Nothing Good Came From Last Night

There’s absolutely nothing good I can say about Chad Billingsley‘s start last night, despite his claims to the contrary, so I won’t. Really, all I can do is offer you some backup to defend against his detractors, and that’s that his FIP is only 3.45, while Dan Haren‘s is 3.81. Billingsley’s ERA is so high in large part because he’s suffered through a career-high .347 BABIP – and because the bullpen generally hasn’t done a great job of keeping his inherited runners off the board.

Still, coming after Clayton Kershaw‘s lousy start the night before, it’s hardly an inspiring start to the second half. What is it with the Dodgers in St. Louis? Playoffs aside, I’m pretty sure they haven’t won there since 1972.

Of course the big news coming out of last night were the injury concerns with Manny Ramirez and Russell Martin. Starting with Manny, he took his at-bat in the top of the first and never made it into the field, having apparently strained his calf. Again.

There’s no news yet on whether he’ll head to the disabled list, but my guess is that it’s probably pretty likely. He’s having a hard enough time staying healthy as it is, so you’d think they wouldn’t want to make him play while injured and just exacerbate the situation. Jon Weisman points out that if that’s the case, the Dodgers are suddenly looking thin: Reed Johnson is also on the DL, and the only healthy position players on the 40-man roster are Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Trayvon Robinson.

Robinson, 22, has actually had a very good season at AA: .382 OBP and 29 steals thus far. But he’s also struck out once per game at that level, and unlike Xavier Paul, I do consider him someone who needs to play every day right now, so I wouldn’t want to start his clock just to fill out the bench for a week or so until Johnson is ready to return.

No, if you do have to replace Manny from within, you have to do it by recalling a non-roster player killing the ball at ABQ – Jay Gibbons, Jamie Hoffmann or John Lindsey. None are on the 40-man roster, but the Dodgers have three open spots, by my count, and that’s without even considering the one that’s about to open up when George Sherrill is gone. One will be needed for Brad Ausmus – more on him in a second – but roster space isn’t an issue.

All have nice numbers at ABQ, which should be taken with a huge grain of salt: Hoffmann has an .804 OPS, Gibbons .920, and Lindsey an absurd 1.140. Hoffmann has the advantage of having been with the big club before, and he’s an excellent defensive outfielder. Lindsey’s numbers are crazy, but he’s limited to 1B, while Gibbons can play 1B or the corner outfield spots.

Obviously, the hope is that Manny doesn’t go on the DL,but there could be a silver lining if he does; if one of these three gets called up (I’d go with Gibbons due to his being lefty and able to play more than one spot) and they make a good impression, it could go a long way towards getting Garret Anderson off the team when Manny and Johnson are healthy again.

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The other injury concern is with Russell Martin, who had to leave last night’s game with a swollen left thumb. Here’s the best part, and stop me if you’ve heard this before:

Martin hadn’t informed the team medical staff of the nagging issue, which he said he had been dealing with for several days

Aaaannd… facepalm. How many times have we heard this before – that a player doesn’t let the team know he’s hurt – and how many times has it ever ended well? Tony Jackson’s story implies that it doesn’t seem to be enough to send him to the DL, but I almost hope it would, because that’s the only way he’s going to take any time off. I wouldn’t think it possible, but he’s actually been worse than ever over the last month (.184/.297/.237 in 22 games) so I really don’t see the point of allowing him to try to play through this – it’s not helping him or the team.

As for Ausmus, he’s expected to be activated within the next week barring any setbacks. I assume A.J. Ellis is starting today – I mean, he has to, right – and if Martin hasn’t improved by the time Ausmus is ready he needs to be put on the DL, even if he doesn’t like it.

Tough Night in the Desert


No way around it: Hiroki Kuroda‘s start last night was almost as ugly as those horrendous white hats that MLB is forcing upon every team in an attempt to ruin each holiday of the summer. He got just five outs, allowing six runs on eight hits and two walks (with two wild pitches thrown in for good measure) – really, just terrible no matter how you try to spin it. All you can do is realize that even a pitcher with Kuroda’s record of effectiveness is going to have a poor game every now and then (especially in a ballpark like Arizona’s, and who knows how much of an impact Thursday’s bloodbath had on a team desperate to not be further embarrassed had), and move on.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Rafael Furcal continued his hot streak with two more hits, and James Loney and Andre Ethier had three apiece. Even Blake DeWitt had 2 hits and 3 RBI, and for all the worry about his offensive production this season, it’s worth noting that if he had enough plate appearances to qualify, his OPS would be 11th in MLB among second basemen, far above noted contemporaries like Aaron Hill, Chone Figgins, and Howie Kendrick.

Really, if there’s anything to take away from this game, it’s that the bloom might be off the rose of Justin Miller. After starting his Dodger career with 6.1 scoreless innings over 4 games, Miller has now allowed runs in six of his last ten outings, letting opponents pile up a .995 OPS in that time. Since Miller was never all that good in the first place, this isn’t all that big of a surprise, but worth noting – and if it continues, it might not be a bad idea to start thinking about calling up a Travis Schlichting or Jon Link from ABQ to take his place.

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Kuroda’s lousy outing last night was somewhat obscured by the fact that – despite what we’d been told earlier – Manny Ramirez will indeed go on the DL to rest his hamstring. Xavier Paul is coming back up, and you would think that between Paul’s dominance in AAA and Torre’s previous statements about not wanting him to be somewhere he isn’t playing every day, that he’d be the starting left fielder, at least against righties, with Reed Johnson spotting against lefties. Right?

With Manny Ramirez unavailable Friday night and possibly headed to the disabled list with a bad right hamstring, manager Joe Torre indicated he would choose daily between Garret Anderson and Reed Johnson to replace him.

“It will be the type of pitchers or the match-up,” Torre said.

I don’t want to belabor the point here, because clearly there’s been absolutely no shortage of Anderson-bashing on this blog. But, seriously, what is it going to take to get Torre to come around on this? What pitchers are going to make a good matchup for Anderson right now, six-year-old girls with muscular dystrophy? He accounted for four outs in his first three at-bats yesterday before managing to drop a single into right field, and he’s hitting .183/.198/.296. This isn’t a situation where he needs time to acclimate to his new role. He’s DONE, and everyone seems to see that except for Joe Torre.

Meanwhile, Xavier Paul is hitting .348/.404/.635 for the Isotopes, and lest you think that’s a stat line which is entirely due to the ABQ atmosphere, note that he’s still got a pretty tasty line of .320/.381/.534 on the road. This is the fifth year in a row in which he’s increased his OPS in the minors, and he has a 103 OPS+ in his limited time in the majors. 90% of the rest of baseball would be falling over themselves to give a prospect like that a chance at a full-time job. Granted, most of those teams don’t have an outfield like Manny/Kemp/Ethier, but to say that you’re going to play a husk of a corpse of a cadaver like the 38-year-old Anderson, who has proven that his value is zero, is obscene. It’s hard to say that the Dodgers are doing everything they can to win when you see situations like these, isn’t it?

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A quick note about the story that Matt Kemp got into an argument with bench coach Bob Schaefer, and that’s why he was benched: ESPN’s Buster Olney has a pretty good dig at the situation:

Joe Torre wouldn’t talk about why he didn’t seek out a meeting with Matt Kemp, as Mr. Hernandez writes within this notebook. “It’s none of your business,” Torre told a reporter.

Not until the publicist calls as the next book is released, anyway. That’s when everything is fair game, apparently.

That’s Not Going To Be A Fun Flight Home

Three games, zero wins, and another entry in the long history of Dodger interleague ineptitude. Even though the Dodgers didn’t have to face Jon Lester, or Josh Beckett, or John Lackey, or even Daisuke Matsuzaka, it didn’t matter. The Red Sox rolled out a 43-year-old knuckleballer, and a semi-prospect making his major league debut before finishing with the talented Clay Buccholz tonight, and still walked away with the sweep. Despite the quality start from Hiroki Kuroda, the Dodgers are headed home in third place having lost four in a row and seven of nine.

Oh, and they get to face the Angels and Yankees this week, yet don’t even know who’s in the starting rotation. But that’s not even the biggest issue right now; the complete June disappearance of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier is. When Garret Anderson is your most effective offensive weapon, you know there’s a problem.

(Also, as you can tell from the picture, Blake DeWitt left the game after being hit by a pitch on his leg. There’s no word as to his condition, but with Rafael Furcal‘s return date unknown after the passing of his father this morning, the Dodger middle infield could be in as rough shape as the starting rotation.)

Blake DeWitt Makes His Case

Just as I was about to write a post saying that while I’m pleased with Blake DeWitt‘s play this year, sooner or later he’s going to have to show some power, he crushes a three-run shot deep into the night, setting in motion a much-needed offensive showing by the Dodgers in a 12-4 win.  DeWitt’s got an .801 OPS since May 1, along with an improving glove, but he hadn’t been able to leave the yard until last night.

What I really found interesting was this section from Tony Jackson’s recap, though:

“I finally had to call him in at one point and tell him, ‘No, you’re not going (to the minor leagues),”‘ Torre said. “And then I said, ‘We’re going to make another move this weekend, and it’s not going to be you then, either.”‘

If this sounds odd to you, it’s because when I wrote a post defending DeWitt a few weeks ago, when there were rumors he may get sent down rather than Nick Green, I said this:

Again: I don’t really think they’d actually do something that stupid, so this is probably a bit premature. Still, you’d have to think the fact that Torre even acknowledged there’s a possibility it could be DeWitt got back to Blake eventually, which is exactly what he doesn’t need.

Couldn’t a conversation saying “you won’t be sent down” have been avoided had Torre not initially put it out there that DeWitt may be sent down? Just sayin’.

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This is going to require a fuller post in a week or two, but it’s going to get interesting when Vicente Padilla returns. Carlos Monasterios was excellent again last night, earning his third win while somehow striking out zero. I know John Ely wasn’t great his last time out, but he put enough good starts in a row together that I think he’s earned his spot. Monasterios has been surprisingly good for a Rule 5 pick, but he’s also striking out less than 4 per 9 innings. While he’s worth his roster spot, that’s not a recipe for long-term success, so it seems clear to me that he heads back to the long man role when Padilla returns.

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Hey, even Steve Dilbeck thinks it’s time to give up on Garret Anderson!

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I don’t pretend to follow the draft all that closely, though I did have it on in the background as I worked last night. That was enough for me to hear Peter Gammons claim that Chase Utley had never been drafted out of high school (he was in fact drafted by the Dodgers, but chose to attend UCLA) and that “there’s some thought that Matt Wieters may have been retarded.” Sure, he meant “in his development” by various factors, but those are the words that came out of his mouth. High entertainment, and that doesn’t even count the “Bud Selig & Harold Reynolds Traveling Road Show”.

So when the Dodgers chose Texas high school righty Zach Lee, it was admittedly the first time I’d heard of him. Yet it didn’t take long for me to learn all I needed to know about him: that he’s a fantastically talented athletic pitcher who’s going to require a truckload of money to skip out on his commitment to play quarterback at LSU. Since the Dodgers aren’t exactly known for having “truckloads of money” right now, except to pay the McCourt children and divorce lawyers with, this seems like a bizarre choice.

Thoughts from people more invested in scouting than I back this up, with the most ominous thought at the bottom…

Fangraphs:

A top quarterback prospect from Texas, it will clearly take a lot ($$$) to sway Lee away from his commitment to Louisiana State University. A team drafting Lee in the first round will have to have a pretty good feel on his signability. Lee has a three pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball, slider, and change-up. His arm slot tends to wander at times. Thanks to his focus on the football field, the right-hander is still raw but he does display solid control for his age. (Marc Hulet)

Tiger Bait Interview (via MOKM):

“At this point I’m leaning a lot more to toward college,” Lee said. “I think the opportunity to be able to go in and possibly compete for a starting job early in football and also to be able to compete and play for the baseball team – both elite programs – is pretty hard to pass up along with getting an education on top of it.”

Keith Law (emphasis mine):

The Los Angeles Dodgers took Zach Lee, described by one draft-room source of mine as “the most unsignable player in the draft,” and I’ve spoken to several other sources who speculated that they may have taken him knowing they couldn’t sign him with the intention of getting the compensatory pick next year when, they hope, they have more money to spend in the draft. Lee has spurned inquiries from several teams and indicated that he’d prefer to go to LSU to play football, although if he does sign, the Dodgers have perhaps the best athlete among pitchers in this draft, a right-hander with an excellent delivery and a chance for three above-average pitches.

Less than 24 hours after the draft, and we’re already speculating that the Dodgers simply decided to punt, thanks to the divorce. Hooray…?

In Defense of Blake DeWitt

I don’t really believe this is going to happen, but…

To create room on the roster for Furcal, an infielder will have to go.  The obvious move is to designate Nick Green for assignment, but Torre noted the club has two choices: Green, or optioning Blake DeWitt.  When asked if it would be tough to send down the club’s opening day second baseman, Torre said, “It’s always tough to be sent down,” but also said a decision has not yet been made. (via TBLA)

Again: I don’t really think they’d actually do something that stupid, so this is probably a bit premature. Still, you’d have to think the fact that Torre even acknowledged there’s a possibility it could be DeWitt got back to Blake eventually, which is exactly what he doesn’t need.

I’m not even going to bother explaining why Nick Green is useless. I’ve done so many, many times, and while I won’t pretend that nine plate appearances is a substantial sample size, it’s also not like he’s done anything to distinguish himself with the one single he’s accumulated. If this happens, the issue here wouldn’t even be “DeWitt or Green”, as they’re making it sound.

No, the issue would be “Blake DeWitt vs. overvaluing Jamey Carroll“. As you probably remember, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Carroll signing this offseason. Yet, even I’ll admit that Carroll’s been a nice surprise, playing nearly every single inning at shortstop since Furcal went down in the first place. As expected, he’s provided little range and zero power, but he’s been solid on the balls he can get to, and his .377 OBP overall is nice. Besides that, he’s really stepped it up since he took over the job, with a .396 OBP in the 25 games that Furcal has missed.

Coming from an emergency backup, Carroll’s been all you could expect, and considering what a disaster shortstop was in 2008 when Furcal was down, he’s really done nicely. I approve. Yet, let’s not confuse this with Carroll being a plus player, or someone who ought to be a starter, because he’s not. If DeWitt did go down, the team would essentially be saying that they prefer Carroll in the lineup everyday rather than DeWitt, since Carroll would presumably slide over to be the starting 2B.

DeWitt may still be waiting for his first home run, but that’s really the only blemish on his season so far. His 106 OPS+ means he’s been an above-average hitter this year, as compared to Carroll’s below-average 88 OPS+, and DeWitt has also really started to heat up. Since the calendar turned to May, he’s got a .288/.333/.492 line, with nine extra-base hits (as compared to Carroll’s three in the entire season). That’s an .825 OPS, which is fine by me.

On defense, he’s clearly been a work in progress, but he’s improving there too. Obviously, defensive stats are more prone to small sample size worries than anything else, but even all of the accepted metrics have him at near average or just slightly below it, which is also better than Carroll’s marks.

Again, I don’t think this will happen, and I’m fine with Carroll’s play thus far. But if the unthinkable occurs – if DeWitt is sent down just as he’s heating up, in order to play Carroll more and hold onto Green – it would be a massive mistake. Personally, I’m fine with just DFA’ing Green when Furcal returns, because I consider him to be of no value whatsoever, but knowing how the Dodgers roll, it’ll probably be a Haeger-esque phantom DL stint. As if anyone would really claim him on waivers, anyway.

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In far sadder news, Jose Lima has apparently died of a heart attack today in Los Angeles. Lima was a Dodger for only one of his thirteen seasons, but that didn’t stop him from earning a place in team history. After a 13-5 2004 season which he described as “Lima Time” and had his wife become a minor internet celebrity thanks to her infamous picture while he sang the national anthem, he tossed a complete game shutout at the Cardinals in the NLDS – the first playoff game the Dodgers had won since 1988, and the only won they’d win until 2008. After his one season in LA, he had a horrible 2005 in Kansas City, a short stint with the Mets in 2006, and that was the end of his career. He played in Korea and independent ball in Canada and California trying to get back – that is, when he wasn’t popping up in bizarre Deadspin stories about his ex-wife trying to track him down.

An email from the Dodgers included the news that he’d actually been at the game on Friday night, and received a standing ovation from the crowd when introduced (the picture at right). RIP, Lima Time.