Monday, May 14, 2012

The effects of Matt Kemp's DL stint for the Dodgers

The results of Matt Kemp's MRI today weren't exactly conclusive, other than he has a strained hamstring. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. speculates Kemp might be headed for the disabled list after tonight's game.
"My guess (and it's only a guess) is that Matt Kemp will go on the DL, but after the game..."
And what a guess it was, as Kemp did indeed go on the DL after the game. Jerry Sands, who has stepped up big-time since I "called him out" a few days ago (6-for-7, three home runs, four RBI, six runs scored), was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque.

Kemp going to the DL certainly suck for the Dodgers, as the National League's best team (record-wise) will be without its most important and best player for at least two weeks.

The hamstring has bothered Kemp since May 6 in Chicago, when he was scratched from the starting lineup that day. He's played in every game since before tonight, but I tweeted last night it'd be smart to give him some time off if he wasn't DL-bound:
"Kemp should probably get a couple days off. #Dodgers"
Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times wrote today the Dodgers should place Kemp on the DL "to save (Kemp) from himself."

They did, and Kemp will be better for it.

But the impact for the Dodgers is big. An entire lineup overhaul could be in order, if manager Don Mattingly has the guts to do so.

The lineup is already struggling at the top with Dee Gordon, whose .250 on-base percentage leaves a lot to be desired. Mark Ellis has been better than expected in the No. 2 spot.

Andre Ethier has hit mostly cleanup behind Kemp this season and appears to be the Ethier of old: .308/.368/.592. Despite being back on track, Ethier is going to need to fill in big for Kemp, as he's the only other truly legitimate hitter in the Dodgers' lineup.

After that, things get dicey.

Juan Uribe has been better than last season (.250/.294/.338), but that's not saying much. Plus, he was just placed on the DL. James Loney has been a tad better (.245/.328/.349), but still bad. A.J. Ellis has been the team's third-best hitter, but he's hit eighth for a vast majority of the season.

The man who would likely get most of the playing time in Kemp's absence, Tony Gwynn, is nothing more than fourth outfielder. However, his defense is superb and would be a step up from Kemp's.

Recently acquired Bobby Abreu and rookie Scott Van Slyke, despite playing the same position, appear to be in line for some increased playing time.

With Kemp out, what could the Dodgers' lineup look like? Here's my best guess:

vs. RHP
Gordon SS
Ellis 2B
Abreu LF
Ethier RF
Ellis C
Loney 1B
Kennedy 3B
Gwynn CF

Versus lefties, on the other hand, is going to be challenging. Would Mattingly dare bat Ellis or Van Slyke any higher than fifth? This is assuming Ethier hits third, but what about Abreu? I don't see it; but at least they should be playing, along with newcomer Sands. Either Justin Sellers or Elian Herrera should see time at third base, because we certainly don't want Adam Kennedy playing... at all, but especially not against lefties.

vs. LHP
Gordon SS
Ellis 2B
Ethier CF (yes, center field -- I don't like it anymore than you do)
Ellis C
Abreu LF
Van Slyke RF
Sands 1B
Sellers/Herrera 3B

Not sure this lineup is going to happen, but the Dodgers probably want to limit the number of left-handed hitters and will have to trust some unproven (Ellis) and younger (Van Slyke/Sands) players against southpaws while Kemp is out of the lineup.

The Dodgers have a six-game lead over the Giants. They have room to absorb this blow. Kemp shouldn't be gone much longer than the 15 days (barring any setbacks), so they just need to hold down the proverbial fort until then.

Photo credits: SD Dirk, Flickr

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