Giants 3, Dodgers 0: Why Is Justin Sellers?

sellers_opening_day_2013You know, one game is one game, and it’s not like anyone questioned Justin Sellers‘ defensive pedigree heading into the night. Don Mattingly said he liked Sellers because he was a quality defensive shortstop, and none of us disagreed with that. It’s an important fact to remember.

Still, when you’re not likely to offer much of anything with the bat, and you exist almost entirely for your glove… well, you better be pretty damned close to picture perfect out there. I think we can all agree that it’s safe to say that Sellers was far from that, because the seventh inning was his worst nightmare. With the Dodgers down 1-0 after six, he allowed Joaquin Arias to reach on a throwing error to begin the seventh. A single and an out later, it was first and third, and San Francisco pitcher Madison Bumgarner bounced up the middle. Sellers threw wide of the plate attempting to get Arias for his second error of the inning — and generously not his third of the night, because a botched play earlier in the game was scored a hit — allowing two runs to score. It was all the Giants would need.

Now, it’s easy to blame Sellers — fun, too — but it’s probably not entirely fair to put this on him, because a pretty key component in losing 3-0 is scoring zero runs. And even then, to say “scoring zero runs” is overselling it, because Bumgarner was absolutely dominant. No, Sellers didn’t redeem himself with a hit, but neither did Matt Kemp or Jerry Hairston or Adrian Gonzalez or Luis Cruz or really anyone except for Andre Ethier, who doubled in the second, and A.J. Ellis, who did the same in the eighth.

All of this offensive ineptitude overshadowed a less-than-pretty-but-ultimately-effective debut by Hyun-Jin Ryu, who allowed just a single run over 6.1 innings. That sounds great, as does the fact that he didn’t give up a single walk, but the 10 hits he gave up over that span should cool your enthusiasm somewhat. It helps, I suppose, that all were singles and several weren’t hit particularly hard, and for the first outing, I’ll take it.

Over 17 innings in the first two games of the season, the Dodgers have nine hits and four runs, one of each coming off the bat of Clayton Kershaw. That’s… not exactly what we were hoping for.

The Dodgers Say Goodbye to Camelback Ranch… and Yasiel Puig & Dee Gordon, Too

So those questions we had about the Dodgers earlier this afternoon? We’re starting to get some answers already.

Where to start? Mercifully, Yasiel Puig has been shipped off to Double-A Chattanooga. Argue all you like about whether .526/.508/.842 should have been enough to keep him in the bigs — you know my thoughts on the subject — but it was time to end the uncertainty. Tonight is the last home game for the Dodgers in Arizona, and decisions need to be made. From this perspective, this is the correct call for all the reasons we’ve been over so many times. With Carl Crawford on track to be ready for the season (he’s again leading off in left field tonight), the only right answer was to let Puig play every day in the minors. If that delays his free agency, all the better.

Rockies
Dodgers
CF
Young
LF
Crawford
2B
Brignac
2B
M.Ellis
LF
Gonzalez
CF
Kemp
1B
Cuddyer
1B
Gonzalez
RF
Colvin
RF
Ethier
3B
Arenado
SS
Cruz
C
Hernandez
3B
Uribe
SS
Herrera
C
A.Ellis
P
Garland
P
Harang

Speaking of uncertainty, not that there really was any, Dee Gordon was sent to Triple-A Albuquerque at the same time. There were those who thought that Gordon might get a shot at shortstop after Hanley Ramirez was injured, but it never really seemed likely; after all, opening or not, Gordon still has much to prove. More, perhaps, than even Luis Cruz does. He’ll head to the Isotopes and play every day at shortstop, surrounded by massive uncertainty in the rest of the Triple-A infield.

Finally, we know now a bit more about the starting rotation. Chad Billingsley will miss his first start because of the bruised finger he’s been fighting for the last week, and that lines up Hyun-Jin Ryu & Josh Beckett to follow Clayton Kershaw in the opening series against the Giants. After an off-day on April 4, Zack Greinke is expected to make his debut in the opener of the Pirates series on April 5.

It’s not yet been announced, but because Billingsley is pitching in a minor league game later this week and not for the big club, it’s almost certain that he’ll begin the year on the disabled list. Because it can be backdated, he may only miss the one start rather than a full two weeks of April; either way, that will buy Ned Colletti at least a few days longer to deal with his starting pitching surplus.

Tonight’s game against Colorado and ex-Dodger Jon Garland, again the final at Camelback Ranch of the spring, is available both on KCAL and as MLB.tv’s free game of the day.

We Need Some Good News, So Here’s Hyun-Jin Ryu Destroying Rickie Weeks

Though it sounds like today’s worry about Zack Greinke‘s elbow is coming along as best as we could possibly have hoped for — an injection and a return to pitching two or three days — it’s still an unexpectedly terrifying situation regarding the newest Dodger gazillionaire. So in the meantime, let’s enjoy Hyun-Jin Ryu — you know, the other big-ticket pitching import who is causing some concern this spring — making Rickie Weeks look completely foolish on three pitches today.

I still don’t know if Ryu has what it takes to be a successful starter in the big leagues, but I do know I can watch that big looping curve over and over. Which I have been, and as you currently are.

Hyun-Jin Ryu And Scouting the Spring Stat Line

Hyun-Jin Ryu struck out five Indians yesterday, including getting Ryan Rohlinger, Drew Stubbs & Jason Kipnis all in the third inning, the highlight of what was generally a positive outing for him.

MLB.com’s A.J. Cassavell liked it:

For three innings on Wednesday, Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu showed the kind of stuff that made him five-time strikeout king of the Korea Baseball Organization.

Never mind the fourth inning in which Ryu surrendered a couple of hits and was charged with two runs. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly — who made the trip to Goodyear, even with most of his starters in Glendale, specifically to get a good look at the Dodgers’ $62 million investment — came away impressed.

Those earned runs on his line didn’t do his outing much justice. Ryu looked very sharp, and he highlighted his day by striking out the side — all looking — in the third inning.

So did Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, and Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times, and so on. But on the other side is ESPN’s Keith Law, who is decidedly not a fan in an article that went up earlier today. It’s behind the paywall, so I won’t reproduce it here. Law likes Ryu’s changeup, calling it “very good” and a 55-60 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and the deception his odd motion causes, but little else. He had Ryu’s fastball not getting above 90 and not having enough movement to fool hitters, and his curve and slider as being mediocre.

I imagine that most Dodger fans will read Law’s words and think that he’s “anti-Dodger” or looking for negativity in the face of a successful outing. It’s only natural of us to think that way, right? We see a pitcher who the team invested millions in getting outs, and our instinct is to think that Law is simply looking to be contrary, and that’s not entirely unfair given Law’s well-earned snarky reputation.

Yet I look at that report and I wonder what exactly it is that we can point out as being patently unfair. We always knew that Ryu’s plus offering was his changeup, which Law acknowledges, and there were always questions about his secondary offerings. I suppose you can quibble a bit about Law’s evaluation of Ryu’s fastball, but Law was in the stands and we weren’t.

Though I respect him, it’s not that Law is unquestionably correct, either, because I’m not going to make any kinds of judgement after three spring outings — it’s still only March 6. Maybe Law’s assertion that he doesn’t “see more than a fringy fourth starter here” is right, and maybe Ryu has more to offer when he’s acclimated and in games that actually count. But the one thing we should all know better than is to judge off of spring stats, and while Ryu’s line yesterday looks nice, understand that Rohlinger is a Quad-A guy and Stubbs was one of the worst regular hitters in the game last year.

Rangers
Dodgers
2B
Kinsler
SS
Gordon
RF
Gentry
2B
Amezaga
LF
Murphy
LF
Puig
3B
Beltre
RF
Moore
DH
Baker
3B
Herrera
C
Pierzynski
C
Federowicz
1B
Moreland
CF
Gwynn
CF
Martin
1B
Van Slyke
SS
Profar
DH
Castro

Ryu doesn’t need to earn his entire contract this March, but we do need to be cognizant that he’s far from a sure thing, with much to prove. That’s the case no matter how many minor leaguers he strikes out in spring, and no matter how many less-than-stellar scouting reports from guys like Law we see.

******

Today’s game against Texas (lineups at right) features Vin Scully on the air, which is nice, because — yikes, that lineup. At least we get a chance to see Yasiel Puig on TV? Chad Billingsley starts, and Peter Moylan, Mark Lowe, & Josh Wall should all see time as well.

Oh and there’s this:

Lilly!

Zack Greinke & Hyun-jin Ryu Are Just The Best

Alright, so it’s only three days into camp, and every team is full of optimism and thinking they’re going to win 98 games this year. (Well, not you, Houston. Yeesh.) Does that mean we can’t still be excited over some early reports on the team’s two new highly-priced pitching imports?

First, we start with Ken Rosenthal’s excellent, must-read profile of Zack Greinke. I would really, really love to just quote like eight different pieces of it here, but I’ll restrain myself to two.

Greinke went on scouting trips with Counsell last spring, checking out amateur games in Arizona. For about a month before the draft, he watched video of some of the top projected picks, Melvin said. On draft day, Greinke was ready.

“He came in with a big piece of paper,” Melvin said. “He was sitting on the floor (in the war room) or a chair against the wall. I said, ‘Who do you like? Who do you think we should get?’ He said, ‘I really like Seager.’”

Specifically, Corey Seager of Northwest Cabarrus High in Concord, N.C., the younger brother of Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager.

I’m legitimately not sure where to start here. Not only is a major league player bothering to scout draft picks almost unheard of — I’m reminded of the time Andre Ethier admitted after a game that he had absolutely no idea who one of the pitchers who had been in for the Dodgers that day was — of all the players Greinke liked, he picked Seager, who we’re all of course huge fans of after a fantastic debut in the Dodger organization.

There’s more. Greinke didn’t have to throw a bullpen on Wednesday, but instead of heading home…

“He went, plopped down, sat and watched bullpens from the pitcher’s perspective, back behind the mound,” Hillman said.

“He wanted to watch something specific. What it was, I don’t know. But it wasn’t idle time. He might have been watching a catcher, how a guy receives. He might have been just getting his visual on where he’s going to do his ’pen tomorrow. He may already have picked out his mound.

“He’s going to invest every ounce of his energy preparing to be as good as he can possibly be, mentally and physically. That’s just the way he’s wired.”

I think I’m in love. After all the garbage we had to put up with about Greinke’s long-ago issues, I’m starting to wish every player could be like him.

Then there’s Ryu, who may be having some trouble with the conditioning sprints but seems to have no problem at all entertaining everyone else:

Other players don’t listen to the trainer,” Ryu said. “The trainer says 35 seconds, why do they run in 26 seconds? I run in 35 seconds. Other people say I’m not in shape. There are two different shapes, one for fitness, one for throwing the ball.

Jokes aside, Ryu’s initial bullpen sounds like it went well, with Eric Stephen reporting that Rick Honeycutt referred to Ryu’s change as “a plus-plus pitch,” and A.J. Ellis indicating that his command was excellent.

It’s early. It’s too early. I’m still excited.