What Kind of Lineup Are We Looking at on Tuesday?

Today’s lineup, as you probably saw, featured recent call-ups like Trent Oeltjen, Russ Mitchell, & Chin-lung Hu, a retiring veteran getting a farewell start in Brad Ausmus, and the revived Jay Gibbons. Other than Gibbons, making a strong case for next year with another homer, the group combined to get on base just once – a single by Oeltjen.

To his credit, Joe Torre gave the new guys their chances to play in Houston, particularly Mitchell, who is still looking for his first hit after fourteen chances. Other than A.J. Ellis, who’s had his share of starts throughout the year, each of the new arrivals got to start at least one game. I’m particularly surprised that Hu, who missed much of the second half of the ABQ season with injury, played ahead of Rafael Furcal and Jamey Carroll, but indeed he did, and kudos to Torre for that.

Here’s the thing, though. Torre admitted that he chose this series to play the B-team because Houston isn’t in the race either, but after Monday’s off-day, the Giants come to town with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Barry Zito facing off. Since San Francisco is very much in the race, Torre claims that the regular lineup will be fielded, out of respect to the other teams batting the Giants.

This is all well and good, except that the “regular lineup” has a few well-known holes against Zito, namely Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Ryan Theriot:

PA AB H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Andre Ethier 34 27 5 1 0 2 4 5 .185 .324 .222 .546
James Loney 26 26 2 0 0 0 0 7 .077 .077 .077 .154
Ryan Theriot 15 14 3 1 0 0 1 1 .214 .267 .286 .552
Total 362 326 88 16 7 25 30 62 .270 .336 .390 .726
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/12/2010.

Would Torre, claiming that he’ll trot out the regular lineup, really sit three of his usual eight because it’s the right baseball play? Theriot in particular has been brutal; his 0-3 today gives him just two hits in his last thirty-four plate appearances. There’s a pretty solid argument to make that Reed Johnson, John Lindsey (or Gibbons, but I’d assume he would be back in LF, as Scott Podsednik is fighting plantar fasciitis in his foot) and Jamey Carroll should be in the lineup, but I’m just not sure I can see it happening.

******

The Dodgers’ magic number is 9, but unfortunately it’s not as much fun to track that as it had been the last two years; this magic number is, of course, for their official elimination from the race. I take no joy in that, and it’s largely irrelevant since they’ve been done for weeks anyway, but it’s an important milestone – Torre’s said repeatedly he won’t make an announcement on his future until that happens. Making a decision on the manager, no matter what it is, is the first step towards the future, and in all honesty I’d rather it happen as soon as possible. The nine could get down to zero as soon as late this week.

Today’s Weird Lineup Actually Sort of Makes Sense

After yesterday’s debacle, in no small part fueled by the miscues of backups Jamey Carroll, A.J. Ellis, and Ronnie Belliard, you could be forgiven for hoping to see the regular starting 8 today – especially with tomorrow being an off-day. If you’re like me, you cringed a little bit when you saw Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA post the lineup on his Twitter:

#Dodgers lineup: Furcal SS Martin C Ethier RF Kemp CF Blake 3B Belliard 1B Johnson LF Carroll 2B Kershaw P

Belliard at first? Johnson in left? Carroll at second? The bottom half of that lineup seems downright brutal, especially after yesterday. But with a bit of a deeper look, it starts to become a little more reasonable.

Let’s start at first base, where Belliard gets his first crack at resting James Loney. I realize that along with Matt Kemp, Loney is one of only two Dodgers who hasn’t received a break yet, though I can’t say I’m all that worried about making sure 25-year-olds get a day off two weeks into the season. But if you’re going to do it, now is the day, because Loney has been absolutely putrid against Barry Zito – in 20 career tries, Loney has reached base exactly one time. Once. And even that one time was merely a groundball single between 1B and 2B back on Opening Day of 2008. He’s struck out 6 times, and hasn’t walked at all, so his line is .050/.050/.050. I’m all for acknowledging small sample sizes, but I can see that this seems to be a trend you don’t want to tempt – especially when Belliard has a line of .324/.395/.441 in 38 plate appearances. So I’m totally fine with this.

In left field, this is a little more disappointing, because Manny’s crushed Zito in their careers – a .913 OPS with 3 homers.  However, Manny did leave Friday’s game early, and sat out Saturday’s, with a strained calf, so in the interest of seeing a 38-year-old last the season, I suppose I can see the appeal of combining that time off with Monday’s off-day to make sure this calf doesn’t become a serious issue. It’s too bad, though, because while Reed Johnson has had nice success against Zito as well (.938 OPS in 16 PA), this would have been a great opportunity to let Andre Ethier skip a lefty he’s had little hope against (.540 OPS in 22 PA). Still, if Manny’s calf is the reason here, it’s an unavoidable choice.

Finally, you’re looking at Jamey Carroll at second base. DeWitt’s hardly made himself irreplacable at second yet, especially with the glove, and while he’s just 1-5 against Zito, Carroll does have 8 hits and a .381 batting average. Granted, since he’s Jamey Carroll and has zero power against anyone, he’s also got a .381 OBP and a .381 SLG since all 8 hits have been singles, but it’s still something.

So none of these replacements are really arguable today, and if you look at the total list of Dodger hitters vs. Zito, all that really matters anyway is that Matt Kemp is playing. Kemp’s stepped to the plate 37 times against the $126 million dollar man, and though he doesn’t have a homer (yet), the results are eye-popping: .469/.541/.563 for a 1.103 OPS. Uh, yeah. That’ll do.

Everytime You Groan at Juan Pierre and his $44 Million…

… thank whomever it is you might pray to that it’s not three times worse:

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Zito was demoted to the bullpen Monday by the San Francisco Giants, who hope the former ace can correct his problems by working in relief.

The move was first reported by ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney.

Zito, who only 16 months ago signed a $126 million, seven-year contract with the Giants to lead their rotation, was informed of the move in a meeting with manager Bruce Bochy.

“I’m certainly not happy with it, by any means,” Zito said. “But this is the bed that I’ve made. I have to lay in it for the time being and I have to overcome. I trust management and I trust what their decisions are.”

The left-hander has lost his first six starts this season and has a 7.53 ERA that jumped considerably after Zito was tagged for eight earned runs in a 10-1 loss Sunday to Cincinnati.

The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner with Oakland, Zito lasted just three innings against the Reds and was booed frequently by the crowd at AT&T Park during his shortest outing of the year.

“It’s good sometimes just to back off,” Bochy said. “It’s happened to a lot of great players, position players and even pitchers. We just felt at this point it’s time for him to sit back, miss a start and help us in the pen.” (ESPN)

I think most people realized that this was a terrible deal at the outset but… he made it all of 39 (awful) starts before being dumped. While we’re wondering what we’re going to do with 4 more years of Juan Pierre, what do the Giants do with 6 more seasons (and $111.5 million!!!) of Barry Zito? Move over, Mike Hampton, and take a seat, Darren Dreifort. We have a new undisputed champion of worst contract ever.

Looking around some Giants blogs (and yeah, I feel plenty dirty now) it seems that Zito (shown at right caught red-handed stealing money) is like Juan Pierre times a million. Much as we dump on Pierre, he’s at least got some value. Zito? Well…

It can’t be stressed enough. It just can’t. Barry Zito is probably my least favorite topic to think about, discuss, or devote any brain power to. On one hand, I feel bad for watching a once talented pitcher dissolve in front of our very eyes. It’s a metamorphosis none of us thought would happen this soon or this completely. Nobody expected Zito to do what he’s doing right now and I think even the most hard boiled critic of the Zito deal assumed that he’d be alright for the first couple of years and then slowly start to decline. The decline is now and it’s frightening. (Bay City Ball)

Let’s get some stats!

The line on Zito so far this season is pretty pathetic to say the least. He is 0-6 in his six starts this season, with a 7.53 ERA, 15 walks, 11 strikeouts and has given up 30 runs. Lefties have hit .348 off him and righties have hit .333. He’s averaging only 4 2/3 innings per start and taxing the bullpen every time he takes the mound. (michaelnewjr.com)

Brutal! How about the fantastically named El Lefty Malo?

The weekend brought several developments, none of them good. The biggest and least surprising was the continued horribleness of Barry Zito, prompting Giant brass to wonder aloud if Zito can remain in the rotation. Did you catch J.T. Snow on the radio broadcast yesterday? Instead of sticking to the fraternal code of ex-ballplayers — Thou Shall Not Embarrass Thy Brothers on the Air — J.T. basically said Zito has nothing. He wasn’t rude, but he was blunt: No velocity, no command, no confidence. Either he or Flemming, I can’t remember which, called Zito’s pitches “batting practice fastballs.” Batters are comfortable against him; even the outs he got yesterday were pop-ups because the Reds were swinging too hard, Snow said. In other words, no respect. Go up there and have fun, boys.

If I sound like I’m enjoying this well… I guess I’m not quite sure how to finish that sentence. Not that the Dodgers haven’t made any stupid signings in recent history, because they certainly have – just not on this magnitude. I think I’m going to enjoy the next half-decade or so of watching our most bitter rivals suffer.

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