Dodgers 1, Reds 0: PUIG.

celebrate_2013-07-28

Yasiel Puig stepped to the plate five times today, and for the first four, it wasn’t going all that well. He made contact exactly zero times (excluding fouls), and the one time of those four he didn’t strike out, he was picked off of first base.

Most other days, that’s your day. You get your chances, you either make the best of them or you don’t, and had the Dodgers lost this game 1-0, as briefly seemed likely, you bet we’d have been talking about Puig’s ongoing baserunning issues.

Well, today’s not most other days, is it? Today’s the day where the Dodgers set more than one record Chris Capuano was inexplicably awesome, Brandon League was even more inexplicably awesome, and Puig sends the crowd home happy with his first career walk-off, a homer off someone named Curtis Partch, and then slides into home after a lovely bat flip. Isn’t baseball just great sometimes?

I have to pause here to thank Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker for his role in this win, because I don’t use the well-worn “someone named” trope here lightly. I had literally no idea who Partch even was before today (or so I thought at the time; it turns out he gave up a grand slam to Matt Holliday in his major league debut earlier this year), and that’s because he was a 26th round draft pick in his tenth major league game. Why is this relevant? Because Baker, ever so predictable and crusty Baker, was holding back the dominant Aroldis Chapman for a save. You know, the save situation that would never come because you let Curtis F’in Partch lose the game. Thanks Dusty!

What shouldn’t be lost here is that Capuano was outstanding, though aided somewhat (as was Cincinnati’s Tony Cingrani) by a generous strike zone. Capuano went 6.2 innings, striking out four while allowing just three runners, and until the Puig business, this post was going to be about how Jekyll and Hyde Capuano has been — he’s either been really, really good, or really, really awful. I’m not sure if today’s outing impacts any plans the team has around adding a starter before the deadline, but it certainly can’t hurt.

We actually have to acknowledge League as well, who somehow has three of the last five Dodger wins. (Wins!) League went two scoreless and has allowed just a single run in his last 8.2 innings pitched, and while I’m not ready to say he’s “back” or that he should ever be closing ahead of Kenley Jansen again, if he’s at least going to be decent, that’s a pretty nice boost to a bullpen that had a hole or two.

All of this excellent pitching was needed since the offense struck out an incredible twenty times, setting a franchise record. But they’ve also now won 26 of their last 32, tying a Los Angeles record, and pushing them to 2.5 games ahead of Arizona, who lost to San Diego today.

Oh, and after a day off tomorrow, Clayton Kershaw & Zack Greinke are set to welcome the Yankees into town. The national spotlight will be at Dodger Stadium. So will the hottest team in baseball. This just never stops being fun, does it?

Phillies 16, Dodgers 1: Capuano’d

capuano_2013-05-24If Chris Capuano did nothing else tonight — and he literally did just about nothing tonight — he at least helped us answer the question, “why would the Dodgers be in the market for a starting pitcher like Matt Garza or Ricky Nolasco?” Uh… that’s why.

But hey, at least mostly everyone was awful. Capuano gave up seven runs (five earned) in 3.2 innings, which is bad. But then Peter Moylan gave up five runs in two innings, and Matt Guerrier dropped three more runs in 1.1 inning, and then Brandon League — finally finding an appropriate time to enter in a 15-1 game — looked just as awful as ever in allowing the final run across the plate. Skip Schumaker made his second appearance of the year on the mound, and was the only Dodger pitcher to keep the Phillies off the board, even striking out Humberto Quintero after loading the bases. I joked on Twitter that I feel more comfortable with Schumaker than I do with League… and now I’m not so sure it’s a joke.

Then again, when all you’re going to do is eke out five hits against John Lannan, you don’t deserve to win. Yasiel Puig added a walk to go with his single, and was one of just two Dodgers to get on more than once; he is hitting¬†.424/.459/.696¬†and remains awesome — though he did fail to hit a 15-run homer when he came up in the bottom of the eighth. Slacker.

It’s been 17 years since the Dodgers last allowed 16 runs in a game, but that one was slightly more fun because they only lost by one that time around. Yes, 1996 Coors Field was the best. This game actually tied the Dodger Stadium record for runs allowed by an opponent, dating back to a 1987 mess against the Giants where current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt lasted only 2.1 innings.

You can thank Schumaker for keeping that record intact. If only for his flailing arms on the mound in the midst of a forgettable disaster, Schumaker is the best… for the night only. Now let us never speak of it again. Expect some moves this weekend, both as a massive overreaction to tonight and because I’ll be out of town until Sunday afternoon.

Cardinals 7, Dodgers 0: Yeah, That’ll Happen

capuano_2013-05-24Chris Capuano gave up a couple of dingers, a solid-but-hardly-elite pitcher — Lance Lynn, in this case — shut down the constantly-struggling Dodger offense with ease, Matt Guerrier was lousy, and the Los Angeles defense made some fielding mistakes.

Congratulations, you’ve just seen the Dodger game to describe pretty much every other Dodger game.

Seriously though, it’s somehow worse than that. A.J. Ellis, when he wasn’t going 0-3 with two strikeouts, got steamrolled by Jon Jay on a play at the plate in the second inning. Matt Kemp, the subject of a wonderfully in-depth examination by Chad Moriyama today, also went 0-3 with two whiffs. Dee Gordon didn’t get a hit in either of his times up, extending a hitless streak of 27 plate appearances dating back to May 13. (He does have two walks and a hit by pitch in that time.) Adrian Gonzalez is on a streak nearly as bad, with his 0-3 giving him four singles and three walks in his last 36 times up.

Really, the only Dodger starter who can look back at tonight without some sort of shame is… you guessed it, Juan Uribe, who had a walk and a double. I think that really sums up the night pretty well right there.

Back at it tomorrow with Ted Lilly… sigh. I guess.

Dodgers to Roll Out Nearly a Real Starting Lineup Against Cubs Today

You know how you know that the longest spring training ever is starting to drag? The top headline on dodgers.com this morning was a story about how much progress Josh Wall has made over the years. Hey, I like Wall, and I think he’s got a big league future ahead of him. He’s also conservatively something like 11th on the bullpen depth chart.

Cubs
Dodgers
2B
Barney
2B
M.Ellis
3B
Lillibridge
RF
Ethier
RF
Schierholtz
CF
Kemp
C
Castillo
1B
Gonzalez
CF
Sappelt
LF
Hairston
SS
Valbuena
3B
Cruz
LF
McDonald
C
A.Ellis
1B
Nelson
SS
Amezaga
P
Rusin
P
Capuano

Today’s game, like tomorrow’s, will be webcast on dodgers.com, and it features Chris Capuano, (followed by Ronald Belisario, Kevin Gregg, Matt Guerrier, and Mark Lowe in some order) attempting to show some consistency after what’s been an up-and-down spring thus far. Zack Greinke is expected to play catch on Friday and potentially throw a bullpen next week; I still think he starts the season on the disabled list, as I said yesterday.

Otherwise, the Dodger lineup is more or less what we can expect to see on Opening Day, save for Alfredo Amezaga replacing Hanley Ramirez at shortstop while the Dominicans prepare to face the United States in the WBC tonight. I get that none of us are thrilled about the idea of Mark Ellis leading off, but I can’t muster up enough worry about a spring training lineup to really care. As long as it’s against lefty pitching — and today’s Chicago starter, Chris Rusin, is a southpaw — I can live with it, but again it’s only March 14. It is interesting that Andre Ethier is hitting second against lefty, however; I suppose Don Mattingly is just attempting to give him as many opportunities to prove himself as possible.

Lots of other news to get to today…

** Carl Crawford is actually in the lineup… just not this one. As Ken Gurnick reports, he’ll be getting some at-bats being the designated hitter in a scrimmage against Japan’s Mejii University today. I assume this means he has been traded to the Nippon Ham Fighters.

** Kenley Jansen claims there’s a 95% chance he’ll leave camp to join the Netherlands in the semifinals. How exactly it’s okay for him to do so despite offseason surgery while Javy Guerra was barred from playing for Mexico because of the same remains up in the air, though perhaps it’s on a team-by-team basis rather than a WBC rule. The Honkballers have now added Jansen and Texas super-prospect Jurickson Profar for the next round. Not a bad little pick-me-up, no?

espn_indians** Dustin Nosler reports that infielder Justin Sellers hobbled off the practice field with an apparent lower leg injury today, but there’s no indication yet on how serious it might be.

** Mercifully, Don Mattingly has confirmed that Yasiel Puig is not being considered for an Opening Day roster spot. We’ve all assumed that for a while, but it’s nice to finally hear it stated from team management.

** Do you care about the Cleveland Indians? No? Why, just because this is a Dodger blog? Okay, that’s fair, I suppose, but just in case: my latest Insider-only piece at ESPN is about how the team improved their run prevention without actually adding any better pitchers. If you know any Tribe fans, pass it along.

Chris Capuano Might Be the Best Option For the Dodger Bullpen

92topps_chriscapuanoChris Capuano appeared on 570′s Dodger Talk yesterday with Jorge Jarrin, and as you’d expect from a man holding an economics degree from Duke, he was gracious, well-spoken, and articulate, touching on topics from improvements to Dodger Stadium to PEDs to the maturation of Clayton Kershaw to life in the minors to playing for Don Mattingly after growing up as a Red Sox fan in Massachusetts. Considering how practiced and vague most athletes are in public, Capuano provided a level of insight that’s rare, so the entire thing is worth a listen.

After taking a question from a caller who asked about how he’s reacted to all of the trade rumors, Jarrin followed up by asking if he might be willing to work out of the bullpen if it comes to that. I’ve transcribed Capuano’s reply:

Probably a few years ago, I’d probably have said I never would have considered that. But coming back from injury, my second Tommy John in 2010 with the Brewers, I had a chance to spend a couple of months in the bullpen with Trevor Hoffman, who was in his last year in Milwaukee, and actually that was when I learned that I could do it, that I could kind of switch gears if I needed to. You know, for me, I still feel good, I threw almost 200 innings last year, my body continues to feel stronger and stronger as I’ve figured out a pretty good routine for myself. I’ll be 35 this year, so I’m not too old yet, but I feel as strong now as I did when I was 24 or 25. You know, it’s tough, when you start your entire career in the big leagues, it’s tough to make that transition, if you feel like you’re still successful, if you’re still putting up numbers, it’s tough to make that transition from taking the ball every fifth day and doing the routine that you know.

We’ve long assumed that at least one of Capuano or Aaron Harang will be traded before the season — perhaps both, if Chad Billingsley & Josh Beckett can each stay healthy through the spring — and that if no one is injured, Ted Lilly would be in the bullpen, since his age, salary, & recent arm surgery probably make him untradeable. That might still be true, but I’ve long thought (and probably said here in passing at various times) that Capuano would be a perfect weapon out of the bullpen.

As we know, Capuano has a long history of falling apart in the second half of the season. For his career, his first half stats — .734 OPS against/3.70 ERA — are far superior than what he’s been able to do after the break — .804 OPS/4.94 ERA. That was of course magnified even further in 2012, when he completely fell apart down the stretch (2.91 / 4.76 ERA split) culminating in a horrible “19 strikeouts in 40.2 innings over his final eight starts” run to end the season.

We also know that under almost no circumstances can Capuano pitch beyond five innings. That’s held true over his career (.867 OPS / 6.69 ERA in the sixth, each the highest of any inning) and in 2012 (.921 OPS / 7.29 ERA, again the highest).

That’s not to denigrate Capuano, who ended up being a very nice surprise in his first season in Los Angeles, just an acknowledgement of what he can and can’t do. He can give you four or five good innings while missing some bats, and he’ll fade down the stretch. As he ages and his velocity continues to decline, that’s unlikely to change at this point, so if you can limit his exposure — say, as a reliever who can give you an inning or two while being death on lefties, as his platoon splits indicate he is — that’s all of a sudden a pretty valuable piece, one that might be more worthwhile than trading him for whatever meager return he might fetch, in addition to the rotation insurance he’d provide.

It’s not like it hasn’t worked before; while the samples are small and it was his first year back after missing two seasons to arm trouble, that time in the 2010 Milwaukee bullpen went well. Capuano pitched 20.1 innings over 15 games, with a 20/6 K/BB.

Obviously, there’s still a lot to shake out in the Dodger rotation this spring, because health, performance, and salaries are all going to play a role. Capuano might not end up being one of the five best starters on the club, but if my choice in the bullpen is between him and Lilly’s brand of homer-prone-and-completely-unable-to-hold-runners-on slop, I know where my preferences lie.