Below are the career statistics for the Dodgers’ outfielders against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick. Who would you sit?
Unfortunately, your answer doesn’t count because you don’t fill out the lineup card. Don Mattingly does, and he chose to bench Matt Kemp. The question of why led Mattingly down a lengthy rabbit hole about the future of the Dodgers’ so-called “four outfielder problem.”
“Every day, this is really a bit of a problem for the most part,” Mattingly said. “This was not easy because Matt’s done pretty decent. So has Yasiel. All the guys I thought were pretty good. Just trying to do the best we can with it. … There will come a day when … where we’re going to put what we think is our best club.”
Mattingly had trouble defining when that day will come, what the formula for determining “our best club” is, or how things will be any different for Kemp, Ethier, Crawford and Puig than they are now.
At least, it seems that having a clearly defined formula is the key element. Mattingly said that today represented the first time he’s had to deal with the stress of a difficult decision in choosing three starting outfielders. Injuries, illnesses, Puig showing up late, and skewed matchup numbers have all been important factors at various points in the first 22 games of the season.
Presumably, today Mattingly decided he had four numbers-worthy, healthy, on-time candidates for three spots.
Crawford didn’t play Wednesday against left-hander Cole Hamels. That might have been the tiebreaker in his mind. Entering the game, Puig leads the quartet in plate appearances with 77. Crawford and Kemp were bringing up the rear with 62. Mattingly mentioned that parity as a factor driving his lineup choices.
“It’s not so much hurt feelings but you want everybody in the mix,” Mattingly said. “You want to have an understanding of guys. We’re talking about four guys that to this point have had quality careers. You can’t just throw those aside.”