Today’s Treat: My Face on Video

This morning, SNY was kind enough to invite me to walk across the street and speak with Ted Berg on The Baseball Show, previewing the Dodgers / Mets series starting tonight. As usual, I spoke entirely too fast, and my name wasn’t pronounced quite correctly, but on the whole I think it went pretty well, and I hope to do it again. Good times.

(Having trouble embedding the actual video here, so this will link you over to the MetsBlog.com version of it).

Of course, the real news today is that Jonathan Broxton was indeed placed on the disabled list due to his elbow concerns, causing both Kenley Jansen to be recalled and my comment in the video that Broxton might be available this weekend to be immediately invalidated. Broxton to the DL was expected, but uncertain, after his MRI reportedly found no structural damage. Still, it didn’t come back 100% clean either – elbow bruise and bone spurs – but after a lifetime of throwing 90 MPH heat, you could find something in even the heathiest pitcher’s arm. So we’ll wait to see what’s really going on there, but at the very least, this gives him a chance to get out of the spotlight and recuperate. In the short term, it’s hard to argue that Jansen isn’t an upgrade over Broxton, even if Jansen’s one minor league appearance (three earned runs in one inning) didn’t go that smoothly.

I’m headed off to the game shortly. You’ll recognize me as the only person in the stadium who cares enough to yell at Aaron Miles.

Dodgers Suffer Four Losses In One Day

Yes, the Dodgers lost 5-1 to the Cubs today in what was basically an absolute snoozefest of a day game. That’s not too much of a surprise, because this was a getaway day lineup that featured Aaron Miles, Russ Mitchell, Dioner Navarro, Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn, and half of Juan Uribe. Ted Lilly gave up three homers – and the man always gives up homers, as this was the 40th time in his career he allowed more than one in a game – and the offense was predictably punchless, getting just six hits. (Two of which came off the bat of Miles, who’s now hitting a respectable .260 but continues to be the definition of an “empty” average.) If there’s any bright side, it’s that the embattled bullpen managed to get through the final third of the game without allowing any further damage in their low-pressure innings; Hong-Chih Kuo, Mike MacDougal, and Vicente Padilla all contributed one scoreless inning.

But no one really cares about the AAA squad dropping a day game the day before a day off, right? Of course not. Everyone’s going to be talking about the other three losses the Dodgers suffered today:

Early this afternoon, Jonathan Broxton was shut down with elbow pain. As I joked on Twitter, it’s a very odd feeling to hope that your All-Star closer has a shredded elbow. We’ve all noted before that finding something physically wrong would actually be a very good thing, as it would at least allow

Just before the game, and after he was included in the originally announced lineup, Andre Ethier was removed with – you guessed it – elbow pain. By all indications, this isn’t serious, and if it’s bothering him it’s great to allow him two consecutive days off, paired with tomorrow’s off-day. But by removing Ethier and including Gwynn in his place, it really underscored the well-known issue that this is a team that revolves around Ethier and Matt Kemp. Half of the time, it’s not even enough to have them both in an producing while the rest of the team flounders. Without one in the lineup, the offense seems doomed before the first pitch.

But that wasn’t all – in the fourth inning, Juan Uribe was hit in the hand by a pitch. He stayed in the game for another inning, but then left in favor of Jamey Carroll, who originally had the day off. That’s the third injury for Uribe in just over a month, and his absense left an infield better seen on Arizona fields in March. No word yet on his severity.

Tomorrow’s an off day, but I’ve got something interesting to share with you. Be here.

Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley Are Regressing (Updated)

One year ago today, Clayton Kershaw turned in the worst start of his young career, allowing seven earned runs while lasting only 1.1 innings against the Brewers. After a string of good starts to start the season (not allowing more than 3 ER in any, though with an admittedly troubling walk rate), the Milwaukee debacle alone pushed his ERA from 3.07 to 4.99, showing just how unreliable such stats can be early in the season. As I said at the time, I felt any worry was much ado about nothing, based on Kershaw’s history – at 21 in 2009, he’d compiled 4.2 bWAR, right in between C.C. Sabathia and Josh Beckett. Even the best starters have a rough game from time to time, and the decimated state of the Dodger rotation (at the time featuring Charlie Haeger, Carlos Monasterios, and a pre-mania John Ely) contributed more to the panic over Kershaw’s bad start than anything.

At the same time, Chad Billingsley was doing his best to shake off the worry over the poor end to his 2009 season. He gave up six earned runs in his second start and didn’t make it out of the fourth in his third, leading me to jokingly ask what to do with him, though his next two starts were much better, going six innings with two earned runs each time. (See “And That’s Why You Stick With Chad Billingsley” to relive it all.) There was absolutely concern after the second half of 2009, though he’d ended that year with two promising starts, and his 2007-09 added up to the 35th most pitching bWAR, even despite the lousy conclusion to 2009.

Meanwhile in St. Louis, 32-year-old Brad Penny was off to a surprisingly decent start, this after getting cut loose by the Dodgers after an awful and injury-plagued 2008 and getting released by the Red Sox in August of 2009. Having pitched three of his five games against the noted offensive powerhouses of Houston, Arizona, and San Francisco, Penny’s ERA was a sparkling 1.56, a number which everyone knew couldn’t last as he’d struck out just 18 in 34.2 innings. It didn’t; Penny allowed 14 earned runs over 21 innings in just four more starts before missing the remainder of the season due to injury. The ERA which had looked so good weeks earlier ended up being 6.11.

This is where we stood one year ago today, on May 4, 2010, when Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Heyman dropped a tweet which will surely haunt him forever:

kershaw may be regressing faster than billingsley. not sure. close competition. #howcanbradpennybebetterthanboth?

At the time, it seemed comical. A national baseball writer for a respected publication was claiming that two former first round picks, each in their early-to-mid twenties with a track record of success, were each worse than an overweight 32-year-old on his fourth team in three years? I’ll admit that we all had some worries about Billingsley, though I was confident he’d work through them – he has – but to question Kershaw at the time based on one lousy start was crazy. It’s now gone from comical to ludicrous, if you look at what the threesome have done since then.

Clayton Kershaw, May 5, 2010 – May 5, 2011
GS: 33  IP: 219.0  Line against: .216/.282/.317  K/9: 9.9  BB/9: 3.3  K/BB: 3.1

Chad Billingsley, May 5, 2010 – May 5, 2011
GS: 32  IP: 201.0  Line against: .234/.306/.332  K/9: 9.1  BB/9: 3.5  K/BB: 2.6

Brad Penny, May 5, 2010 – May 5, 2011
GS: 11  IP: 62.1  Line against: .286/.344/.457  K/9: 6.0  BB/9: 2.9  K/BB: 2.0

Yeah, I think I’m pretty okay with the regressing Kershaw and Billingsley, wouldn’t you say?

******

No, I’m not ignoring another Jonathan Broxton breakdown last night. (To be honest, I only saw the first four innings of the game.) But from what I’m reading, this only seems to validate the point I’ve been making all along: whether he’s willing to admit it or not, there’s something physically wrong with him, particularly if he really was only throwing 89-93 last night. Whether that’s an arm injury, bad mechanics, or poor conditioning (a point I’ll entertain while reminding that he’s always been a large guy), I can’t say. But it does point to a real, tangible issue, not the assaults on his manhood or emotional state some amateur psychiatrists like to call out. That’s really the only point I’ve ever tried to make, because I’ve never been blind to the fact that he’s not the same guy; just that 3+ years of excellent work doesn’t disappear so easily without a reason. And on the topic of “reasons”, why isn’t Joe Torre’s abusive usage included in every story mentioning Broxton’s troubles?

Update: Per Ken Gurnick, Broxton has been shut down with elbow pain. It’s very odd to consider this as being good news, but it is.

Dodgers 5, Cubs 2

If this post comes out looking weird, and with a boring title, you can thank my internet for dipping out halfway through it, thus requiring me to finish it on my phone and denying you an animated gif of Jerry Sands‘ awesome grandpa. Thanks, Time Warner!

Tonight was something of an odd outing for Clayton Kershaw. He didn’t walk a single batter in his seven innings, which is excellent, and just the fifth time he’s managed that. (All, it should be noted, having come in the last ten months). But he also struck out four, an abnormally low amount for him, and gave up eight hits, tied for the third most he’s ever given up.

I suppose there’s a positive to be taken from that, in that while Kershaw was far from the most dominating we’ve seen him, he kept the damage to a minimum, because no one’s complaining about two earned runs in seven innings, right? Three of the eight hits came in the first, with the run scoring on a Geovany Soto double, and the other came on a ball that Alfonso Soriano crushed to left field in the 7th.

I knew Kershaw giving up a blast to Soriano sounded familiar, and indeed, this is what I wrote last July, just after Kershaw made it through another game without a walk:

while he did give up a homer to Alfonso Soriano, that ball was hit so hard that it was almost enjoyable to watch.

Besides Kershaw, we certainly shouldn’t minimize Ivan DeJesus, who drove in his first run on what should have been a double, Jerry Sands, who barely missed his first homer but still doubled in two, or Andre Ethier, who kept his streak going. But tonight we really should focus on two players who got nothing but garbage from us all during April, Juan Uribe and Jonathan Broxton.

Uribe had two hits, including a double, but just as importantly wowed the crowd (and Vin) with several excellent plays at third base. When he was signed, we never could reconcile why the fielding metrics liked a guy who really didn’t seem like much of an athlete, but he’s looked stellar with the glove, and his bat is picking up too.

Broxton, of course mowed down three Cubs on eight pitches in the 9th. It was his first clean inning since the Nixon administration. If only for one night, he let us breathe easily, and for that, we thank him.

So Here’s Your Closer By Committee (Update: Kinda Not Really)

Hard to say this was entirely unexpected. Molly Knight, hit me:

Ned Colletti says Broxton is being removed as Dodgers primary closer until he gets his confidence back. Team will use Padilla/Brox/Kuo.

This sounds momentous. This sounds like Jonathan Broxton has lost his job. But don’t think you’re rid of him yet. Hong-Chih Kuo‘s on the disabled list through Friday at least, and must always be used tenderly. Vicente Padilla hasn’t gone on consecutive nights since 2001, and didn’t look any better than Broxton did last night. (This raises the fun question of who tonight’s closer is, assuming Broxton won’t go three days in a row and if Padilla’s not ready for back-to-back nights so soon off arm surgery. Mike MacDougal, anyone? Ugh.) So the big man is still going to get his chances, like it or not.

As for the idea of whether Broxton should be removed… well, you know how I feel by now. He’s not doing that well, he hasn’t for a while, he probably doesn’t deserve the job right now, and if there’s a better option, then by all means go for it. I’m just not sure that there is a better option, and I mainly find the timing of this odd. Half of my point after last night’s mess was that it shouldn’t have been seen as any sort of turning point. Broxton’s been several shades of mediocre all season, and he wasn’t really any better or worse than usual last night; if anything, you could argue that he was slightly better, because he didn’t give up a homer, merely a terrible walk and then a single to a great hitter. The only difference is that the luck that sustained him through the first five not-entirely-deserved saves failed him last night, thanks to Jamey Carroll and Jerry Sands. So to make an announcement, especially on a night where Broxton was almost certain to not pitch anyway, seems needlessly premature. I’m sure it’ll satiate the masses’ lust for blood, however.

Update: So…

Broxton was told by Mattingly that he is still the #Dodgers’ closer.

Broxton heard TV analysts say #Dodgers would go to closer by committee. Mattingly called him into his office to clarify that wasn’t case.

That’s two tweets from Dylan Hernandez just now, claiming that everything you know is wrong. As I’d said above, the move didn’t really seem to make sense coming when it did. And… it didn’t come at all, apparently.

That said, I think we’ll still be having this conversation in a week or two.

******

As expected, Xavier Paul didn’t make it through waivers and is now a Pirate, following in the footsteps of Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young. The Pirates generally pick near the top of the waiver list so this sounds like Paul didn’t get that far down the list. Sad to see him be lost for nothing, though I’ll admit that neither Young nor LaRoche really worked out there. Best of luck, Xavier. ESPN’s Keith Law actually put some praise on him, noting that he’s better than an organizational guy, and could be a bench bat. That’s high praise from Law.