Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cochito Providing the Spark.

A perfect Dodger September continued tonight as they beat the Padres in comeback fashion.  It is the second comeback victory for the Dodgers in consecutive days.  There were key contributions from Hanley Ramirez (homer), Andre Ethier (9th inning game tying homer), Joe Blanton (6 2/3 IP), and AJ Ellis (game winning RBI single).  Additionally the bullpen provided 5 innings of scoreless relief.  The Dodgers kept pace in both the Wild Card and Division race as all players in each race also won as well.
Luis Cruz scores the first Dodger run of the night. (photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

But who can ignore the contributions of Luis “Cochito” Cruz, who sprayed 4 hits out there and is as confident as any hitter I've seen at the plate.  Cruz may be the biggest surprise on the ball club this year and I can’t figure out how he’s doing it.  A career .261 hitter in the minor leagues over nine seasons and nearly 5,000 plate appearances, it's amazing that he has figured out how to hit at age 28 and in the major leagues. I simply want to know what it was that he did to turn himself into a second coming of Bill Madlock.  Cruz may be the most inspirational player on the club, along with hard-working A.J. Ellis.

For a while I figured that we should ride the Cruz wave while he was hot, because he certainly shouldn’t continue the torrid hitting that was obviously an anomaly.  But this hot streak has been going on for about 100 at bats now and Cruz shows no signs of letting up.  His approach at the plate is of complete confidence.  He is taking pitches to the opposite field, he’s driving balls up the middle and he has some pop too.

The “Cochito” Cruz story is the ultimate “feel-good” tale of a kid that is making it at the Major League level for the team he always dreamed of playing for.  Of interesting note though is that Cruz had steadily been improving in the minors for the past 3 seasons.  .281 at AAA Nashville in 2010, .273 at AA Round Rock in 2011 and .318 at AA Albuquerque in the early part of this year.  Cruz’s improved play has continued with his progression into the Majors.

Luis will enter tomorrow’s game with a .308 Avg., .333 OBP and OPS at .778.  He’s 9 for 20 in the last five games.  Cruz, who admits that past organizations that he played for were tinkering with his hitting mechanics, (both Pittsburgh and San Diego had him stop the leg kick), said in interviews a few weeks ago that his dad made him go back to it.  It is a timing mechanism that works for him so why mess with his hitting mechanics.  It looks like the game has slowed down for Luis.

Cruz’s father, Luis Sr., a well known Mexican League star, is Luis’ off-season hitting coach and and  has guided him throughout his entire career.  His dad had a stellar 20 year Mexican League career, complete with 1,671 games played and a .297 lifetime average, with 210 homers, and over 1,000 RBI.  Those are facts that shouldn't be ignored, in fact I suggest that we send a few other players to Mexico to get some more of Luis Sr's tutelage.

  Clayton Kershaw tackles A.J. Ellis after his game winning single in tonight's action.(photo by Mark J. Terrell/AP)

With all the talk of magic numbers and passing numerous teams in the wild card and scoreboard watching, my belief is that the Dodgers simply need to keep winning and let everything fall into place.  They are in excellent position to make post season play.  With 26 games left in the regular season, the Giants have reduced their Magic Number to 23 games.  It's much too early to be looking at that number still.  The old cliche of taking the games "one at a time" is ringing very true right now.  If the Dodgers can get into S.F. this weekend within striking distance, they'll still have a shot at the division.  I've got to hand it to the Giants though.  They are really playing great baseball and are making the comeback win an art.  How fantastic would it be if the Giants and Dodgers both ended up playing in the NLCS in October?

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