Halftime in Dodgertown: Five Goals For LA’s Second-Half


The Dodgers are in a tough stretch.

The Boys in Blue have lost 15 of their last 20 games, but they still maintained a half-game lead over the Giants for the NL West entering the All-Star break. Friday, Matt Kemp will return to the lineup and give the offense a necessary spark for the second half of the season. But what else can they do to stay on top of Frisco as the next three months go by?

Trade for offense: A no-brainer, but the Dodgers could use more production from the corner infield spots. James Loney has a .643 OPS, and Juan Uribe’s is .521, far bellow the average for their respective positions. Fans had a real hard look at a lineup without Kemp and Andre Ethier, and I doubt anyone would want to see that again. Chase Headley, Aramis Ramirez, Justin Morneau, Carlos Quentin and Shane Victorino are just some of the names being bandied about as possible trade targets. Each one carries a different price tag, but one thing is certain: They need to get someone. Because the offense as it stands, even with Kemp, cannot last long without a deadline addition.

Render Chad Billingsley and/or Nathan Eovaldi obsolete: The Dodgers are also looking at starting pitching, particularly Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster of the Cubs. Ted Lilly’s injury turned out to be more severe than anticipated, so unless a trade happens, LA could find itself depending on Eovaldi, he of the 4.21 ERA and 1.41 K/BB ratio. A bad outing against the Giants on June 25 skyrocketed his earned-run-average from 2.35 to 4.04, and yet he has just 24 strikeouts in 47 innings. Either by design or not, Eovaldi has played to contact, and without a capable strikeout pitch he runs the risk of another implosion. Meanwhile, Chad Billingsley has struggled mightily. Chad has a 4.30 ERA, despite a 2.94 K/BB ratio, and nine losses. Either by demotion, bullpen or trade, the Dodgers need at least one of those two out of the rotation ASAP.

Temper the expectations for Dee Gordon: Gordon was given the full reins for shortstop at the start of the season without any real Plan B. That lack of foresight became all the more obvious when he went down with a thumb injury and had to be replaced by career minor leaguer Luis Cruz. The young infielder was clearly struggling before hitting the DL; he had a .280 OBP overall and a .269 OPB when batting first in the lineup before the injury. I previously wrote about why Gordon needed to be dropped in the lineup, and that’s clearer now than ever before.

Maintain utility: As the injury rash of the last two months proved, you can never have too much depth. The Dodgers signed Jerry Hairston Jr. in the offseason to cover multiple positions, but even he fell to the disabled list at one point. Elian Herrera proved to be a rare find, ably playing all three outfield spots, second and third base, and even three innings at shortstop. Getting the maximum utility out of every utility player will be necessary, especially as the team comes to terms with Uribe, Loney and possibly Adam Kennedy.

Keep the bullpen the way it is: The health of the offense isn’t the only thing that went through a tough stretch. The bullpen hit some trouble early in the season; Javy Guerra was inconsistent, relievers like Matt Guerrier and Todd Coffey had health trouble, and Josh Lindblom went from odd-man-out to closer candidate by default. Now, however, the relief corp has improved. Ronald Belisario returned after being away from the team for more than a year and has been spectacular, Kenley Jansen has dominated as a lights-out closer, and even non-roster-invitee Jamey Wright has proven to be invaluable. The Dodgers are searching for another left-hander to complement Scott Elbert, but it would ultimately be a minor adjustment to an already well-working machine.

One half is in the books, and another is on the way. The Dodgers have first place now, but will they in October?