Late Dodger Comeback Falls Short as Andre Ethier Story Dominates the Day


Last week
, I praised the solid performance of rookie Nathan Eovaldi, while in the same breath pointing out that his low strikeout rate and unsustainably low BABIP meant that regression was likely coming. We didn’t have to wait long to see it: payback from the BABIP gods came in the first inning today, as the balls that had previously found their way into gloves for Eovaldi instead found open grass amid some questionable outfield defense, allowing Colorado to put up five before the Dodgers even came to bat.

To Eovaldi’s credit, he did manage to retire nine of the next eleven before being lifted after four, but the damage was done; despite the Dodgers scoring single runs in the first and third on hits by Justin Sellers and James Loney – yes, him again – the margin returned to five as the Rockies plated two more against Blake Hawksworth in the fifth inning, even as Los Angeles chased noted Dodger-killer Jhoulys Chacin with eleven baserunners in five innings. The Dodgers scored two in the seventh despite not having a hit (Chacin walked the bases loaded, followed by Eugenio Velez hitting into a fielder’s choice – that’s an RBI, not a hit – and Tony Gwynn adding a sacrifice fly. Two more scored in the eighth on hits by Aaron Miles and Trent Oeltjen, setting the stage for a nearly identical situation as Saturday: Colorado closer Rafael Betancourt looking to protect a one-run lead against Miles, Loney, and Kemp. (The batting order was slightly different, but each game had the same three hitters).

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, neither Kemp nor Loney could recreate their Saturday heroics – and as much fun as it might have been to see Loney tie the game on another homer, I’m not sure I could have lived in the world that would have ensued, where black is white, north is east, and up is west – and Miles flew out to left to end the game, ending the Dodger five game winning streak.

The big story, of course, is the fallout from T.J. Simers’ story about Andre Ethier‘s knee. Ethier was not in the lineup today, having met with team doctors for a further examination, and Don Mattingly had some choice quotes for Tony Jackson of ESPNLA:

“I got kind of blindsided by that (column),” Mattingly said. “To me, the way I read it was that Dre has been telling us he couldn’t play and we said play anyway. That definitely isn’t the case. For me, that is taking a shot at my integrity. Not just mine, but the organization, the training staff and Ned.

“His knee has been banged up, there is no denying that. But with that, we check with him. ‘Are you OK today?’ There have been times when I will get him in the weight room after a game and say, ‘I’m giving you the day off tomorrow,’ and then he’ll come into my office and say he wants to (play).”

Ned Colletti didn’t take the story well, either:

“I talked to Andre three weeks ago, one on one,” Colletti said. “We talked about the season, talked about the future and talked about the team. (The knee) wasn’t a topic.”

Colletti said he then received a call from Ethier’s agent, Nez Balelo, while the Dodgers were in Milwaukee two weeks ago informing him that Ethier was experiencing knee problems, that he might need a minor surgical procedure at some point to correct them and that they were affecting his offensive performance, which has been disappointing this season, especially since the All-Star break. “I said, ‘Can he play?”’ Colletti said. “(The answer was) yeah. I had a conversation with Nez again before the game (Saturday). We talked about a lot of different topics related to Andre and related to the knee. My impression was that it was something that would have to be looked at, but it wasn’t something that had to be taken care of right now.”

As we’d thought, the Dodgers were not simply shaking off the truth and forcing Ethier to play; in addition to the firestorm that’d bring from the player’s union, it also makes no sense at all. What’s most interesting, as noted by Vin Scully during the game and printed by Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times, is that Ethier never claimed that Simers misquoted him, (which may be a first for Simers), just that the story didn’t come out the way he’d wanted it to. It’s also worth noting that his knee is apparently such a problem that he considered surgery last winter, has felt “cracking and crunching” in the knee just when walking, and required three injections of synthetic fluid in the knee a few weeks ago. All of which seems to suggest that not only is the knee largely responsible for his lousy season, it’s something that isn’t going to get better unless he goes under the knife – and if that’s the case, I’m wondering what the point is in delaying it until after the season while trying to continue to play and potentially making it worse.

******

Remember John Lindsey, last year’s heartwarming story? 2011 hasn’t gone quite as well, as he’s missed nearly two months with a variety of leg injuries and is all but certainly not going to receive a call-up next week. At 35 in January and with that big-league callup under his belt, you might think he’d be ready to move on, but Christopher Jackson of the Albuquerque Baseball Examiner shares with us that Lindsey has other ideas:

Lindsey has been limited to serving as a designated hitter, moving slowly and carefully out of the batting box any time he does connect with the baseball. Sometimes fans who are clearly unaware of his physical condition have given him an earful from the stands.

“It’s funny, I hear it but I don’t,” Lindsey said. “My teammates come in and tell me, ‘Hey, have they been to a game this year? Don’t they know you’re hanging on there by a thread?’ (But) it doesn’t affect me.”

Lindsey said he will return to his home in Hattiesburg, Miss., to rest and rehab his leg with the hope of being healthy enough to play in a winter league in Latin America later in the offseason.

“I’m just trying to stay positive, going into this offseason, working with the trainer and hoping I can erase father time a little bit,” Lindsey said. “It’s kind of strange how this hit me all of a sudden this year. But I feel if I can get myself in good shape, go to winter ball and show teams that I can play, then hopefully next season I can get another job and do what I can do.”

Opening Day


At Baseball Prospectus this morning, my weekly fantasy article about relief pitchers went live, and I noted the beginning of the season thusly:

It’s Opening Day! Or, as I like to think of it, “the equivalent of Christmas plus your birthday multiplied by ten Super Bowls”–not to overstate it, of course. It really ought to be a national holiday, no?

That’s the toned-down version, because in reality, it’s more like “Christmas plus your birthday multiplied by ten Super Bowls but if the Super Bowl teams were comprised of puppies that paid out rare coins and had the answers to all of history’s greatest mysteries.” Not enough? Throw in some zombie strippers wielding chainsaws then, too. Whatever fantastic situation you can come up with, that’s how great Opening Day is to baseball fans. After a long winter that started with wondering who would fill 3/5 of the rotation but quickly turned into hand-wringing over the offense and left field in particular, we finally get to see the results on the field. It’s the day we’ve been waiting for for months.

Here’s the lineup you’re likely to see today:

1. Rafael Furcal SS
2. Tony Gwynn, Jr. LF
3. Andre Ethier RF
4. Matt Kemp CF
5. James Loney 1B
6. Juan Uribe 3B
7. Rod Barajas C
8. Jamey Carroll 2B
9. Clayton Kershaw P

In addition, the final roster has now been set, and as I’d hoped, A.J. Ellis did make the squad, sparing us the worry of having Hector Gimenez being the only backup catcher to Barajas. Non-roster players Aaron Miles, Mike MacDougal, and Lance Cormier all made the club, requiring two 40-man moves. John Lindsey was DFA’d, which we’d widely expected, but so was Jon Link, which came as something of a surprise. Lindsey’s almost certain to pass through waivers and report to Albuquerque, but I’m not as sure that Link makes it through – particularly because I’m not all that convinced that either Cormier or MacDougal are better than he is.

Finally, also at BP, I took part in pre-season predictions. While I did pick the Dodgers third in the NL West, I was also one of the few who took Kershaw as the NL Cy Young winner. We didn’t go into wins, but I believe I’ve said before that this is a club that’s built for 85 wins, and one you could just easily see winning 80 or less as you could 90 for more.

Is that a championship team? Probably not. But that is a team that looks to be in contention all year, and that alone makes for a fun season. Can’t wait – let’s get to it.

Matt Kemp Is Going to Destroy Worlds

I’ve been relentlessly down on James Loney for a while now*, just like I was on Russell Martin. I’ve said that Casey Blake is cooked, Mike MacDougal isn’t to be counted on, left field is a mess, and Andre Ethier can’t hit lefties. I’m occasionally accused of being too negative, and while that might be true, there’s a lot to worry about regarding the 2011 Dodgers.

(*Regarding Loney, I’d like to note here that I’m in an NL-only draft with several of my Baseball Prospectus cohorts, in a league which requires full 40-man rosters. As you can imagine, the pickings in the lower rounds of this draft are beyond slim. We’re in the 35th round, so over 400 players are off the board. Loney remains available.)

All that being said, I do want to take this opportunity to reiterate something optimistic that I’ve been saying all winter: Matt Kemp is going to have a monster year.

This all goes back to last October, where I argued that while 2010 was definitely disappointing, particularly on defense and on the bases, as far as “disaster” years go, you can certainly do worse than a 107 OPS+ and a career-high 28 homers. That’s not excusing him, but it’s just recognizing that he wasn’t exactly Andruw Jones circa 2008, either. Remember, this is what I said about him on the final day of the season, October 3:

His clashes with the current coaching staff have been well-documented – though he seems to have a good relationship with Don Mattingly – and if there’s anyone who looks to benefit from the post-Torre era, it might just be Kemp, my early choice for the “No, Chad Billingsley’s career wasn’t dead after one bad year either, now was it?” award next year.

My positive feelings about him continued in his 2010 season in review piece later that month, where I noted that he had not only taken responsibility for his subpar year, he’d ended the season on a five-homers-in-five-games tear while ridding himself of the distractions that had derailed his season – Joe Torre, Larry Bowa, Bob Schaefer, and even Rhianna, if you believe in that sort of thing. (Rob Neyer had a great look at the shortcomings of the 2010 coaching staff, too.) Again, Kemp is not to be excused for being unable to work through all that, but nor should it be ignored that from all indications, he wasn’t getting a lot of support internally either.

My optimism increased when we learned more about how Mattingly was relating to the younger players, and particularly when his staff was finalized and it included both Tim Wallach and Davey Lopes, who’s renowned as one of – if not the best – baserunning coaches in baseball and who has seemingly made it his mission to turn Kemp around.

I bring this up today not just because Kemp has hit five homers with a .320 batting average this spring, though those are both great signs. It’s also because of Dylan Hernandez’ story on Kemp’s relationship with Lopes from today’s Los Angeles Times, which is full of Kemp and Lopes saying exactly the right things, with some real physical changes to back them up.

On Kemp’s improved relationship with Lopes as opposed to Bowa & Schaefer:

He says Lopes will help him steal more bases. The player who used to be extremely thin-skinned about his shortcomings sounds almost proud recalling how his new coach made him recognize the mistakes he used to make. He even goes out of his way to reveal that the dignified former Dodgers infielder has a sense of humor.

“We’re having fun and getting work done at the same time,” Kemp says.

Conversations with Kemp about coaches weren’t always like this. Asked last season about his coaches, Kemp often turned defensive. He said he had no problem with Bob Schaefer, the since-departed bench coach with whom he had an in-game blowup. He said the same about the also-exiled Larry Bowa, whom Stewart called out for making critical comments directed at his client.

But Kemp never said he liked Schaefer or Bowa, either.

On Lopes helping Kemp with his baserunning:

So, as soon as spring training opened, even while most position players were still at their off-season homes, Kemp and Lopes got to work on the back fields of the team’s Camelback Ranch training facility.

Standing near first base, Lopes asked Kemp to show him how he took leads and broke to second base, or how he retreated to first base on a pickoff attempt.

Lopes noticed something: wasted motion.

On Kemp being in shape…

Kemp, who lost 15 pounds while working out with professional sprinters over the winter, says he absorbed what Lopes taught him.

On Lopes improving Kemp’s defense:

Also in charge of preparing the Dodgers’ outfield, Lopes offered Kemp similar advice on playing defense.

Instead of leaning forward with hands on knees in center field, Lopes wants Kemp to stay a little more upright.

“When you set down and rise up, the ball’s already on you,” Lopes says.

I realize it’s spring, and that everyone has a nice, rosy outlook this time of the year. That’s fine, and it’ll take more than some spring dingers and saying the right things to prove Kemp right. But the signs are all there for a massive year – no one’s questioned his talent, but now he’s motivated to prove himself, with distractions gone and the right instruction in place.  

Matt Kemp is still just 26. The two-year contract he signed after 2009 is up this year. He’s got a lot to prove – and mark my words, he’s going to do it.

******

Depending on how the last week of camp shakes out, we might see as many as five spots on the 25-man roster given to players who most thought had no shot when players reported just a month ago: Aaron Miles, Hector Gimenez, Mike MacDougal, Tim Redding, and Ron Mahay. That means the team is going to have to come up with some 40-man roster spots, with the exception of Gimenez, who is already on. The roster currently sits at 39, since Ronald Belisario is on the restricted list.

Now while it’s possible all five make the squad, I doubt that’s really what’ll happen. Gimenez isn’t a lock, so his spot could open up, Mahay hasn’t been impressive, and they may choose to not keep Redding since Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla are each reportedly recovering quickly from injury. (Update: Dylan Hernandez reports that Gimenez replaced Dioner Navarro in today’s lineup, because Navarro felt something in his side while swinging today and is headed for an MRI.)

So rather than try to fit the pieces together, since there’s so much in flux, let’s look at the current 40-man and see who is most in jeopardy should more of these NRI’s make it than we think. There’s Xavier Paul, who we’ve talked about extensively, though I do think he’ll break camp on the team. There’s Jay Gibbons, whose spot may or may not really be in danger, despite my concerns. There’s even Jamie Hoffmann, who’s lost his spot before, though I think that’s unlikely.

Those outfielders are all possibilities, but I think it’s going to have to end up being old friend John Lindsey, who never really got going in camp thanks to a calf injury. There’s really no reason to keep him on the 40-man; he’s not going to make the team, and no one’s going to claim him. He’ll almost certainly be DFA’d, pass through, and end up back in Albuquerque.

Lindsey’s the obvious choice, but if more than one spot is needed, you might also look at 25-year-old Javy Guerra, a veteran of seven minor league seasons with the Dodgers. His 2.33 ERA in 28 AA games last year may look shiny, but the 7.3 BB/9 (and 5.3 career) don’t really back it up, nor does the 1.603 career WHIP. He suffered shoulder soreness last year and then had to deal with an infection caused by a cut while washing dishes this winter. Guerra reportedly has a plus fastball, and I’m sure the Dodgers would prefer to hold onto him, but at 25, he’s no longer a kid, and his struggles at AA could make him vulnerable if a spot is needed.

******

A quick heads-up from me: don’t expect much from me through the weekend. I’ll be headed to Florida to catch some spring games, in this case Astros @ Yankees on Friday, and Jays @ Phillies on Saturday. Before the inevitable response of “Florida’s not Arizona!”, don’t forget that I did go to Camelback last year.

On OBP, John Lindsey, and the Continuing Fallacies of Bill Plaschke

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the offseason moves of the Dodgers and how they seem to have no regard at all for on-base percentage, which we all know to be vital if you want to score runs. I joked on Twitter the other day that I might almost be ready to start a “Free Jamey Carroll!” campaign, if only to have someone in the lineup who can actually get on base, and today Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts takes a deeper look at that idea. (Warning: you may not want to click that link if you didn’t like the Juan Uribe signing and don’t want to see stats that suggest Carroll was more valuable than Uribe in 2010.)

I wondered just how much losing the OBP skills of Russell Martin and others would hurt now that they’ve been replaced by the low-OBP likes of Uribe and Rod Barajas, but wasn’t quite sure how to quantify it. Fortunately, baseball-reference had a similar question, in that they wondered how much the Red Sox offense would improve now that they’ve added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. They used the lineup generator at Baseball Musings to try and predict the estimated runs scored for the likely 2011 Sox lineup.

I’m going to do the same thing, by comparing what the generator said for the 2010 Dodger lineup as compared to the likely 2011 squad. To choose a starting 9, I went with the 8 players who had the most PA at their position in 2009, and put the top bench player – Carroll – in the pitcher’s spot.

2010:

A lineup of Furcal, Martin, Kemp, Manny, Ethier, Blake, Loney, DeWitt, & Carroll would be predicted to score 5.148 runs / game. (The “ideal” lineup, featuring such moves as Carroll leading off and Manny 2nd, would get you 5.266 runs / game.)

2011:

A lineup of Furcal, Uribe, Kemp, Either, Blake, Loney, Barajas, Gibbons, & Carroll would be predicted to score 4.965 runs / game. (The “ideal” lineup gets you to 5.069.)

It’s not an exact science, of course; the games do take place on the field and not in a database, and you certainly can’t expect every player to perform identically to how they did the year before. We’ve always known that if there’s not some bounceback from players like Kemp and Loney, the team’s in big trouble anyway. But there’s always the worry of Furcal breaking down, Blake continuing to regress, and the complete unknown of the left-field situation.

Long story short, it’s not a good trend.

******

Over at TrueBlueLA, Eric Stephen posts one of my favorite pictures ever, as you can see a color-coded, numerically-based roster board behind Juan Uribe at his introduction last week. Eric notes that we see J.D. Closser and Jon Huber listed as non-roster invites, which we didn’t know, but I also saw that John Lindsey is not listed under his #35. He’s still technically on the 40-man roster, but that’s about to be full, and his omission on the board almost certainly points to his departure. That doesn’t mean he can’t come back in the spring, of course, but any small bit of job security he may have had seems to be gone.

******

I hate, hate, hate to even acknowledge Bill Plaschke’s presence, but if he’s going to spout misinformation and stupidity, I suppose it’s my job to refute him.

Today, Billy’s complaining about how Los Angeles is apparently no longer a preferred baseball destination, because neither the Dodgers nor the Angels are going to land big-ticket free agents like Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee, or Jayson Werth. Nevermind that giving $130m+ contracts isn’t always the best way to build a team, nevermind that Werth would never have come back to the Dodgers after how his previous tenure ended, and nevermind that the Dodgers needed to build an entire starting rotation, not just an ace. Nevermind that the Dodgers don’t get marquee free agents because they’re constrained by the McCourt divorce, a fact which Plaschke conveniently neglects to mention until the very last sentence. Why let facts get in the way of a sob story?

Rather than do the entire article, lest my keyboard get covered with bile, I’m going to pick and choose some of the fun ones.

In what may be the saddest of possible words, we were also the place that somebody named Matt Diaz just rejected for some place called Pittsburgh.

Though that did seem odd at first, Diaz – who went to high school in Florida – said he made the choice because he wanted to stay in the East and spend his spring in Florida. Also, the Dodgers never made a formal offer. Kind of hard to argue that, no?

The last time the Dodgers signed a premier free agent, they made Kevin Brown baseball’s first $100-million man, but that was a dozen years and a million Kevin Malone jokes ago.

Well, there was the time they signed Manny Ramirez after 2008. He seemed pretty “premier” to me. Or when Rafael Furcal bolted Atlanta, then chose to stay when he hit free agency a second time. Or the $44m and $47m, respectively, they handed out to Juan Pierre and Jason Schmidt, and even though those were poor choices that didn’t work out, they still happened. Or when Derek Lowe, J.D. Drew, and Jeff Kent all came to town. None of those guys got paid, or contributed, right?

These days, they don’t even last as long as the Washington Nationals, whose $126-million contract for Jayson Werth borders on the clinically insane, but at least the Nationals are players.

Not that Werth was coming back, but if the Dodgers handed him $126m, you wouldn’t be praising them for spending. You’d be assailing them for being foolish, just like we’ve all said about the Nationals. Don’t deny it.

When is the last time someone really wanted to play baseball in Los Angeles?

Well, there was last winter, when Jamey Carroll turned down more years and dollars from Oakland to come to Los Angeles. Or when Jon Garland turned down the likelihood of more money with the Padres to come back to the Dodgers. Or when Hiroki Kuroda turned down the chance to test the market for a certain three-year deal for big dollars to come back to LA. Or when Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas repeatedly said they wanted to be Dodgers. Or when Furcal, Ted Lilly, and Casey Blake all re-signed with the team after reaching free agency, rather than going elsewhere. And that’s just the Dodgers, in the last year or two, not including the Angels, and off the top of my head. LA’s actually a pretty good draw for players, wouldn’t you say?

I realize attacking Plaschke is low-hanging fruit and all, but… he gets paid for this. And people read it.

MSTI’s 2010 in Review: First Base

Catcher’s in the books; let’s move on to first base. Fair warning, this gets way more negative than I’d intended. Sorry, James.

James Loney (D-)
.267/.329/.395 .723 10hr 1.1 WAR

Back in March, I made a bold proclamation. I said that James Loney was in line for a huge step forward in 2010, and I said that for three reasons. #1, he was just 25 and had already established himself as a league-average hitter, if still in the lower half of first basemen. #2, his improved plate control in 2009 (70/68 K/BB) was outstanding and is often the harbinger of improved production. And #3, he’d ended 2009 on a great hot streak, putting up an OPS of .846 from August 25 on. I didn’t think he was going to be the next Albert Pujols or anything, but all the signs were there for the great leap forward we’d all been waiting for. What could go wrong?

As we all know, Loney repaid that faith with the worst year of his career. Of course he did.

Really, Loney regressed in just about every way. His strikeout rate of 16.2% was the highest of his career, and his walk rate decreased nearly 3% from last year, helping his OBP plummet nearly 30 points from 2009. Even his homers were the lowest in his four full seasons, and considering he was already dangerously low in the power department, that’s a troubling sign.

All kidding aside, however, the power bar is set so high at 1B that Loney’s lack of power is getting to historically-low levels for the position. Over the last 30 years (1980-2010), there have been 205 seasons in which a 1B got as many PA as Loney (648), with at least 75% of those appearances coming while the player was a first baseman. Only 14 times out of 205 did the player have 10 or fewer homers:

Rk Player HR PA Year Age Tm G AB H 2B RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Daric Barton 10 686 2010 24 OAK 159 556 152 33 57 110 .273 .393 .405 .798
2 James Loney 10 648 2010 26 LAD 161 588 157 41 88 52 .267 .329 .395 .723
3 Keith Hernandez 10 682 1985 31 NYM 158 593 183 34 91 77 .309 .384 .430 .814
4 Mark Grace 9 689 1992 28 CHC 158 603 185 37 79 72 .307 .380 .430 .809
5 Mark Grace 9 662 1990 26 CHC 157 589 182 32 82 59 .309 .372 .413 .785
6 Willie Upshaw 9 661 1986 29 TOR 155 573 144 28 60 78 .251 .341 .368 .709
7 Mark Grace 8 703 1991 27 CHC 160 619 169 28 58 70 .273 .346 .373 .719
8 Steve Garvey 8 653 1984 35 SDP 161 617 175 27 86 24 .284 .307 .373 .680
9 Al Oliver 8 664 1983 36 MON 157 614 184 38 84 44 .300 .347 .410 .757
10 Darin Erstad 7 663 2005 31 LAA 153 609 166 33 66 47 .273 .325 .371 .696
11 Keith Hernandez 7 694 1982 28 STL 160 579 173 33 94 100 .299 .397 .413 .810
12 Mike Hargrove 4 705 1982 32 CLE 160 591 160 26 65 101 .271 .377 .338 .715
13 Pete Rose 3 718 1982 41 PHI 162 634 172 25 54 66 .271 .345 .338 .683
14 Pete Rose 1 735 1980 39 PHI 162 655 185 42 64 66 .282 .352 .354 .706
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/18/2010.

Looking at that list, you can see that many of the other power-starved 1B offered value in other ways. Barton, Hernandez, Grace, and Hargrove all had OBP north of .372. Garvey’s 1984 power outage was an aberration after ten years in a row of double-digit homers (and two more in 1985 and 1986); it was similar for Oliver, who’d had 13 years of 10+ homers and had hit 22 the year before. Pete Rose had an acceptable OBP and offered the value of “being Pete Rose“, and almost all of the names I’ve mentioned were outstanding glovesmen.

I’m trying not to get too doom-and-gloom, but the point here is that while many others on this list offered value either in that season or in the several seasons prior to somewhat absolve their powerless sins, Loney’s OBP was the third-worst of this group, ahead of only Garvey’s off-year and the Angels’ inexplicable obsession with Darin Erstad. It’s not exactly a list you want to be at the head of.

Unfortunately for Loney, this offseason represents the first real threat to his job. In the previous two years, you could look at the expected power from the Manny/Kemp/Ethier outfield, along with decent production from Casey Blake, and rationalize subpar output at 1B in hopes of seeing that potential pay off. You could say, “he could break out at any moment, and he’s barely making more than the minimum.”

But now? Now that Loney’s seemingly gone backwards, now that the the offense as a whole failed miserably this year, and now that he’s likely to get $4-$5m in arbitration? Now that he hit .211/.285/.331 in 73 games after the All-Star Break? Now that the only 1B he outproduced (by OPS+, min. 400 PA) were the untested Matt LaPorta, the broken-down Todd Helton, and the execrable Casey Kotchman, putting him 21st of 24th this year?

He’s 21st in WAR among 1B with more than 400 PA as well, which is the lowest 1/3 for the position, and again, while that may be fine when he’s making $800k, it’s not nearly as good when he’s making $4-5m. This is a position that features Pujols. Prince Fielder. Ryan Howard. Joey Votto. Miguel Cabrera. Adrian Gonzalez. Mark Teixeira. Kevin Youkilis. Adam Dunn. Paul Konerko. With so many other question marks on the offense and on the payroll, how can the Dodgers stand pat with one of the lesser lights in baseball at the position?

I like James Loney, and I think he’ll figure it out someday. I’m just no longer convinced it’s going to happen in Dodger blue, and his career mark of .854 OPS on the road against just .711 at Dodger Stadium bears that out. He won’t get non-tendered, nor should he; but I’d absolutely put him at the top of my “to-trade” list.

John Lindsey (inc.)
.083/.154/.083 0hr -0.2 WAR

In the catcher review, I mentioned that Rod Barajas joining his hometown team and getting off to a hot start set off a slew of feel-good stories. Take that and multiply it by about a billion for Lindsey, who practically had Ramona Shelburne as his personal biographer for a few weeks there.

Let’s not forget, though, that what really made this story completely unbelievable was not that Lindsey finally got the call after 16 years in the minors, but the ridiculousness that happened when he actually arrived. Like when he tried to get his first at-bat, and, well, you all remember…

Who’d have thought that after 16 years in the minors, three inches from the plate still wouldn’t be close enough?

I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it myself. After 16 seasons in the minors, John Lindsey was finally going to get his shot. He heard his name over the PA, strode to the plate to pinch-hit with men on and one out… and after a Padres pitching change, Joe Torre did the unthinkable and called him back to the dugout, so Andre Ethier could hit into the most predictable double play in the world.

He finally got his chance, but barely, because nearly two weeks later it was…

In the three weeks or so since being everyone’s feel-good story, John Lindsey has started just one game, and even then he made it only to the 7th inning before being pulled. He’s had just nine opportunities to hit. Meanwhile, Russ Mitchell started out 0-15 and has just 2 hits in 24 plate appearances (both homers, granted) and has received six starts, and even Trent Oeltjen has managed to pick up two starts despite a crowded outfield. Yet Lindsey’s barely gotten a chance.

Five days later, Lindsey took a pitch off his hand, breaking it and ending his season. He’d managed one hit in his 13 times up. Lindsey promises he’ll be back next season, though of course the Dodgers have no obligations towards him. Crushing lefties as he does, you could think of worse platoon partners for Loney, though I’m afraid to say I think we just might have seen the last of Mr. Lindsey. Of course, we should all know better than to count him out at this point.

******

Next! Ryan Theriot‘s unbelievable uselessness! Farewell, Blake DeWitt! Ronnie Belliard gets fired! And holy crap, Nick Green? It’s second base!