Dodger Report Card - the Hitters

Part two of our annual report card, the hitters, encompasses a wide range of experience and talent. In terms of baseball age the squad ranged from the very young to the very old, and it took some time before the team caught fire in September, winning 15 of 21 games before clinching the NLDS.

Manny Ramirez, who arrived from Boston on the first day of August, enjoyed the most productive two months not only in Dodger history but in baseball history. But even with his magic bat in the lineup each day, the Dodgers suffered through at 13-16 month.

Overall, it took a remarkable pitching staff and a rejuvenated regular lineup that mounted the surge that carried the Dodgers to a second place finish in the National League, their highest finish since the World Championship season of 1988.

The grading system is simple. Each are listed on the traditional A-F scale, with only the 2008 season under consideration. No attempt to incorporate career records or future potential.

One would have to start, and some say end, with Manny Ramirez who hit .400 for the Dodgers until the final, meaningless game with San Francisco, and "slipped" to .396. He collected 14 doubles, 17 home runs, 53 runs batted in and had a .469 on-base percentage, a .743 slugging average -- all Ruthian numbers -- over his 53 games in Dodger Blue.

To put that into an easier understood context, projected over a 162 game schedule he would finish with 226 hits, of which were 43 doubles and 52 home runs, and with 162 runs batted in.

No player in history has changed a new team in the last half of the season and recorded those kinds of numbers with his new club. His grade would have to be A++ or something higher.

But even with Manny on board, and hitting .415 in August, the Dodgers had a record of 13-16. Therefore, no matter what the folklore, a single player cannot carry a team by himself, not matter how he hits.

However, his presence in the lineup can not only inspire his teammates, but actually make them better just by being there, and that was just what Ramirez did.

James Loney, 1b
Critics of Logan White when he drafted Loney #1 as a first baseman, commented "The wrong choice at the wrong position." Those same critics have switched to predicting sub-prime mortgages, and we all know how that turned out. Loney is beginning to blossom into the player White expected him to be. He led the team with 90 home runs and finished with 172 hits 35 doubles, six triples and 13 home runs. He ain't done yet, and he gets a Grade of A-.

Blake DeWitt, 2b-3b
This guy came out of nowhere and solidified the infield despite the fact that he pretty much learned second base on the run. Pressed into the starting third base slot when Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche were disabled within an inning of each other, he moved to second when Kent went down and wouldn't give the position back when he returned. He added solid defense to both second and third. Another work in progress, will continued to improve. Grade B-.

Rafael Furcal, ss
Came into came in prime condition and put up MVP numbers (.388) before a lame back sidelined him until late September when he got 10 at-bats before the season ended. A gutty return in the playoffs demonstrated how important he had been to the team. He needs to be re-signed. Grade: Incomplete.

Jeff Kent, 2b
At, or very near, the end of the line for this prickly but talented infielder who has nothing left to prove and need only to wait for the expected Hall of Fame announcement. Was sub-par most of the season before hitting in front of Manny when he arrived on the scene, then hit .343 but claimed that Ramirez had nothing to do with. Just Kent being Kent. Never criticized for giving less than his best, he deserves a tip of the cap as he rides off into the sunset with a Grade of C-.

Nomar Garciaparra, 3b-ss
Was only in the lineup for 31 at bats until July when he hit .309 before being hurt again and surfaced in September hitting .435 before going out for good. Demonstrated a selflessness by playing at short when needed and he should be remembered for his great clutch hitting -- but not this year. Grade D.

Casey Blake 3b
Had great press for "filling the black hole at third base" but was just a tad over mediocre so you can see how black the hole was. Finished hitting .251 with solid defense but was a rent-a-player, costing a couple fine minor leaguers for his 58 regular season games in Dodger Blue. Will probably return to Cleveland. Grade: C.

Angel Berroa ss
Provided a steady glove at shortstop in Furcal's absence, but his bat was not nearly as steady, recording an average of .230 with a .304 OBP in 226 ABs. When you shake a tree, many gloves fall out but very few bats. If Chin-Lung Hu could have hit his weight, he would have had the job himself. Grade C-.

Juan Pierre of
Gave the team just what most expected. Great speed, tolerable average but no power, no arm of any sort and was an iffy outfielder. Why were people surprised when he displayed only those talents? Way too costly to keep and for the same reason, too expensive to be able to trade. Grade D.

Andre Ethier of
When the brass was finally convinced he could play, he did a remarkable job both with the bat and in the field. Hit about .295 before the All-Star break, then .335 after. Hit in front of Manny and had much the same success Kent did, although Andre admitted Ramirez was the cause. Roared through September, hitting a remarkable .462 with 18 RBI and a stunning .562 slugging average. Add in a strong throwing arm and a solid glove and you have one of the key players in the L.A. surge. Grade: A.

Manny Ramirez of
We touched on his thunderous numbers and need to mention that he spread his work ethic thickly over the clubhouse and his easy way of defusing the pressure of a pennant race. We may never see his likes again in Dodger blue.

Matt Kemp of
At 23, when most players are still trying to fight their way out of AA ball, Kemp put in his first full major league season after a pair of trial runs. His mistakes, and there are still plenty of them, are mistakes of enthusiasm and behind all the gaffes is the gleam of solid gold. A little more patience, which comes with time, and he's going to be something really special. Although .290/18/76, with 93 runs scored and 35 stolen bases ain't chopped liver. Grade B.

Andruw Jones of
Apparently a nice guy who somewhere along the way lost his many and remarkable talents. Very costly, no trade value. Grade F.

Russell Martin c
Suffering from the "Mike Piazza Syndrome" of catching too much too consecutively and seeing his numbers slip away in the final months. Not too much of a drop off from his 2007 season, and he is taking some flack for something he has no control over. He suffers by comparison only to his numbers from last year. Drew an astounding 90 walks and boosted his fine on-base percentage from .374 to .385. Stole an uncatcher-like 18 bases and was the glue that held a strong pitching staff in place. Numbers not withstanding, he earned a Grade B+.

Danny Ardoin
Did more than might have been expected both at and behind the plate. Only got into 24 games, 51 at-bats. Grade C-.

Mark Sweeney ph
Must be a great guy, it took until the final weeks of the season for them to decide he wasn't helping much as a pinch-hitter. Never got more than two hits in a month until August when he got three. Was 12-for-94 as a pinch-hitter (.154) and finished with five RBI. Grade F.

Delwyn Young of
The Dodgers best pinch-hitter, collected 14 hits in 48 at-bats (.292), or just about half of the chances given Sweeney and had an average nearly twice as high as Sweeney's mark. An injury cost him most of the second half. At 26, he can still be a strong fourth outfielder for the Dodgers. Grade C.

Chin-Lung Hu, ss
Given a golden chance when Furcal went down, he dropped it by hitting only .161 although he played well enough in the field. A young, talented infielder, has had some sort of eye problem fixed and may still contribute in years to come. Grade D.

Spear Carriers
Players who saw so little action they were of little help: Pablo Ozuna, Jason Repko, Terry Tiffee, Luis Maza, Gary Bennett, Luis Maza, AJ Ellis, Andy LaRoche, Terry Tiffee. Grades: Incomplete.

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