Los Angeles Dodgers Infielder Luis Cruz Struggling Early, and it Isn't Surprising

Yahoo Contributor Network
Los Angeles Dodgers Finally Designate Luis Cruz for Assignment
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Luis Cruz bats against the San Diego Padres on July 13.

COMMENTARY | The first piece I wrote for the Yahoo! Sports Contributor Network, I wondered if the Los Angeles Dodgers would go after Scott Rolen to strengthen the left side of the infield. This was before the Hanley Ramirez injury -- which he could be back from sooner rather than later.

The comments were plentiful on that piece and were rather entertaining. Seriously, you should check them out.

But here we are, nearly three weeks into the season and Luis Cruz just isn't getting the job done. Through four plate appearances in the first game of the Dodgers' doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles, he's hitting a paltry .093 on the season. I'm one of the biggest pessimists when it comes to Cruz, but even I expected him to his better than that.

His defense has been good, as expected. Even with the strong defense, though, he's worse than replacement level right now (-0.3 WAR). But the Dodgers have struggled offensively and when there's a guy hitting less than .100 in the every day lineup, it's going to stick out.

Here are some of the numbers that factor into Cruz's struggles thus far (data courtesy of FanGraphs).

Batting average on balls in play

Cruz's BABIP is .110. The Major League average is around .300. When players hit the ball with authority, that number will increase. Last season, Cruz's BABIP was .320, leading to a .297 batting average.

Line drive rate

Cruz had a 23.6 line drive rate last season. This season, his line drive rate is 11.8 percent. When the ball isn't being hit hard, the chances of getting hits diminish. The rate is down because of popups.

Infield fly ball percentage

Cruz is the unquestioned king of popups. His 26.3 percent popup rate is 11th-worst in the majors. He's in the company of guys like Pedro Alvarez, Omar Infante, Mike Moustakas and Brendan Ryan. Unsurprisingly, all these players are struggling.

Walk rate

Cruz is walking in 2.3 percent of his plate appearances in 2013. The number is a little misleading because the one walk he's drawn this season was intentional. He hasn't drawn an unintentional walk since Aug. 29.

These four factors are not unrelated. Provided Cruz gets the opportunity (which -- as of now -- he doesn't deserve), the numbers should normalize. Then again, Cruz had 169 plate appearances in the majors before last season, and he hit .221/.275/.260 in those PAs.

The Dodgers don't have many other options until Ramirez returns, unfortunately. Alex Castellanos isn't a third baseman, Brian Barden (at Albuquerque) probably wouldn't be much better than Cruz and a guy like Corey Seager is at least three years away from his debut.

Maybe Scott Rolen wouldn't be such a bad idea after all.

Dustin Nosler has followed the Dodgers from Northern California all his life. He's the founder of Feelin' Kinda Blue, a Dodger blog. He also co-hosts "Dugout Blues," a weekly Dodger podcast. Find him on Twitter @FeelinKindaBlue.

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