Eight Is Enough

There will be no more talk about “the playoffs” around here until the Dodgers actually, you know, win another game. Assuming that ever happens. Other than Manny Ramirez getting on base all 5 times he was up, you’ve just got another game in which there was nothing positive to take away. The offense, other than Manny, was stagnant as usual. The usually strong pitching gave up nine runs, led by Chan Ho Park immolating on the mound to the tune of 4 runs in 1/3 of an inning – although he was greatly helped by Nomar throwing away a double play ball into right field. Nomar’s now hitting .236 and made a second error last night as well. Someone explain to me again why he’s playing when he can’t hit or field, and why Chin-Lung Hu is still down in Las Vegas? He might not be a hitting improvement, but at least he can play shortstop.

At right: the Dodgers season.

Oh, and then there’s this:

Jeff Kent said he has played with pain in his left knee for the last month.

Friday, he said he couldn’t continue — not even with his team in the midst of a crisis that could push them out of contention.

Seven innings into a 9-3 loss to the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field that extended the Dodgers’ season-long losing streak to eight games, the 40-year-old second baseman who has endured a wide range of physical problems this season had to be replaced by pinch-hitter Blake DeWitt.

The Dodgers are 4 1/2 games out of first place, they’re eight for 69 with runners in scoring position during their eight-game skid, but Kent said he probably wouldn’t play today. Kent, who will undergo an MRI exam, said he probably wouldn’t play Sunday, either.

Here’s the interesting thing, though. You would think that a knee injury so painful that he’s missing the biggest series of the year would explain why Kent’s having the worst season of his entire career, right? But Kent says that he’s been playing with pain for a month – a month in which he’s been excellent, hitting .357/.394/.439. Whether that’s Manny-aided or not, that’s impressive, but who gets hurt and then has their performance improve? It’s possible that Kent is just offhandedly saying “a month” when it’s in reality been more recent, and the numbers back that up since he’s got a .412 OPS over the last week. It’s hard to draw that conclusion when the entire team has been so bad at the plate over that time, though.

So I suppose we’re going to get to see what Blake DeWitt learned in Las Vegas about playing second base. With the season rapidly spiraling down the tubes, at least we’ll learn a bit more about what we have from DeWitt for next year.

One more thing… I’m still looking forward to tonight’s game. I know I’ve been a little negative around here lately; how could you not be? But playoffs or not, Chad Billingsley vs. Dan Haren is still a pretty marquee matchup, and if the Dodgers can touch Haren, who knows what could happen from there? That’s possible, right? Now if you’ll excuse me, Jessica Alba’s waiting outside for me in her Ferrari to drive me down to the lottery office to pick up my winnings.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

All Your First Place Are Belong To Us

Well, half of it, anyway. Sometimes you sit down to write a blog post, and you stare at the blank page and wonder what you should write about. And then before you know it, you’re talking about 40 different topics – and right as you finish, the team finishes off an improbable comeback to snag a share of first place. Away we go…

* Thanks, beautiful!
Remember the other day when I wrote, regarding the debacle in San Francisco, that: 

This is going to be one of “those” games – the kind you look back upon with disdain when you miss the playoffs by one game on the last day of the season.

Yeah, well, tonight is one of “those” games too – the kind you look back on with glee when you make the playoffs by one game on the last day of the season. Really, is there any better feeling in baseball than a walkoff home run? By Certified Local Hero Nomar Garciaparra? That caps off the best comeback of the season after a terrible outing by Brad Penny? That puts you into a tie for first place? I think not.

* You think Jeff Kent likes hitting in front of Manny?
4-5 with a game-tying double. You may remember Kent, earlier this season, fighting to be the worst cleanup hitter of all time. Since he got bumped into the 3rd spot ahead of Manny? In 7 games, he’s hitting an even .500 (13-26). This is the ancillary brilliance of having a hitter like Manny Ramirez - sure, he’s great. But he has a ripple effect on your entire lineup. Now the guy hitting 3rd gets better pitches to hit than when Kent or Martin or anyone was the cleanup hitter. Now the guy hitting 5th gets to do so with men on more often because Manny gets on base so much, either through a hit or being walked. This is truly the dimension this team did not have before July 31st, and in just two weeks we’ve seen the offense transformed.

* Remember when Brad Penny started the All-Star Game twice in a row? Geez, Brad – what the hell was that? 3 homers and 6 earned runs in 3 crappy innings, pushing his ERA all the way up to 6.05. With Arizona losing and Joe Blanton no great shakes tonight for Philly either, Penny did his best to ensure that the Dodgers wouldn’t capitalize on a golden opportunity to reclaim a share of first in the NL West. Fortunately, the offense let him off the hook (and when was the last time we could say that?) He was moderately effective in his first start back against San Francisco, although he didn’t look that great – and the lousy Giants offense certainly helped out with that. While his velocity was up a bit from the last start, you just cannot leave meatballs out over the plate when you’re facing guys like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. The question here is: what now? How long of a rope do you give him to work back into shape when every game is so important? Is this going to push the “Greg Maddux to LA” rumors into reality? Do we see James McDonald getting bumped up any time soon? As good as the pitching has been, there’s some real questions about the rotation. Kershaw’s been great, but he’s rapidly approaching his innings limit, and if you can’t count on Penny, and when you never really know if you’re getting Cy Young Hiroki Kuroda or Brett Tomko Hiroki Kuroda, well, maybe you need another starter. My opinion? Go get Maddux. This late in the season, he’s only owed a little less than $2 million, which shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, and he’s worth his weight in gold if only to have Kershaw sitting next to him on the bench every single night.

* Yet another reason to ditch a stiff like Pablo Ozuna: We’ve made no secret around here about our distaste for guys like Pablo Ozuna (and Angel Berroa) who can’t really hit.. or field.. or contribute. Well, you can add “run the bases” for Ozuna. In the 8th inning of tonight’s game with two outs and the score tied, Ozuna was inserted as a pinch runner for Jeff Kent after Kent’s double. James Loney grounds to the hole, and Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has no play anywhere except to go to third, where Ozuna beats the throw, which would put men on the corners for Casey Blake. Except that Ozuna overslid the bag and was tagged out by Phillies 3B Greg Dobbs, ending the inning. Someone please explain to me what value it is that Ozuna brings, and how it’s in any way more useful than Chin-Lung Hu?

* I love this bullpen. After Penny acted like he had money on the Phillies for 3 innings, the bullpen came in and did what they’ve been doing all year: shut down the opposition. Jason Johnson, Joe Beimel, Chan Ho Park, and Jonathan Broxton combined for 6 shutout innings, giving up only one hit to the last 21 batters, against one of the better offenses in the league. I can already hear the war cry – “but you hate Jason Johnson!” Not true. Putting Jason Johnson in as a long man when you’re down by 5 runs is exactly what he should be doing – not putting him in above Broxton and Kuo in a tie game two days after throwing 87 pitches. And to Johnson’s credit, he was excellent tonight. You can’t credit the ‘pen enough here – they’ve been coming through all season, and you do not win this game without them.

* Hey, how about Russell Martin hitting 8th? It’s amazing how many things about this year just could not have been predicted, or even believed, at the start of the year. “Manny Ramirez will be a Dodger.” “Chan Ho Park will be one of the best pitchers on the team.” “Nomar and Angel Berroa will be the two main shortstops.” Well add to that: “Russell Martin will hit 8th in a playoff race.” And here’s the thing: I can’t even argue with Torre on this one. Sure, part of it is a lineup that didn’t have any total black holes like Pierre or Berroa in it tonight; but mostly, Martin’s just been awful lately, just 6-38 on the month coming into tonight. Maybe it agrees with him – Martin went 3-3 with a walk tonight out of the 8 hole.

* I can’t help but wonder…
about Ethier starting over Pierre. Don’t get me wrong – I love it, as I’m sure you all know. And Ethier’s certainly been playing so well that he’s earned it, especially with a game-winning RBI on Tuesday and a homer tonight. My question is this, though: did Torre suddenly see the light and realize that Ethier is flat-out a better player? Or was he just upset by Pierre’s comments to the LA Daily News? Think about it. The comments were printed on August 3rd. Pierre has started just 3 times in the ensuing 10 games; in the previous 8 games after he came off the DL, he’d started 7 times. Torre of course denies that the comments had anything to do with playing time, and obviously the addition of Manny had added another outfielder to the mix (although Jones has been taken completely out of the rotation lately), but there’s at least a chance that rather than going by good baseball sense, Torre punished Pierre and then watched Ethier get so hot that he simply couldn’t bench him, right?

* “The worst season in the history of major league baseball.”
So says CBS Sportsline’s Gregg Doyel about Andruw Jones. The sad part? I can’t even pretend to argue with him. As Vin said yesterday, we all know that the DL stint isn’t about his knee. It’s about getting his fat useless ass off the team. One day, I hope we find out the real reason behind this. It’s simply incomprehensible that a certain Hall-of-Famer could drop off the cliff as hard as Jones. But kudos to the front office for biting the PR bullet and getting him the hell out of here during a pennant race.

* Manny being 4channy! A few months ago, I linked to a great strip from the criminally underrated The Dugout, in which they take famous athletes and and create what life might be like if they only conversed in internet chat rooms. Manny’s always been a popular figure there, for obvious reasons, and they focus on him again today. Some of the jokes won’t make sense if you’re not a regular reader of their site, but it’s still worth a look – and keep an eye out for a shout-out to a fan we’ve featured here before, who happens to greatly support a certain lefty Dodgers reliever.

Speaking of Manny… you can only gush about a man so much, right? But with another homer tonight, he’s now got 5 in just 12 games in Blue – and he’s still hitting nearly .500 (21-45). I’m really starting to run out of superlatives about him. No, I haven’t turned a blind eye to how badly he acted to get out of Boston, which might have destroyed the season of a lesser team. We’ll certainly take that into account in the offseason, when his contract is up. But right now? I have never seen a player energize a team like this. And it’s not unreasonable to say that the Dodgers have never had a hitter as productive as he’s been so far. Let the Diamondbacks have their Adam Dunn (for the record, I’m a Dunn fan and think that was a good move by Arizona) – as good as Dunn is, he’s never been the player that Manny is.

* Hooray! Brian Falkenborg claimed by the Padres. Nothing personal against Falkenborg; I’m sure he’s a wonderful person. We just never were able to warm up to him around here, partially because of the way Torre used him, and partially because he’s just not very good. Oddly enough, this is the second time in his career he’s been DFA’d by LA and subsequently claimed by San Diego. I suppose this means we’ll be seeing him again in 2012.

I’m no doctor but… at Dodgers.com, Ken Gurnick has an update on injured closer Takashi Saito:

Saito is with the club, trying to rehabilitate a torn right elbow ligament that usually requires Tommy John surgery to repair. He said he is playing catch from about 50 feet two days for every one day off.

“I feel no pain, and that’s really encouraging,” said Saito, but he offered no guess on a return date.

Granted, I was away for three weeks, so I may have missed this; but was it already known that Saito had a torn ligament? It’s the first I’ve heard of it, and if so, how he is throwing with no pain? I don’t think I can ever remember a pitcher bulling through an injury that usually requires Tommy John to repair.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

MSTI’s First Half Review: Offense

Is it that time of the year already? Sure, it’s not really “halfway” through the year since the Blue have already played 95 games, but here we are at the All-Star break. This won’t be as extensive as last year’s season reviews, since there’s only three days to do it in, but it still will touch upon everyone who appeared in a game for the Dodgers this year. So today is offense, tomorrow pitching, and the next day will be front office/coaching staff/awards/overall grade. And on Thursday, a big MSTI announcement. How did we do this last year? That’s right:

First, some quick ground rules. Completely unscientific and arbitrary, this is how we’ve seen the results of the season. One important distinction, is that the letter grade is based upon what we reasonably could have expected of the player entering the year, not comparing him to other MLB players at his position. You’ll soon see why this is so important.

Less than 10 IP or 100 at-bats gets you an “incomplete”. Stats are presented (BA/OBP/SLG).

We’ll knock that down to 50 at-bats for the half-season review, but everything else remains the same.

Russell Martin (.294/.394/.436 10hr 45rbi) (A+)
Without question, the best offensive player so far. There were actually some inane stories out there that I won’t even subject you to linking to saying that he’s been off his game this year, but that’s mostly thanks to his very slow start to the season, hitting .197 as late as April 20th. But you know what? Martin’s actually having the best offensive year of his career overall. His 118 OPS+ is up 5 from last year, and while his slugging % is down slightly (.029 less than last year), it’s more than made up by his exemplary .394 OBP, which is actually better than Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, and Hanley Ramirez. Plus, he plays third base! What can I say? This guy’s the heart and soul of the team. He’s the best player, and he never complains. Love this guy. Love him.

Gary Bennett (.190/.261/.381 1hr 4rbi) (incomplete)
What a weird, weird season for the initial 2008 recipient of the Mike Lieberthal Memorial “Guy Who Rots on the Bench Behind Russell Martin” Award. Bennett only really got notice in two of my posts all season, and they couldn’t be more divergent – first, he got some recognition for a good game in Milwaukee on May 15, and then just five days later we cheered his being placed on the DL, saying,

“Left foot plantar fasciitis.” Let me say, the quotes could not be thicker around that. We’ve had no word of any injury problems surrounding Bennett, but tons of stories about his throwing problems, and suddenly his foot hurts? Hey, call it a bad foot, the flu, or the heebie-jeebies; whatever it takes to get this guy’s head right and get those lollipop throws off the field. Seriously, he even made Rotoworld today, which is rare for a mediocre backup catcher, and at no point is the foot mentioned.

Thanks for showing up, Gary. Lousy hitter who can’t throw – fantastic. If you wanted to hit the slots in Vegas the rest of the summer, that’d be A-ok by me.

Danny Ardoin (.211/.250/.263 0hr 2rbi) (incomplete)
Another member of the Loyal Order of Backup Catchers, Ardoin’s been.. well, he’s an improvement on Bennett, anyway. He’s not much of a hitter either, but everything I’ve read about him says that the pitchers like throwing to him way better than Bennett. As far as I’m concerned, the team is screwed if Martin’s hurt anyway, so it doesn’t really matter all that much which one backs him up, but I’d really like it if it would be Ardoin rather than Bennett, whenever he’s healthy. Amazingly enough, Ardoin’s already doubled Mike Lieberthal’s RBI total from last season.

First Base
James Loney (.291/.351/.446 7hr 50rbi) (C+)
Loney gets a C+ not because he’s been that lousy, but simply because we had such high expectations for him. After last year’s offensive explosion in the second half, who among us wasn’t drooling at the prospect of him playing 1B for the entire season? But after the first two months, he was only hitting in the .270s with 5 homers. Of course, he dominated in June (.362/.425/.500), only to fall back in July, hitting just .224 so far. He’s been.. okay. Not bad, not great. I still think he’s got it in him to pick it up.

Second Base
Jeff Kent (.253/.304/.407 9hr 40rbi) (C-)
This, I must say, was a tough one. On one hand, he was really bad for a good portion of the season – I assume you haven’t forgotten the whole chase to be the worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years, but on the other hand, Kent’s 40 years old, and how much can you ever depend on a guy that age, anyway? At least he’s been able to stay relatively healthy, and his bat has turned it around a bit lately.

On the plus side, no one’s accusing Kent of being involved in any clubhouse fiascos so far, so at least he’s got that going for him. 

Third Base
Blake DeWitt (.263/.330/.372 5hr 34rbi) (A)
Just like Kent, this is a tough grade to assign. I know it seems like a long time ago now, but do you remember how desperate this team was at the hot corner at the end of March? Nomar was hurt, LaRoche was hurt, Abreu was hurt, and the trade options were either unavailable or unappealing. So we turn over the job to the guy who was guaranteed to put up Hu-like offensive numbers. Except that.. he was good. Really good, slugging .517 in May. He was a lock for Rookie of the Year and surprise of the year. Go Blake!

Of course, great story aside, he’s cratered since then, with just 4 extra base hits in the last 6 weeks, which is Pierre-like levels of mediocrity. Ah hell, it doesn’t matter. He shouldn’t be starting every day anymore, but that’s a topic we’ve already covered. He gets an A simply because I shudder to think what would have happened if he hadn’t held things down for the first two months.

Andy LaRoche (.192/.294/.341 2hr 3rbi) (incomplete)
Seems like LaRoche is shaping up to be part of the next Dodgers holy war, following in the footsteps of Juan Pierre and Hee-Seop Choi. No, he hasn’t done much in the bigs. But the people who want to write him off are insane – he’s gotten just 44 at-bats this year. Look, he’s got nothing more to prove in the minors (career .895 OPS). The Dodgers need power. Blake DeWitt is slumping badly. So then why can’t LaRoche ever start more than two games in a row? Why has he been benched the day after hitting a home run both times? Some things, I’ll never understand.

Rafael Furcal (.366/.448/.597 5hr 16rbi) (R)
That’s right, I gave Furcal an “R”. Why? Because the best way I can sum up his 2008 is “ARRRRRRRGGGHH!!!!” From the best start of his career, to an injury that was to keep him out a few days, to surgery that will end with him missing 4 months. Despite everything that’s gone wrong with this season, it’s hard to point to anything that was more damaging than this. Furcal’s back woes not only cost the team its hottest hitter, but lead to the failings of Hu, the misery of Angel Berroa, and the so-far entertaining Nomar era. Think about it, the Dodgers are one game out. It’s not much of a stretch to say that if Furcal had stayed healthy, the Dodgers are in first place, is it?

Angel Berroa
(.192/.253/.219 0hr 0rbi) (F)
I have to say, of all the stats I looked up for this article, Berroa surprised me more than anybody. He really has zero RBI? Not even one? Despite starting 21 games? That would be incredible, if it weren’t so depressing. Look at it this way, Berroa’s had 72 at-bats without an RBI. That’s the most in MLB by a large margin, nearly double the 40 at-bats by Washington’s Roger Bernadina. Yikes! Actually, now that I think about it, maybe Berroa doesn’t deserve an F here. Maybe he should be getting a C. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t all know he was going to suck from day one. And to the surprise of no one except perhaps Ned Colletti, he has. He’s been exactly as bad as we thought, not that it was possible to be any worse, so in that sense he’s been the average Angel Berroa.

Nah, forget it. Big. Fat. F.

Chin-Lung Hu
(.159/.224/.206 0hr 7rbi) (D)
This really should be an F, because Hu’s utter failure to perform once Furcal went down has to rank as one of the bigger disappointments of the season. The only thing bumping him up to a D is the fact that his defense more than lived up to its sparking reputation. But I don’t think it was too much to expect that he had a shot to be a decent hitter, since after a breakthrough 2007 where he OPS’d .871 in the minors, he popped 2 dingers in 29 late-season at-bats in the bigs. And then.. fizzle. Now, he’s apparently had some vision issues since returning to AAA, so if that’s what caused this, I haven’t completely given up on him. It’s just that if he could have been even a mediocre hitter, we could have kept his slick glove in the lineup and avoided the entire Berroa fiasco.

Nomar Garciaparra (.250/.328/.400 2hr 12rbi) (!!!)
What a year for Nomahhh. Breaks his hand in spring training, comes back to play in all of 8 games (hitting .226) before hurting his calf and missing two more months.. only to return at shortstop. You can’t make this stuff up. In fact, I wish I had predicted this in the offseason, just so I could see what kind of responses I’d have gotten saying that I’d completely lost my mind. Remember last year when Nomar couldn’t be moved from 1B to 3B to make room for Loney because he was “too fragile”? Well, a year and several injuries later, now he’s playing shortstop. Unbelievable. He’s hit okay since coming back (.286/.333/.500 in 8 games), but there’s just no way this doesn’t end with him somehow spontaneously combusting turning a double play, right?

Luis Maza
(.228/.282/.278 1hr 4rbi) (C… ish)
Remember, we’re doing these grades based not on how they compare to the rest of the league, but based on how a player has performed based on reasonable expectations at the beginning of the season. This is why Hu gets a D, since he was below expectations, and why DeWitt gets an A, since he was so far above. The only time this method runs into a problem is in the case of Luis Maza, because for someone who runs a Dodgers blog and likes to think he knows entirely too much about the Dodger organization.. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard of this guy coming into the season. So it’s hard to say I had any expectations of him. That said, he’s been pretty much what you’d think he’d be – a quad-A player who’s a mediocre hitter and a decent fielder, albeit with a particularly lousy arm.

Mark Sweeney
(.094/.181/.125 0hr 3rbi) (?)
Sweeney gets a question mark for a grade. That’s partially because he doesn’t even deserve to attain a letter, but mostly to represent the question of, Why is Mark Sweeney on This Team? He serves no function. He’s a pinch-hitter who can’t hit. He can’t hit lefties. He can’t hit righties. He can’t hit at home. He can’t hit on the road. He can’t hit during the day. He can’t hit at night. We do not like him here or there, we do not like him anywhere.  His OPS is negative 18, which I believe means he’s lapsed into some sort of an unknown dimension. He’s 38 years old, and he’s got 6 hits in 72 at-bats! It’s the end of the line, and it’s just stubbornness on the part of the Dodgers front office that they allow him to keep making outs (he’s supposedly coming off the DL on Friday). I would love to know what kind of pictures Sweeney must have of Colletti with a lampshade on his head in order to keep his job.

Time to go, Mark. Time to go.

Terry Tiffee
(.250/.400/.250 0hr 0rbi) (incomplete)
Tiffee only went 1-4 in his short time up, but I’ve been backing him for over two months. Now back at Vegas, he’s kept up his amazing season, currently rocking a .396/.434/.598 line. Sure, say it’s a fluke, say whatever you like. Maybe you’re right. But there is simply no argument you can use to convince me that he shouldn’t be taking Mark Sweeney’s place. None. Tiffee is more useful than Sweeney in every conceivable way – hitting, fielding, versatility, you name it. (And I did, right here.) I suppose I’m venturing more into Colletti territory than Tiffee, but really, all Tiffee’s done is hit all year long. What else does he have to do?

Tony Abreu (n/a) (incomplete)
Knock, knock.”
“Is this Mr. Abreu?”
“Yes, who are you?”
“I’m opportunity. And I’m knocking.”
“Hmm.. thanks, but no thanks. Bye!”

Matt Kemp (.278/.331/.437 9hr 49rbi 20sb) (B)
We’ve exhausted a lot of pixels on Kemp around here lately, so I won’t revisit it all again. But suffice it to say, there’s been nothing boring about Kemp’s season. To wild trade rumors to arguments about what type of player he is and will be, Kemp’s been front and center. As you probably know, considering his age and inexperience, I’m pretty satisfied with what he’s done, especially his improvement in the outfield. The strikeouts have to be cut, of course, but remember that he’s only 23. Guys like Matt Holliday and Ryan Howard hadn’t even made their debuts by 23, instead being allowed to develop in the minors. Considering Kemp’s already been (roughly) an average MLBer at that age, let’s cut the kid a little slack, okay?

Andre Ethier (.286/.350/.464 11hr 41rbi) (A-)
Don’t look now, but Ethier is leading the entire team in homers and slugging %. That’s pretty impressive for a guy who’s been continually jerked around in terms of playing time when both Jones and Pierre were available. He gets a bit of a demerit for that .195 June, but he’s come roaring back in July with a 1.061 OPS. So of course, we can look forward to him seeing some bench in two weeks when Pierre returns. Because that’s what a team who can’t hit should do – bench their biggest power hitter. Amazing.

Juan Pierre (.277/.327/.318 0hr 24rbi 35sb) (D)
This isn’t the place to rehash the whole Pierre argument yet again, but it’s pretty simple, as far as I’m concerned. He’s having the worst season of his career by every single offensive stat (save steals), which is saying a lot when it’s the fourth straight season he’s declined since his career year of 2004. Regardless of how you feel about him, he’s not even living up to his own mediocre standards. That’s not good, and I can’t imagine it’ll be any better if his knee is any less than 100% when he comes back. Yet Joe Torre is infatuated with him, but I guess that’s something more to discuss in Torre’s review. Of 19 MLB leftfielders with enough at-bats to qualify, Pierre is dead last in OPS, coming in nearly 340 points lower than leader Matt Holliday’s. That’s not just bad, that’s really bad.

By the way, in that “career year”, his OPS+ was 107 (it’s down to 69 this year). Andre Ethier’s this season is 110. Just sayin’.

Andruw Jones (.167/.261/.253 2hr 9rbi) (you don’t even deserve a letter, Andruw)
What. A. Disaster. Hey, we’re not always right at MSTI either, because we both supported this deal when it was signed. But geez. I can’t even get on Colletti for this one, because really, who the hell saw this happening? If you didn’t see this link the other day, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark says Jones is on pace for the Worst Offensive Season in Baseball History.

You know what, I can’t even talk about him. You don’t need stats on this one. You have eyes. You’ve watched the Dodgers. He’s awful, and no one seems to know why. What a mess.

Delwyn Young (.255/.327/.343 1hr 5rbi) (C-)
Have to admit, I’m a little torn on Delwyn. We’ve been big fans of his for a while, because on a team that’s struggling so badly offensively, a guy who’s done nothing but kill the ball at every stop would seem like a useful player to have. I mean, it was just last season that he broke a 41-year-old PCL record for doubles. That said, he hasn’t really done all that much with the big club this season. Oddly enough, his stats are the exact opposite of what I had thought; I was all set to say “but he doesn’t get to play that much with the OF logjam, and its hard for a kid to be a pinch-hitter”. Except that as it turns out, he’s hitting .342 off the bench vs. only .203 as a starter.

Jason Repko (.000/.000/.000 0hr 0rbi) (incomplete)
Oh, Jason. Poor Jason. Just can’t catch a break. You come up and go 0-5 with 4 K’s in your first game, and then get all of two more at-bats before getting sent down, probably for good. Damn shame, really.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Too Many Problems, Whatcha Gonna Do

Full disclaimer: this isn’t going to be fun. Trust me when I say I do NOT enjoy writing such negativity about the team. I don’t. I’m a Dodgers fan first and foremost despite not even growing up in the Los Angeles area, and nothing would please me more than to see them realize their potential and win. It’s just that I have to call them as I see them, and in the last few hours, I’ve come across so many different things that are just blowing my mind – and that’s without even getting into the possible elbow injury Takashi Saito sustained last night. This might get all over the place, so strap yourself in for an unfortunate article of inane Joe Torre quotes, fun with on-base percentage, the possible return of the worst player in baseball, and incredibly depressing news about the other worst player in baseball.

Let’s start at the start, where Nomar Garciaparra batted leadoff last night for the first time in just about six years. He’s clearly nowhere near your prototypical leadoff hitter, but I didn’t even mind the decision by Torre. Clearly, the offense is sputtering, to put it nicely, so if you want to engage in a little “throw things at the wall and see what sticks”, that’s fine by me. That was your reasoning, right Joe? (All of these Torre quotes are via Diamond Leung unless otherwise noted).

On Nomar Garciaparra and not Matt Kemp leading off: “We’ll sacrifice the speed for someone that will give us a quality at-bat.”

First of all, way to take a nice backhanded swipe at Kemp, there. Look, I realize that my last few articles have sort of made this blog Matt Kemp’s tragic illness, but I can’t read something like this and let it pass. So tell me. Tell me, please, in what way at all does Nomar give you a more “quality at-bat” than Matt Kemp? Is it because Nomar’s got a better chance of doing something productive? No, it can’t be that – Kemp is better than Nomar across the board this year, .278/.331/.437 vs. .228/.313/.368. Okay, so it must be that Kemp is a bit of a free swinger and you want the leadoff guy to work a good at-bat and see some pitches, right? That’s a fair argument. Wait, no, can’t be that either- Kemp has shown more patience at the plate as well, averaging 3.72 pitches per plate appearance while Nomar only sees 3.30.

So, let me rewrite that quote the way it should have read:

On Nomar Garciaparra and not Matt Kemp leading off: “We’ll sacrifice the speed, average, on-base percentage, power, and plate patience for someone who will be inferior in every single one of these areas except for Highly-Concentrated Veteran Goodness.”

Well, when you see it that way, it makes total sense. Joe, why else do you like Nomar batting leadoff, according to Doug Padilla of the LA Daily News?

“He’s aggressive and he’s not your prototypical leadoff hitter because he doesn’t go up there thinking about walking, that’s for sure,” Torre said. “He does put that little extra pressure on the pitcher knowing that if he goes ahead and throws a strike he can hit it out of the ballpark.”

The first part doesn’t even make sense. First of all, for a leadoff hitter especially, getting on base is getting on base. The idea is to be on base to be driven in by the guys hitting behind you. A walk is as good as a hit to accomplish that. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if your leadoff hitter walked every single time up? How awesome would that be? But does that mean Torre thinks that Matt Kemp goes up there “looking to walk”? Even here, where we’re very pro-Kemp, we’ve gotten on him for the egregious amount of whiffs. I’m pretty sure he didn’t accomplish that by not being aggressive enough at the plate.

As for the second half of that, he likes that Nomar puts pressure on the pitcher because he knows that if he grooves one, Nomar can hit it out of the park. I’m not even sure where to start with that one. Is it the simple fact that Nomar really can’t hit it out of the park? He’s got all of nine homers over the last two years, which is hardly what I call a power hitter anymore. Or is it the fact that if you want a guy who can park one, Matt Kemp is undeniably a better choice? Kemp has nine homers in the first half of this season, in about 150 at-bats fewer than Nomar has gotten over the last two years – and Nomar’s on the decline, while Kemp is certainly still on the rise. Speaking of Kemp, Joe?

On Kemp: “He goes up there and sometimes has quality at-bats. Other times, he gets impatient.”

Which is true, because he’s young and inexperienced, but it just serves to confuse the issue further. In one breath, Torre is praising Nomar for being “aggressive”, and then he turns around and chastises Kemp for being “impatient”. Nomar is a notorious first-pitch swinger, has been his whole career. No, I can’t find the stat to back that up, but I’m pretty sure that’s such common knowledge that I don’t even need to. How is that in any way the example of patience?

I also couldn’t help but chuckle at this line from Padilla, discussing Kemp’s on-base percentage:

Kemp had been in the leadoff spot for the past 11 days, batting .255 there with a pedestrian .340 on-base percentage.

.340 is a “pedestrian” on-base percentage. Those are Doug Padilla’s words, not mine. So maybe, just maybe, this will help explain why we all hate Juan Pierre batting leadoff so much – because Pierre’s OBP batting leadoff is an abysmal .294, 46 points lower than the “pedestrian” Matt Kemp. I just don’t understand why Kemp is criticized while Pierre is praised so heartily for this, yet it’s clear in every way that the on-field performance just doesn’t support that.

Back to Joe Torre, I implore you to read this carefully, because it just might be the greatest thing ever uttered:

On Jeff Kent: “He’s the perfect example of a player. He’s struggling, but we know we’re going to get a professional at-bat every time he gets in the box.”

“He’s the perfect example of a player.” I love this sentence. I want to get it tattooed on my back. I want to take it out behind the middle school and get it pregnant. I want it to be prominently displayed on all forms of United States currency from now until the end of time. “He’s the perfect example of a player.” As opposed to, say, Russell Martin, who is the perfect example of a 1920s vaudeville singer, and Brad Penny, who is the perfect example of a hamster. And here we are again with these old-school statements that in reality, mean absolutely nothing: “we know we’re going to get a professional at-bat every time he gets in the box.” It’s not even that I want to get on Jeff Kent here, who’s been pretty decent over the last month (.289/.375/.434, though he is riding a brutal 1-16 stretch right now). It’s just, what do things like that even mean? A “professional at-bat”? Because amateurs like Andre Ethier will wander up with a hockey stick, or James Loney will interupt the at-bat to stroll back to the dugout to refill his Big League Chew? Look, I respect Joe Torre for all he’s done in this game, but when he consistently comes up with meaningless lines and logic that just don’t make any sense, well, let’s just say it’s not filling me with confidence that this team can get turned around. The Dodgers have enough problems right now without creating their own.

Speaking of creating their own problems, back to Padilla, whose article is just a goldmine today:

Pinch-hit specialist Mark Sweeney, on the DL since July 4 with a strained right hamstring, will have one more minor-league rehab game and is expected to return to the roster Friday for the start of the second half.

Oh, good! I don’t know what we’d do without that pinch-hitter who’s hitting .094 with 6 hits on the season, but that’ll definitely turn the team around. Here’s the question, though: if he really comes back, who’s going to be cut to make room for him? I assume it’s Luis Maza or Angel Berroa, who are somewhat redundant with Nomar playing short. But if it’s Andy LaRoche… well, I don’t know what I’ll do here, but trust me: it will not be pretty.

Finally, Andruw Jones and his quest for becoming the most hated man in LA. Before I saw what Torre had said, I was surfing Google Image Search for pictures of sombreros to Photoshop onto Jones after his unbelievable 5 strikeout performance last night. I was really holding out hope that the knee was really the cause of his problems, but since his return he’s been just as lousy as ever, hitting .172/.200/.172 with 13 strikeouts in 29 at-bats. You might think things couldn’t possibly get worse for him, but that would mean you haven’t read what Jayson Stark of ESPN.com had to say (bold is mine):

NL LVP of the half year: Andruw Jones, Dodgers
Sheez, what happened to this man? If Andruw Jones‘s second half resembles his first half, he’s potentially heading for (ready for this?) the Worst Offensive Season in Baseball History. At this rate, he’d finish with a .172 average, .261 slugging percentage, five homers, 21 RBIs, 125 strikeouts and only 64 hits. And you shouldn’t be flabbergasted to learn that the all-time list of players who have had numbers that gruesome consists of, well, nobody. Heck, only three other players in history have even had twice as many strikeouts as hits (in a season of 100 or more whiffs): Rob Deer (175-80 in 1991), Dave Nicholson (126-60 in 1964) and Mark McGwire (118-56 in 2001). But at least those fellows made a few home run trots, or finished over the Mendoza Line.

Great! So we’ve already seen Jeff Kent try to be the worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years, now we’ve got a contender for Worst Offensive Season in Baseball History. Two terms you definitely want associated with two of your supposed power bats, right?

Things are looking pretty great right now. All-Star Break can’t come quickly enough.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Did Jeff Kent Already Retire?

From today’s LA Times:

You know what’s missing in this game, maybe in the last six or seven years?” Kent said. “People don’t question or challenge plays that are made in this game anymore. We allow umpires and we allow coaches and we allow players to do things and we just turn the other cheek. That didn’t happen when I played.

“When I played.” As in, the past tense? Just kidding, though – I really can’t bag on Kent anymore, as he’s been incredible lately. After putting up a brutal .203/.247/.304 with 2 HR in May, causing some (okay, me) to point out that he was on pace to be the worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years, he’s been resurgent in June: .273/.316/.833 with 3 HR already.

Speaking of Kent, I’m sure you’ve all seen this already, but I simply cannot refrain from posting what may be the single greatest picture of all time (via Sons of Steve Garvey):

 No words… should have sent… a poet.

Kent Martin

Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg