Dodgers of the Decade: Second Base

The first base voting is now closed, with James Loney winning handily over Eric Karros and Nomar Garciaparra. I love that Olmedo Saenz and Hee-Seop Choi got ten votes apiece, though. Let’s put Loney on the roster…

Dodgers of the Decade team:
C: Russell Martin (68%)
1B: James Loney (62%)

…and move on to second base, which I’m assuming will not be so close. When players have seen time at more than one position, I’ve been trying to include them only at their top spot, like only having Shawn Green be an outfielder, not a first baseman. Alex Cora is the exception to that rule, since he was the starting shortstop for 2 seasons, and then the starting second baseman for 2 seasons. Therefore, he ends up on both lists. He’s not going to win either spot, so I’m okay with this.

Second Base

Alex Cora (644 games, 2000-04)
Dodger stats: .249/.318/.357 .675 27 hr 170 rbi
WAR: 2.8

Jeff Kent (521 games, 2005-08)
Dodger stats: .291/.367/.479 .847 75 hr 311 rbi
WAR: 10.7

Mark Grudzielanek (431 games, 2000-02)
Dodger stats: .274/.319/.382 .701 29 hr 154 rbi
WAR: 3.2

Orlando Hudson (149 games, 2009)
Dodger stats: .283/.357/.417 .774 9 hr 62 rbi
WAR: 3.7

Top three seasons
4.4 WAR Kent, 2005
3.7 WAR Hudson, 2009
3.0 WAR Kent, 2007

“Dodger of the Decade”? How about, “of the Century?” In just four seasons, Jeff Kent is up there in nearly every offensive record for a second baseman in Dodger history. So yeah, I think he might be winning the 2000s title. The only reason I didn’t include a “you’re joking, right?” option in the poll is to not skew the final stats. Let’s get this one over quickly and move on to third base.

[polldaddy poll=2438663]

Clayton Kershaw Gets the Bump

kershawvsangels.jpgFrom the comments of the last thread

Posted by montana, June 21, 2009 9:08 PM

kershaw riding the msti bump!!

Looks like I’m on a streak! Okay, I didn’t really offer Clayton Kershaw any advice before yesterday’s game other than saying he’d be next on the list, so I don’t know how much credit I can claim. My involvement (or complete lack of it) aside, that doesn’t change the fact that last night’s game might be one you look back on as a huge turning point in young Kershaw’s career. 

It’s not the best start of his career, or even his season – hard to top that 13 K, 1 hit game vs. the Giants in April – but it may be the most meaningful. Think about it; you’ve got a 21-year-old, just a start removed from lasting only 2.2 innings against the woeful Padres. You’ve got him on the road against a top American League team, and if even their offense isn’t what it was, guys like Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, and Vladimir Guerrero are no joke. On top of all of it, it’s the ESPN national game (and if I were to outline all of the stupid things I heard those guys say yesterday, this column would be 10,000 words. Hey, Jon Miller – I like that you know what “OPS” is, but it doesn’t rhyme with “cops”, you dink.)

Really, the bottom of the 5th is what really made this night for Kershaw. After getting through the first four relatively unscathed (thanks to some fantastic defense by James Loney), things completely went off the rails. Doesn’t get much worse than loading the bases with no outs on two walks, a botched throw on a sacrifice bunt, and a wild pitch, does it? As those things were entirely Kershaw’s doing, you could almost imagine what was going through the minds of the guys behind him. Something unprintable, most likely. Especially with Abreu, Hunter, and Vlad coming up… yet Kershaw got out of it on a double play grounder and a pop up. In the past, that inning could have easily been the end of both him and the game, once his wildness showed up, because he’s yet to prove that he can overcome that when it pops up.

Well, last night, he did, and if this is a turning point for him, we can look back at that inning and say it was huge.

As could be completely expected from someone so young and so talented, Kershaw now has three of the top eight – and three of the bottom six – starting performances this year by a Dodger based on game score. I think we’re all pretty happy with his performance so far in 2009; imagine how we’ll feel when he manages to avoid those occasional disaster starts as well?

In other news, Jeff Kent is completely dead to me. I know, I know, he’s going into the Hall of Fame as a Giant. Don’t care. Dead to me.

Next, Raul Mondesi Will Battle the Aggro Crag

Why do I feel like no one but me is going to know what an “Aggro Crag” is?

Here’s the best part about being in first place, a million games up: even though Clayton Kershaw didn’t even make it through three innings last night – getting yanked in the middle of an at-bat against the pitcher, no less – I can still spend the off-day bringing you such whimsical joy as cranky old grandpa Jeff Kent appearing in ABC’s revival of “Superstars”. Events for the esteemed “superstars” include boating, kayaking, reminiscing about lost glory, and sadly reaching for one last bite of the spotlight. By which I mean, “a low-rated summer series, ripe for ridicule.”

Good luck, Jeff… I think?

Jeff Kent Comes Out of Retirement!

alilandry.jpgBetween “Lost“, Moneyball, and now this, I’m not entirely sure when this became a TV/movie blog, but if these things keep happening, I’m going to keep putting them up… via Deadspin:

Because television officially ran out of ideas six years ago, ABC is bringing back “Superstars,” the insane multi-sport athletic competition designed to humiliate your childhood heroes. And guess who is the starring superstar!

Actually, ABC is playing with the formula a bit, pairing famous athletes with slightly less famous “celebrities” for a co-ed team competition that will eliminate one pairing a week until an ultimate champion is declared King of Unscripted TV. Wait until you see these teams:

• Buffalo Bills wide receiver Terrell Owens … and model Joanna Krupa!
• Retired redneck Jeff Kent … and retired Dorito girl Ali Landry!
• “Big Shot” Robert Horry … and “actress” Estella Warren!
• Downhill skier Bode Miller … and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition star Paige Hemmis!
• Freestyle skier Kristi Leskinen … and Dancer With The Stars Maksim Chmerkovskiy!
• Sports bra spokeswoman Brandi Chastain … and Julio Iglesias, Jr.!

and my two favorites:

• Tennis dropout Jennifer Capriati … and Melrose Place “star” David Charvet!
• Female dunk machine Lisa Leslie … and Dan Cortese!

What, you really thought I was going to post a picture of Jeff Kent when presented with the opportunity to post his partner, Ali Landry?

So what are they going to do? You figure nothing could be more painful than watching Kent try to play defense…

The eight teams will compete weekly in events including swimming, biking, running and kayaking. One team will be eliminated each week, leading up to the finals.

Jeff Kent… on a kayak… with a model. The gods have smiled upon us today, friends.

We’re About To Learn What’s More Important

Update: apparently, Ausmus went ahead and agreed to terms with the Dodgers less than an hour after I originally posted this. He’ll get $1m for one year. Not to be outdone, the Padres then turned right around and signed Henry Blanco – who, as you’ll see below, is superior to Ausmus both at bat and defensively – for $250,000 less. Just in case you need to be bludgeoned over the head with it, the Dodgers just paid more for an older catcher who can’t hit or throw than the Padres did for a guy who can do a bit of both. Because, that makes sense. I strongly look forward to Vin Scully explaining that Ausmus went to an Ivy League school 50 times this year. The original post from this afternoon remains below.

Would you prefer having a backup catcher who can actually produce… or one that Joe Torre might actually play? We’re hardly alone in the Dodger blogosphere in calling for Russell Martin to get some more rest (check out his declining OPS by month last year, bouncing back only in September when he did get some time off); it’s been one of our recurring themes for quite some time. And no, Joe, third base does not count as a rest, though with Casey Blake around that’s unlikely to happen as much as last year.

While we’ve all spent countless words on Manny, Furcal, and starting pitching, it shouldn’t be ignored that backup catcher is a pretty important role if we want to see Martin live to age 30. In 2007, we had the Token Veteran Goodness of Mike Lieberthal, who had all of one RBI that year. In 2008, we had the Token Veteran Goodness of Gary Bennett explode in our faces
ausmus.jpg(and all over the infield), only to be replaced by Brotherhood of the Traveling Masks member Danny Ardoin. Clearly, the Token Veteran route hasn’t worked out. So what’s the plan for 2009?

Uh oh.

Free-agent catcher Brad Ausmus, seeking to play for a team near his home in Del Mar, Ca., is in the process of choosing between the Dodgers and Padres, according to major-league sources.
The Dodgers are Ausmus’ likely choice, sources say – they figure to be a stronger contender in the NL West next season than the Padres, who are reducing their payroll to $40 million.
Ausmus is going to be 40 years old in April, and hasn’t been a good hitter since… well, ever. Only twice in his long career has he even been a league-average hitter, and the last time came ten seasons ago in 1999 – when he hit the 100 mark right on the nose. Last year he sank all the way to an abysmal .218/.303/.296 with just 11 extra base hits in 81 games with Houston. ”But MSTI,” you might say. “A catcher who can hit is the exception, not the other way around. Ausmus is a good backstop with a strong arm, which is more important than his bat.” Well, that might have been true once upon a time. It’s just that now, he’s actually a detriment behind the dish – FanGraphs has his defensive value on a three-year slide, placing him at a negative value in the last two seasons. Plus, his 20.8% caught stealing ratio would place him third from the bottom of the catchers who played enough to qualify in 2008, if he’d been a qualifier.
Clearly, Ausmus isn’t going to help much whether he’s besides the plate or behind it, and it’s not like there aren’t other decent backstops out there. Former Dodger Henry Blanco is coming off a respectable .292/.325/.392 season with the Cubs, and has thrown out more than 45% of base stealers in four of the last five seasons. Former Red Javier Valentin put up a decent 2008 of .256/.326/.411 and is even a switch-hitter. So why are we considering a player that’s inferior to both at the plate and to at least one in the field?
Oh, right. Because he’s this year’s Token Veteran Backup Catcher. Maybe his name recognition will cause Torre to at least play him; but with those stats why would you want him to? You’d almost rather see a run-down Martin every day.  
(No, we didn’t miss today’s announcement that Jeff Kent was retiring. It’s just that it was basically a foregone conclusion and we’ve covered his career here already. Besides, now is not the time for looking backwards! We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom! Best of luck, Jeff. We’ll miss you. There were more than a few times where you carried this offense. You prickly jerk.)