COMMENTARY| The Los Angeles Dodgers are in last place in the National League West at 13-20. The Dodgers have lost seven in a row -- the second losing streak of six games or more so far this season. The Dodgers' run differential is the fourth-worst in all of Major League Baseball.
In other words, the Dodgers are bad so far this year.
After a big trade at the end of last season and the big splash of signing Zack Greinke to a big contract, the Dodgers were expected by many to contend for the World Series. At this rate, the Dodgers are more in contention for a top-five draft pick.
What happened? Here are five major reasons why the Dodgers are in last place.
The list of Dodgers who have missed time with an injury is massive. Greinke has been out since mid-April with a broken collarbone. Hanley Ramirez came off the disabled list for a thumb injury suffered at the World Baseball Classic only to hurt his hamstring five days later -- he is expected to miss up to six weeks with the newest injury.
Chad Billingsley is missing the entire season (and likely some of next season) after undergoing Tommy John surgery to fix an ailing elbow. Shawn Tolleson is missing up to five months after undergoing back surgery for a herniated disk. Scott Elbert hasn't played all season after multiple elbow surgeries.
Mark Ellis is on the DL with a strained quadriceps. Ted Lilly came off the DL only to go back on the DL with a strained rib cage. Stephen Fife is on the DL with shoulder bursitis. Just this week, Jerry Hairston Jr. was placed on the DL with a strained groin.
And those are just the Dodgers currently on the DL.
Chris Capuano missed time with a calf strain. Adrian Gonzalez has been in and out of the lineup with a neck strain. Carl Crawford has a balky hamstring. Matt Kemp continues to play through recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.
All teams have injuries -- the New York Yankees have weathered the storm better than the Dodgers -- but the amount of injuries to both important starters and even their backups has his the Dodgers hard.
Dodgers Just Can't Score
The Dodgers have no problem getting men on base -- the .330 OBP is sixth in Major League Baseball. So why aren't those players coming around to score?
A big reason is the Dodgers don't hit extra base hits. The Dodgers have just 71 extra base hits -- tied for last place with the Marlins. Only 23 of the Dodgers' 279 hits have been home runs -- the third-fewest home runs of any team (the Kansas City Royals and Marlins each have 19 so far this season).
And when someone does get to second base, the Dodgers are very bad at driving that runner in. The Dodgers are hitting just .213 with runners in scoring position.
A symbol of this is catcher AJ Ellis. Ellis has been on base 43 times this season -- and has scored just 5 times. Two of those times were home runs by AJ Ellis.
Bullpen Not Producing
When the Dodgers have had a lead, they haven't kept it. The Dodgers have just 14 save opportunities so far this year -- and have blown five of those.
The bullpen has a 4.71 ERA this season. The relievers have allowed 11 home runs in 384 at bats and a 1.451 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).
The closer, Brandon League, has a 5.40 ERA. Josh Wall was sent to AAA with his 18.00 ERA. His replacement, Javy Guerra, has an 11.25 ERA. J.P. Howell has been inconsistent.
There are some bright spots. Despite giving up a game-winning home run to Paul Goldschmidt last night, Kenley Jansen has been his typical dominant-self for most of the season. Ronald Belisario has rebounded from a rough start to allow just 2 runs in his last 8 appearances. Paco Rodriguez has been solid in his role out of the 'pen.
Bench Not Producing
The bench's lack of production is, in part, because of the injuries. No one expected Justin Sellers or Juan Uribe to make multiple starts this season until injuries forced the managers' hand. Players expected to come off the bench or make spot starts like Hairston, Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker have played more than anyone expected them to.
This leads to a .184 batting average by pinch hitters this year with one double and one home run. Dodgers fans haven't been confident in any of the 42 plate appearances where a pinch hitter came up to bat.
The pinch hitters have been barely better than the pitchers they often hit for.
This is because of a combination of slightly injured players batting (as with Carl Crawford last night) and players further down the depth chart getting at bats (thanks to injuries) in pinch-hitting situations.
Bad Roster Management
While Federowicz is back up and Van Slyke getting ready -- it may be too late.
I won't repeat what I said with Federowicz too much -- but having Federowicz backing up AJ Ellis is much more helpful than Ramon Hernandez. Now that they have three catchers on the roster, Federowicz is available to pinch hit as he did last night.
Of course, this could have been done earlier.
The Dodgers have Van Slyke playing some outfield to get him ready for a call-up to the Dodgers. But they only did so this week, not immediately after Hairston was apparently injured. This means that instead of Van Slyke possibly getting called up and providing a big bat off the bench, the light-hitting Herrera was there -- and even started for an injured Crawford.
And waiting days to place Mark Ellis on the disabled list despite his age and history of injuries meant that the Dodgers had a very limited bench -- especially when Crawford and Gonzalez weren't available. Days later, they bowed to the inevitable and put Mark Ellis on the DL.
While the players themselves are ultimately responsible for wins and losses, the management isn't helping their cause with restricting Don Mattingly's options.
These aren't all the reasons why the Dodgers aren't winning. Kemp and Ethier aren't hitting like they usually do. Josh Beckett hasn't been effective, except when pitching against the Arizona Diamondbacks. But these are five major reasons why the Dodgers sit in last place.
Matthew Reichbach is a freelance writer and lifelong follower of the Dodgers from their minor league affiliates to the major league club.
You can follow Matthew on Twitter at @3_2count.
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