Clayton Kershaw Recalled: To Start Tuesday

From the L.A. Times

Top pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw will be recalled from double-A Jacksonville to start against the Colorado Rockies tonight and Manager Joe Torre said he expects the 20-year-old left-hander to remain in the majors for the rest of the season.

Hopefully he gets the same run support as Eric Stults got in last night’s game, although I’m still not too thrilled that they’ve called him back up to pitch at Coors Field.  Either way, should be a fun one.  Speaking of last night’s game, wasn’t that quite the classic Coors Field showdown?  In case you didn’t watch, the Dodgers busted out with 8 in the first inning (after opening up against the Rockies in the first inning with 10 a couple of months ago, remember), and had a lead that was as big as 11-0 at one point.  Unfortunately, while the offense was clicking, no one could shut the Rockies down and the final score was 16-10.  Great to get the win, but the sweetness of it decreased as the game progressed, especially with the arms in the bullpen we had to burn through.

The second half has seemed to be a reverse: the offense has been gradually coming together while the pitching has been far from impressive.

In other stories in Dodgerland, some news on the LaRoche front, who went 1-3, 2 BB, 1 R, with 1 RBI, last night:

Torre said Andy LaRoche could start at third base for the entire series in Colorado, an indication that the Dodgers might be showcasing him for a potential trade. Though Torre said General Manager Ned Colletti had “irons in the fire,” he claimed that he had to put LaRoche in the lineup out of fairness to the 24-year-old. “We’ve asked him to play off the bench, which is hard for a young player,” Torre said. . .

Joe, it’s July 22nd.  Andy was called up on June 10th.  It took you a little over a month to figure this out?

Ever notice how long it takes for management to realize something that everybody knows already?  I’ve always wondered how it applies to their real life.

“Ali, did you know that they ended prohibition?!”

“We defeated the Nazi’s!”

“The earth is round!”

“WHAT?!  You mean that really isn’t Ned’s hair?!”

In all seriousness, despite the fact that it’s nice to see Andy getting some starts this series, I’ll have to agree with the theory put out by the real Vin: this does seem like a showcase.  Let’s hope not…

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg

I Know, It’s Only Three Games… But I Like It, Like It, Yes I Do…

So, what happened to those Dodgers that I once knew?  The one’s who would lay down, not score, and just downright break our hearts?

Well, they got kidnapped!  We seemed to have gotten this new team, and they even have some fight in them.  This new team has also been pretty fun to watch, coming out of the gates and taking 2 out of 3 from their divisional rivals.  Really, this is just what the doctor ordered.  We all know the Dodgers badly needed to take at least two out of three from Arizona, instead of risking falling even further, and they came pretty damn close to doing the latter.  Yet this team showed for the first time this year some fight in them.  Anyone who’s watched the Dodgers this year knows that once they get down by a couple of runs, it’s over.

But on Friday, they came back to erase a 6-3 deficit and win 8-7 after a James Loney HR in the 11th inning, and almost came back on Saturday, turning a 3-0 game into a 3-2 game in the 9th.  While they lost, it was encouraging to watch them put up some kind of rally.  Then, of course, there is today.  After getting utterly dominated by Brandon Webb for 8 innings, the Dodgers went into the 9th trailing 4-1.  Up until the time Matt Kemp came up again with 2 outs, the game seemed like a carbon copy of the previous game.

However, this time, instead of flying out on the first pitch, Kemp put up easily his best at-bat this season.  Hell, maybe the best at-bat of his career.  Instead of going up there, aggressive, trying to hit the ball out of the park, he just went up there and showed great patience and wasn’t trying to do much.  It paid off, with a shot to the gap to tie the game.  Then, of course, the monstrous triple by Ethier to put the Dodgers on top.  Best inning by far this season and primarily done by the kids.  In Kemp’s case, I really hope that at-bat can be a turning point with him and that is also plays a hand in his development.  Perhaps we’re already seeing The Mattingly Effect, but, in any event, well done, Mattie.  And by the way, the person he drove in on that double?  Why, newest Dodger, Pablo Ozuna! In order to get him, the Dodgers had to DFA Luis Maza.  Not much to say on that, except, why does Ned continue to sign the same no-hit infielders thinking that something will eventually stick?  On a team that needs offense?

But back to the game.  The kids played a huge role in the 9th, but despite our kiddie love here at MSTI (in the non-Michael Jackson way, of course), there was some contributions from a certain veteran.

How about Nomar?  After being MIA (Hamm?) for the past two years, he is hitting the ball better than he has in two years.  Of course we know what he did on Friday with the 2 HR game, but he has been on an utter terror.  Since being back, Nomar is hitting .316/.366/.632 with a .998 OPS and 3 HR’s.  What I particularly like is the .632 SLG%.  Even during the rare moments he did hit last year, he was nothing more than a singles hitter, however, his stroke seems to be returning.  He’s hitting doubles and showing a power stroke that, again, we haven’t seen in two years.  All botched rundowns aside, I no longer want to jam icepicks in my ears whenever he comes up to the plate.  So, welcome back, Nomar!

And even better…  We can listen to “Low Rider” again… and LIKE IT!!

Another good moment today was watching Andy LaRoche get a pinch hit single in the 9th to keep the inning going and make the game 4-3.  And speaking of LaRoche, Joe Torre spoke about the whole DeWitt/LaRoche thing, this morning.

Courtesy Diamond Leung:

“It’s not affecting his defense. And he’s going to give you an honest at-bat.”

An “honest” at-bat?  What the hell does that mean?  What’s a dishonest at-bat?  And, O.K., maybe it’s not affecting his defense, but the team’s greatest need is offense.  We need that; he hasn’t provided that in two months.

Torre said he was going by “feel” in choosing DeWitt to play the majority of the time.

Hear that, folks?  That guy that the Dodgers pay $4 million dollars a year to make wise baseball decisions?  He makes them based on feel and other subjective measures.  This is how our manager makes roster decisions.  Our starting third baseman is starting because Joe Torre has a feeling, a feeling deep inside, oh yeah, while praising Mark Sweeney and his sub-.100 average because of “swing paths” and “body language.”

Really, I’m waiting for the next article to come out something like this:

Torre said he was going by his magic 8 ball in choosing DeWitt to play the majority of the time, while telephone calls to Miss Cleo suggested that he should always start Andruw Jones.

Back to real quotes:

“It probably worked against LaRoche that I’ve seen so much of DeWitt,” Torre said. “It’s not anything against LaRoche. Blake is filling the bill, so to speak.”

Let me get this straight…  a guy with a 79 OPS+ is “filling the bill” because he’s able to do only half of his job well?  By the logic, Andruw Jones hasn’t been terrible at center field, this year.  Yet does anyone think he’s earned his playing time?  Nooooo.  I’d be most curious how DeWitt’s atrocious offense over the past two months has been filling the bill on a team that, oh, I don’t know… desperately NEEDS offense?!

Utter stupid and he gets more Grady by the minute.  I’m sure Torre has plenty of baseball wisdom, but the game is passing him by.  And, again, when we covered the entire DeWitt/LaRoche thing last week, we do like DeWitt.  We’re fans.  But you’d swear the media thinks he’s 40 with some of the undeserved praise he’s been getting, lately.  Well deserved in April and May… not so much in June and July.

Now on to Andruw Jones.  Here was some information regarding why he was pulled out in the 5th inning of Friday’s game and why he didn’t play Saturday.  Despite my initial hopes of him finally getting benched (I was going to throw a party!), turns out, it was just “flu-like” symptoms.  Despite me thinking he was getting benched, Andruw was still gracious to talk to the media about his crapulence:

Andruw Jones was out of the lineup because of stomach problems that forced him out of Friday night’s game in the fifth inning. “I’ve had to go to the bathroom quite a few times,” Jones said.

Thank you, Andruw, for confirming our thoughts: you truly are stinking up the joint.

So, now it’s on to Colorado while the Diamondbacks go to Chicago.  Hopefully we can get out of it alive and also bury the Rockies, who seem to be playing a little better lately.  So, how about we finally take sole possession of 1st place?  Sound good?  Perhaps third time’s a charm?

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg

MSTI’s First Half Review: Offense

Is it that time of the year already? Sure, it’s not really “halfway” through the year since the Blue have already played 95 games, but here we are at the All-Star break. This won’t be as extensive as last year’s season reviews, since there’s only three days to do it in, but it still will touch upon everyone who appeared in a game for the Dodgers this year. So today is offense, tomorrow pitching, and the next day will be front office/coaching staff/awards/overall grade. And on Thursday, a big MSTI announcement. How did we do this last year? That’s right:

First, some quick ground rules. Completely unscientific and arbitrary, this is how we’ve seen the results of the season. One important distinction, is that the letter grade is based upon what we reasonably could have expected of the player entering the year, not comparing him to other MLB players at his position. You’ll soon see why this is so important.

Less than 10 IP or 100 at-bats gets you an “incomplete”. Stats are presented (BA/OBP/SLG).

We’ll knock that down to 50 at-bats for the half-season review, but everything else remains the same.

Catcher
Russell Martin (.294/.394/.436 10hr 45rbi) (A+)
Without question, the best offensive player so far. There were actually some inane stories out there that I won’t even subject you to linking to saying that he’s been off his game this year, but that’s mostly thanks to his very slow start to the season, hitting .197 as late as April 20th. But you know what? Martin’s actually having the best offensive year of his career overall. His 118 OPS+ is up 5 from last year, and while his slugging % is down slightly (.029 less than last year), it’s more than made up by his exemplary .394 OBP, which is actually better than Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, and Hanley Ramirez. Plus, he plays third base! What can I say? This guy’s the heart and soul of the team. He’s the best player, and he never complains. Love this guy. Love him.

Gary Bennett (.190/.261/.381 1hr 4rbi) (incomplete)
What a weird, weird season for the initial 2008 recipient of the Mike Lieberthal Memorial “Guy Who Rots on the Bench Behind Russell Martin” Award. Bennett only really got notice in two of my posts all season, and they couldn’t be more divergent – first, he got some recognition for a good game in Milwaukee on May 15, and then just five days later we cheered his being placed on the DL, saying,

“Left foot plantar fasciitis.” Let me say, the quotes could not be thicker around that. We’ve had no word of any injury problems surrounding Bennett, but tons of stories about his throwing problems, and suddenly his foot hurts? Hey, call it a bad foot, the flu, or the heebie-jeebies; whatever it takes to get this guy’s head right and get those lollipop throws off the field. Seriously, he even made Rotoworld today, which is rare for a mediocre backup catcher, and at no point is the foot mentioned.

Thanks for showing up, Gary. Lousy hitter who can’t throw – fantastic. If you wanted to hit the slots in Vegas the rest of the summer, that’d be A-ok by me.

Danny Ardoin (.211/.250/.263 0hr 2rbi) (incomplete)
Another member of the Loyal Order of Backup Catchers, Ardoin’s been.. well, he’s an improvement on Bennett, anyway. He’s not much of a hitter either, but everything I’ve read about him says that the pitchers like throwing to him way better than Bennett. As far as I’m concerned, the team is screwed if Martin’s hurt anyway, so it doesn’t really matter all that much which one backs him up, but I’d really like it if it would be Ardoin rather than Bennett, whenever he’s healthy. Amazingly enough, Ardoin’s already doubled Mike Lieberthal’s RBI total from last season.

First Base
James Loney (.291/.351/.446 7hr 50rbi) (C+)
Loney gets a C+ not because he’s been that lousy, but simply because we had such high expectations for him. After last year’s offensive explosion in the second half, who among us wasn’t drooling at the prospect of him playing 1B for the entire season? But after the first two months, he was only hitting in the .270s with 5 homers. Of course, he dominated in June (.362/.425/.500), only to fall back in July, hitting just .224 so far. He’s been.. okay. Not bad, not great. I still think he’s got it in him to pick it up.

Second Base
Jeff Kent (.253/.304/.407 9hr 40rbi) (C-)
This, I must say, was a tough one. On one hand, he was really bad for a good portion of the season – I assume you haven’t forgotten the whole chase to be the worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years, but on the other hand, Kent’s 40 years old, and how much can you ever depend on a guy that age, anyway? At least he’s been able to stay relatively healthy, and his bat has turned it around a bit lately.

On the plus side, no one’s accusing Kent of being involved in any clubhouse fiascos so far, so at least he’s got that going for him. 

Third Base
Blake DeWitt (.263/.330/.372 5hr 34rbi) (A)
Just like Kent, this is a tough grade to assign. I know it seems like a long time ago now, but do you remember how desperate this team was at the hot corner at the end of March? Nomar was hurt, LaRoche was hurt, Abreu was hurt, and the trade options were either unavailable or unappealing. So we turn over the job to the guy who was guaranteed to put up Hu-like offensive numbers. Except that.. he was good. Really good, slugging .517 in May. He was a lock for Rookie of the Year and surprise of the year. Go Blake!

Of course, great story aside, he’s cratered since then, with just 4 extra base hits in the last 6 weeks, which is Pierre-like levels of mediocrity. Ah hell, it doesn’t matter. He shouldn’t be starting every day anymore, but that’s a topic we’ve already covered. He gets an A simply because I shudder to think what would have happened if he hadn’t held things down for the first two months.

Andy LaRoche (.192/.294/.341 2hr 3rbi) (incomplete)
Seems like LaRoche is shaping up to be part of the next Dodgers holy war, following in the footsteps of Juan Pierre and Hee-Seop Choi. No, he hasn’t done much in the bigs. But the people who want to write him off are insane – he’s gotten just 44 at-bats this year. Look, he’s got nothing more to prove in the minors (career .895 OPS). The Dodgers need power. Blake DeWitt is slumping badly. So then why can’t LaRoche ever start more than two games in a row? Why has he been benched the day after hitting a home run both times? Some things, I’ll never understand.

Shortstop
Rafael Furcal (.366/.448/.597 5hr 16rbi) (R)
That’s right, I gave Furcal an “R”. Why? Because the best way I can sum up his 2008 is “ARRRRRRRGGGHH!!!!” From the best start of his career, to an injury that was to keep him out a few days, to surgery that will end with him missing 4 months. Despite everything that’s gone wrong with this season, it’s hard to point to anything that was more damaging than this. Furcal’s back woes not only cost the team its hottest hitter, but lead to the failings of Hu, the misery of Angel Berroa, and the so-far entertaining Nomar era. Think about it, the Dodgers are one game out. It’s not much of a stretch to say that if Furcal had stayed healthy, the Dodgers are in first place, is it?

Angel Berroa
(.192/.253/.219 0hr 0rbi) (F)
I have to say, of all the stats I looked up for this article, Berroa surprised me more than anybody. He really has zero RBI? Not even one? Despite starting 21 games? That would be incredible, if it weren’t so depressing. Look at it this way, Berroa’s had 72 at-bats without an RBI. That’s the most in MLB by a large margin, nearly double the 40 at-bats by Washington’s Roger Bernadina. Yikes! Actually, now that I think about it, maybe Berroa doesn’t deserve an F here. Maybe he should be getting a C. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t all know he was going to suck from day one. And to the surprise of no one except perhaps Ned Colletti, he has. He’s been exactly as bad as we thought, not that it was possible to be any worse, so in that sense he’s been the average Angel Berroa.

Nah, forget it. Big. Fat. F.

Chin-Lung Hu
(.159/.224/.206 0hr 7rbi) (D)
This really should be an F, because Hu’s utter failure to perform once Furcal went down has to rank as one of the bigger disappointments of the season. The only thing bumping him up to a D is the fact that his defense more than lived up to its sparking reputation. But I don’t think it was too much to expect that he had a shot to be a decent hitter, since after a breakthrough 2007 where he OPS’d .871 in the minors, he popped 2 dingers in 29 late-season at-bats in the bigs. And then.. fizzle. Now, he’s apparently had some vision issues since returning to AAA, so if that’s what caused this, I haven’t completely given up on him. It’s just that if he could have been even a mediocre hitter, we could have kept his slick glove in the lineup and avoided the entire Berroa fiasco.

Infield
Nomar Garciaparra (.250/.328/.400 2hr 12rbi) (!!!)
What a year for Nomahhh. Breaks his hand in spring training, comes back to play in all of 8 games (hitting .226) before hurting his calf and missing two more months.. only to return at shortstop. You can’t make this stuff up. In fact, I wish I had predicted this in the offseason, just so I could see what kind of responses I’d have gotten saying that I’d completely lost my mind. Remember last year when Nomar couldn’t be moved from 1B to 3B to make room for Loney because he was “too fragile”? Well, a year and several injuries later, now he’s playing shortstop. Unbelievable. He’s hit okay since coming back (.286/.333/.500 in 8 games), but there’s just no way this doesn’t end with him somehow spontaneously combusting turning a double play, right?

Luis Maza
(.228/.282/.278 1hr 4rbi) (C… ish)
Remember, we’re doing these grades based not on how they compare to the rest of the league, but based on how a player has performed based on reasonable expectations at the beginning of the season. This is why Hu gets a D, since he was below expectations, and why DeWitt gets an A, since he was so far above. The only time this method runs into a problem is in the case of Luis Maza, because for someone who runs a Dodgers blog and likes to think he knows entirely too much about the Dodger organization.. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard of this guy coming into the season. So it’s hard to say I had any expectations of him. That said, he’s been pretty much what you’d think he’d be – a quad-A player who’s a mediocre hitter and a decent fielder, albeit with a particularly lousy arm.

Mark Sweeney
(.094/.181/.125 0hr 3rbi) (?)
Sweeney gets a question mark for a grade. That’s partially because he doesn’t even deserve to attain a letter, but mostly to represent the question of, Why is Mark Sweeney on This Team? He serves no function. He’s a pinch-hitter who can’t hit. He can’t hit lefties. He can’t hit righties. He can’t hit at home. He can’t hit on the road. He can’t hit during the day. He can’t hit at night. We do not like him here or there, we do not like him anywhere.  His OPS is negative 18, which I believe means he’s lapsed into some sort of an unknown dimension. He’s 38 years old, and he’s got 6 hits in 72 at-bats! It’s the end of the line, and it’s just stubbornness on the part of the Dodgers front office that they allow him to keep making outs (he’s supposedly coming off the DL on Friday). I would love to know what kind of pictures Sweeney must have of Colletti with a lampshade on his head in order to keep his job.

Time to go, Mark. Time to go.

Terry Tiffee
(.250/.400/.250 0hr 0rbi) (incomplete)
Tiffee only went 1-4 in his short time up, but I’ve been backing him for over two months. Now back at Vegas, he’s kept up his amazing season, currently rocking a .396/.434/.598 line. Sure, say it’s a fluke, say whatever you like. Maybe you’re right. But there is simply no argument you can use to convince me that he shouldn’t be taking Mark Sweeney’s place. None. Tiffee is more useful than Sweeney in every conceivable way – hitting, fielding, versatility, you name it. (And I did, right here.) I suppose I’m venturing more into Colletti territory than Tiffee, but really, all Tiffee’s done is hit all year long. What else does he have to do?

Tony Abreu (n/a) (incomplete)
Knock, knock.”
“Hello?”
“Is this Mr. Abreu?”
“Yes, who are you?”
“I’m opportunity. And I’m knocking.”
“Hmm.. thanks, but no thanks. Bye!”

Outfield
Matt Kemp (.278/.331/.437 9hr 49rbi 20sb) (B)
We’ve exhausted a lot of pixels on Kemp around here lately, so I won’t revisit it all again. But suffice it to say, there’s been nothing boring about Kemp’s season. To wild trade rumors to arguments about what type of player he is and will be, Kemp’s been front and center. As you probably know, considering his age and inexperience, I’m pretty satisfied with what he’s done, especially his improvement in the outfield. The strikeouts have to be cut, of course, but remember that he’s only 23. Guys like Matt Holliday and Ryan Howard hadn’t even made their debuts by 23, instead being allowed to develop in the minors. Considering Kemp’s already been (roughly) an average MLBer at that age, let’s cut the kid a little slack, okay?

Andre Ethier (.286/.350/.464 11hr 41rbi) (A-)
Don’t look now, but Ethier is leading the entire team in homers and slugging %. That’s pretty impressive for a guy who’s been continually jerked around in terms of playing time when both Jones and Pierre were available. He gets a bit of a demerit for that .195 June, but he’s come roaring back in July with a 1.061 OPS. So of course, we can look forward to him seeing some bench in two weeks when Pierre returns. Because that’s what a team who can’t hit should do – bench their biggest power hitter. Amazing.

Juan Pierre (.277/.327/.318 0hr 24rbi 35sb) (D)
This isn’t the place to rehash the whole Pierre argument yet again, but it’s pretty simple, as far as I’m concerned. He’s having the worst season of his career by every single offensive stat (save steals), which is saying a lot when it’s the fourth straight season he’s declined since his career year of 2004. Regardless of how you feel about him, he’s not even living up to his own mediocre standards. That’s not good, and I can’t imagine it’ll be any better if his knee is any less than 100% when he comes back. Yet Joe Torre is infatuated with him, but I guess that’s something more to discuss in Torre’s review. Of 19 MLB leftfielders with enough at-bats to qualify, Pierre is dead last in OPS, coming in nearly 340 points lower than leader Matt Holliday’s. That’s not just bad, that’s really bad.

By the way, in that “career year”, his OPS+ was 107 (it’s down to 69 this year). Andre Ethier’s this season is 110. Just sayin’.

Andruw Jones (.167/.261/.253 2hr 9rbi) (you don’t even deserve a letter, Andruw)
What. A. Disaster. Hey, we’re not always right at MSTI either, because we both supported this deal when it was signed. But geez. I can’t even get on Colletti for this one, because really, who the hell saw this happening? If you didn’t see this link the other day, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark says Jones is on pace for the Worst Offensive Season in Baseball History.

You know what, I can’t even talk about him. You don’t need stats on this one. You have eyes. You’ve watched the Dodgers. He’s awful, and no one seems to know why. What a mess.

Delwyn Young (.255/.327/.343 1hr 5rbi) (C-)
Have to admit, I’m a little torn on Delwyn. We’ve been big fans of his for a while, because on a team that’s struggling so badly offensively, a guy who’s done nothing but kill the ball at every stop would seem like a useful player to have. I mean, it was just last season that he broke a 41-year-old PCL record for doubles. That said, he hasn’t really done all that much with the big club this season. Oddly enough, his stats are the exact opposite of what I had thought; I was all set to say “but he doesn’t get to play that much with the OF logjam, and its hard for a kid to be a pinch-hitter”. Except that as it turns out, he’s hitting .342 off the bench vs. only .203 as a starter.

Jason Repko (.000/.000/.000 0hr 0rbi) (incomplete)
Oh, Jason. Poor Jason. Just can’t catch a break. You come up and go 0-5 with 4 K’s in your first game, and then get all of two more at-bats before getting sent down, probably for good. Damn shame, really.

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

Help Us, Andy LaRoche. You’re Our Only Hope…

After last night’s 3-1 loss to a kid making his first ever MLB start (is anyone really surprised?), I was reaffirmed of something.

Our really offense sucks.

I was also once again reminded of another thing.

We have NO power.

In all of MLB, our offense ranks 22nd in BA, 24th in OBP, 28th in SLG%, and HR’s, and, well… we suck.  Now I know all of this is obvious and, despite our need for power, the options to get it are very, very limited.  At this point, Andruw Jones is a lost hope, Jeff Kent is 40, and our two leading HR hitters, Andre “I look like I starred in a horrible 1980′s porn movie” Ethier and Russell Martin at 10, are projected to finish with 18 HR’s.  Now that’s nice, but not quite the thumper we need.  Sure, we could also trade for a hitter, but, one, the options are limited and, two, it would likely cost Matt Kemp and other valuable pieces.  And, frankly, Ned Colletti needs to be kept away from a phone.  In fact, the phone should place a restraining order on Ned Colletti.

So what to do?  Well, there still is one hope.  Remember a long, long time ago, there was this kid once called LaRoche who was supposed to battle it out with Nomar for the third base job in Spring Training, but they both got hurt in the same game?  Well, in case you haven’t noticed, Andy’s been back in L.A. for a month now, but he’s been enslaved to Torre The Hutt on the bench, much like Andruw Jones has been enslaved to Pizza The Hutt.

I suppose Andy sort of became forgotten during Blake DeWittmania, but, of course, there was no reason for him to be in L.A. with the way DeWitt was playing.  I mean, talk about a surprise story.  On Opening Day, all we wanted was for him not to embarrass himself and for the first couple of months, he was one of the team’s best hitters.  He started out April very solidly, hitting .279/.364/.397, before going on a torrid May, hitting .322/.379/.517, while hitting 5 HR’s in that month alone. Awesome and, let’s not forget, he was also playing incredible defense to go along with it.  Personally, the best defense by a Dodgers’ third baseman I’ve seen since Adrian Beltre.  In short, he saved our ass for that period.

Alas, since late May, he has gone from torrid to horrid and has become a black hole in the lineup.  He had a terrible June, hitting .182/.238/.234, with 4 XBH, and following that up with a line of .259/.333/.259 line through July with no XBH.  While he seems like a great kid who works hard, you cannot ignore these past two months, which really magnifies itself with the offensive struggles of the entire team.  I mean, if Jones is hitting like we expected, and if Furcal is still healthy, we can likely overlook it.  But with that not being the case, and with a healthy Andy LaRoche rotting away on the bench, there is no better time than now for Andy to come in and take a shot and perhaps provide the power we badly need.

Now I know what you might be thinking:

“Well, why should we start LaRoche when DeWitt, even with his declining numbers, is still outhitting Andy?  After all, DeWitt is still hitting .260/.325/.370 compared to LaRoche’s .175/.283/.350.  What gives, Vin?”

The thing to keep in mind when looking at this are the amount of at-bats each has.  Going into today, July 12th, 2008, Blake DeWitt has put up his below average numbers in 262 at-bats.  He has also been able to play every day, while Andy LaRoche has only had 40 at-bats this season and has started only 10 games the entire year.  In fact, the last time he started at all was 8 days ago, which is completely inexcusable on Joe Torre’s part.  What is the point of calling him up, when you are just going to waste him away on the bench?  Or send him to the bench the next game each time he’s hit a HR?  He’d be best served in Las Vegas, if that’s the case.  The point is, while LaRoche has yet to put up consistent numbers in the big leagues, he’s also yet to have consistent playing time and, therefore, it is unreasonable to expect him to produce more, if he is yet to be given a reasonable opportunity.  That’s not to argue that the Dodgers are entitled to do such for entitlement’s sake along.  But if they want to see if he is a flash in the pan prospect, they are.

And while I acknowledge that we’re talking small sample sizes here, LaRoche’s numbers have been slightly better as a starter.  When starting, LaRoche has an OPS of .722, while also having a miniscule .154 BABIP, so his numbers are bound to improve.

Finally, we must look at their histories.  Throughout DeWitt’s minor league career, he is a career .279/.333/.444 hitter and, thus, has not ever showed that he is the type of hitter that we saw through April and most of May.  In fact, his numbers this year are falling more and more in line with those minor league numbers.  But it’s a different story with LaRoche.  Throughout his minor league career, he’s hit .293/.379/.516 and has put up those numbers with power at every level.  Yes, I know, we’re talking minor league numbers here and they should be taken with a grain of salt, but not entirely.  It is an accurate generalization to say that if one’s hitting abilities have been unimpressive throughout their minor league careers then, logically following, their hitting abilities will likely be unimpressive in the major leagues.

However, Blake DeWitt will only turn 23 next month, which, in Dave Cameron years means he has a little more than a year left before he’s done, but I do hope he can improve.  He’s a good kid and someone that is well liked around MSTI.  He’s the type you want to see succeed, but you cannot ignore the lack of production over the course of the past two months and so it is time for Andy LaRoche to get his time.  Save us, Andy!

Blake DeWitt will now hit for the cycle, tonight, with a walk off grand slam, and pitch 7 scoreless innings.

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg

24 Days Until the Deadline…

First and foremost: hooray! C.C. Sabathia goes to Milwaukee and not Los Angeles, which means that any Dodger parts that might have gone to Cleveland for a starting pitcher the team didn’t really need are still around to be used for a bat or shortstop that the team does need. I don’t know exactly what it would have taken to have beaten Milwaukee’s offer of Matt LaPorta and three other prospects, but I’m sure it’s more than we would have been able to stomach. So a golf clap to you, Ned Colletti, for not making the kind of move that would have resulted in effigies being erected around the blogosphere.

With that in mind, let’s get on to some of the other rumors floating around. And really, isn’t this the best time of the year? While I am a little more worried than usual about what kind of deal is going to go down for this team, there’s few things I like more than trade rumors and proposals.

First off, the Jack Wilson rumors are still alive and well, which if the price is right, I’m okay with. (I stand strong on my threat to implode the internet if Matt Kemp is dealt for him, though.) I figured it’d be interesting to see what the Pittsburgh side of things have to say about these proposals for their shortstop flying around, so first we’ve got John Perrotto from something called the Beaver County Times & Allegheny Times:

Multiple baseball sources said Sunday that the Dodgers and Pirates are in serious talks about a trade that would ship Wilson west. Wilson, who grew up and lives in the Los Angeles area, has the longest-running tenure of any Pirates player at the major-league level as he made his debut in 2001.

*snip*

The Pirates envision a long-term outfield that would include Kemp and Nate McLouth, who was selected to his first All-Star Game on Sunday, on the corners, flanking center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates’ top prospect, who is playing at Class AAA Indianapolis.

If the Pirates are unable to pry Kemp away, they are also said to be willing to consider a deal in which they would acquire a pair of prospects: right-hander James McDonald and shortstop Chin-Lung Hu.

Remember earlier in this post when I said I wouldn’t mind Wilson “if the price is right”? Guess what: including Matt Kemp does not qualify as the price being right. Kemp is a budding star who’s already one of this team’s best hitters, ranking 4th on the team in VORP – miles ahead of Established Veterans Juan Pierre, Jeff Kent, and Andruw Jones. Wilson is an adequate, if mediocre, shortstop who’s probably already reached his peak. Besides, what are you going to do in the outfield if Kemp’s gone? Commit to playing Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones every single day no matter what? Uh, no thanks.

The scary thing is, even Pirate fans who don’t have the same attachment to Matt Kemp that we do can see this would be a heist of monumental proportions – or so says Pirates blog Bucs Dugout:

Get Kemp! Get Kemp! “Potential superstar” is right. We already recently discussed this rumor here, and I’d just assumed it wouldn’t be possible to get Kemp for Wilson. It still might not be–this is still just a rumor–but if it is, wow. Then again, maybe the Dodgers source was suggesting the team would be willing to include Kemp only if the Pirates included other players. I don’t know. What I do know is that McDonald and Hu isn’t a bad package for Wilson, and 

Kemp>>>>>>>>>>McDonald and Hu

Gee, you think? Trading Kemp for Wilson would be a tragicomedy at best, and I probably wouldn’t even do McDonald and Hu. Wilson’s a downgrade defensively from Hu, and whatever improvement he’d bring with the bat certainly isn’t worth losing James McDonald over.

I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of the Jack Wilson rumors, but a new name has popped up as well: Casey Blake. In reference to the Dodgers losing the Sabathia bidding, Ken Rosenthal added:

In winning the Sabathia sweepstakes, the Brewers outbid at least six teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, who could have offered a stronger overall package than Milwaukee and expanded the deal to include Indians infielder/outfielder Casey Blake.

I guess I’m not sure how to respond to this idea. Blake’s a good player – he can play first, third, and right, and he’s a pretty decent hitter with good OBP skills and some pop, although that’s steadily declining. Homer tallies of 28-23-19-18 and just 8 so far this year aren’t exactly the kind of stock I want to be buying, although his 2008 OBP of .355 is very good. I think it comes down to why the Dodgers would want to acquire him. If the idea is that he’d be a veteran bat who could start a few times a week in a few different spots, then great. But if the idea is that he’s the new starting third baseman, while once again not giving Andy LaRoche a fair shake (or including him in the deal), well, then that’s a big fat “no thanks”.

Onto deals that are probably unlikely to happen but should be included just for the sake of completeness, Tony Jackson writes in the LA Daily News about the Phillies sniffing around Derek Lowe, but also pretty much snuffs out the idea in the same piece:

A Philadelphia scout attended Friday’s game between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants but reportedly got up and left as soon as Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe was lifted after five innings, a clear sign the Phillies are interested in the veteran right-hander.

Lowe is in the final season of a four-year, $36 million contract, and the Dodgers conceivably could move him before the July 31 trading deadline. But the Dodgers’ primary need, as stated last week by general manager Ned Colletti, is an everyday shortstop, and the Phillies clearly aren’t going to part with reigning NL Most Valuable Player Jimmy Rollins, who is signed through 2010.

Can’t argue that. I don’t see how the Phillies have anything useful and expendable that the Dodgers could use, unless this is to be part of a three-way deal in which the Blue pick up a shortstop.

And finally, there’s absolutely no substance behind this one other than just another blogger’s idea, but I saw it and couldn’t help but mention it: Dodger Dugout wants to try and acquire Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, and move Russell Martin to third base. Somehow I doubt the Tigers, who have finally clawed their way back into contention, would want to move their starting catcher while their backup, Brandon Inge, is on the DL, but points for creativity.

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