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Statues in the Outfield

After getting swept over the weekend, the Dodgers have now dropped four straight games and sit two games out of first place in the National League West, behind both San Diego and San Francisco. With the league adjusting to John Ely, the focus has once again turned to LA’s need for some pitching to stabilize their rotation, but there’s another problem with this Dodger team that gets little notice – their outfield defense is atrocious.

The Dodgers OFs have combined for a UZR of -27.5 so far this year, easily the worst in the majors. It’s even worse than that number claims, though, as Reed Johnson‘s +6.3 is propping up the starters. The regular trio for LA are posting fielding numbers that will make your eyes bleed – Manny Ramirez is at -4.1, Matt Kemp has a -13.8, and Andre Ethier is the king butcher to date with a -16.5 UZR. Ethier and Kemp have the two lowest UZRs of any players in baseball so far in 2010.

Of course, we’re less than halfway into the season, and you need large sample sizes to judge a defender’s abilities using a metric like UZR. But all three of these guys have been in the league for a while, and the big picture isn’t much prettier.

In over 8,000 innings in left field, Ramirez has a career UZR/150 of -20.4, and while there were a lot of cries about the Green Monster making him look worse than he really was, he has posted a -22.6 UZR in 1,549 innings with the Dodgers.

Kemp doesn’t have the same track record of being terrible, but he’s played nearly 3,000 innings in center field, and his career UZR/150 is -10.1. Toss in another 1,300 innings in the corner outifield positions with a below average UZR as well, and it’s pretty clear that Kemp is not much of a center fielder.

Finally, there’s Ethier, who has spent nearly 5,000 innings in the corner outfield spots in his career, racking up a UZR/150 of -9.1, and he’s trending the wrong way, posting the 5th worst UZR total since the beginning of 2008, beating out only Adam Dunn, Brad Hawpe, Jermaine Dye, and Bobby Abreu. Not really the kind of company you want to keep when talking about defensive prowess.

Essentially, at this point, the Dodgers are running out an outfield that consists of a right fielder and two designated hitters. While all three are quality hitters and help the team score runs, they are giving back a lot of value with their lack of range in the outfield. The team’s┬árun prevention problems do not fall on just the pitchers, as they aren’t getting much support from the guys behind them.

As the Dodgers pursue a starting pitcher for the stretch run, may I suggest they target a guy who gets a lot of groundballs?