Happy Birthday, Vin

You know, a year ago at this time, we spent November 29 and 30 talking about Juan Uribe‘s new contract, checking into reported interest in Johnny Damon & Jason Varitek, realizing that Jon Garland‘s “durability” might not have been what it seemed, and celebrating that Ryan Theriot was headed out for Blake Hawksworth.

This year, we’re all but settled in for the winter with the realization that the budget is largely tapped, that there’s unlikely to be much movement at the winter meetings, and that until there’s progress on the ownership front, all we can do is warily keep an eye on the interminable court proceedings, though today’s Dodgers/FOX hearing was postponed until December 7.

My, how times have changed. Still, we have a few items of interest to attend to…

* Today is Vin Scully’s 84th birthday, which allows me the opportunity to post the same picture I’ve been using for about four years. We say each year that every season we still have with Vin is a gift, and never was that more true than in 2011, arguably the worst season in the franchise’s history. The fact that we’ll have him for at least one more year, and that he’ll outlast Frank McCourt, is an honor we should all be grateful for.

* As expected, Jonathan Broxton moved on to greener pastures today, though I can’t say I predicted him signing with the Royals. He’ll set up for Joakim Soria and join a Kansas City pen that could be fearful, considering they already had an enviable talent of young relievers like Greg Holland, Blake Wood, Louis Coleman, and Tim Collins, enabling them to move Aaron Crow to the rotation. If he’s healthy, it’s a great deal for the Royals, though of course if he does succeed all you’ll hear from the usual suspects will be ”well of course, there’s no pressure in Kansas City in the 8th inning.” Uh huh.

* You’ll notice I’ve added a tracker to the right sidebar collecting all of the minor-league invites the Dodgers hand out this offseason, and the newest addition is shortstop Luis Cruz, who will be 28 in March and has seen time in 56 MLB games across parts of three seasons from 2008-10 with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. He spent most of 2011 with Texas’ Triple-A club, though he did spend a month back in Mexico. With a .293 OBP in parts of 11 minor-league seasons, he’s organizational filler and little more, though he could see a decent amount of Triple-A playing time if Justin Sellers does indeed make the big club.

* Hey, it could be worse: San Francisco extended GM Brian Sabean’s contract through 2013 with a club option for 2014. That’ll give him plenty of time to give Nate McLouth a four-year deal after the Braves are done with him.

* Finally, do you care about hockey? Particularly college hockey? No, of course you don’t. Nor should you. That said, I did attend a game between my alma mater Boston U & Cornell over the weekend at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, and what you’ll see in the clip below was too fun not to share. Fortunately for the Terriers, this got waved off because the ref lost sight of the puck and whistled the play dead. 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOugWiCjqik]

MSTI’s 2011 in Review: Relievers, Part 2

Matt Guerrier (C)
4.07 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 6.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: despite all of the negative things we say about Matt Guerrier, he wasn’t bad. He pitched in 70 games, just like he always does. His xFIP was nearly exactly the same as it was in the previous few years, and his FIP was actually lower. While he walked more than he did as a Twin, he also struck out more, so on the whole you got a decent Guerrier year, and that’s not a terrible guy to have in the bullpen.

But that contract… good lord, that contract. As Eric Stephen wrote at TrueBlueLA, “among the 15 Dodgers to pitch in relief this season Guerrier ranked eighth in ERA (4.07), eighth in FIP (3.43), and 12th in xFIP (4.30).” For that, Guerrier was handsomely rewarded with a backloaded three-year, $12m contract, and, well, we went over all of this a few weeks ago:

As you can see, Guerrier ranks all over the place. He missed a surprising amount of bats for someone without that kind of reputation, which is nice, as was his decent placement in the advanced run metrics. Of course, being one of the worst at LOB% and the absolute worst at “meltdowns” (if you didn’t read the definition, it’s when a reliever makes his team at least 6% more likely to lose) isn’t exactly what you hoped for when spending the money.

And that’s really the entire point, isn’t it? Guerrier had his uses, and he’s deserving of a place in the Dodger bullpen – no one’s arguing that he needs to be dumped or shipped off immediately, that he was some sort of Juan Uribe in the relief corps. But as I continue to struggle with my 2012 plan (which I’m probably on iteration #76 of right now), the backloaded ~$4.7m for Guerrier sticks out, particularly when he’s likely no better than the 4th best reliever in the bullpen.

Considering how many relievers were as successful or moreso than Guerrier for less years, dollars, or both, it’s safe to say that this is one we should all wish we had back, perhaps even more so than we initally felt when he first signed it.

Still, it’s not Guerrier’s fault that he accepted the large contract that was offered to him, and he’s still got two more years left on it. If we can look past the dollar amount, he’s still useful, and for a bullpen that looks to be extremely young next year, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have a reliable, if not spectacular, veteran in the mix.

Blake Hawksworth (C+)
4.08 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 7.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9

I will say this until it can’t be said any longer: Blake Hawksworth derives value from simply not being Ryan Theriot, whom he was traded straight-up for back in November. Or do you not remember the sheer joy of “Ryan Theriot Traded for Living, Breathing, Human Being“?

Beyond that, Hawksworth seemed like an intriguing arm and potential spot starter, and since he was out of options it was all but assured he’d make the club. For the first month or so, he was reasonably useful, at least from a back-of-the-bullpen arm acquired for literally nothing: through May 10, he’d allowed a .651 OPS and six earned runs in 17 2/3 innings. On a team that was employing both Lance Cormier and Mike MacDougal at the time, that was valuable enough – until he injured his hip and missed nearly a month.

Returning in June, he was once again solid, allowing a .542 OPS and a 19/5 K/BB in 19 1/3 innings. Nothing stellar, of course, but certainly useful; this earned him a B in the midseason reviews, where I referred to him as “perfectly acceptable.” But from there, it was all downhill for Hawksworth, as he allowed 16 runs (12 earned) in his final 16 2/3 innings of the season, making many wonder if he was injured again – and culminating in his failure to cover first base (or, you know, get outs) in the September 28 soulcrusher in Arizona.

Still, he did top previous career highs in K/9 rate and BB/9 rate, and despite being out of options he’s still a pre-arbitration player. At essentially zero cost to the Dodgers, he provides value, so it’s more than likely that he’s got a job in the 2012 bullpen.

Jonathan Broxton (F…’d by Torre)
5.68 ERA, 5.63 FIP, 7.11 K/9, 6.39 BB/9

I think I said all I needed to about Broxton back in September, when it was announced that he wouldn’t be making a return in 2011 and I bid a likely adieu to his Dodger career:

If this is the end for Broxton, he’s going to walk away as one of the most successful and dominating relievers in Dodger history. Among Dodgers with as many career innings as he has, his 11.55 K/9 mark is by far the best, more than a full strikeout ahead of Eric Gagne‘s chemically-aided 10.38. His K/BB of 3.09 is fifth best, ahead of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Don Sutton, and he’s also on the top ten as far as the fewest hits per nine allowed.

From his debut on July 29, 2005 through June 26, 2010, Broxton was consistently excellent. In 349.2 innings over 341 games, he struck out a whopping 468 batters, allowing opponents to hit just .209/.285/.300 against him. For those afraid he’d wilt in the ninth inning, he actually got better once he was promoted to the closer’s job after Takashi Saito‘s injury in July of 2008; from then until June 26, 2010, he struck out 204 in 138 innings and held the opposition to a microscopic line of .185/.258/.242. For the better part of two years, Broxton was either the absolute best closer in baseball or something very close to it.

That was more about his Dodger career as a whole, so if we’re sticking to a 2011 recap… well what can you say. He was awful, clearly because he was pitching with a tattered elbow, which he finally underwent surgery on it in September. If anything, he helped prove once again that saves are a mockery by converting seven of eight, including five of the first eight games of the season, despite not being very good. Really, any sort of analysis of his performance this year is somewhat pointless. He was never healthy, and he was gone after the first month. Sad end for one of the better Dodger pitchers in recent years.

******

Next! Josh Lindblom finally makes his debut! Mike MacDougal, shiny happy veteran reliever! And Ramon Troncoso, punching bag! It’s relievers, part 3!

Farewell to the Misunderstood Jonathan Broxton


Not that anyone ever really expected otherwise, but the Dodgers officially declared Jonathan Broxton out for the season earlier this week, after four months of attempting to rehab a right elbow injury left him without enough time to make it back on the mound before the season ends. Broxton, the longest-tenured Dodger of the current crew by about six weeks over Hong-Chih Kuo, is a free agent after the season, and while he could conceivably return, his Dodger career is almost certainly over.

For many fans, that will be welcome news. Remember, Broxton is the guy who lacked enough heart, testicles, intestines, earlobes, eyelashes, kidneys, toes, ribs, and whatever other organs give you the ability to strike out major league hitters in the late innings. He’s the guy who ran screaming from Matt Stairs and the rest of the Phillies in the playoffs like he was a doomed actress in a B-level horror movie. He’s the wimp without the mental acuity to force the fielders behind him to catch the damn ball. He’s the pitcher whose frame was so large that his 2010 collapse could have only meant he didn’t pay enough attention to his conditioning, since he was obviously a 145-pound beanpole when he arrived in 2005. He’s the disappointment who blew nearly 30% of his career save chances, and I don’t want to hear your “logic” about how “he wasn’t a closer for most of his first three-plus years and was in position to only receive blown saves, not successful ones.” Jonathan Broxton: heartless, gutless, failure.

This is, of course, stupid.

If this is the end for Broxton, he’s going to walk away as one of the most successful and dominating relievers in Dodger history. Among Dodgers with as many career innings as he has, his 11.55 K/9 mark is by far the best, more than a full strikeout ahead of Eric Gagne‘s chemically-aided 10.38. His K/BB of 3.09 is fifth best, ahead of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Don Sutton, and he’s also on the top ten as far as the fewest hits per nine allowed.

From his debut on July 29, 2005 through June 26, 2010, Broxton was consistently excellent. In 349.2 innings over 341 games, he struck out a whopping 468 batters, allowing opponents to hit just .209/.285/.300 against him. For those afraid he’d wilt in the ninth inning, he actually got better once he was promoted to the closer’s job after Takashi Saito‘s injury in July of 2008; from then until June 26, 2010, he struck out 204 in 138 innings and held the opposition to a microscopic line of .185/.258/.242. For the better part of two years, Broxton was either the absolute best closer in baseball or something very close to it.

That’s not to say there weren’t trying times, of course. The go-ahead homer he served up to Matt Stairs in Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS was brutal, though the pain of that moment often obscures the fact that he had retired 15 of the previous 16 hitters he faced in that postseason and that he bounced back to finish the inning and the next one without any damage. Faced with the Phillies once again in Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS, he again was unable to hold the lead, though he had allowed just one earned run in 5.2 previous innings that postseason, and it was his only blown save of a postseason that had every single closer other than Mariano Rivera blow at least one. Tough losses to be sure; evidence of anything other than an excellent pitcher being something less than godly and perfect, no. Clearly, neither loss affected him too much, as he started 2010 better than ever, allowing just three earned runs with a 48/5 K/BB in the first 33 games of the year.

And then Joe Torre happened. It’s been over a year since Torre forced Broxton to throw 48 pitches in a loss to the Yankees while using him for the fourth time in five days, and it’s mind-blowing to me that there’s even the slightest doubt in anyone’s mind that the collapse of Broxton’s entire career was caused in that week.

Broxton, 7/29/05 – 6/26/10: .585 OPS against, 3.57 K/BB
Broxton, 6/27/10 – 5/3/11: .892 OPS against, 1.09 K/BB, 4 months on DL

Sure, Broxton’s got a busted body part, but it’s not his guts: it’s his arm, shredded by the usual Torre overuse. Or does the obvious downward spiral on his velocity chart not make it clear?

Even in the heat of the moment, we could see what Torre had done:

In the 9th, Broxton was brought on to pitch for the 4th time in 5th days, two of which were for more than one inning, despite the Dodgers having a four run lead. As Eric Stephen will happily tell you, “the last 3 [games were] with win expectancies of 95.5%, 98.8%, and 98.8%” when he entered. The point being, those are the kinds of situations in which you bring on your lesser relievers, at least to start. Even if you don’t trust them – as Torre clearly doesn’t, other than Hong-Chih Kuo – if they run into trouble, then sure, bring on the big man. And no, I’m not suggesting that Broxton should onlybe brought into save situations (which he hasn’t seen since June 9) but you have to measure his usage a little more carefully, especially in all of these non-vital situations.

So when the lead was pushed to four on Rafael Furcal‘s 8th inning double, that’s when you pick up the phone to the bullpen and say, “you’ve pitched enough lately, Jonathan, especially yesterday. Sit down and we’ll let the other guys pick you up, and only bring you in if there’s a disaster.”

But no, Torre brings in the clearly overworked Broxton, and we’re supposed to act surprised that one of the best teams in baseball fouled off pitch after pitch, dropped in hit after hit, and patiently drew walks. Broxton eventually tossed 48 pitches, topping his previous career high of 44 set on July 3, 2006.

If there’s any takeaway from this, it’s this: Broxton has thrown 99 pitches since June 23rd. By comparison, the Dodger starting rotation since then has these counts: Kershaw 101 (tonight 6/27), Kuroda 110 (6/26), Padilla 111 (6/25), Haeger 102 (6/24), Ely 97 (6/23). Because apparently, Broxton is a starting pitcher now.

Of course, that’s not how many saw it. “Gutless Broxton again,” you’d hear constantly. “Can’t do it on the big stage against the best teams,” went the refrain. Nevermind, of course, that Broxton had easily shut down the same Yankees for 1.1 innings the night before. Or that his previous outings had all come against some of the better teams in both leagues, including the Angels three times, the Red Sox, the Cardinals twice, the Braves twice, and in Colorado twice, and he hadn’t allowed an earned run in over a month. Broxton got the next four games off after this stretch, but he was never the same again – and thanks to Torre, he might never make it back. (Though, as friend of the blog Jay Jaffe reminded me, Broxton did himself no favors by concealing the extent of his elbow woes – and claiming this May that he “did not plan on being more forthcoming” in the future.)

I’m not sure where Broxton will end up – smart money is somewhere a lot closer to his wife and child in Georgia, if not for the Braves specifically – but it almost certainly won’t be back in Los Angeles. Here’s to the man who dominated for years despite all of his supposedly missing body parts.

2011 Midseason Grades: Pitching and Management

Thanks for all the feedback on yesterday’s hitting grades, and today we move on to pitching and management. Remember, the letter grades are just for fun, without a whole lot of thought or science behind them.

Starting Pitchers

Clayton Kershaw (A+) (9-4, 3.03 ERA, 2.45 FIP)
Is A+ even high enough? I’m not sure it is, though we certainly expected great things from him. Think about this: his HR/9 rate and H/9 rate are unchanged from last year, but he’s managed to do that while lowering his walk rate (again!) and increasing his strikeout rate. He’s leading the league in whiffs, and he has two shutouts among his three complete games. He’s 23. He’s lefty. He’s an All-Star.

Don’t let anyone tell you that he’s progressing towards being an ace, or one day he could be one of the best. Clayton Kershaw is, right now, one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball. The scary part? He could still get better.

Chad Billingsley (B) (8-7, 3.87 ERA, 3.41 FIP)
Over at Baseball Prospectus this morning, Geoff Young of DuckSnorts offers the opinion that Billingsley “should be a star, but isn’t”. And that’s true. 26-year-old Billingsley is walking more and striking out less than 23-year-old Billingsley did in 2008. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because he’s still a very valuable asset and the extension he signed over the winter was welcomed, but he’s also not going to be a Kershaw-level star like we’d once hoped he would be. Again, that’s not to get on Billingsley, it’s just seemingly who he’s going to be – a durable #2 or 3 type who will be consistently inconsistent (3 starts this year of at least 8 IP and 1 ER or less, 3 starts allowing 5 ER or more). That’s not a star, but it is a quality pitcher we should be happy to have.

Hiroki Kuroda (B) (6-10, 3.06 ERA, 3.73 FIP)
Only five pitchers have received less run support than Kuroda (shockingly, no other Dodger appears on the top 40 of that list), so let’s not pretend the poor win/loss record means absolutely anything at all. Conversely, the ERA is a little misleading as well, since he’s striking out fewer and walking more than he did in either 2009 or 2010, facts which are reflected in the higher FIP. Still, he’s been a solid member of this rotation… and probably the only Dodger with any real trade value at the deadline. I’ll be sorry to see him go, if he does.

Ted Lilly (D) (6-9, 4.79 ERA, 4.59 FIP)
Lilly hasn’t been awful (back, back, it’s gone!), but nor has he been (throw to second, and the runner is in!) in any way worthy of the $33m deal he received in the offseason. He’s (that ball is far, it is out of here!) striking out fewer than ever, and more (he’s going, and he swipes second without a throw) batted balls in front of a defense that isn’t great at converting them into outs isn’t (that ball is crushed into the second tier!) a good mix. Oh, and he’s 35 and has complained (Navarro’s throw to second, not in time, another steal!) of arm soreness already. Loving that three-year deal more than ever.

Rubby De La Rosa (A) (3-4, 3.74 ERA, 3.40 FIP)
Probably the most impressive of any of the rookies pushed ahead of their schedule this year, de la Rosa has shown immense talent while being forced to learn on-the-job. While his first few starts were dicey – good lord, the walks, and that one game that he nearly got bounced in the first inning was a heart-stopper – RDLR has shown marked improvement, even flirting with no-hitters in each of his last two outings. The talent is unquestioned, but the real concern now is limited his innings, since he’s quickly coming up on matching his previous high with more than two months remaining in the season. But if he’s limited and if someone like Kuroda is dealt… how do you finish out the season? John Ely? Dana Eveland? Yikes.

Jon Garland (D-) (1-5, 4.33 ERA, 4.59 FIP)
Hey, remember when Garland was signed largely because he’d never been on the disabled list before? If you do, then you probably also remember him saying he couldn’t get multi-year deals because other teams didn’t like the looks of his medical reports. Garland gets a lousy grade not because of his performance (ignore the 1-5, a 4.59 FIP is in line with his usual season), but because he sells his durability as a skill. Clearly, that’s one item he forgot to pack for his second (and likely final) tour with the Dodgers. At least that large 2012 option won’t kick in.

John Ely (inc.) (0-1, 6.23 ERA, 5.61 FIP)
Remember Ely-mania last year? Seems so far away, doesn’t it?

Relief pitchers

Jonathan Broxton (MRI) (1-2, 7 saves, 5.68 ERA, 5.56 FIP)
I have absolutely no idea how to grade Jonathan Broxton. Was he good this year? No, of course he wasn’t, and for many people that justifies their opinion that at around midseason 2010, he somehow lost his heart / mind / balls / toes / earlobes / whatever. The fact that he somehow managed to even close out seven games earlier this year is somewhat misleading, because he rarely did so smoothly; conversely, it’s difficult to blame him entirely for the big blown save in Florida because the Dodgers would have won if Jamey Carroll had merely fielded a simple ground ball.

I’d say the answer lies in the fact that he’s been on the disabled list for over two months due to a right elbow injury, with no estimated return date. We never saw the healthy Broxton this year, just as I felt we never saw a healthy Broxton in the second half of last year. The lesson, as always? Joe Torre cannot be trusted with relievers. You hate to say it about a guy who is only 27, but Torre may just have ruined Broxton’s career. Thanks for stopping by, Joe!

Hong-Chih Kuo (-) (0-0, 8.71 ERA, 4.12 FIP)
Take everything I said about Broxton above and multiply it by 100 for Kuo, because the anxiety issue he’s been fighting for years makes it impossible to really judge his on-field performance. Since returning, he’s at least managed to limit the walks (6/2 K/BB in 5.2 IP), though the results (five runs, four earned) haven’t all been there yet. The fact that he even returned as quickly as he did should count as a win.

Kenley Jansen (B+) (1-1, 4.40 ERA, 3.15 FIP)
I bet a lot of people will be surprised by this grade for Jansen. “But his ERA is 4.40, rabble rabble rabble!”, they’ll yell. That’s true, it is. That number is also heavily inflated by two poor outings – allowing 5 earned runs to Atlanta on April 19 in a game that the Dodgers were already losing in, and allowing 3 earned runs on May 23 in Houston, a game which preceded his stint on the DL with right shoulder inflammation by less than a week. Since returning from injury on June 18, he’s been nearly untouchable, striking out 13 while allowing just two singles in 9.2 innings. While the walks remain a problem, he’s actually striking out more per nine than he did in 2010, and you might remember that even last year’s rate was on the verge of being historic. The question for me is, why is he stuck in middle relief and garbage time rather than in higher leverage situations?

Matt Guerrier (C-) (3-3, 3.10 ERA, 4.44 FIP)
Boy, who would have thought that handing out an expensive multi-year deal to a non-elite middle reliever wouldn’t have worked out well? Besides everyone, that is. Guerrier actually hasn’t been that bad, but that’s sort of the point: players who get $12m over three years should be able to do better than “hasn’t been that bad”. Though he’s striking out slightly more than he did as a Twin, he’s allowing both more walks and hits than he did in either of the last two years, despite moving to the easier league. He’ll be 33 in less than a month. It’s not a good trend.

Mike MacDougal (C+) (0-1, 1.67 ERA, 3.74 FIP)
2003 All-Star MacDougal has done an excellent job of reviving his career after several years bouncing between the bigs and AAA. MacDougal, who made the 2003 All-Star team as a member of the Royals, has just a 1.74 ERA, emerging as a leader of the injury-plagued Dodger bullpen. The former All-Star has allowed only six earned runs to score, putting him in contention for 9th inning responsibilities. All-Star.

(I can’t do it. MacDougal has allowed approximately 982 of the 48 inherited runners he’s received* to score. For nearly the entire season, he’d walked as many as he’d struck out, before finally giving himself some distance in recent days. He’s not a good pitcher, but like Aaron Miles, we expected nothing, so the small contributions he’s made get him some minor credit. *note: numbers may be fabricated.)

Number of Ortizii: 0 (A++++)
Say what you will about this club, at least they’re not employing anyone named Ortiz who was last useful 6-8 years ago, much less multiple players like that.

Javy Guerra (B+) (1-0, 4 saves, 2.33 ERA, 4.01 FIP)
Guerra, like MacDougal all those years ago, is a perfect example of why we shouldn’t overrate saves. For a guy who walked 6.8/9 in the minors last year and was forced to the bigs simply because of injuries, he’s been fine. He’s keeping the ball in the yard, he’s cut down on the control issues, and he’s even managed to steal a few saves while serving as the last-ditch closer. As far as debuts go, his has been a successful one. Let’s just not go overboard in anointing him as the man in the 9th inning, because he hasn’t been that good – 13 K in 19.1 IP doesn’t thrill me – and in each of his last two saves, he loaded the bases before getting out of the jam. That’s not the kind of tightrope you can walk for very long.

Blake Hawksworth (B) (2-2, 3.00 WHIP, 4.12 FIP)
“Isn’t Ryan Theriot“, and that alone gets him a boost. Actually, I joke, but it’s sort of true: when healthy, Hawksworth has been a perfectly acceptable and average reliever, doing a decent job of keeping runners off the bases (WHIP of 1.000), and striking out more than double as he’s walked. Considering that Theriot is doing his usual “I’m not a very good baseball player, but I am short and white, and that counts for something, right?” routine in St. Louis, even just getting that moderate level of contribution in exchange is a big win.

Scott Elbert (B-) (0-1, 5.25 ERA, 2.54 FIP)
I know there’s been a lot of turnover in the bullpen this year, but Elbert is one of those guys where I constantly have to check if he’s still on the team or down in ABQ. I suppose that’s partically because he’s pitched just twice in the last two weeks, and partially because he’s rarely in for more than 2-3 batters at a time. As for his performance, he’s a bit of an oddity in that you’d expect a power lefty to be hell on lefty hitters, but he’s actually rocking a reverse split: lefties (.701 OPS) are actually doing more damage than righties (.561 OPS) against him. Overall, I guess you can say he’s been “acceptable”, in that he’s finally gained a foothold in the majors, but hasn’t exactly made us think he’s going to be a difference maker.

Then again, considering his mysterious disappearance at this time last year, even that is a massive step forward.

Ramon Troncoso (D) (0-0, 6.23 ERA, 4.92 FIP)
I know it’s popular to blame Torre for Troncoso’s downturn as well, and maybe that’s part of it, but I do remember writing a post last year that outlined how he had larger issues than overuse. Whatever it is, he’s barely a major league quality pitcher right now… which probably explains why he’s not in the major leagues. That’s what’ll happen when you aren’t striking anyone out and giving up an absurd amount of hits, though I’ll allow that since he was never a strikeout guy, pitching in front of a defense that does no favors probably doesn’t help.

Ronald Belisario (MIA)
Ha, no. There’s about as good of a chance that he pitches for the Dodgers again as there is that you’ll see Orel Hershiser or Don Drysdale out there.

Josh Lindblom (B+) (0-0, 1.69 ERA, 3.43 FIP)
Nearly two years after we first thought we might see him, Lindblom finally got the call this year, and so far, so good. It’s hard to make judgements based on just eight games, but he’s yet to allow more than one earned run in an appearance, and for now, that’s good enough.

Lance Cormier (dFa) (0-1, 9.88 ERA, 6.84 FIP)
I’m still convinced the only reason Cormier wasn’t DFA’d a week or two earlier than he eventually was (on May 24, when Rubby De La Rosa came up) is because he had a charity event for tornado victims set up at the stadium on May 15, and it would have been poor form to cut a guy just before or after that. I also like that we can say “nah, he wasn’t as bad as his ERA, look at his FIP” and while that’s true, even his FIP says he was awful.

Vicente Padilla (inc.) (0-0, 4.15 ERA, 2.61 FIP)
I sure do feel like we’ve talked about Padilla a lot this year for a guy who piched just 8.2 innings. First he was signed to a somewhat confusing 6th starter/longman/Broxton insurance role, in a move for depth I actually really liked. Then he required surgery for a forearm injury in the spring, preventing him from taking Garland’s rotation spot to start the year. He returned exceptionally quickly from that, taking over for the injured Broxton to nab three saves of varying quality in late April and early May, leading many to proclaim him the next big thing… until he returned to the DL with a recurrence of the arm injury. But the fun doesn’t stop there, because he was supposedly hours away from being activated in June before a neck injury flared up, leading to more surgery and probably the end of his season. Got all that? Phew.

Management

Don Mattingly (B+)
It may sound odd to praise a rookie manager when we weren’t fans of his hiring in the first place and when the club he’s leading is on pace for its worst finish in decades, but I don’t see how you pin much of this mess on Mattingly. He’s proven himself to be far more than a Joe Torre clone, in particular showing a nice willingness to be creative with his bullpen. It hasn’t been perfect, as some of his Navarro-related pinch-hitting escapades still burn, and he likes bunting more than I’d prefer, but he was handed a subpar roster that had its infield and bullpen totally destroyed by injuries, all as fans stayed away thanks to the off-field mess. It would be an impossible situation for any manager, and though the final record won’t be good, Mattingly has been a pleasant surprise, managing to keep the team playing hard through it all. Let’s just hope he doesn’t end up shouldering more of the blame than is needed when all is said and done.

Davey Mutha-F’ing-Lopes (A+^100)
I don’t usually grade the base coaches. Matt Kemp doesn’t usually lead the league in WAR. There you go.

Ned Colletti (F+)
Let’s quickly review all of the contracts handed out last winter by Colletti that were for at least $1m, shall we? Uribe, massive bust. Lilly, missing fewer bats than ever. Guerrier, adequate but overpaid and having one of the lesser years of his career. Garland and Padilla, both injured multiple times and likely out for the year. Barajas, crappier than usual and hurt. Thames, ineffective and injured. Navarro, hitting .183. To be fair, Kuroda has been very good, but it’s hard to say that without caveating that he clearly took a huge paycut to stay in LA.

There’s been a few positives – signing Billingsley was great, the no-risk NRI of Miles worked out, and trading Ryan Theriot for Hawksworth was a good move if you try to forget that it was necessitated by acquiring Theriot in the first place – and you want to be sensitive to the fact that the ownership mess has really put him in a bad position. But overall? Not good, Ned. Not good.

******

Tomorrow, the final review of the series: me.

Dodgers Provide Some Relief With Historic Beating of Twins

The Dodger players and staff claim that all of the off-field garbage hasn’t affected them or their play on the field. Perhaps that’s true, and perhaps it’s not. Still, in light of all that’s happened today, it’s hard to not look at tonight’s 15-0 demolition of the Twins as more than your garden-variety beating.

Oh, sure, the numbers tonight were prolific, and you could go on for hours just reciting them. Trent Oeltjen, Matt Kemp, and Tony Gwynn – aka your starting outfield, with Andre Ethier at DH – all put up four-hit nights, with Oeltjen coming up a double short of the cycle. Other than Ethier, every starter had multiple hits. (Update: following the game, the official scored changed an error to a hit for Ethier, giving him two and the team 25.) Kemp’s 22nd homer puts him into the NL lead, one behind Mark Teixeria and Jose Bautista for tops in MLB. The 15 run margin of victory is the largest since beating Arizona 19-1 back in 2002, and Eric Stephen adds that this is just the third shutout with at least 15 runs scored since 1919. The 24 hits were the most since putting up 25 against the Angels in 2006, and are tied for the 6th most in club history. ESPNLA’s Tony Jackson points out that it’s just the second Dodger win in Minnesota ever, with the first being Sandy Koufax’ 2-0 Game 7 shutout to clinch the 1965 World Series. You can’t gloss over the pitching either, because after Chad Billingsley allowed just just four hits over six scoreless, Blake Hawksworth, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Scott Elbert combined to strike out seven of the nine they retired over three innings.

And then there’s this, courtesy of the official Dodger Twitter feed:

For the first time in LA Dodgers history, every player in the lineup has at least one hit, one run and one RBI.

All of that – all of it, plus any fun stat I neglected to mention – is great. It’s fun. It’s needed. It’s also a pretty nice way to take focus away from the issues of the criminal ownership, if even for just a night. We’ll have far more than we can handle tomorrow with the initial bankruptcy hearing, so for tonight, let’s enjoy the small victories where we can.

******

Speaking of baseball news… Jonathan Broxton‘s rehab has been shut down and he’s headed for an MRI after reporting more soreness in his right elbow.