how you feel about D2X’s management, he has the team in an enviable position with about as many options as you can have going into the post season. My worst fear is that the number of injuries may just overwhelm this team, and this is one thing no one has any control over.

        Long-term however–I think there is no doubt the Dodgers have to re-evaluate their conditioning and training philosophies.

  • WBBsAs

    I’m not a Mattingly fan, but I won’t second-guess his sitting regulars to get (and keep) them healthy. That’s far more important than any ostensible home-field advantage, which appears far less significant in baseball than in football or basketball.

  • WinnipegDave

    Linking back to Dodger Thoughts circa mid June 2013 is so fascinating and quaint. It makes me want to call out to the Dodgers and to us, “Hold on dear friends. Better days, exciting days, wonderfully exhilarating days are just around the corner.”
    Makes me wonder what November Dodger Thought words we will be able to offer back to ourselves.

    • RBI

      I remember posting, (as LOB2), “Tell me we will win another game someday,” or something to that effect. And we did, and now here we are!

  • Vail Beach

    At this point, one thing I don’t care about is having the best overall record. I’d rather have a healthy, rested Kershaw/Greinke/Nolasco/Hyu/Jensen/Wilson/Rodriguez/Howell and play an extra game on the road than the reverse.

  • Spence

    Might want to give up on the hope that Kemp will come back this year.Its probably not happening.

    • Bob_Hendley

      What’s the latest?

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Dodgers lineup:
    Puig CF
    Crawford LF
    Gonzalez 1B
    Uribe 3B
    M Ellis 2B
    Schumaker RF
    Federowicz C
    Punto SS
    Nolasco P

  • btimmer

    Alex Castellanos and Chili Buss join the Dodgers today.

    • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

      Chili Buss? Is that a real person and a real name?

      • btimmer

        Nicholas Chili Buss

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    “Chris Capuano felt something in his left groin at the very end of his bullpen session yesterday”

    http://dodgerscribe.com/

    My guess is he won’t make post season roster

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    “my money would be on the Dodgers activating Matt Kemp sometime during their upcoming, four-game series with the Diamondbacks in Phoenix”

    http://dodgerscribe.com/matt-kemp-activated-during-arizona-series/

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT
  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Go BLUE!!!!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    ITFDB

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    1st step was in

    • Bob_in_Vegas

      I hope we don’t realize what a good job Andre has done by subtraction.

      • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

        I’ve always said Puig is not a CF

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Tootblan for the 1st out

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    DP Time

  • RBI

    Yikes. Just turned this on.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Puig was playing really deep there

  • RBI

    Deep breath, and a DP, boys.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Finally…Hopefully the offense is awake today

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Puig!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Puig speed

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Well we got 1 back

  • btimmer
    • RBI

      Great name.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Not a CF’er

  • RBI

    Nolasco throwing batting practice, and Puig pretty clueless out there. Bad combo.

  • RBI

    Goodness gracious.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Juanito with a great catch

  • btimmer

    Ricky Nolasco’s previous worst start came earlier in June when he was with the Marlins. He lost to the Padres 9-2. The opposing starter? Edinson Volquez.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Life’s little ironies.

  • btimmer

    Pirates and Cardinals tied again for NL Central lead.

  • RBI

    Not our night. But Vinny is still a delight. “Oucho.”

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Buss on deck

  • RBI

    Chili Buss, getting a chance to play. I like it!

  • scooplew

    Is Crawford hurt or was this a mercy removal?

    • btimmer

      It’s going to be spring training the rest of the way.

      • scooplew

        Thanks….I wonder if Schumaker’s perfect ERA will be threatened tonight.

        • btimmer

          With the number of relievers the Dodgers have, Schumaker better not have to pitch.

    • RBI

      The latter, I think.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    JUANITO!! Gold Glover

  • John_from_Aus

    Not a flash start I see

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Come on DP

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Puig’s shaken up on that catch

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Wow…are they going to let the Gnats score more against us than the Phillies

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    ALEX!!!!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Buss’ 1st hit

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Rally time ????

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Gonzo!

  • Adam Luther

    Giants keeping starters in with a big lead…

    • scooplew

      This is one of the highlights of the season for the Giants.

  • scooplew

    Game of Names: Chili Buss is playing for the Dodgers and Gerry Davis is one of the umpires.

  • foul tip

    At least no one should feel any pressure for the rest of this game….

  • RBI

    Big offense tonight from Giants and Diamondbacks. I wonder if they’re both thinking about what might have been?

  • RBI

    Dee Gordon at second base.

  • John_from_Aus

    It gets worse I see

  • btimmer

    Well, that’s over. Todd Helton announced his retirement and his final game should be in the Rockies final series in L.A.

  • John_from_Aus

    We bounced back pretty well after losing 16-1 to Philly, I hope the same happens here

  • WinnipegDave

    A loss is a loss is a loss. But perhaps this one cleans the slate in a way a more normal defeat does not. I agree with John from Aus and can easily imagine the Dodgers bouncing back from this tomorrow. I know I will!

    • thescrounger

      Look at all the hits and runs the Giants burned last night, their pockets ought to be empty today…

  • Stacie Wheeler

    They’ve lost 3 of 7. Concerning.

  • 14hodges

    I like this clever title, Jon. Nice.
    I’m struggling against becoming negative. Help!

  • foul tip

    To me it’s clear that if League isn’t super impressive the rest of the season, he should be left off the playoff roster–probably even if he is.

    I was gonna call him Forrest Gump League because of the box-of-chocolates-never-know-what-you’re-gonna-get factor. But now I don’t think that’s right.

    Now he’s back to kersense-korps-about-every-time-out status. That’s how he was early season, followed by a run of good outings, now back to fire-department-on-standby.

    Last night was just more arson, not overly significant. In the 9th he had the opportunity to be the only impressive pitcher among the lesser lights. Didn’t happen. Apart from Nolasco and Howell, none of last night’s pitchers should see postseason.

    Question is will the Dodgers make a baseball decision on League or a contract one? They have better options. I just don’t think the team can have enough confidence to use him, If not he shouldn’t take a roster spot.

    They made good baseball decisions on the pen earlier and on Lilly, tho it was pretty clear Lilly could no longer pitch. So not sure they should get much credit for that one. We’ll see.

  • ASW1

    Went to a get-together at a friend’s house for the Mayweather fight – not much of a fight, but had a great time – didn’t see or hear anything about last night’s game until I opened this mornings’ paper – sure glad I missed that one.

    Would be good to earn a split today – Vogelsong coming in with a 5.82 ERA, so Dodgers should be able to score some runs.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT