How Do You Silence the Little Voice That Says, “Think”?

You mean, Lisa?

(You may have remembered I had a whole thing here about Matt Kemp only playing vs. lefties. Commenter-of-the-year “Elessann” points out that Micah Owings is in fact a right-handed pitcher, which sort of destroys that whole point. I think I was thinking of the Rockies’ Micah Bowie, who is in fact a lefty. So thanks for the heads-up, and let’s pretend all that other stuff never existed.. moving on!)

Regarding today’s game, I said earlier that I didn’t have a problem with putting Juan Pierre in the lineup because he’d had such great success against Greg Maddux in the past (he went 1-4) but that I did have a big problem with Kemp being nailed to the bench yet again, and that if anyone had to sit today, it should have been Andruw Jones. I’m not going to rehash those choices; what concerns me is what happened once the game was going on. (And no, I haven’t limited discussion on how awful Jones has been just because we backed the deal when it was signed – its because I can’t even think about just how hideous he’s been playing without wanting to eat my own face right now. Trust me, it’ll come.)

Here’s the problem I had today. If you have to have Matt Kemp on the bench, then at least you know you’ve got yourself a pretty good weapon to bring out at just the right time. In a tight game where your pitching staff is dominating (14 strikeouts!) yet you’re still down by a run, every decision looms large. So explain these to me – and remember, this is not meant to be Pierre-bashing, as I already said I didn’t mind him starting today, and also because Torre seems to regard Kemp and Pierre as two sides of a rotation, rather than Ethier and Pierre as we all had assumed it would be.

Bottom 6th. Padres up 1-0. LHP Joe Thatcher comes in to relieve Maddux, and after retiring Furcal, Pierre is allowed to hit. Now what’s that about? Not only is there a lefty in the game, but the Dodgers have been able to get zero offense going. Kemp’s got the ability to tie this game with one swing of the bat, while Pierre has no such chance. It’s not as though Torre doesn’t want to pinch-hit for Pierre with Kemp, because he’s already done it twice in this young season. Against a lefty, down by one… this is where you put in Kemp.

But that one is nowhere near as egregious as..

Bottom 8th. Padres up 1-0. Blake DeWitt (who really deserves a lot more press than everyone has been giving him for his stellar defense and acceptable bat so far) gets a single off RHP Heath Bell. After Mark Sweeney and Furcal both manage to make outs without advancing DeWitt, Pierre comes up. Remember, there’s already two outs. You need a guy with some power in this situation, if even only the ability to put a ball into the gap and possibly allow DeWitt to score the tying run. Instead, you leave up the guy who we’ve discussed ad nauseum is a mediocre hitter. Predictably, he grounds weakly into a fielder’s choice.

How does Kemp finally get into the game? As a pinch runner for James Loney after Loney doubled in the 9th. Kemp’s a pretty fast guy, so I don’t mind him running, but tell me it didn’t cross your mind that if he had been given the start over Pierre… you’d not only have had a better chance of four more productive at-bats, but you’d have Pierre available to do what he’s most suited to: run. Forget the Loney double. Imagine that situation in the bottom of the 8th if it had been Kemp at bat and Pierre inserted to run at 1st, rather than Pierre at the plate and DeWitt’s below-average speed at first. Just not the best use of assets.

On a somewhat related topic… who was going to play first base in extra innings if the Dodgers had tied the game in the 9th? Loney had been pinch run for after his double, and Sweeney had already been used as a pinch hitter. Delwyn Young had also been used to hit, which meant that the only players left on the bench were Chin-Lung Hu and Gary Bennett. Might we have seen Hu at 2B, pushing Jeff Kent to first base for the first time since 2006? Or left Kemp in, pushed him to RF, and given Andre Ethier his first career opportunity in the infield, as was discussed recently (it was on Tony Jackson’s blog, but since their redesign, his archive links don’t work anymore.) Just something interesting to think about; I’d like to know the answer to that one.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg


Please Explain: Kemp Benched Again

Despite my pleas of the previous two posts, Matt Kemp still didn’t get to start last night. When he finally did get into the game, it’s not like he contributed too much – just a home run and a fantastic catch in RF. That’s probably enough to earn him a spot in today’s lineup, right? There’s no earthly reason to keep him out yet again, is there?

Well, Tony Jackson’s got today’s lineup (hat tip to Tony, who’s been beating the official blog to the punch lately with the lineups), and you’re not going to like it:

Dodgers:

Furcal. SS
Pierre. LF
Ethier. RF
Kent. 2B
Loney. 1B
Martin. C
Jones. CF
DeWitt. 3B
Billingsley. P

Why is Kemp sitting again? At this point I’m not even so upset that Pierre is in, because there’s every reason to be down on Andruw Jones at the moment. But I really don’t care which of Jones and Pierre is sitting right now, as long as Kemp is playing. Sure, he had a rough few games to start the year – he’s now 6 for his last 12, with a homer and a triple, and a great play in RF.

What really worries me is this: he’s been sitting in favor of Pierre against right-handed pitchers. As soon as Chris Young left the game last night in favor of lefty Glendon Rusch, that’s when Kemp hit for Pierre. Is Torre really going to make this a strict left/right platoon? In my previous post, I showed stats which pointed out that Kemp doesn’t really have much of a split in his career thus far, but more frightening is the fact that there are obviously a much greater amount of right-handed pitchers in the league than lefties. Is Kemp really only going to get to play against lefties? The man who just may be our most talented hitter is only going to start less than half the time? This is not good.

Also: maybe we should just let Derek Lowe play CF on his days off? 2-3 last night with 3 RBI, while Jones put up another 0-fer. Oh, and the 8 innings of 1-run, 4-hit ball: that’s not bad either.

Edited to add: I can’t actually fault the inclusion of Juan Pierre here, as he’s had pretty decent success against Greg Maddux (.364/.400/.455) in 28 at-bats. Again, my point was that Kemp should be playing no matter what right now, and if this is a good game for JP to be in (especially with 3 LHP lined up in the next 4 games), then today’s a day to bench Andruw Jones. Kemp and Jones each have under 10 at-bats against Maddux lifetime, which isn’t much of a sample size.

Edited again to add: it’s time to retire the “Trade Juan Pierre” banner in favor of “Play Matt Kemp!” Pierre’s not going anywhere anyway, especially until Jones shows us anything in CF, and letting Kemp play is more important. Also, to complete the Stephen Colbert jokes after giving Tony Jackson a tip of the hat, a stern wag of the finger to Sons of Steve Garvey for forcing me to see that Photoshopped “Matt Kemp in a bikini” abomination every time I Google Image Search him. Thanks, guys!

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg