Dodgers Top Rockies, Thanks to Bunting!

I kid, of course. Tied 1-1 in the 8th inning, James Loney led off with a cueball single that went all of about 30 feet up the third base line. A.J. Ellis, who had singled in his previous at-bat, is hitting .308/.455/.474 and is one of only three Dodger hitters worth a damn, was asked to bunt… because of course he was. To his credit, he got the sacrifice down, moving Loney to second, and pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn cashed in the opportunity with a single to short left field for the second and final Dodger run. Even though it worked, I’m not a particularly big fan of the call – you’d much rather have the bat in Ellis’ hands than Gwynn’s, right – and this is only going to make Don Mattingly continue bunting until the inevitable point where all 27 outs are made via the bunt. Still, it worked tonight, so good for Don.

That’s oversimplifying, obviously, because it brushes over the fact that Aaron Harang somehow managed to go eight one-run innings while striking out just two. Following Harang was Kenley Jansen, finally getting his first chance to nail down a game nearly a week after replacing Javy Guerra as the closer. Jansen retired each of the three Rockies he faced and was never really threatened, a welcome change from the usual late inning hysteria we’ve been dealing with in recent weeks. Dee Gordon & Matt Kemp each went hitless, with Gordon now 0-14 over his last three games and without a hit since last Tuesday.

Ted Lilly takes the hill tomorrow afternoon as the 22-11 Dodgers attempt to finish off the series with a sweep.

For Dodgers, Friday the 13th Just As Terrifying As You’d Expect it To Be

On Friday the 13th, it was a cold, dreary, rainy night in Southern California, enough so that there was a real question about whether we’d see the first Dodger Stadium rainout in twelve years. With that kind of backdrop, you had to expect that we’d see something bizarre and… oh, you better believe that we did. And then some.

Here’s how out of control this game got, okay? This was my original opening paragraph:

Aaron Harang allowed a leadoff single to Cameron Maybin, and then proceeded to strike out each of the next nine batters. Aaron Effing Harang! The nine consecutive strikeouts topped Johnny Podres’ eight to set a new Dodger record and fell one short of tying Tom Seaver’s ten in a row for the big league record. Podres won some of the biggest games in franchise history. Seaver was a no-doubter Hall of Famer. Aaron Harang is Aaron Harang. Can’t predict baseball, indeed. Harang was touched in the fourth for three runs, including a Will Venable homer which broke the streak, but came back to whiff four more to tie his career high with 13 in his 6 1/3 innings of work. After a disappointing debut as a Dodger in the only loss of the season so far, it was an amazing turnaround for the veteran Harang.

Yet with everything that came after, that already feels like it was weeks ago, does it not?

Anyway, the Dodger offense would get itself going in the bottom of the third, thanks to the hustle of the law firm of Ellis & Ellis. With two outs, Justin Sellers at third, and A.J. Ellis at second, Mark Ellis bounced to second baseman Orlando Hudson. Though a tough play, it was a makable one, but Ellis flew down the line to beat the throw. That alone prevented the inning from ending as Sellers scored easily, but unbeknownst to everyone except third base coach Tim Wallach, A.J. Ellis never stopped running hard and scored from second on the infield hit, narrowing beating the throw from Yonder Alonso. After walks to Matt Kemp & Juan Rivera, Andre Ethier sent a broken-bat flare to center to score two, meaning the Dodgers had scored four runs in the inning on two hits that combined went about 150 feet.

Of course, none of that would have happened if not for Padre shortstop Jason Bartlett botching A.J. Ellis‘ grounder in the first place, which might have led to a scoreless inning since both of the two batters behind him made outs, and it’s here where we really have to point out just how atrociously bad the Padres have looked. They’ve committed the most errors in baseball – as this sequence shows, even one can lead to huge problems – and not to take anything away from Harang, but while he was obviously very good, he was hardly showing Stephen Strasburg-level stuff out there. As Eric Stephen noted, the Dodgers have scored six unearned runs off Clayton Richard alone this season, which is just absurd. If the Dodgers might be better than we thought – and it looks like they might be – the Padres also look like they’re going to be really, really bad this year. Everyone keeps saying things like, “oh, I wish the Dodgers could just play the Padres & Pirates all season;” I’m almost ready to say the opposite, because now I want to know how this club measures up against some real competition.

The Dodgers doubled their offense in the 4th on run-scoring hits by A.J. Ellis & Tony Gwynn before Matt Kemp blasted a massive homer, his third of the season. Though it seemed like gravy at the time, it became crucial once Todd Coffey & Scott Elbert tried to pitch the top of the seventh with both hands around their necks, slicing the lead to two. Josh Lindblom, proving once again how much he belongs on this team, pitched a scoreless eighth, before Kenley Jansen calmly shut down the Padres (with Javy Guerra unavailable) for his first save of the year…

…which is what I had written and ready to publish before Jansen had to go and give up a game-tying dinger to Chase Headley. We can talk about Jansen separately – though I have to admit I was somewhat shocked by the amount of vitriol towards him on Twitter, because how in the hell can you be anti-Jansen right now? – but he managed to escape with the tie intact.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Pads brought in their own flamethrower, Andrew Cashner. Dee Gordon, hitting for Jansen, struck out. Gwynn grounded out, leaving the Dodgers with two out and none on.

And then Cashner fell apart. Mark Ellis walked. Kemp walked, his third of the game (and the season). Even  James Loney walked, and James Loney is awful. With the bases loaded, Bud Black brought in lefty Joe Thatcher to face Andre Ethier.

Four pitches later, SHRIMP. And the Dodgers, improbably, are 7-1. What I would have given to have heard Vin Scully call what had to have been one of the most memorable games in years.

Oh, and Jansen got the win. Not Harang. Not Lindblom. Jansen. He’s 2-0. Wins are stupid.

******

But back to A.J. Ellis for a second. When he came to the plate in the fourth inning, I could hear through the PA system that his walkup song was off the new Foo Fighters record, which I totally dig. That alone was cool enough, because most guys come out to one of the same five indistinguishable hip-hop songs. Then I realized exactly which Foo Fighters song it was…

It’s called “Walk”. Of course it is. I love this man, and I was going to post this bit even before we saw how the game eventually ended.

Dodgers @ Padres April 8, 2012

Aaron Harang makes his LA debut this afternoon as the Dodgers attempt to start the season off with a four-game sweep of the Padres. As you can see by the bullpen chart, the relievers have been worked hard in the first few days thanks to Clayton Kershaw‘s illness and Chris Capuano‘s implosion, so it’s imperative that Harang not get knocked out early; seven of the eight relievers pitched last night, with only Josh Lindblom staying on the sidelines. (Though I’m tempted to also count James Loney, who I’d absolutely rather see on the mound than Jamey Wright again.) Harang made it past the sixth inning in only nine of his 28 starts last year, which I suppose isn’t surprising when you see that he was knocked around for a .975 OPS in that sixth inning in 2011. On the other hand, the Dodgers do have a day off on Monday before welcoming the Pirates into town on Tuesday, so there’s some flexibility there.

Juan Uribe, still seeking his first hit of the season, gets back into the lineup against the lefty Clayton Richard, as does fellow oh-fer king Loney. Saturday hero A.J. Ellis takes a seat for the holiday matinee as we get our first look at Matt Treanor.

Dodgers
Padres
SS
Gordon
CF
Maybin
2B
Sellers
RF
Venable
CF
Kemp
3B
Headley
RF
Ethier
LF
Guzman
LF
Rivera
1B
Alonso
3B
Uribe
C
Baker
1B
Loney
SS
Bartlett
C
Treanor
2B
Parrino
P
Harang
P
Richard

In other news, Baseball America has released a massive list of end-of-camp minor league transactions. Some we already knew about, like Russ Mitchell, Cory Sullivan, & Carlos Monasterios getting cut, and Ramon Troncoso & Josh Bard ending up back with ABQ after getting DFA’d & released, respectively, and some are news (to me at least), including:

The release of a few interesting minor-league signings who either didn’t make the cut or chose not to stay, including Brian Anderson (5-year MLB outfielder attempting to convert to pitching), Andy Sisco (fun for being 6’10″, along with MLB experience in parts of three seasons), former Angels prospect Chris Pettit, and Brandon Mims, who seemed intriguing when he was signed out of a tryout camp earlier this year.

Also released was Jaime Pedroza, who had been in the system since 2007 and had played at least 117 games in A & AA in each of the last four years.

News that two pitchers who did not appear on the ABQ roster but who we hadn’t seen on the cut list will actually start on the disabled list, Ryan Tucker & Shane Lindsay.

Dodgers Finally Get Their (Old, Old) Men

Photo via Jon SooHoo's wonderful blog, http://dodgersphotog.mlblogs.com/

Via Ken Gurnick, we’ve learned that for the Dodgers, signing Aaron Harang and Jamey Wright this winter was actually the culmination of years of interest on the club’s part.

Harang:

In their third year of trying, the Dodgers finally landed starting pitcher Aaron Harang, who is expected to help plug an innings hole created by the departure of Hiroki Kuroda.

The Dodgers made a run at Harang at the 2009 Trade Deadline, again that offseason and yet again in the spring of 2010 before finally signing the free agent in December for two years and $12 million.

“It made it more enticing, knowing it wasn’t something just spontaneous, like, ‘Let’s just go after this guy,’” Harang said. “It’s been in the back of my mind that they’ve wanted me a while. That made it an easier decision, knowing people want you and have been working at something for multiple years.”

Wright:

This year’s Jeff Weaver. Wright pitched in relief for Seattle last year, appearing in 60 games with a career-best 3.16 ERA. A one-time innings-eating starter, Wright has pitched in relief exclusively since 2008. He had a deal worked out with the Dodgers for 2009 but failed a physical, a curious result considering he’s been a workhorse ever since.

That 3.16 ERA for Wright was of course accompanied by a 4.30 FIP, so let’s not get too excited about it; still, the usual “he’s an NRI so I don’t really care that much” caveats do apply. While we don’t know the terms of Wright’s scuttled potential deal back in 2009 – which, honestly, came as news to me – I do wonder if having successfully signed “this year’s Jeff Weaver” at the time may have prevented the arrival of the actual Jeff Weaver, who joined the team on February 9, 2009 after an atrocious 2008 spent entirely in the minors.

Back to Harang, we had heard rumors about the club potentially having interest in him in the 2009-10 offseason, as they desperately looked for a place to dump Juan Pierre before finally shipping him off to Chicago for John Ely and Jon Link. I don’t generally mind the idea of a big, innings-eating type to take up space in the back of the rotation, but it still kills me when I see things like this:

Harang, 33, is coming off a rebound season, going 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA for San Diego.

Uh-huh.

Harang, 2009
162.1 IP, 7.87 K/9, 2.38 BB/9, 4.14 FIP, 90.7 avg FB MPH

Harang, 2011
170.2 IP, 6.54 K/9, 3.06 BB/9, 4.17 FIP, 89.8 avg FB MPH

If it seems like Harang was better at 31 in 2009 than he was at 33 in 2011, well, I wouldn’t have much to argue with you on there. So what’s the big difference? Ah yes: 6-14, 4.21, vs 14-6, 3.64. It’s amazing what superficial stats (and Petco Park) still count for these days, and along with the dubious “number-crunching” that apparently contributed to the Chris Capuano deal, it’s fair to enter the season with a real amount of concern over the two older, injury-prone veteran imports who are only effective in larger parks like Dodger Stadium, CitiField, and Petco. Throw in Ted Lilly, yet another older flyball pitcher, and I’m starting to wonder if I need to look up what the team’s all-time record for biggest disparity in wins at home against on the road is. (I also can’t say that it helps that the Dodgers gave Harang $12m over two years after the Padres, who saw him up close all year, passed on their more reasonable $5m for one year option.)

We’ve been talking a lot lately about the excess of nearly-ready starting pitchers the Dodgers have, guys like Nathan Eovaldi, Allen Webster, Chris Reed, and more. The more you look at the starting rotation behind Clayton Kershaw, the more you wonder if that kind of depth this year is less of a luxury, and more of a necessity.

Winter Meetings Day Four: Rule 5, MacDougal, & Court Battles (Updated)

Update, 9:39am PT:

After what seems like weeks, we finally have confirmation that the Aaron Harang signing is official. Dylan Hernandez reports that he’ll make $3m in 2012 and $7m in 2013; there’s a $2m buyout of a 2014 vesting option. That’s right: next year, you can look forward to paying Aaron Harang seven million dollars. As Eric Stephen sadly notes, the club is now lined up to pay Harang, Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly, Matt Guerrier, Juan Uribe, Mark Ellis, & Jerry Hairston $47.25 million in 2013. Unbelievable.

Update, 8:50am PT:

We now know the second player coming from Baltimore, outfielder Tyler Henson. He turns 24 in a week and in parts of five seasons on the farm, his line is .263/.322/.387; last year, his first at Triple-A, was less than that, at .247/.313/.321 and three homers in 498 plate appearances. LiK. Martin, he appears to be a toolsy player (was recruited to play football out of college) who has shown little indication of ever translating that to performance. Again, though, it’s Dana Eveland, so this is free talent.

Update, 8:17am PT:

Coming back from Baltimore for Eveland is LHP Jarret Martin and a player to be named later. Martin’s 22, was an 18th-round pick in 2009, and has had a rough go of it in two seasons in the low minors, walking 5.9/9. The results haven’t been there, but the reports are somewhat promising.

John Sickels, Minor League Ball, March 2011:

SLEEPER ALERT!! Martin was selected in the 18th round in 2009, from Bakersfield Junior College. He has a sinking fastball in the low 90s that helped him post a 2.03 GO/AO last year in the Appy League. He also has a promising curveball, and the combination of the two pitches throttled left-handed hitters to a .188 mark for Bluefield. His K/IP and H/IP ratios were quite good, but he also walked too many guys, elevating his ERA. I am intrigued with this one; if Martin can sharpen his command even slightly, he could break out in 2011. Grade C, but a sleeper.
ADDITIONAL COMMENT: Good size and some arm strength here, plus I like the combination of strikeouts and ground balls. As stated, he needs to get the walks down, but any progress in that department could take him a long way. Sources who follow the Orioles closely are quite intrigued with him.

Orioles Nation, October 2010:

Martin, 21, has undoubtedly good stuff, striking out 68 batters in 59.2 innings while holding them to a .204 batting average. He attacks hitters with a low 90′s fastball with some sink and run, which is backed up by two above-average secondaries in a curveball and changeup.

When you look at his stats, the only thing that jumps out in a bad way are the walks. Martin needs to find a more consistent release point in order to throw more strikes. His stuff is so dominating that he was able to find success despite the control problems (6.9 BB/9).

I don’t expect Martin to ever amount to anything, but it hardly matters. A fringy prospect and a player to be named for Dana F’ing Eveland, who was likely to be non-tendered next week anyway? Hell yes, I’ll take that.

Update, 7:51am PT:

Jon Morosi reporting Baltimore has acquired Dana Eveland from the Dodgers. No word yet on what’s coming in return – not much, surely – but the simple entertainment in the fact that the O’s would give up absolutely anything for Eveland is value enough.

Original post:

It’s been a fun week, yet as the Winter Meetings come to an end today, I have to say I’m relieved. Sure, all the rumors make this an incredibly interesting time of year, and I certainly can’t complain about the extra site traffic, yet the entire thing can be exhausting. Still, there’s a few items on the table for today to get us started, and I’ll update as needed.

* In a little less than an hour (10am ET / 7am PT) the Rule 5 draft will begin. The Dodgers aren’t expected to make any selections, though it’ll be interesting to see if they lose anyone, like Cole St. Clair, Kyle Russell, or Gorman Erickson.

* Once again, we don’t have to worry about Logan White leaving for another team; the Astros have hired former Cardinals exec Jeff Luhnow as their new general manager.

* Despite all the fun we had trying to figure out who the bat was that Ned Colletti may have been interested in, Dylan Hernandez reports that the deal is dead. I can’t confirm this, but Tony Jackson was reportedly on ESPN Radio guessing that the target may have been Jed Lowrie or Emilio Bonifacio. I’ve long liked Lowrie, though I’m not sure how yet another infielder would have fit. Doesn’t matter now, I guess.

* Confirming our worst fears, Jackson also reports that the Dodgers are still extremely interested in Mike MacDougal. You all know my feelings on this by now – though if anyone else brings up his shiny 2.05 ERA as an indicator of any skill again I’m going to scream – and I don’t mind him returning… on a minor-league deal. It’s the two-year deal he’ll probably receive that’ll push me over the edge.

* Wow:

Dodgers first baseman James Loney was arrested last month in Los Angeles after crashing his Maserati into three cars and spitting at an officer, but was not charged with a crime, according to a police report obtained by TMZ.com.

A spokesman said the club was aware of the incident and was looking into it. A representative for Loney could not be reached.

Loney, 27, was arrested Nov. 14 after hitting a Toyota, Mercedes and Mini around 6 p.m. PT. When officers arrived on the scene of the accident, according to the report, Loney was handcuffed and taken to a hospital for breathalyzer and blood tests, which were negative for drugs and alcohol.

However, during the tests and according to the report, Loney was uncooperative and became “aggressive,” spitting the mouthpiece at an officer. He was placed in arm and leg restraints and given an injection by hospital staff to calm him. The Los Angeles city attorney will decide if Loney will be charged in the incident.

That certainly doesn’t sound good, though I’m sure there’s a whole lot more to the story. I doubt it’ll change the near-certainty that he gets tendered on Monday.

* Finally, with all of the player movement this week, we’ve really been neglecting the most important story of all, the continued legal battle between Frank McCourt and FOX. Thanks to the tireless reporting of Bill Shaikin, we’ve learned that McCourt must have an agreement to sell the team by April 30 (good news), that he could still retain rights to the parking lots around the stadium (bad news) and that the hearings which continue today in a Delaware courtroom about re-opening TV rights appear to be headed heavily against FOX and for McCourt (worse news). Much more on this as the dust settles.