Dodgers Off to a Stumbling Start

As the Dodgers enjoy the excellent cuisine and magnificent scenery of San Francisco, waiting for their three game series with the Giants to begin Friday (tonight), their fans are attempting to determine if [a] the Milwaukee Brewers are that good, or [b] are the 2007 Dodgers that bad or [c] is there not enough evidence at this time to make a rational judgement. The answer of course is "c".

The opening series in Miller Park, Milwaukee, resulted in the loss of two of the three games and narrowly averted a series sweep as the young and talented Brewers countered every Dodger move.

The Los Angeles media seemed to bother Luis Gonzalez as he was asked to explain how he was unable to get to a number of catchable balls in left field and his weak throwing arm ("I don't have a cannon for an arm, I've just got to get the ball and get it in. I've been playing long enough so what you see is what you get from me.") and even jolly old Grady Little reacted badly to the questioning of his strategic moves. Losing makes one testy.

Over the three-game set the Dodgers were 1-for-19 (.105) with runners in scoring position and overall hit .181 (17-for-94), 28th in the Major Leagues, while scoring nine runs in three games, five of the runs coming in a nail-biting 5-4 win Wednesday night.

Second baseman Jeff hit safely in the first three games of the season. He homered in the first game, hit a first-inning single in the second game and doubled in the third game. He raised his slugging percentage to .636 and Russell Martin hit .308 in the series.

However, without the 2006 Most Valuable Dodger Rafael Furcal at the top of the lineup, the team is certainly less potent but they better get used to it since the shortstop is still unable run and thus unable to play.

His replacement, Ramon Martinez, is versatile and carries a excellent glove but he cannot replace the hitting qualities of Furcal. Couple that with Wilson Betemit"s continued struggle at the plate (1-for-8) and the slow start of Nomar Garciaparra and Gonzalez and the early problem is apparent.

Andre Ethier, who slumped badly the latter part of the spring, has not found his groove but Matt Kemp, who surprisingly made the opening roster after a horrendous spring, showed signs of his early 2006 work. He smacked a pair of long shots to the center field wall in the second game that were caught, then came up with a double and a sacrifice fly in the win.

Dodger pitching was only marginally better, allowing opponents a .294 batting average and recording a 5.40 earned run average, not too impressive since most "experts" extolled the virtues of the revamped pitching staff.

Jason Schmidt filled the predicted "ace of the staff" forecast but starters Derek Lowe and Randy Wolf fell well short of their spring efforts, Lowe losing his third opener in L.A. Both Jonathan Broxton and Rudy Seanez had a decline in effectiveness when working for the second night in a row and Takashi Saito"s debut was not vintage work. Seanez, particularly, was hit hard and often in his second time out.

Chad Billingsley and Mark Hendrickson indicated that they were ready and willing to step into the starting rotation at a moments notice and Joe Beimel acquitted himself well in his first appearance.

But to critique the opening series of the season is really an exercise in futility. Had the Dodgers dropped two of three in Milwaukee in June, nothing much would have been thought about it. The fact that it opened the season magnified its importance. One should never examine statistics in three game segments and accept the results as "factual".

Examine the statistics below. You can be sure those players hitting at the .200 level will not finish the season that way, or at least they won't finish the season with the Dodgers with those numbers.

Lets check back in about a month. If they same problems are still occurring, we've got Trouble Right Here in River City. But this team is a work in progress and can't be judged this early.

Manager Grady Little prepared everyone when he said just before the club broke came to fly back to Los Angeles. "There will be a lot of coming and going during the summer," he said. "There was many moves made last year and I expect there will be a lot made this summer."

James Loney and Andy LaRoche take heed.

The Dodger outfield is not its strong suit at this time and most major league teams count on just those players to provide a good deal of he offense. Pin on your Boy Scout medals and "Be Prepared" when the call comes.
Batting 	        gm ab r  h bi   ave   obp   ops
Clark, CF        	2  2  0  1  0  .500  .500  1.500 
Saenz, 1B        	2  2  0  1  2  .500 1.000  1.500  
Martin, C        	3 13  3  4  2  .308  .357  0.972 
Kent, 2B         	3 11  2  3  2  .273  .333  0.969  
Gonzalez, LF     	3 10  1  2  0  .200  .273  0.573 
Kemp, LF         	2  5  0  1  1  .200  .167  0.567 
Pierre, CF       	3 12  2  2  0  .167  .231  0.398 
Betemit, 3B      	3  8  1  1  0  .125  .364  0.489 
Martinez, 2B     	3  8  0  1  0  .125  .222  0.347 
Garciaparra, 1B  	3 10  0  1  2  .100  .167  0.367
Anderson, 2B     	2  2  0  0  0  .000  .000  0.000
Ethier, LF       	2  5  0  0  0  .000  .000  0.000
Valdez, SS       	3  1  0  0  0  .000  .000  0.000 
	                  94  9 17  9  .181  .255  0.574

  2b hits- Clark, Saenz, Martin, 
Kent, Gonzalez, Garciaparra. 
HR- Kent, Martin. 

               w-l    era  g  gs  in  h bb so  ave
J. Beimel      0-0   0.00  1  0  1.0  2  1  1  .500
C. Billingsley 0-0   0.00  1  0  1.0  1  1  0  .250
J. Broxton     0-0   0.00  2  0  2.0  1  0  3  .143
J. Schmidt     1-0   1.80  1  1  5.0  3  3  5  .167
M. Hendrickson 0-0   3.00  1  0  3.0  1  0  3  .100
T. Saito       0-0   5.40  1  0  1.2  3  0  1  .375
R. Wolf        0-1   6.00  1  1  6.0  7  1  5  .292
D. Lowe        0-1  13.50  1  1  4.0  8  5  4  .421
R. Seanez      0-0  13.50  2  0  1.1  4  0  1  .500
               1-2   5.40  3  3  25  30 10 24  .294
California Here We Come-- The Giants and the Dodgers, who have been butting heads under slightly different names since the 1880s, meet tonight (Friday) with a history of 2,236 National League games under their belts.

After all that time the Giants hold a 26-game advantage (1,136-1,110)or less than 1%. Over the first two decades in the league the Giants from Manhattan had their way with the boys from across the bridge, recording a 252-88 record. Since 1920 the Dodgers have a 1,102-884 margin.

They didn't much like each other when they had Brooklyn and New York in front of their names and that feeling has subsided only a little as the surnames switched to Los Angeles and San Francisco. About the only thing they have ever agreed upon was the move to California in 1958.

The Dodgers won 13 of 16 last year, the widest victory margin for either team since 1983, and L.A. won five straight at the end of the season and 11 of the last 13 games.

Tonight Brad Penny faces LHP Noah Lowry, Saturday it is Derek Low against RHP Russ Ortiz and Sunday Randy Wolf opposes LHP Barry Zito.

Nice Job Offer-- Dodgers bench coach Dave Jauss has been asked to manage Licey in the Dominican Winter League because it will mark the 100th anniversary of the team. Jauss led Licey to the Caribbean Series title in 1999. Dodgers first base coach Mariano Duncan will be Jauss" bench coach.

Dodger Blue Notes-- As clubs adjusted their opening day lineups, a number of former Dodgers got tickets out of town. Included in those sent to the minors were: Todd Williams, Orioles and Gookie Dawkins, Mariners. Moved to the disabled list: Pedro Martinez, Mets (shoulder); Toby Hall, White Sox; Juan Encarnation and Mets (wrist). …Former Dodger wonderkind Edwin Jackson will be the fifth starter for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. …The Mets signed Ricky Ledee to a minor league contract.

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