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The C-Word

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After landing Andruw Jones, it seems like the Dodgers lineup tinkering is done for the year. There's no big bats either in free agency or on the block that the Dodgers could add, so it looks like the Dodgers will be going to war with this lineup on opening day.

SS Furcal
LF Pierre
CF Jones
2B Kent
RF Kemp
C   Martin
1B Loney
3B Nomar/LaRoche

The problem is that except for Martin (who we know will hit for decent power with good average and plate discipline) and Pierre (who we know will suck) pretty much everyone in this lineup carries some kind of question mark with him. While you could say that we have a ton of upside, there's a good chance we could have multiple deadspots in this lineup. Look at the issues surrounding each one of our players.

Furcal - Was absolutely terrible last year. While a lot of this can be attributed to Jason Repko, he still does have to prove he can hit once again.

Jones - See Furcal, just without the bum ankle. I covered why I think Jones should bounce back a bit next year, but he's going to need to change his approach if he's only going to hit 25-30 home runs a year. If he keeps trying to drive the ball out of the park when he's lost some power, he's going to hit .240 this year.

Kent - Jeff Kent has shown that he is one of the all time great hitters and should be held to a different standard than most players. With that said, he's 40. Sometimes, when you're 40, things just happen. Only 10 players in history have had a season with 500 plate appearances and an OPS greater than .800 at age 40 or above. The only middle infielder to pull this off is Luke Appling. Then again, only 26 players have pulled that off at age 39 or greater, and Jeff Kent is the only second baseman to have done so. Having Jeff Kent as the anchor of your lineup isn't the best thing as it is, counting on him to continue to produce like he has at age 40 could prove to be the Dodgers undoing.

Kemp - The main reason I wrote this article. We've made a lot of Kemp's OPS+ of 120 this year here at True Blue LA Headquarters, saying that almost every player who's pulled that off at age 22 has gone on to greatness. However, that 120 OPS+ was something of a fluke. Kemp had a .411 BABIP this year with only a 17.2 line drive percentage. Using the simple translation, Kemp's BABIP was about 120 points higher than it should have been. But, things aren't that simple. Kemp hits a lot of ground balls, which get turned into hits more often than fly balls. When you combine this with Kemp's speed, you get a guy who can leg his way onto base more often than other people. Once again, however, there's a flip side. Kemp legged his way onto base way more often than could be expected. Ichiro lead all qualified hitters with a 13.2 infield hit percentage, Kemp was at 16.3%. Now, Kemp has some wheels, but I really don't think he can leg out hits that much better than Ichiro can. With this in mind, there's no way that Kemp could have sustained a .342 average over a full season.

And here in lies the problem. Aside from that average, Kemp's season last year was not that amazing. The average right fielder hit .281/.351/.453 last year, a .070 isolated patience and a .172 isolated power. Kemp had a .031 patience and a .179 power. In other words, Kemp showed only average power for a right fielder and well below average patience. If he hit only .300 last year, Kemp's numbers would have been around .300/.331/.479, still quite impressive for a 22 year old, but it certainly doesn't scream future star. The point is Kemp needs a lot of work on his game before he can be considered a middle of the order threat. Kemp could break out and go banana on the league, but statistically there's a much better chance he'll hit .290/.325/.475. I liken Kemp right now to Vernon Wells, someone that has to hit in the .300s to be an effective weapon on your team. Believe me when I say that Kemp is still young and has tons of time to improve, but right now there's certainly no guarantee that he'll be the big bat the Dodgers need.

Loney - More solid that the above mentioned guys, but still has a little thing that bugs me. I have no idea if he's going to hit for power. In an extreme hitter's park at Vegas, Loney hit nine home runs in 599 at bats. In a mild hitter's park in L.A., Loney has hit 19 home runs in 446 at bats. While I can usually simply chalk this up to improvement, the fact that Loney had no power in AAA, hit for power in the bigs, then went back down and displayed no power again before hitting a good amount of bombs for the Dodgers doesn't jive with my sensibilities. He's probably the third most solid hitter we have, but don't ask me how many bombs he'll hit this year. Somewhere between 10 and 30 seems like a safe estimate.

Nomar/LaRoche - At least Nomar has nowhere to go but up. Maybe he'll start hitting something than singles again, I don't know. While I do think that LaRoche is more likely to put up good numbers than anyone else mentioned here, I would like to see him actually accomplish it in the bigs before I say it's a completely sure thing.

And so there we have it. The positive way to look at this is that the Dodgers lineup has a ton of upside and could conceivably have one of the best offenses in the NL. The pessimists way to look at this is that it's entirely possible for our lineup to implode on itself and finish 12th in the league in runs scored. Now, at least some of these players will come through on their promise, but we're doing a ton of wishcasting this year if we want our lineup to be a cohesive unit. Since we don't have the one big bat, everyone has to contribute for this lineup to work, and there's a good chance that it just won't happen.