Off-Day Fun With Numbers

After a disappointing weekend sweep at the hands of the Angels, there’s nothing to look forward to today; the Dodgers are off as they fly to Cincinnati to take on the Reds for three games. So it’s a good time to distract ourselves with some interesting statistics, presented with little or no commentary.

Garret Anderson‘s OPS – that’s on-base plus slugging – of .452 is lower than Justin Morneau‘s .460 on-base percentage alone.

After making a career of destroying lefties (.928 career OPS, opposed to .782 vs righties), Matt Kemp is a completely different player this season, hitting better than ever against righties (.847) but flailing against southpaws (.643).

178 hitters have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. If Garret Anderson had enough to make that list, he’d be dead last by 65 points.

I don’t even need to link you to how many times we discussed James Loney‘s struggles to hit at Dodger Stadium last season, yet so far this year he’s enjoying being at home (.841) far more than the road (.704).

Russell Martin isn’t really doing any better than last season, but there’s also only nine catchers who have played enough to qualify for the batting title, and he’s fifth in OPS, highlighting the absolute dearth of quality catching.

716 players have stepped to the plate in the bigs this season. Of the 11 who have a lower VORP than Garret Anderson (that’s right, he’s 705th), 3 are not currently on active rosters (Brandon Wood, fake DL trip; Aramis Ramirez, fake DL trip; Kazuo Matsui, released) and 1 just lost his job (Casey Kotchman, benched). The others are either backup catchers (Gerald Laird, Wil Nieves), light-hitting good-fielding infielders (Cesar Izturis, Brendan Harris, Pedro Feliz), or in situations where the teams don’t have any other great alternatives (Jose Lopez, Feliz).  

Results of this winter’s White Sox trade: John Ely, 3.38 ERA in 9 starts with a 41/13 BB/K. Jon Link, 4.15 ERA in 4.1 innings. Juan Pierre, career-worst 59 OPS+ in 272 PA.

Andre Ethier, last calendar year: 145 games (135 starts), .295/.372/.556 (.929 OPS), 31 homers, 108 RBI.

Clayton Kershaw, last calendar year: 32 games (31 starts), 11-6, 184.2 IP, 2.34 ERA, 213/96 K/BB, .194/.301/.263 line against.

Jonathan Broxton, last calendar year: 74 games, 4-2, 37 saves, 6 blown, 74.1 IP, 2.42 ERA, 106/21 K/BB, .212/.269/.282 line against.

Ramon Ortiz, DFA’d weeks ago for incompetence, still has more innings pitched (30.0) than Broxton, arguably the most dominating pitcher on the staff (29.1).

Casey Blake, pre-beard: in 34 games, .233/.323/.397.

Casey Blake, post-beard: in 21 games, .297/.350/.514.

Carlos Santana, first three MLB games: three hits, one double, one homer, two walks and zero strikeouts – and is the only Pirate or Indian starter who didn’t strike out against Stephen Strasburg.

Maybe Charlie Haeger’s Really Hurt

We all made jokes when Charlie Haeger went on the DL right after getting zero outs in a start against the Rockies – going so far as to break out the Dr. Nick image – but it’s time to wonder if something is actually going on, since Dylan Hernandez is reporting that he’s headed back to the DL with a sprained big toe, with Jon Link replacing him.

Now, what’s glaring about this is that just yesterday I pointed out that George Sherrill would be returning from the DL tomorrow, “with no obvious candidate to go down.” If this was just a way to protect Haeger from being exposed to waivers rather than coming up with whatever injury sticks, then you’d think they’d wait until tomorrow to do so, right? So if this is really going to be Link up for just tonight’s game before being sent down tomorrow for Sherrill (assuming that’s the plan), then it’s unlikely they’d have made such a move unless Haeger was really too injured to pitch. Or at the very least, they want to make it appear he’s too injured to pitch.

Also of note: Russell Martin is not in tonight’s lineup, with Sunday hero A.J. Ellis getting another shot. As Eric Stephen from TrueBlueLA points out, its news when Martin gets one day off, much less two, so we’ll keep an ear out for a possible issue.

Update: Hernandez confirms Link is only up for tonight, and will go back down for Sherrill tomorrow.

Please Don’t Make Me Watch Josh Towers

In the aftermath of today’s extra-inning win over the Nationals (2 homers for Casey Blake! 2.2 scoreless for Carlos Monasterios!), Dylan Hernandez dropped some sobering news:

Vicente Padilla to the DL with a sore forearm; Jon Link being recalled.

So in the last 36 hours, the Dodgers have placed their most accomplished hitter and their Opening Day starter on the DL. Fantastic. But with usual spot starter Jeff Weaver on the DL himself, it also means the club doesn’t have any idea who is going to start in Padilla’s place on Tuesday in New York – a game which not only is going to be on ESPN, but which I will be in attendance for.

The only reliever on the roster who could concievably step in would be former starter Ramon Ortiz, but that’s not a possibility I’m even remotely prepared to accept. What’s far more likely is that Link is up for just the next two games, before being sent back to AAA once again in favor of that day’s starter. But who? Here’s the options from among the current Albuquerque rotation:

James McDonald. Hasn’t pitched since last Sunday, when he left after just one inning with a broken fingernail. He’s hardly been overwhelming when healthy – 4.97 ERA, 17 hits allowed in 12.2 innings.

Scott Elbert. Tonight’s scheduled starter, but missed the game to be with his wife as she gives birth. In addition, Elbert’s been lousy so far – in 14 innings over three games, he’s allowed 13 ER while walking 11 (though striking out 16).

Josh Lindblom. Scheduled to pitch on Sunday, but he’s been hit even harder than Elbert. Despite a nice 13/3 K/BB ratio, he’s allowed 24 hits in 14 innings, which helps explain that 5.79 ERA.

John Ely. Slotted to go on Monday, and he’s pitched well in his first season in AAA (and with the Dodgers), putting up a 3.00 ERA and a 12/8 K/BB ratio.

Josh Towers. Towers has the terrifying trifecta: Tuesday’s his regular turn, he’s off to a decent start (3 ER in 12 IP), and he’s a veteran over 30.

Interestingly enough, none of them have pitched since Friday. ABQ was rained out on Saturday, and 33-year-old Seth Etherton (6.30 ERA in 23 MLB games, none since 2006) started tonight’s game in place of Elbert.  None of Lindblom, Ely, or Towers are on the 40-man roster, but that’s not really a huge issue since Cory Wade or Brad Ausmus can still be moved to the 60-day DL.

Now, in any normal situation, I’d say that McDonald or Elbert would be the no-doubt choices here.  Yet the fact that each has missed time due to either personal or injury issues, plus the fact that neither’s been all that great anyway, means that this isn’t a normal situation. Lindblom’s been hit hard, and while Ely’s been good I just can’t see them making that move. So as much as I hate to think it, say it, or write it, I really think this situation has “Josh Towers” written all over it.

On the other hand, you could just send Tommy Lasorda to do a rain dance. By the looks of the clouds gathering outside my window, this could be a rainy couple of days in the city.

Thanks For Stopping By, Jon Link

After two scoreless innings in his debut last night, Jon Link is headed back to Albuquerque, with Ronald Belisario almost certainly being activated today to take his place. Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times sensibly asks why Link was sent down, yet Ramon Ortiz remains. Link, after all, is young and had a nice debut, while Ortiz is, well, Ramon Ortiz. Yet, I can actually see the logic here. This roster spot – Ortiz or Link - is almost certainly going to go away in the next 2-3 days once Hong-Chih Kuo comes back. If Link’s not available today after throwing two innings yesterday, why not keep the pitcher who can go today (even if it is Ramon Ortiz) while sending the kid back to the minors on a huge high? I get it. (Update: as Sam points out in the comments, Ortiz threw two innings yesterday as well. But who cares if you destroy his arm at this point?)

Fun fact, though: who’s more valuable to the pitching-starved, offense-crazy 2010 Dodgers today? Link’s two scoreless and hitless innings, or the man he was traded for, currently rocking a .192/.263/.192 line in Chicago? That trade looks like a bigger win every day.

In other news, the results of the Chad Billingsley poll from yesterday are in, and with 249 votes, “Let him pitch through it” was the winner, at 46%. “Send him to the minors” (which is sort of a trick question, because I don’t believe that’s doable without exposing him to waivers) came in a distant second, at 20%. This is, of course, the right answer. While you can’t keep running him out there forever, now is not the time to replace him. It’s only been three starts, and the first one was very good. Besides, who are you really replacing him with right now, James McDonald?

Billingsley may or may not turn it around this year. But with the way the rest of the rotation looks, the Dodgers almost certainly aren’t going anywhere unless he does, so denying him the chance to do so in mid-April is just hurting the team in the long run.

The Dodgers Must Have Hated Russ Ortiz More Than We Thought

First of all, let’s get right to the good news, on the official Dodger Twitter feed:

The Missing Link?…RHP Jon Link in the big leagues for the first time, joins #Dodgers. Russ Ortiz designated.

Hurrah! He’s gone! And thus ends the short and painful era of having the worst pitcher in baseball wearing Dodger blue. Shockingly, a mildly productive spring against inconsistent opponents didn’t mean more than six solid years of being horrible. Who’d have thunk? It’s just surprising that it took this long to happen, is all. Ortiz ends his Dodgers career with a line of 0-1, 10.29 ERA, 2.143 WHIP thanks to allowing 12.9 hits/9 and 6.4 BB/9, along with a trail of Dodger tears, and one surely hilarious entry in our season review series this fall.

I’ll have to come up with a new thing for the Ortiz DFA-o-Meter, so for now, this quick update to the right will have to do. So long, old man!

Now, I hate to throw even the slighest bit of questioning into this otherwise joyous occasion, but I have to wonder about why it is that Jon Link is coming up. It’s not that I have anything against Link, who will be making his major league debut; if anything, I was intrigued by his strikeout stuff and the fact that Baseball America named him as having the best slider in the White Sox system last year. He’s got a shot to be a decent middle reliever, if he can get over some control issues, so I’m happy to see him get a shot. (Juan Pierre, who Link was traded for along with Jon Ely, is hitting .186 for Chicago, by the way. Haaaaaaah.)

What I don’t understand, however, is the timing. Just an hour ago, Eric Stephen reported that Hong-Chih Kuo would throw today in San Bernardino, and if he felt okay, would probably get activated for the road trip. So if that’s the case, why bother bringing Link up now, as opposed to just doing a straight exchange of Kuo-for-Ortiz tomorrow? Maybe, as the title says, the club just couldn’t stand to see Ortiz in Dodger blue even one second longer – which I can completely sympathize with. It just seems to odd to bring Link up just for today’s game and then send him back down – and yes, my fondest dream is that Kuo then replaces Ramon Ortiz tomorrow, but I could never really hold out hope that we could lose both of these guys in just 24 hours.

Besides, Link hasn’t exactly been lighting it up as Albuquerque’s closer, as he’s got a 6.23 ERA and 2.308 WHIP next to his name (granted, in just 4.1 innings). By contrast, Luis Ayala’s allowed just 3 baserunners in his 4.1 innings, and Justin Miller’s allowed just 2 runs over 7 innings. So I’m not entirely sure what the reasoning is behind elevating Link over those guys

But then again, that’s not really the point, is it? At long last, half of the Ortiz blight across Dodger land has been lifted. It’s a good day to be a Dodger fan.