What We’ve Learned So Far

Well, nothing, really, given that it’s only the first of March and just five spring games have been played. But it’s worth noting that all winter we expected excellent pitching, worried about subpar offense, and weren’t quite sure what to make of the defense. So how’s that played out in the early going?

Through the first five games, the Dodgers are hitting .227/.282/.312. They’ve allowed 17 earned runs in 42 innings, allowing a .331 OBA and a .296 SLG, and they’ve committed seven errors. That… all sounds about right. Let’s be clear that you can put just about zero stock into stats compiled by 40 hitters and 29 pitchers over five games, including more than a few even I’ve never heard of, but nothing we’ve seen so far is making us think that this team is going to have a different profile than we’d expected. Prepare for a lot of 2-1 games, I’d think.

Also not helping? Don Mattingly, who’s decided on hitting Casey Blake 2nd, saying that one of the reasons is that he can bunt. I said last week that while I wasn’t thrilled with hitting Blake 2nd, I also didn’t have any obviously better solutions, but I can already see plenty of instances where we’ll be throwing things at the TV when Blake bunts people over.

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For all of the talk this winter about how Blake was cooked and that he needed to be replaced, is it possible he’s actually the best third baseman in the division? Geoff Young comes to that conclusion, though not with great vigor, over at Baseball Prospectus. (And he ought to know, having blogged about the Padres at Ducksnorts since Mike Piazza was still wearing blue.)

In Los Angeles, Casey Blake returns. Unlike most everything else involving the Dodgers right now, this comes without controversy. Blake is as exciting as a stack of newspapers in the garage, but he’s also the division’s most reliable third baseman.

Yes. I know.

Can that really be? Let’s look at the 2010 performance of the five 3B most likely to see the bulk of 2011 playing time in the division.

Rk Player OPS+ PA R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
17 Casey Blake 99 571 56 126 17 64 48 138 .248 .320 .407 .727
19 Melvin Mora 98 354 39 90 7 45 31 53 .285 .358 .421 .779
20 Ian Stewart 97 441 54 99 18 61 45 110 .256 .338 .443 .781
21 Chase Headley 97 674 77 161 11 58 56 139 .264 .327 .375 .702
22 Pablo Sandoval 95 616 61 151 13 63 47 81 .268 .323 .409 .732
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/1/2011.

Well, that’s… a sorry group, but believe it or not it’s true. OPS+ is park-adjusted, which explains why Blake comes out ahead of Mora and Stewart, who each had the benefit of hitting at Coors Field. (Mora has since moved on to Arizona to replace Mark Reynolds, who was dealt to Baltimore.) In addition, Blake has been a solidly above-average fielder since coming to Los Angeles, which only serves to help his case. I’m on record as not expecting a whole lot out of him this year, but he sure looks a lot better compared to this crew.

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Jay Gibbons is following up a winter where he missed time due to vision problems with a slow start because of the flu (he “missed four days and lost five pounds,” per dodgers.com). Tony Gwynn wants to be an everyday player and claims that his 2010 struggles were due to a hand injury and finding out his father had cancer (the elder Tony, by the way, is reportedly doing much better). Is it possible that the outfield situation, with Xavier Paul out of options and Jamie Hoffmann coming off a good year in AAA and being a badly-needed plus-glove righty, may not be as concrete as we’d thought?

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Finally, what happened to Matt Paul? For a few days last week, the former Dodger minor leaguer and current scout (and yes, older brother of Xavier) was something of a Twitter sensation, posting fun snippets of daily camp life, responding to fans, and promising more to come.

Then he posted a piece of honesty which I found awesome

The fact that a Dodger scout just tweeted ‘Castro should retire’ is probably my favorite thing ever.

…and now his account is gone, wiped from Twitter. Did he get Twitter-whacked by the team? I can’t argue if that’s the case – I mean, he’s a team employee who did say that a player we all hate should retire – but it’s disappointing to see him gone.

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  1. [...] Don Mattingly wanted to hit Blake 2nd was because he liked the Beard’s bunting ability. Most of us, predictably enough, scoffed at the notion that we’d be seeing regular bunts from Blake in [...]