If one of the goals of the Impact Index is to introduce you to players you may not know, but who made a big impact on their team in the past week, then I’ve been remiss in not writing several posts about the Los Angeles Dodgers. And not just one utility player and bullpen arm. More like the entire starting lineup.
You know Matt Kemp is on the disabled list for the second time this season, and has only played in 36 games. Second baseman Mark Ellis, who was off to a hot start, suffered a scary leg injury and is out at least another month. Juan Uribe was expected to play third base after a season of injuries in 2011 but 2012 has been no better. Here’s the lineup manager Don Mattingly rolled out for a game against the Philadelphia Phillies last week:
|Dee Gordon SS||4||1||1||0||0||2||.230||.557|
|Elian Herrera 3B||4||0||1||2||0||1||.304||.753|
|Juan Rivera 1B||4||0||0||0||0||1||.233||.594|
|Josh Lindblom P||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kenley Jansen P||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Andre Ethier RF||3||0||0||0||1||2||.309||.907|
|Alex Castellanos LF||4||0||0||0||0||1||.200||.650|
|Jerry Hairston 2B||4||0||1||0||0||1||.356||.904|
|Matt Treanor C||3||0||1||0||0||2||.278||.904|
|Tony Gwynn CF||3||0||1||0||0||0||.270||.651|
|Chad Billingsley P||2||0||0||0||0||2||.136||.273|
|Bobby Abreu PH||1||1||1||0||0||0||.300||.833|
|James Loney 1B||0||0||0||0||0||0||.247||.676|
The Dodgers won that game. They’ve won a lot of other games with the same or similar lineup. Sure, they were no-hit by six Seattle Mariners pitchers on Friday night, the last of which was Tom Wilhelmsen, the very first Impact Index Player of the Week. But at 39-22, the boys in blue have the best record in baseball.
And yet, this post is not about the Dodgers’ patchwork lineup. Because the key to the Dodgers’ success has been a pitching staff who keeps the team in games long enough for the offense — such as it were — to make something happen.
The Dodgers swept the Phillies in a four-game series in Philadelphia last week. In each game, the Dodgers either came from behind to win or were tied late in the game, or both. That put pressure on the Dodgers’ bullpen, and they delivered.
In Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s victories, right-handed reliever Josh Lindblom was one of the bullpen stars. The soon-to-be 25-year-old made the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster only because Ted Lilly was hurt. But he proved to be so valuable that he stayed after Lilly returned. He’s pitched in 28 games, allowing runs to score in only five, two of which were played in the pinball machine known as Coors Field. According to FanGraphs, Lindblom has had 13 shutdown outings and only three meltdowns. In late May, manager Don Mattingly crowned Lindblom his 8th-inning guy.
In Tuesday’s contest at Citizens Bank Ballpark, the Dodgers trailed the Phillies 1-0 into the 8th inning. Cliff Lee was on the mound for the Phillies, doing typical Cliff Lee things. But in the top of the 8th, the Dodgers scored two runs after — improbably — having two runners thrown out at third base. Eli Herrera — who? — doubled in Dee Gordon and Bobby Abreau to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Lindblom pitched the bottom of the 8th and on twelve pitches, retired the Phillies in order on three fly balls. The Dodgers won the game 2-1.
On Wednesday, the Dodgers took an early 2-1 lead, but the Phillies came back, scoring three off starter Chris Capuano in the bottom of the 5th. L.A. responded in the 6th, scoring three of their own, to take a 5-4 lead. The score remained the same into the 8th inning, when Lindblom took the mound for the Dodgers. Three batters, two pitches, three outs. The Dodgers added a run in the 9th, the Phillies rallied in the bottom of the inning, but it was not enough. Final score: Dodgers 6, Phillies 5.
In a Dodgers’ season seemingly fueled by magical pixie dust, Lindblom is a nice, quiet story. A bullpen arm who slips onto the Opening Day roster due to an injury and works his way into a key position in the bullpen. Perhaps it’s some kind of karmic reward for Lindblom’s active and generous charitable activities in Los Angeles and his hometown of West Lafayette, Indiana.
For his work on and off the field, Josh Lindblom is our Impact Index Player of the Week.