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Dodgers Young Hitters Need To Shoulder The Load

It's hard to find much to complain about the Dodgers and their 28-13 start.  Despite losing Manny Ramirez for 50 games, they continue to score runs, and they lead are second in the majors in runs scored (per game) and lead the majors in runs allowed.

The lineup is built around its young core of Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Russell Martin.  They are the only regular hitters on the right side of 30 years old.  On most nights, with or without Ramirez, they are the four through seven hitters in the most potent lineup in the National League.

About two weeks ago, Orlando Hudson told Billy Witz of the NY Times:

“We’re going to ride their coattails,” Hudson said, speaking in a staccato that was as quick as his feet on the basepaths. “They better get ready,” he added, “because we’re all jumping on the young bucks’ coattails.” 

However, in May they are struggling.  In April, three of the four had good months, with only Russell Martin slumping:

Kemp 92 6 3 3 10 .325/.402/.588 .990
Ethier 104 6 0 5 15 .306/.423/.553 .976
Loney 97 6 0 0 16 .313/.423/.388 .810
Martin 89 4 0 0 10 .205/.303/.256 .560
Totals 382 22 3 8 51 .288/.390/.449 .839

In May, the tables have turned, as Martin has been the only one hiting.

Martin 66 2 0 0 14 .353/.500/.392 .892
Kemp 78 2 1 1 6 .222/.282/.319 .601
Loney 77 1 0 2 2 .230/.247/.324 .571
Ethier 76 2 0 1 8 .194/.276/.269 .545
Totals 297 7 1 4 30 .242/.320/.322 .642

The power has been way down for this quartet this month, and they have decreased their unintentional walk rate from 11.5% of plate appearances in April to 9.1% in May.

Again, the Dodgers have the best record in baseball and have been doing great as a whole, and the offense hasn't suffered much this month despite the drop in production from its core.  The club averaged 5.7 runs per game in April, and are at 5.5 per game in May.

There's no reason to think their numbers won't improve, especially over the May numbers.  This group is more like it played in April than it has in May.  Manager Joe Torre agrees:

“If you asked me toward the end of last year if that confidence level was there, I wouldn’t be sure. But it’s there. They think they’re pretty good in their own right.”

With or without Manny, how the foursome of Ethier, Kemp, Loney, and Martin performs will go a long way in determining the Dodgers' fate.