The 2011 Dodger offense, and platoons

Rant alert code red!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Subjects: platoons, 2011 Dodger offense, position by position.

Lately I have been fiddling with the idea that the Dodgers aught to consider more platoons in their offensive schemes of the future. For as much as one can look at Ethier and Loney's strong playoff performances against lefty Cole Hamels in last year's NLCS, it is tough to defend player's whom carry .635 (Ethier) and .594 (Loney) opsi versus lefties (in 2010). As a product of these two corner stones' struggles, the Dodger's rank 25th in MLB ops vs lefties at .681, and 15th of 16 in the NL ahead of only the Astros.

The Dodgers are average against righties this year, with a .732 ops that ranks 16th in MLB and 7th in the NL. Casey Blake's down year vs righties, .220 .299 .366,
is one of the negatives that stands out.

So how can the team improve in 2011? Lets look position by position.

The catching situation may be one of the most talked of Dodger positions of the offseason, what with Martin being injured and a non tender candidate. However it may also be one of the most inconsequential. Very few substantial Martin upgrades exist. Victor Martinez via the free agency and Chris Iannetta via trade could be long shot possibilities worth monitoring, John Buck intrigues as well, but I am resigned to Martin or less at catcher, depending on what the Dodgers can afford.

There are quite a few veteran first basemen available this offseason whom one could argue are improvements over James Loney. Paul Konerko, Carlos Pena, Adam Laroche, and Aubrey Huff to name a few. However even though this is a hypothetical and I could propose the Dodgers shop Loney before replacing him via free agency, I prefer to keep closer to reality. The Dodgers seem to be fairly committed to Loney, enough so that I doubt they would replace him unless we were talking about a Prince Fielder type. Still, Loney NEEDS to be platooned. Internally, I could see Casey Blake becoming a platoon partner for either Loney or Ethier (in LF), Russell Mitchell and AAA vet John Lindsey would be other potential Loney Platoon partners. Looking at free agency Ty Wiggington might make sense, he has position flexibility going for him, probably too costly though. Bottom line, finding someone who can play 1st and hit lefties is not difficult, and it really needs to be done.

At this point concerning second base, I am resigned to hoping that Jamie Carroll will earn the full time job. He is nothing too special, but he has that shiny obp and is already signed for next year. It seems like a waste of funds to get someone else making Carroll a bench player. As for Theriot, I am going to pretend he doesn't exist. Maybe Dejesus or Pedroza become MLB players between now and 2012, maybe not, It doesn't matter all that much.

Furcal is the SS through 2012 (he has a team option) unless he is traded in a full scale Dodger sale. If that is the case, he should be replaced by Hu. Gordon is on the way, whether he will be better than average is yet to be seen.

The Dodger's 3rd base situation is awful. Casey Blake will not be a competitive every day option and Russ Mitchell's one big year in the PCL is not enough to bank on. Nobody else in the system is even close. With this in mind, the Dodgers should be more inclined to pursue Adrian Beltre than any of the other big free agents. Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee are great targets, just not as essential or plausible. Beltre would be costly as well, say 4-5 years 50-60 mill, but he should be on the Dodger's menu due to need.

Without Beltre, the Dodgers need to find an upgrade. Personally I like the idea of a platoon starting with Wilson Betemit as the left handed half. If Blake and Mitchell are not already locked into platoons with Ethier and Loney they could be the right handed half. Multi position free agents like Wiggington or Bill Hall might be worth looking into as well.

Outfield time. Kemp has not had the greatest year, but he is still good vs left handers and can be serviceable against right handers. So no platoon for him. Also, the Dodgers should not be looking for outfielders to commit multiple years to. Trayvon Robinson and Jerry Sands are too close to the majors. A spot needs to be left open for them.

The issues are whom will platoon with Ethier and who/whom will be in the open outfield spot. One possibility would be to platoon Ethier/Blake in left and Paul/Hoffman in right. Paul has not translated his AAA success to MLB yet, so there would be doubts about both him and Hoffman, but there is no denying their ability to improve the outfield defense. None of the free agents really catch my eye as great alternatives.

In conclusion here is a look at some possible line
ups for next year's Dodgers along with the 2010 platoon stats.

Vs. Right handers

Furcal .332 .404 .507
Carroll .275 .379 .311
Ethier  .333 .403 .610
Beltre  .332 .366 .549
Loney  .313 .372 .460
Kemp  .241 .307 .447
Paul    .351 .424 .657 (AAA stats)
Martin .252 .345 .333

vs Left handers

Furcal .274 .315 .452 (career .293 .355 .448)
Carroll.276 .363 .329
Kemp .313 .344 .461 (career .348 .395 .540)
Beltre .333 .382 .608
Blake(LF) .324 .393 .520
Mitchell(1st) .417 .481 .757 (AAA stats)
Hoffman .336 .400 .511 (AAA stats)
Martin .235 .353 .329

Looks like a large improvement to me, and it only gets better if Sands/Robinson replace Loney/Paul. Just need Beltre. Also, I would have Ellis and Hu as the backup catcher and utility infielder respectively. 

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