Kershaw, Kemp & Kenley Lead the Way


Clayton Kershaw went 6.2 solid innings while setting a career high in pitches, and the Dodger offense finally touched Jhoulys Chacin thanks in part to some shoddy Colorado defense, but that’s not what I’m interested in tonight.

A few days ago, I tweeted that I wasn’t quite sure why Kenley Jansen was setting up for Javy Guerra, rather than vice-versa. It was sort of an off-hand remark more than anything serious, because to be honest it doesn’t really matter at this point, and Jon Weisman accurately captured the feeling that Guerra’s success has been welcome, but not totally convincing.

It was less about Guerra than Jansen, of course, because the level of domination we’ve seen from Jansen since his return from the disabled list in June has been a severely under-reported positive note of the Dodger season; if I’d had a few extra minutes today, I’d planned to write about him before the game. I wish I’d had, because with Guerra sidelined after having pitched three days in a row, Jansen was the fill-in closer tonight; seven pitches and two strikeouts later, his legend is starting to grow.

Quickly, the facts: since returning from injury, Jansen has pitched 16 scoreless innings spanning 14 games. In that time, he’s whiffed 26 against 7 walks and 3 singles. Think about that; he’s striking out nearly half the batters he’s seeing, he’s cutting down on the walks, and he’s been all but unhittable. Remember how great we thought his K/9 rate was last season? Yeah, it’s better this year; if he keeps it up, he’ll have one of the five or six best seasons in history by that metric.

Yet he seemingly hasn’t earned the respect he deserves, and I think I know why. In his first appearance of the season, he gave up four earned runs in a game the Dodgers would lose to San Francisco 10-0. Later in April, he gave up five earned runs to Atlanta, as the Dodgers lost 10-1. Despite ripping off ten consecutive scoreless innings after that, his ERA was still north of 5 through the end of May, when he was hit hard again just before being shelved with shoulder inflammation. Even now, 16 scoreless innings later, his ERA is still just 3.65, which is hardly eye-catching. The point, as you’ve surely gleaned by now, is not just that ERA for relievers is wildly unreliable due to the small sample sizes, but that people tend to gravitate to the shiny numbers they see on their TV screen – and that first impressions are far too important. If Jansen had the exact same season numbers he does now, but had been great early and hit hard more recently, I guarantee you the perception of him would be a little different.

For now, the situation is fine. Often, we know that it’s better to have your best relievers available for tougher situations before the 9th. If Guerra continues to get the job done, even when it’s not pretty, there’s really no reason to rock the boat this season to make a switch. It’s not Guerra who’s the closer of the future, though. It’s Jansen.

******

So here’s a thing, and while this is going to come off as being negative towards Jamey Carroll, it’s not intended to be. I like Jamey Carroll; I’ll be sad when he’s gone, whether that’s in three days or three months, and I need not remind you that Carroll’s job is not to drive in runs and that RBI are generally incredibly meaningless.

That said, when I stumble upon a statistical oddity like this, how can I not share it? Carroll is on pace to be one of the most ineffective hitters at driving in runs, well, ever.

Rk Player RBI PA Year Age Tm H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Dick Howser 6 377 1965 29 CLE 72 8 2 1 .235 .354 .283 .638
2 Jamey Carroll 8 337 2011 37 LAD 86 12 4 0 .288 .360 .355 .715
3 Wayne Tolleson 9 378 1984 28 TEX 72 9 2 0 .213 .276 .251 .528
4 Elliott Maddox 10 349 1972 24 TEX 74 7 2 0 .252 .361 .289 .650
5 Don Mason 11 377 1971 26 SDP 73 12 1 2 .212 .270 .270 .540
6 Danny Murtaugh 11 375 1941 23 PHI 76 8 1 0 .219 .275 .248 .523
7 Charlie Jamieson 11 473 1918 25 PHA 84 11 2 0 .202 .297 .238 .535
8 Roy Thomas 11 339 1909 35 BSN 74 9 1 0 .263 .369 .302 .671
9 Al Burch 11 381 1906 22 STL 89 5 1 0 .266 .339 .287 .625
10 John Shelby 12 371 1989 31 LAD 63 11 1 1 .183 .237 .229 .466
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/27/2011.

That’s a list of the fewest RBI by players with at least 337 PA (which is what Carroll had entering tonight’s game) since 1901, which is essentially the beginning of time in baseball terms. What’s most interesting here is the “OPS” category on the far right, because – as would be expected – we’re looking at some dreadful years, none more so than our own John Shelby‘s nearly unfathomable 1989. But Carroll doesn’t fall into that category; after tonight’s 2-3, his line now stands at a .291/.363/.358, which is more than acceptable.

For Carroll, his lack of runs driven in looks to be something of a perfect storm. Part of it is batting position, as he’s often hit leadoff (meaning there’s no one on to start the game, or behind the pitcher otherwise) or 8th (behind the generally execrable Juan Uribe, Dioner Navarro, or Rod Barajas). He simply doesn’t get a ton of opportunities with men in scoring position. Of course, he’s not doing much with the chances he does get: just .160/.323/.160 in 63 plate appearances with RISP this year.

Anyway, most of us expect Carroll to be elsewhere by the end of the week, so this is neither here nor there, and certainly not a knock on his performance. But in a season that was lost long ago, might as well root for this record right up alongside the chase for “most left fielders”, right?

2011 Midseason Grades: Offense


The All-Star break is here, and that means it’s everyone’s favorite time of the year: midseason grades. It’s been a tough year for the Dodgers on and off the field, though we do of course have the pleasure of a few exceptionally bright spots. As always, the grades are in relation to what was reasonably expected of the player at the beginning of the season, not in comparison to other players in the bigs. Otherwise, Jose Bautista would get an A, and no one else would get above a Q. Fewer than 50 plate appearances or 10 innings pitched gets you an incomplete.

All stats are via baseball-reference. Today we’ll do hitters, and before the break is over we’ll get to pitchers, management, and one new kind of review. As always, these letter grades are subjective opinions and meant more for fun than anything. Except for Juan Uribe’s. There’s nothing fun about Juan Uribe.

Catchers

Rod Barajas D+ (.220/.262/.385 8hr 0.2 WAR)
And right off the bat, our rating system is being tested. Do I give Barajas an F, because he’s not any good, or a C, because we never expected him to be any good? I’ll go with a D+, because even though he’s underperforming his own mediocre career stats, he was still second on the team in homers until the final game before the break. I suppose that says a lot more about the Dodgers than it does about him, though. Due to the low bar for offense from catching in the bigs, he’s actually slightly above replacement, though it’s hard to look at the 46/8 K/BB without getting a little ill. He’s due to be activated from the disabled list on Friday, allowing us to start up the always fun “Navarro or Ellis?” game again. (It’ll be Navarro sticking, of course.)

Dioner Navarro F (.183/.234/.287 2hr -0.1 WAR)
You don’t need me to go back and really find all of the articles I wrote over the winter asking why he was worth a $1m major-league contract and why he was guaranteed a spot over the likely superior A.J. Ellis, right? Navarro came in with the lowest of expectations, yet after missing the first month with an oblique injury, has somehow still managed to underperform. Despite that, he still manages to come up with the game on the line in the ninth inning nearly every single night. The world is a twisted place.

Fun fact: Navarro is the only player in history with the name “Dioner”. Fun fact #2: he’s still looking for his first hit against a lefty in fourteen tries this season.

A. J. Ellis (C) (.222/.364/.222 0hr -0.1 WAR)
I realize I’ve heaped far more praise on a 30-year-old minor league lifer with absolutely no power than he really deserves, but the Dodger catching situation is dire, and his long minor-league record and short major league stints show an above-average ability to get on base, which is exactly what this lineup is missing. Defensively, I won’t insult your intelligence by citing CERA, but it’s hard to think it’s a coincidence that Chad Billingsley’s mid-season slump turned around precisely when Ellis started being his regular catcher. Too bad he’s almost certainly headed back for Barajas on Friday.

Hector Gimenez (inc.) (.143/.143/.143 0hr -0.1 WAR)
I would like to say something witty or insightful about Hector Gimenez, but that infers that I have absolutely any recollection of him as a Dodger whatsoever. Pass.

Infielders

James Loney (C-) (.268/.311/.342 4hr -0.5 WAR)
I feel weird giving Loney a C-, because his line and a grade in that range suggest that he was his normal mediocre self all season. Far from it; by early May, he was the most hated man in LA since OJ and we were all writing articles about how bad his season was going to be on a historical level. Since then, he’s basically been the best non-Kemp hitter on the team. That doesn’t mean he’s good – hooray, a .751 OPS from a 1B since April 26! – and again, that says a lot about the rest of the players on this team, but nothing tells you more about the plight of the 2011 Dodgers than the fact that their punchless overpaid first baseman is no longer even close to being the biggest issue here.

Jamey Carroll (A+) (.297/.368/.366 0hr 1.6 WAR)
Last season, Carroll had a .718 OPS and was largely hailed as the team MVP for stepping in to cover for Rafael Furcal at shortstop for nearly the entire season. For a 36-year-old career backup who had played in more than 113 just once, it was quite the impressive feat. More impressive? The fact that he’s exceeding that this year, currently with a .734 OPS. In a lower run scoring environment, that’s good for a 111 OPS+. Once again, the team has been crushed by injuries. Once again, Jamey Carroll has risen to the occasion and more. I’m not sure what the future holds for Carroll in Los Angeles – this is the last year of his contract, and unsurprisingly teams are showing trade interest – but he has consistently outperformed expectations. I’ll miss him when he’s gone.

Fun Carroll fact: since you know I have no use for RBI, regard this as more of a fun statistical quirk than any sort of value judgement, but he has somehow managed to step to the plate 311 times and drive in just 8 runners. I suppose that’s what happens when you don’t hit homers and you’re either batting leadoff (behind the pitcher and the horrible bottom of the lineup) or 8th (behind low-OBP guys like Uribe, Barajas, and Loney).

Aaron Miles
(A) (.318/.337/.381 1hr 1.1 WAR)
Credit where credit is due: Aaron Miles has been a really, really nice part of this team. I hardly need to remind you about all the jokes we made at his expense when he was signed and in the spring, but after being forced into far more playing time than anyone expected, he’s responded by becoming arguably the 4th-best hitter on the team. (Like Barajas and his homers, that says a lot more about the other hitters on the club, but still). We expected absolutely nothing from him – less than nothing, perhaps – and not only has he stepped up where needed, he led the NL in batting average in June.

It’s not all that simple, of course. .300 average or not, he’s not walking and he provides zero power, so his OPS is just barely over .700, and his .344 BABIP, 35 points over his career average, seems unlikely to hold. So let’s not get too caught up in praise for Miles to pretend he’s actually, you know, good. But for a non-roster guy who was something like the 8th infielder entering the season? Well done, Aaron. Well done.

Hey, you think we can sucker some team into trading for him at the deadline?

Ivan DeJesus, Jr. (inc.) (.188/.235/.188 0hr -0.5 WAR)
So far, DeJesus looks to be this year’s winner of the “Blake DeWitt Memorial LA-to-ABQ Frequent Flyer” award, because he saw three different stints with the big club, including the pleasure of flying all the way to Cincinnati for the pleasure of one pinch-hitting appearance in June. That being the case, you can’t really judge his big-league performance too much, though he also didn’t do a lot to change my perception of him as a bench player at best. Back in ABQ, he’s hitting .304, which is nice, though a .758 OPS in that environment isn’t encouraging.

Fun fact: for a guy whose name isn’t exactly “John Smith“, Ivan DeJesus is neither the best Ivan or the best DeJesus to play in the bigs this year.

Juan Uribe (oh holy good lord, F, and I don’t just mean the letter grade) (.207/.273/.306 4hr 0.4 WAR)
Uribe has been so bad that there’s an entire Tumblr dedicated to how sad he looks and makes us feel. He’s so bad that when an obviously fantastical rumor popped up for about five seconds about how the Dodgers might be looking to send him back to San Francisco, we jumped on it even though we knew it was BS, just for the small amount of hope it brought. He’s been so bad that he had a lousy April (.247/.303/.420) and hasn’t come close to even matching that since. He’s been so bad that of all the players in the bigs with at least 200 plate appearances, only three have a lower TAv than him. He’s been so bad that he has just one homer since April turned into May, and even that came off Brad Penny, so I feel like he was just trolling us. But hey, not like we have to stare at him for 2.5 more years or anything.

The funny part is, he’s actually been so good in the field that it pushes him above replacement level. That 0.4 breaks down into -0.4 oWAR and 0.8 dWAR. It doesn’t make him a good player, and it doesn’t justify the contract, but it’s something. I suppose that something should probably be enough to get him more than an F, but… no.

Rafael Furcal F (.185/.227/.228 1hr -0.5 WAR)
How do you even judge Furcal at this point? It can’t be on health, because he’s managed to end up on the disabled list twice more this year (though at least it wasn’t his back this time). It’s hard to do so on production, since he’s constantly either just about to go on the disabled list or just coming back from it. I suppose the fact that he’s not in a full body cast is something, but that line above… yeesh. Anyone who’s still dreaming of trading him to someone at the deadline probably needs to wake up because unfortunately, Furcal’s best days are behind him. As, probably, are his days of being able to obtain health insurance when he’s no longer a ballplayer.

Dee Gordon C+ (.232/.250/.280 0hr 0.0 WAR)
We all knew Gordon was recalled far too soon, and it showed: he was overmatched at the plate and made some critical errors in the field. He also brought the kind of excitement that we haven’t seen in years, if ever. If you have any doubt about that, just head on over to this GIF-heavy recap of the amazing feats he pulled off in just a single game. A lot of players end up with 0.0 WAR because they’ve been boring or barely playable, and haven’t contributed anything either positive or negative. That’s not the case with Gordon; he did plenty of things that hurt the team, but he made up for them with a ton of positives. That’s how it all evens out, and for a raw 23-year-old, yeah, I’ll take that.

Juan Castro A (.286/.333/.286 0hr 0.0 WAR)
Castro gave us the greatest gift of all, retiring this week before subjecting us to a fifth stint as a Dodger. That alone gets the man an A.

Casey Blake D- (.243/.346/.386 4hr 0.3 WAR)
Things the 37-year-old Blake has been on the disabled list for this season: sore oblique, infected elbow, pinched nerve in neck, Legionnaire’s disease, athlete’s thumb, bone-itis, ringworm infestation, osteoporosis. Also, he narrowly avoided a brush with the law for continually yelling at those damned kids to get off his lawn.

Casey Blake is old.

Russ Mitchell (inc.) (.115/.258/.269 1hr 0.1 WAR)
Mitchell has 74 MLB plate appearances in his short career. He has nine hits, and though one was a game-tying homer in the 9th inning against the White Sox earlier this year, that’s good for an OPS+ of 29. That’s an unfairly small sample size, of course, but he’s also hitting .244 in ABQ right now. Russ Mitchell: nope.

Outfielders

Jerry Sands (C-) (.200/.294/.328 2hr -0.4 WAR)
Like Gordon, Sands was probably promoted too soon, and like Gordon, he didn’t really provide results, but did provide hope for the future. All of the stories we heard about his maturity and plate approach seemed to be true, yet so far it hasn’t translated into production. Sands is crushing the ball once again in ABQ, and with the Dodger offense still stagnant, we’ll see him back up in blue before very long.

Tony Gwynn (B-) (.256/.316/.326 0hr 0.6 WAR)
It’s been something of an interesting season for Gwynn. He was his normal Gwynn-like self in April (i.e. bad), hitting .264/.291/.377 before going completely off the rails in May: he managed just two hits all month and received only four starts, as Sands took over the bulk of the left field work. At that point, with his batting average below .200 and with nothing to his name other than two game-saving catches, we started wondering how long he’d stick on the roster, especially when he didn’t get into any of the first three games in June. On June 4, he entered in the 8th inning and got two hits in a game that went 11 innings. He got a hit the next game, and the next, and before you knew it he’d hit in 7 of the first 8 games of the month. It would get better – since June 26, which was two weeks ago yesterday, he’s had five multihit games, including three with three and one with four. Now that Sands and Gordon are both in the minors, he’s effectively taken over as both the starting left fielder and leadoff hitter. Because he owns the only plus glove in what is a subpar defensive outfield, this was the outcome we’d always wanted. Now let’s see if he can really keep it up.

Marcus Thames
F (.197/.243/.333 2hr -0.6 WAR)
Injured? Yep, twice, even if only one led to a DL stint. Poor on defense? You better believe it. Unproductive on offense? Well, the line above doesn’t lie, right? I sure hope he’s renting, not buying.

Jay Gibbons
F (.255/.323/.345 1hr -0.5 WAR)
Well, he got DFA’d and claimed by no one, placing him back in AAA, so it couldn’t have been that good of a first half, right? You want to feel bad because his vision problems really derailed last season’s feel-good story right from the start… but then you remember he wasn’t really ever that good in the first place. The best part of that -0.5 WAR is that his oWAR is actually 0.1… meaning he’s really, really bad in the field.

JaMarcus Gwybbons, Jr. D-
Remember when the left field situation was going to be a nice trio between Gwynn, Thames, and Gibbons? Sheesh. Until Gwynn’s hot spurt over the last few weeks, they combined to offer absolutely nothing. Less than nothing, if you just went by WAR. At various points this season, we’ve made arguments for DFA’ing all three of them. Count this under “plans that were unlikely to work and then did, in fact, not work.”

Trent Oeltjen (inc.) (.265/.386/.441  1hr 0.6 WAR)
Hey, remember when Oeltjen went 4-4 with a homer in that 15-0 drubbing of Minnesota? That was rad, right? Unfortunately for him, he had 3 hits in 20 PA before that game, and just 2 hits in 20 PA since. 

Xavier Paul (inc.) (.273/.273/.273 0hr -0.1 WAR)
Paul’s ultimate contribution to the 2011 Dodgers is managing to grab a left field start before his departure, thus helping us push towards our ultimate goal of setting a record for most left fielders in a season. He’s got an 84 OPS+ for Pittsburgh since being picked up, though he’s improved his OPS in each full month there.

Jamie Hoffmann (inc.) (.000/.000/.000 0hr -0.2 WAR)
The man got four plate appearances. Let’s not infer too much from that. I still think he could be a pretty useful fourth outfielder in the bigs, as he’s a well-regarded defender having another high-OBP season in the minors, this time with a little pop.

Eugenio Velez (inc.) (.000/.000/.000 0hr -0.2 WAR)

Baron Ironglove von Pickoff. Still can’t believe he’s a Dodger. Or a major leaguer. Or a human being.

Matt Kemp (A+++) (.313/.398/.584 22hr 27sb 5.7 WAR)
I know you come here for informed baseball analysis and all (uh, I hope), and I could write 10,000 words on why Kemp is awesome. I will at some point, and 9,990 of those words will probably be about how I always said that he’d have a monstrous season this year, even as half the city was tearing him apart last year. There will be a time for that sort of insight, but for now, let’s leave it at this: 91 games into the season, Kemp has 5.7 WAR. That puts him on pace for about 9.9 WAR over the full season… a mark bettered by just two Dodgers in history. Yeah. His season is that good. Remember when everyone wanted to trade him, secure in the knowledge that he had neither the baseball IQ or work ethic to become a star? Yeah, me neither.

Matt Kemp is a shiny golden god.

Andre Ethier (B+) (.311/.383/.463 9hr 1.9 WAR)
Ethier, without question, represented one of the more difficult grades to give out. 30 game hitting streak? Yes, please. .383 OBP? Delicious. While his OPS is nearly 40 points off his 2008 career high, the lower offensive environment this year means that it’s good for a career-best 141 OPS+, so hooray for that. No, he’s not hitting lefties (.242/.282/.368), but he never hits lefties, so that’s not much of a surprise. All in all, it’s been a very solid year from one of the two main offensive threats this club has.

Yet… it feels like something is missing. Prior to his two-homer day yesterday, he’d hit just seven dingers, and his SLG is down for the third year in a row. It’s certainly not enough of a problem to criticize him, hence the good grade, and perhaps yesterday’s outburst was the start of something new. I just can’t help shaking the feeling that is very unpopular among the casual fans who love him so much: Ethier is a very good player, but not a superstar. We’ll need to keep that in mind when his contract is up. I don’t want to get too down on him, though: right now, he’s the second best player on this team, and that in itself is quite valuable.

******

Don’t forget: Matt Kemp is in the Home Run Derby tonight and will be live tweeting @TheRealMattKemp throughout.

All Hail Aaron Miles & Jamey Carroll

Hey, I have to reach for positives somewhere, right? The Dodgers had just six hits today, and five came from Aaron Miles (three) and Jamey Carroll (two). The duo also combined for the only Dodger run, with Miles singling in Carroll after the latter had doubled to lead off the third inning. Credit where credit is due: Miles has five multihit games in his last ten, and while he’s not drawing any walks or hitting for any power, his recent production is still about 10,000% more than we’d ever expected from him.

Of course, when you’re rolling out a lineup that features Dioner Navarro 6th (3 K!) and Juan Castro 7th, you’ve basically conceded the game anyway. As we’d worried all season, once Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier stopped being world-beaters, this team was going to be in massive trouble, and they’ve each been in mini-slumps, with today’s combined 0-7 dropping both of their May OPS lines down near .700. Factor in Ted Lilly‘s continued issues with keeping the ball in the park, and this was a game that was over pretty much right after it began, save for a brief spurt of life in the 9th that came up short.

The Dodgers have scored just seven runs in their last three games, and five or more just twice over their last sixteen. It might not get much easier this week, with Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Madison Bumgarner, Gavin Floyd, and Mark Buehrle among the scheduled opposing pitchers.

******

Let’s not overlook two brief bullpen positives from today’s game: Scott Elbert, making his season debut, struck out all three Diamondbacks he saw in the 8th inning. Javy Guerra, making his major league debut, followed by striking out one in a scoreless 9th inning. Elbert will have to prove it over much more than just one inning after how inconsistent he’s been over the last three seasons, but this is definitely a step in the right direction, and a glimpse into just how much talent he has if he can figure out how to harness it.

Jonathan, Jamey, & Jerry: Oh, My


Let’s talk about the good things first, because they’re going to get swallowed up by the bad things.

Jon Garland gave up just four hits and two runs over seven innings, numbers which are good from just about any pitcher but great from a fifth starter. Jerry Sands broke out with three hits, including a double and a stolen base (should have been two, if not for Rod Barajas getting called for catcher’s interference), becoming the 31st LA Dodger to have a three-hit game in his first ten career games. Matt Kemp doubled and threw a laser to nail Omar Infante at third, Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak again, and Ivan DeJesus showed some life with two hits.

Then there were the kinda bad things that are worth noting, but aren’t quite the “really bad thing”.

Barajas may or may not have injured himself after reaching base on a strikeout that got past Florida catcher John Buck. There was no official word, but he was removed for pinch-runner Tony Gwynn on a 2-1 count, which is basically unheard of before the 9th inning. Come back, A.J. Ellis! (Update: after the game, Tony Jackson reported there was no injury.) James Loney went 1-4, but even the one hit was a soft grounder up the middle that got past a backup shortstop playing in a drawn-in infield. The bell tolls for thee, James, especially as Sands is catching on. Of course, there were men on base, so that got Loney an RBI, leading directly to the final “kinda bad thing”, Steve Lyons. Just as he did on Sunday, he exulted over Loney’s “ability to drive runs in”, which I don’t need to explain to you is just garbage. He also spent about ten minutes talking about how Jamey Carroll was a “gamer” who “plays the game the right way”, (i.e. “moderately talented short white guy”), and while I like Carroll, you didn’t hear Lyons busting that out in the 9th, did you?

Then there’s the really bad thing… the 9th inning, which, good lord, could not have gone worse for everyone involved.

Let’s get right to the meat of it, and yes, Jonathan Broxton deserved to lose. With two outs and no one on, Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez inexplicably allowed the punchless Emilio Bonifacio to hit, despite having Hanley Ramirez on the bench. For all the laughs we have at the expense of Loney and Aaron Miles, Bonifacio is legitimately one of the worst hitters in baseball, with a career 66 OPS+.

And Broxton walked him.

In nearly 1,000 career plate appearances, Bonifacio has just one homer, and even that was an inside-the-park job. He is one of the least threatening batters in the game. You do not pitch around Emilio Bonifacio. You make him beat you, and Broxton didn’t. He issued him a free pass, and that’s inexcusable. I can’t say whether he was physically wild or emotionally weak – and neither can you – but walking Bonifacio with two outs is grounds enough for a loss.

That, of course, brought up Ramirez – and why in the world he was held back to not hit if Bonifacio ended the game is still beyond me – and cold or not, Hanley’s still one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball, and so it’s no surprise or shame that he singled to right, moving Bonifacio to third. (Though it should be noted that Broxton arguably had a third strike on Hanley that was not called.)

Still, first and third with two outs is still a game worth saving, and Broxton’s made a season so far of getting himself in and out of tight spots. But here’s where it all went sideways, because Broxton induced that game-ending groundball by Scott Cousins to Gritty Gamer Jamey Carroll… and it went right. under. his. glove. Don’t listen to any of Lyons’ garbage about a bad hop; it was a simple ground ball, and Carroll absolutely should have had it.

With the game now tied, getting the last out would at least send the game into extras. Chris Coghlan was intentionally walked, and Infante hit a liner to left that should have ended the inning… except Sands played it like it was covered in bees, allowing it to go over his head to end the game, and that was that.

So if you want to vilify Broxton, go right ahead, because I am in agreement that whatever ailed him last year is not fixed. Head, arm, legs, who knows what body part is causing this, but it’s an issue. I don’t deny that. Unfortunately, this was a team loss. Carroll’s horrendous error, his third of the trip, was the main culprit, and Sands should have caught his ball as well. Vicente Padilla allowed three baserunners and a score in his one inning of work, and as I’ve asked before, if not Broxton, who? Kenley Jansen‘s rounding into form, but he’s not ready yet. I don’t even want to hear Mike MacDougal and his 6/5 K/BB mark, or Matt Guerrier, who’s been relatively good but is definitely not a closer. The only hope is that Hong-Chih Kuo comes back healthy at the end of the week, but you’re a smart person and therefore you better than to ever count on that – and he’s too fragile to do the job alone anyway.

The simple fact is, Broxton’s not very good right now. I stipulate to that, and if there were another option, I’d be for it. Unfortunately, there’s really not, and when the defense is doing their best to give the game away, that’s not helping matters either.

Rafael Furcal Is An Endless Source of Blog Content (Updated)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Rafael Furcal is hurt. I know! Who’d have thought? This time it’s his left thumb, which he broke on a slide into third base in the fifth inning. Remember, kids: never slide head first.

Though the immediate postgame stories were about Furcal’s mention that he might retire, that seems almost certainly a statement made out of immediate frustration, and it’s hardly like rehabbing a broken thumb is as arduous as coming back from a blown-out knee or any of the various back troubles he’s had over the years. He’ll be out for four to six weeks, maybe a bit more with a rehab stint, and we’ll see him again sometime before Memorial Day. If there’s a slim silver lining to this, it’s that he almost certainly won’t reach the 600 plate appearances it would take to get his 2012 option to vest. I don’t say that because I don’t like Furcal or am dying to see him gone, but because whenever you can get out of paying an aging, injury-prone player a guaranteed $12m, you do it.

That’s a worry for the offseason, though, because of course far more urgent is how the Dodgers are going to handle this absence, and let me stop you right there: it’s not going to be Dee Gordon. Sure, it’d be fun, it’d be exciting – and it’d also be a terrible idea. Gordon is absolutely not ready right now, and I’m of the opinion that I’m not sure he’s even going to be ready for next year. It’s not good for him, and it’s not good for the team. It shouldn’t happen, and it won’t.

Without Furcal, the Dodgers are really left with four questions: how to replace him at shortstop, who gets his roster spot, how does that impact the bench, and what will this do to the batting order? Let’s tackle them one at a time, and hope this doesn’t get as ugly as the 2008 hellscape of the punchless Chin-lung Hu, the decrepit Angel Berroa, and the corpse of Nomar Garciaparra filling in for Furcal.

Who plays shortstop? Most reports indicate that Jamey Carroll will get the bulk of the time at shortstop in Furcal’s absence, a task he handled admirably last season. That’s okay, I suppose, though I do wonder if Juan Uribe might not be the better choice there. Uribe unquestionably has the stronger arm, and has a 3.4 UZR/150 in over 900 games at the position, while Carroll is at -0.4 in 163 games. Conversely, Carroll has nearly twice as much second base experience as Uribe.

Who fills the roster spot? Assuming Gordon isn’t happening, the obvious 40-man roster choice would be Ivan DeJesus, Jr., though I’m not so sure that’ll happen. It’s not because of DeJesus’ unimpressive stint to start the season, because that was just a few games by a guy seeing his first big league action. It’s because if Carroll is indeed the shortstop, he’s still a 37-year-old career utility guy who can’t be expected to play every day. DeJesus is no longer seen as a shortstop; he may be able to fill in at third base in a pinch, but is basically limited to second base. If the Dodgers don’t want to push Uribe off of second to short a few times a week, the new infielder will need to be able to handle shortstop, particularly because Aaron Miles shouldn’t be playing there either. Besides, if they want DeJesus to play every day, that opportunity still wouldn’t be there for him in LA even with Furcal gone.

That leaves you with two non-roster options: Justin Sellers & Juan Castro. Sellers was someone I liked in the spring due to reports that he has a plus glove and good on-base skills, though he didn’t totally impress in camp. He’s not seen as an everyday major leaguer, so having him be a utilty man wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Castro, well, you know all about him already. He’s completely and totally useless. Of course it’ll be Castro. (Update: we have our answer, it is DeJesus. See below.)

What does this do to the bench? Here’s where the impact could really be felt. Having Carroll play more is a bit of an injury risk, but it’s overall a good thing to get him in the lineup more. But without him on the bench? That’s a killer, because now you’re looking at a likely backup infield situation of Aaron Miles and Juan Castro (or one of the younger guys). That makes it harder to get Casey Blake the rest he needs without thowing away the day’s game, and since Blake is already banged-up just a week into the season, that kind of rest is vital. I can’t wait for the first day where we see Miles & Castro starting together, right?

How does this change the batting order? Without Furcal at the top, my best guess is that you see a lot more of Tony Gwynn, Jr., leading off. It is, to say the least, an imperfect solution, though I will admit that Don Mattingly doesn’t have a lot of better options. My hope is that he at least keeps Carroll at #2, perhaps even leading off when Gwynn is out, and doesn’t continually bury him at #8, giving more at-bats to the useless Miles & Castro. We’ll have to see how that plays out, though. Tony Jackson suggests that Matt Kemp should lead off, which would be interesting and a way to get him more at-bats, though I wouldn’t do it because I don’t want to see Kemp coming up with the bases empty 90% of the time because Rod Barajas and the pitcher didn’t get on in front of him. Jackson noted later in the story that Mattingly wouldn’t entertain the idea, which is good.

We’ll find out the answer to at least the second question later today, when Furcal is placed on the disabled list and a corresponding move is made. (If it’s not DeJesus, remember, someone will need to be DFA’d. With Jamie Hoffmann up and Jay Gibbons almost ready to return, Xavier Paul should be on notice. So it could be not only that we have to suffer through Castro again, but that we have to lose Paul or someone else to do it.)

As for the rest? We’ll have to see. It’ll be one of Don Mattingly’s first big tests.

******

Update: Tim Brown of Yahoo reports that it will indeed be DeJesus coming up to fill the spot. Not Castro, hooray! He also passes on this horrifying news…

Ivan DeJesus Jr will be in uni for Dodgers tonight, in place of Furcal. LA checked on Eckstein in spring, told it would cost $2 mil. Passed.

Not sure what’s more disturbing – that the Dodgers actually had interest in David Eckstein, or that he chose to not sign with anyone rather than play for less than $2m?

Update 2: MLBtraderumors is reporting that the Dodgers are considering using DeJesus at 2B, which would then push Uribe to 3B. I like the idea if DeJesus can handle it. Uribe’s strong arm would be an asset at 3B, and that would then supplement the bench by pushing Casey Blake to the LHP masher role he really ought to be. Could he be part of the solution to the fact that neither James Loney or Andre Ethier can hit lefties?