Dodgers Dominated as Dee Departs Disastrously


That Cliff Lee was the most dominant pitcher on the mound tonight at Dodger Stadium came as little surprise. That he was also the best hitter on the field, well, that’s one you may not have seen coming. Lee’s day job first: over eight masterful innings, he struck out 10 while scattering just four harmless singles, two to Jamey Carroll (who attempted to give that goodwill back by making an error and whiffing on a grounder that really should have gone down as a second miscue). Demerit him for allowing Eugenio Velez to walk all you like, what we saw on the mound tonight was pure artistry.

On the other side of the ball, for all the jokes we have at Ted Lilly‘s expense, the veteran lefty was actually pretty solid against a good Phillies lineup. Lilly allowed just six hits and a walk over eight innings, which ties for his second-longest outing as a Dodger, and he even drilled Shane Victorino in the back for good measure. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Ted Lilly game if he didn’t allow a homer, and that’s how we get back to Lee, who took Lilly out to right field in the 7th inning. That made the score 2-0, though with the way Lee was pitching against the unimposing Dodger lineup, it might as well have been 200-0. (Casey Blake singled in Matt Kemp to cut it to 2-1 in the 9th, though that came against Ryan Madson).

So the Dodgers, with a lineup missing Juan Rivera (and just pause for a moment and try to realize that we live in a world where that’s a significant concern) lost to arguably the best left-handed pitcher in baseball. There’s no shame there, and no surprise either. But it’s also not close to being the most important outcome of the night, because the adventures with Dee Gordon‘s right shoulder continue.

Despite how serious Gordon’s injury looked after trying to chase down Kelly Johnson on Saturday, he missed just one full game, entering yesterday as a defensive replacement before starting tonight. In the 6th inning, he unsuccessfully attempted to bunt his way on, and in doing so attempted to evade first baseman Ryan Howard by diving around him, landing hard on his shoulder. Gordon could be seen shaking the shoulder repeatedly the following inning, as Vin Scully was sure to note. In the 8th, he came up against Lee, swinging hard at the second pitch and clearly re-injuring the shoulder. Gordon left the game immediately, thus putting Trent Oeltjen in the impossible situation of coming off the bench cold to face Lee, down 0-2. He grounded into a double play, because of course he did.

There’s no news yet on the severity of Gordon’s shoulder, but I can’t imagine he’ll play tomorrow – nor should he. While it’s certainly important to see if the raw Gordon can handle the 2012 job, it’s not as important as keeping his long-term health in mind. His shoulder, clearly, is not healthy, though since he’s held together by duct tape and chewing gum, perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise. With the season long over, the conservative route is the only way to play this.

Dodgers End Dynamic Day With Dull Defeat

What a day, right? The Dodgers kicked things off this afternoon by recalling Dee Gordon, and then finally rid us all of Juan Castro and Jay Gibbons. With the #16 pick in the draft, they selected Stanford’s Chris Reed in the first round.

Oh, right – they played a game, too.

The less said about that the better, however, because the Dodger lineup was completely dominated by Philadelphia starter Cliff Lee. Now you may have heard both that Lee is somewhat good at baseball and that the Dodger offense outside of Matt Kemp is something less than imposing, so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, particularly with a wide strike zone benefiting both pitchers. Still, Lee was masterful in striking out 10 over seven shutout innings. The Dodgers briefly threatened when Jamey Carroll & Aaron Miles (who combined for five of the nine Dodger hits, all singles) both hit bouncing singles to start the game, but Marcus Thames grounded into a double play, and only once more before the 9th did they manage to even get a runner to second.

Ted Lilly tossed out a decent enough start only to be victimized by the total lack of run support, holding the Phillies scoreless in five of six innings, though being touched for two runs in the third on three hits and a walk. Blake Hawksworth looked good in his return from the disabled list, tossing a perfect 7th, before Mike MacDougal began his inevitable regression to being Mike MacDougal, allowing two walks and a Carlos Ruiz double to put the third run on the board in the 8th.

Really, the first eight innings are barely worth noting, but we finally saw some action in the 9th, when Gordon made his debut running for Juan Uribe after the veteran infielder had singled. James Loney followed with a single to right-center, and Gordon easily ran to third.”Easily” probably isn’t strong enough there; Gordon barely looked like he was exerting himself in blazing around the bases. Whatever concerns we may have with his offense and defense, there is absolutely no question that his speed is as good as advertised.

Anyway, with Gordon on third and Loney on first with no outs and the Dodgers down two, it looked like the Dodgers might actually have something going against Phillies closer Ryan Madson. Andre Ethier, hitting for Jerry Sands, nailed a hard-hit grounder to shortstop Wilson Valdez. A better shortstop could have perhaps started a double play, but it was hit so hard that it was all Valdez could do to knock it down and force Ethier at second. Gordon scored to cut the lead to two, with a man still on first with one out, but with the bench emptied, they were forced to stick with catchers Rod Barajas and pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro. Each struck out – Navarro particularly looked bad while doing so – and the game was over.

But forget about the game. Gordon’s here, and likely to start tomorrow behind Rubby De La Rosa. Sure, they’ll have to face Roy Oswalt. But if you’re not optimistic about the present, this will at least be a good glimpse at the future.

Ken Rosenthal Wants the Dodgers to Trade Matt Kemp

…and I bet you came here ready for a classic tirade about how a national reporter just doesn’t understand. It’s not like I haven’t done it before. But in this case, I don’t think Rosenthal is entirely wrong. Wrong about trading Kemp, yes, but his overall point is valid. Read the entire article here, but as I’m short on time we’ll just get to the important points – that Kemp has been a disappointment this year, and that the Dodgers have a ton of young players hitting free agency after 2012, as he states:

Kemp, Billingsley, right fielder Andre Ethier, catcher Russell Martin and first baseman James Loney all are eligible for free agency after the 2012 season.

Long-term, the Dodgers face a different concern — deciding which of their core young players to keep, and which to let go.

While Kemp, Ethier and Co. are under control for two more seasons, the Dodgers actually will want to act before then; their 2012 free agents will be in line for big paydays after next season as they enter their final year of arbitration.

In this sense, Rosenthal’s not wrong. Does anyone really think that Frank McCourt is going to start magically handing out contract extensions? And if he’s forced to sell the club, you’d have to think that the checkbook would hardly be open while the team is in legal limbo either. Someone – perhaps as soon as this offseason, where Martin is a definite non-tender candidate – is going to have to leave.

Now, Rosenthal argues that Kemp should be the one traded because “for all his flaws, would bring a greater return than the others.” Now if that brings a superstar like Cliff Lee – more on that in a second – that’s an argument worth making. Here’s the problem I have, though: Rosenthal’s arguing they should trade Kemp for relative peanuts.

Colletti could dangle Kemp to the Braves, who are deep in young pitching, in need of a right-handed hitting outfielder and in position to exchange a center fielder, Melky Cabrera, who played for Dodgers manager Joe Torre in New York.

Colletti even could make Kemp part of a larger deal with the Mariners in which the Dodgers would get prospects in addition to two or three months of Lee, then combine those prospects with their own to acquire the RoyalsDavid DeJesus or another center fielder.

Really, Melky Cabrera? The same guy who’s rocking a .664 OPS on the Atlanta bench and has never even been a league-average hitter? Unless the “young pitching” he’s talking about is “Jair Jurrgens, Tommy Hanson, and Cyborg Tommy Hanson” then that’s a complete non-starter. The same goes for DeJesus, who is admittedly a nice player (108 career OPS+) having a completely unprecedented career year at age 30. Again, if that doesn’t come with Zack Greinke, I’m not interested.

But it’s the Lee idea that really throws me off, because even ESPN is picking up on the idea. Let’s not fool ourselves: Cliff Lee is awesome. In 86.2 innings this year, he has 76 strikeouts and 4 walks. Four. That’s a 19/1 K/BB ratio. You’re goddamn right I want him on my team, and the thought of a playoff rotation headed up by Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda is beyond tasty.

But does trading Kemp for Lee really help the team? In the long run, it’s a disaster. Lee’s a free agent after the season, and destined for an enormous payday, which the Dodgers could never match. Meanwhile, Kemp is under contract for two more seasons beyond this one, and with Manny gone after the season, the Dodgers are already going to have trouble filling one outfield hole, much less two.

In the short run.. well, I’m not sure so it helps that much either. Perhaps it’s because I have a ton of faith in Kemp to turn it around, but perhaps it’s because I’m wondering if that means Xavier Paul or Reed Johnson would be your new center fielder. As much as I like Paul, I’ve been saying he should be replacing Garret Anderson – not Kemp. If not them, maybe they’d pick up some short-term fix for the rest of the year, but certainly no one who could have half the potential of Kemp.

Look, I won’t pretend that Kemp hasn’t been a disappointment over the last two months, especially on the basepaths (not just the bonehead plays, but the brutally bad stealing percentage), and his offense has been in decline since April. He’s also 25, on pace for about 27 homers, with a 110 OPS+. As for the defense, we should all know better than to trust defensive metrics over three months. Hell, most statisticians believe that even a full season of defensive stats isn’t enough to evaulate a player, and just in the same way that I never thought Kemp was deserving of the Gold Glove he won last year, I don’t think he’s as bad as the numbers say this year. Besides, I’m not crushed if it turns out he’s not a center fielder. If, in a year or two, Trayvon Robinson or someone similar is the Dodger center fielder with Kemp in right and Ethier in left, that’s an outfield I can live with.

Rosenthal’s right: one of the free agency core has to go, and soon. But not Kemp, not now, and certainly not for a free-agent-to-be, no matter how awesome Lee is.

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Totally unrelated but still awesome: reader Dennis writes in to point out that the Dodgers are 13-2 in games in which Garret Anderson doesn’t get to play. Ha!

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Oh look, the second awesome weekend series in a row, and the second weekend in a row I’ll be out of town – until the Sunday night game, anyway. It can be argued that the Dodgers have the pitching advantage in two of the three games; not tonight’s Sabathia/Padilla matchup, for sure, but Hiroki Kuroda is certainly outpitching A.J. Burnett as far as Saturday’s starters go, and Clayton Kershaw vs. Andy Pettitte on Sunday night should be a treat.

Casey Blake Might Be a Little Biased

Via TrueBlueLA, Casey Blake starts off the spring with his real feelings about the pitching moves of our constant tormentors, the Phillies:

#Dodgers Casey Blake, on #phillies: “I have a lot of respect for Halladay, but I don’t feel they got a ton better because they lost Cliff.”

I think we all agree that the Phillies probably made a mistake by shipping Lee off to Seattle for some questionable prospects rather than having a monstrous top three of Halladay/Lee/Cole Hamels, but Blake’s statement is still probably a little off the mark.

Yes, Cliff Lee is awesome. Let’s just not forget that while he’s only two full seasons off of being dumped to the minors with a 6.29 ERA, Halladay has been nearly unhittable for a decade and might end up in the Hall of Fame – despite constantly playing for mediocre Toronto teams in the brutal AL East.

Much of Lee’s legend comes from the last two seasons – his ridiculous 22-3 record for Cleveland in 2008, and his 4 wins for the Phillies in the playoffs in 2009. Yet Halladay’s last two seasons tops Lee’s by almost any measure.

Halladay, 2008-09
37 wins, 485 IP, 2.78 ERA, 154 ERA+, 1.089 WHIP

Lee, 2008-09
36 wins, 455 IP, 2.89 ERA, 147 ERA+, 1.178 WHIP

Both are outstanding pitchers, to be sure. But head-to-head, Halladay’s numbers are slightly better, even though he was facing the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox, while Lee was mostly facing the Royals, Twins, and White Sox. Imagine what Halladay’s going to do this year facing the Nationals, Mets, and Marlins instead? There’s no question here – Halladay’s superior.

So how could Blake possibly feel that way? I’m sure there’s a little bit of spring training bravado there, a need to make it sound like the Phillies haven’t improved even further after knocking the Dodgers out twice in a row.

More than that, though, I think it’s because of Blake’s personal history. He’s never faced Lee in the regular season, though he did go 0-3 with a strikeout in the 11-0 disaster of NLCS Game 3. Yet against Halladay, Blake has oddly had decent success, putting up a line of .357/.471/.643 with a homer in 14 at-bats. So while it’s hard to say that the Phillies haven’t gotten at least a little better by swapping out Lee for Halladay (and Halladay’s extremely team-friendly extension), you can at least see why Blake might be a little happy about it. He’d better be, because if the Dodgers are finally going to get over the hump, they’re going to need Blake to show a little more than last year’s total October disappearance.

By the way, did you know that Halladay’s full name is “Harry Leroy Halladay”? “Roy Halladay” sounds like someone who’s kind of a bad-ass. But how would you feel facing “Harry Halliday” or “Leroy Halliday”?

Game 3 Aftermath: The Sky is Falling!

Well, I suppose this was predictable. I’ve been trying to make an active effort not to focus on the crazy ramblings of one Mr. Plaschke over at the LAT, because I feel like whenever I talk about him, it just brings more attention to him that he clearly doesn’t deserve.

However, sometimes he just goes off the rails so far that I feel like I wouldn’t be doing my job here if I didn’t present a counter-argument that contained a little bit more, what’s the word? Oh yes. Truth.

Okay, Bill. Get on with it. Go all Chicken Little on us here.

On a blustery night featuring timid Dodgers offerings and furious Phillies hacks amid an angry stadium awash in blue blood, you know what I would have liked to see?

I would have liked to see those Dodgers prospects whom they liked more than Cliff Lee.

Now that would have been ugly.

Who are those guys? Where were those guys?

It’s good that we’re starting off with a supremely important point – who were the prospects that were offered to Cleveland in July? The answer is, “we don’t know for sure,” and keep that in mind, because it’s going to come back to bite Bill here shortly.

They needed to stand amid the ruins of Sunday’s 11-0 Philadelphia Phillies victory to witness what the organization sacrificed to keep them.

They need to be part of this Dodgers tumble into the ropes in the National League Championship Series, the team falling behind two games to one after the franchise’s worst postseason loss in 50 years.

They needed to be here, and we needed to see why.

leephilliesDidn’t realize the NLCS had now turned into a best of three, where being down 2-1 automatically disqualifies you from victory. I won’t pretend that yesterday’s disaster wasn’t ugly – it was – but one of the 78,234,871 reasons I like baseball better than soccer is that there’s no such thing as “total runs” being a tiebreaker. Regardless of whether you lose 11-0 or 1-0, it’s still just one loss in the books.

Oh, and way to throw 19 year old kids who had nothing to do with this under the bus. Real nice.

Why did the Dodgers sacrifice the chance to acquire Lee, the starter stolen instead by the Phillies at the trading deadline, the guy who brilliantly held the Dodgers to three singles in eight innings of puzzled stares?

Yes, I’m sure it was as simple as, “ehh… no thanks.” We’ll get back to this in a second.

Why did the Dodgers sacrifice a sensible postseason rotation, forcing Joe Torre to hand the ball to a spooked Hiroki Kuroda, who threw it well for all of about one batter?

No. False. First of all, Kuroda’s been a very reliable starter when healthy since coming to LA, and as I wrote yesterday, there were several reasons to believe in him against the Phillies. You could make the case that Randy Wolf should have recieved this start, or even Chad Billingsley, but there’s nothing wrong with giving a guy like Kuroda a start. And if there was, you certainly didn’t mention it before he got shelled, did you? Besides, if the Dodgers did get Lee, they likely don’t feel the need to go get Vicente Padilla, meaning Kuroda gets this start anyway.

Why must this season now rest on the shoulders of Randy Wolf, tonight’s Game 4 starter, in whom Torre has so little confidence that in the fourth inning of the division series opener he was yanked with a lead?

Also false. Torre was universally praised for taking advantage of his huge bullpen advantage and not sticking with a starter for too long. I don’t see that so much as “lack of faith” as “going with your strength.” So, this is a faulty point.

Was it worth this? Were these players worth this?

These have been questions asked several times in this space since Ned Colletti’s trade-deadline whiff, and Sunday’s embarrassment makes it perfectly fair to ask it again.

“It’s just one loss,” Russell Martin said afterward. “But at this point, every game means the world.”

Well, it’s nice to see that we’re not overreacting based on one loss that probably happens regardless of a trade for Lee or not, isn’t it?

And one trade could have meant this game. Colletti has long said that his offer was better than Philadelphia’s offer, but the Indians obviously didn’t agree, and baseball folks say the Dodgers continue to overvalue their lower-level prospects.

Here’s where we get into the meat of this thing, because remember when I said right off the top that we didn’t know who the Dodger prospects were? So, how are you supposed to judge the failure or success of a deal when you don’t even know what you’d have to give up? Plaschke seems to think that no price was too high for Lee. What if that price was Kershaw, Billingsley, Kemp, and Ethier? Would you have been okay with that? I didn’t think so.

No, there’s two reasons why the deal got made with Philadelphia and not the Dodgers, and neither of them are due to some epic failure by Ned Colletti:

1) The Indians wanted players who were closer to the bigs. The top of the Dodger system has been emptied out by (mostly successful) graduations to the big league team; guys like Kemp, Kershaw, Billingsley, etc. The next wave of Dodger stars (Dee Gordon, Andrew Lambo, Trayvon Robinson, Ethan Martin, etc.) are at least 2 years away, if not more.

2) The Indians chose poorly. By just about any stretch, the Indians accepted a package of players that was not the most they could get for Lee. In addition to the fact that Colletti says his deal was better, you’ve got Indian fans who hated the trade at the time:

“It’s the worst trade they ever made,” Vavra added. “They really got nothing in this deal.”

“Nothing” is four minor-leaguers — pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp, catcher Lou Marson and infielder Jason Donald — but not the Phillies’ top pitching prospect, Kyle Drabek.

Many fans believe their team should have received more, much more, for the popular Lee, winner of last season’s American League Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher, and everyday left fielder Francisco.

And those who hated it after they got a look at their new players:

If Indians fans wanted instant gratification from the players they received in return for Lee, it isn’t happening. Righty Carlos Carrasco is 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA (six homers in 14 innings); catcher Lou Marson is hitting .154; shortstop Jason Donald went on the disabled list in Triple A; and righty Jason Knapp underwent surgery to remove fragments from his shoulder.

In addition to not getting Drabek, Cleveland didn’t get any of Philly’s other top prospects, either – outfielders Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor. What did Baseball Prospectus have to say?

Given the valuation of prospects and the cash situation around the industry, you might have expected that the cheaper contract might yield a better package of prospects, but barring the Indians’ scouting achieving some unanticipated coup, that doesn’t look to be the case at first blush.

and…

between J.A. Happ‘s breakthrough and the retention of pitching prospect Kyle Drabek as well as outfielders Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor, the Phillies might just have kept their best stuff for themselves despite making this sort of major move.

The point being, the Indians – for whatever reason – totally boned this one, in nearly every baseball person’s opinion.  It’s hard to say why they chose the offer they did, and impossible to judge whether Colletti “whiffed” when you don’t even know what the Dodger offer was.

Back to Plaschke’s Cavalcade of Wrong:

Here’s hoping those protected kids are named, I don’t know, Koufax and Piazza?

Imagine if Plaschke had been a writer in the late 50s, back when Koufax was a wild fireballer with mediocre results? Koufax was 8-13 in 1960, with 100 BB in 197 IP at the age of 24. You don’t think ole’ Billy would be beating the bandwagon to trade that no-good Koufax? You better believe he would have. Please don’t take this comparison any further than it needs to go, but Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are both far superior pitchers at their ages than Koufax was at the same ages.

Here’s hoping that one of those protected players wasn’t, as rumored, Chad Billingsley, who was finally forced into a game Sunday and responded by giving up two runs in less than four innings.

Of all the stupid things this sad excuse for a “journalist” has said, this is by far the dumbest. If Billingsley had been traded for Lee, Dodger fans would have turned this city upside down (remember, at the time, Billingsley had barely started his second-half slide yet).  Lee has the right to be a free agent after the season if he chooses, and you want to give away a 24-year-old All Star with all the talent in the world? This is why I hate writing about Plaschke, because he clearly knows nothing about baseball – it’s just unfortunate that so many read him and believe him.

Blah blah blah through another few lines repeating the same point over and over, until:

Lee not only fooled the Dodgers such that only one player reached second base, he also struck out 10, including a memorable punch-out of Manny Ramirez.

Memorable, because it came as the Citizens Bank Park crowd chanted, “You took steroids. You took steroids.”

Manny got 2 of the 3 Dodger hits last night. By this logic, 98% of the blame for the loss lays on him. But knowing that Philly fans – always known as a paragon of class – were chanting at Manny during a big playoff rout, well, that completely changes my opinion.

Skipping a few more lines to…

The Dodgers needed an ace, and Toronto’s Roy Halladay and Cleveland’s Lee were available, yet Colletti decided to fortify the bullpen with George Sherrill instead.

I don’t want to completely rehash July here, but saying “Roy Halladay was available” is bending the truth. We all know that what Toronto was asking for Halladay was astronomical – that’s why he didn’t get dealt! Whatever it would have taken to acquire Lee, it would have been much more to get Doc. No team felt that was the right course of action, not just LA.

For all the ways Colletti has respected Dodgers culture by building with pitching and defense, he has failed to adhere to their most important of traditions.

Did you know that a Dodger, Don Newcombe, was the first winner of the Cy Young Award? Did you know that the Dodgers won five of the first 11 Cy Young Awards?

Completely irrelevant to the 2009 NLCS. We all know how inaccurate the votes of the baseball writers can be for major awards, and besides, three of those five were won by Koufax, who’s only one of the five best pitchers who ever walked the earth. Why, oh why, don’t we still have one of the five best pitchers who ever graced us with his presence? Why? Ridiculous argument.

Yet they have not had a starting pitcher win a Cy Young Award in 21 years. That was also, incidentally, the last time they won the World Series.

Ah, yes. The little-known caveat deep within baseball’s official rules that the team with the Cy Young winner must win the Series. That’s why the Royals, led by Zack Greinke, are doing so well this October, and are on track to face Tim Lincecum’s Giants in the World Series. Right?

The point here is not that the Dodgers couldn’t use a top starting pitcher right now; of couse they could. It’s just that you can’t kill Colletti for not making a move for Lee when A) you don’t know what his offer was and B) the Indians seemed intent (wrongly, it looks) on taking the Phillies package of lower-ceiling guys who were closer to the bigs.

Bill Plaschke: playing “I told you so” even without the facts since 1996.