I Can Already Feel It…

…this is going to be a particularly painful rumor season. You would have thought that with so many of our top young players ceasing to be prospects and becoming major parts of the current team (Martin, Billingsley, Broxton, etc.) that we’d no longer be high on the list of a team with a ton of young parts available to move in trade. And even if the Dodgers are involved in a trade, you’d think it’d be to, oh, I don’t know: fix a position of need? Like the offense?

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, come on down!

Dodgers: This team, Ned Colletti specifically, must dip down and come up with a rabbit to make them a viable playoff contender. So they will likely be players for Sabathia, Bedard, and others as long as they’re within striking distance. The Diamondbacks’ recent tumble has made a Dodger comeback possible for the time being, but they need to get to .500 before they start thinking playoffs. They have chips they could deal for Sabathia in Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, etc.

He’s not wrong to say that Colletti is going to feel the pressure to get this team in the playoffs and will almost certainly make a move towards that end. Fine. But we really need to put a stop to this “Dodgers after C.C. Sabathia” business before it gets out of hand. I’m not so much against C.C., who’s a fine pitcher, as much as I am against the idea that the Dodgers need a pitcher at all. Yeah, I know – Penny and Kuroda are hurt. But neither are expected to be out for very long, and not only was Eric Stults pretty good in his first start up, there’s still more guys down on the farm who deserve a shot like James McDonald and Jon Meloan – not to mention the possible return of Jason Schmidt. (Sidenote – Clayton Kershaw picked up the nickname of “the Minotaur”, due to being a powerful mythical creature that everyone worshipped. In that vein, I think we need to start calling Schmidt “the Unicorn” – a mythical creature that just doesn’t actually exist, damn it.) But look at the split stats on this team, and I mean, how much more obvious can this be?

(all stats entering Sunday)
2008 Dodgers Offensive ranks, NL
2B: Last!
HR: Last!
OPS: 14th of 16
Total bases: 15th of 16

2008 Dodgers Pitching ranks, NL
ERA: 4th
K: 5th
OPS against: 2nd

What more do you need? The Dodgers have above average pitching. They have extremely below average hitting. I feel like I shouldn’t even have needed to post the stats for that, since it seems so common knowledge to anyone who’s followed baseball at all this year. So of course, it makes sense for the Dodgers to go after a rent-a-pitcher. Of course. I particularly like Cafardo’s idea that the Blue should trade Kemp (one of the few offensive performers they have) or Billingsley (who’s outperforming Sabathia this year and is four years younger) to do it. Brilliant!

Let’s move back to the middle infield for a moment. In a reply to my shortstop post the other day, preferred Cubs blog of MSTI Wrigleyville23 asked,

Might I interest you in something in a Ryan Theriot? Please??

Okay, North Siders. You’ve stumped me. Theriot’s 28, and while he offers zero power, a .308 BA is pretty good and a .385 OBP is excellent – plus I’m sure Vin can come up with some story about how his last name isn’t actually pronounced “The Riot” and repeat it twice a night, every night (hey – did you know Todd Helton used to be the backup QB for Peyton Manning at the University of Tennessee? It’s true!). The stats say he might not be the slickest gloveman, but you guys clearly haven’t lived through the Angel Berroa error yet (no, that’s not a Freudian slip.) From here, as long as it doesn’t cost too much to acquire him, he looks like 1996 Nikki Cox as compared to Berroa’s, well… 2008 Nikki Cox. So let’s hear it, guys, why the hate? And by all means, send us Theriot cheap.

Next, Joe Torre. Joe. Come on. What are you doing, here. You’re killing me with this. Remember the old “Good idea/Bad idea” shorts on the Animaniacs? (Note: Yes, I’m a loser, and yes, no one else is going to remember that, but watch the video anyway). I bring this up because today’s lineup reminded me of it.

Good idea: resting Jeff Kent for a 105 degree day game.
Bad idea: playing Luis Maza in his place.

Why, why is Andy LaRoche not getting a shot at second base on days like today? Hey, maybe he can handle it, and maybe he can’t. But we’re never going to know until we give it a shot, right? Maza’s not helping the offense with that 52 OPS+, and he sure as hell isn’t a good enough glove to justify that lack of offense, like Chin-Lung Hu nearly was. (Maza is, as I write this in the 8th inning, 0-3 today, so that OPS is sure to drop down into the 40s). This means that we had a foursome at the turn of the lineup today of Berroa, Maza, Billingsley, and Pierre. No wonder we can’t hit!

And finally.. I was going to post about how brutal Scott Proctor’s been. But he says it himself better than I possibly could, and I at least give him a lot of respect for standing up and being honest about his performance:

“I’m not talking about that,” the Dodgers reliever said after failing to retire any of the five batters he faced in what became a decisive, six-run 11 thinning for the Cleveland Indians on Saturday. “There is nothing (wrong), and I’m tired of people making excuses and saying I’m hurt. My job is to get outs, and I’m (expletive) pathetic. It’s embarrassing to know this team battled like that all day and I pitched like that. It’s (expletive) stupid.

“I’m embarrassed for myself in front of my teammates.”

Hey – maybe we can trade him back to New York for Wilson Betemit! 

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

So There’s Good News, and Bad News…

Full disclosure: I wasn’t able to catch any of the game tonight, as it was a Friday night and with a 10:40 start here on the East Coast, I was well into weekend plans by then. But now, arriving home at 3am, clearly it seems I missed an absolutely fantastic outing by Hiroki Kuroda. A complete game shutout with 11 strikeouts, just 4 hits, and best of all – only one runner allowed past first base? Plus, against what is currently the best team in the National League? Talk about pure, outright domination. Especially coming after his dreadful last start, I’m pretty sorry I missed this one. Kudos to Kuroda – and to Torre for letting him take it the whole way himself.

Of course, with the good must come the bad, and that would be that the Dodgers acquired someone who might just be my least favorite player in all of baseball (Bonds aside), Angel Berroa. I don’t know even know where to start with this one. Okay, it’s pretty clear Chin-Lung Hu is just not ready for the major leagues. I accept that, and even though he’s already one of the best defensive shortstops in the bigs, a .172 batting average simply isn’t going to cut it. Luis Maza can hit just fine (.357 BA), but he’s not much of a defensive shortstop. Something has to be done at shortstop, and soon. Fine.

But even though the Dodgers gave up practically nothing in this deal (shortstop Juan Rivera, who is somehow in his 5th pro season and has yet to progress above A-ball – think that .606 career OPS might have something to do with it?) and got the Royals to pay all of the $4.75 million remaining on his deal (less a $500,000 buyout for 2009 that I assume the Dodgers are stuck with), I have two very big issues with this.

1) So, does this mean Rafael Furcal isn’t really close to returning? Most sources I’ve read say that Furcal may be ready to return in another week or so, with Rotoworld even suggesting that he’s taking ground balls at shortstop again. But, what does it say when the Dodgers choose to acquire another shortstop now? Furcal’s been out for over a month now. Hu and Maza have been inadequate for just about all of that time. It just seems like odd timing to acquire another shortstop when Furcal is finally so close to coming back (apparently). The obvious retort is, “well, Hu needs to go to AAA and in case Furcal’s back acts up again, we’ll need a safety net,” which is fine, except that leads me directly to point #2:

2) Angel Berroa is incredibly bad at the game of baseball. There’s about forty different ways I could go about this, but this one stands out for me the most. This morning, I was reading Baseball Prospectus’ daily game previews, and in the Royals discussion, they pointed out just how historically horrible current SS Tony Pena Jr. has been. I won’t copy and paste their entire statistical argument here, but this is the take-home point:

There have been a mere handful of hitters over the last 30-plus seasons who performed as poorly as Tony Pena Jr. has this year. Since 1970, Pena has the third lowest EqA among players with a minimum of 164 plate appearances,

Remember that – current Royals SS Tony Pena Jr. is on pace to set records for horribleness. Just keep that in mind, read this, and try not to jam your thumbs into your eyes:

The defense for Pena last year, when he hit .267/.284/.356, was that his defense made up for his bat to the degree that he was a better option than the recently ousted Angel Berroa, who could neither hit (.248/.271/.356 with a .209 EqA) nor field (-6 FRAA) in 2006. Pena was able to field, with +13 FRAA last year, which helped make up for his -25 BRAA to a degree—sadly 12 runs below average was an improvement over Berroa’s -23 from the year before—but this year he’s having difficulty fielding as well.

“Sadly, 12 runs below average was an improvement over Berroa’s -23 from the year before.”  He’s clearly a brutal fielder. In 2006, his last full season as the Royals’ starter, he put up an almost unbelievable line of .234/.259/.333, for a 52 OPS+. That made him just about half as effective at the plate as your completely average player – and he was a butcher at the most important defensive position. So right now we’ve got a SS who’s a great fielder and can’t hit, and a SS who’s a good hitter but not much of a fielder. Replacing them with a guy who can’t hit or field (and will cost that $500,000 buyout) is a better option how?

But hey, I clearly haven’t watched a ton of Royals games over the years. Who would know him better than the poor suffering KC fans? Let’s just take a sampling of some reactions of Royals fans online about this deal. Remember: the Royals are currently playing a guy who’s on pace to be one of the alltime worst at his position and they got back a non-prospect and agreed to pick up the entire money left on the deal.

 MLBtraderumors.com:

if you hear any loud music out of the middle of the continental united states, think nothing of it…it’s just the worlds LARGEST party in kansas city now!

 

Why this makes sense for the Royals: I’d rather have a crappy 21 yo minor league SS than a crappy 30 yo minor league SS. And I’m sure the Dodgers are on the hook for his 500K buyout.

Any talk about Berroa “finding his stroke” is a joke. Scouts have said that his skills have deteriorated every year since his ROY season and that was a long time ago. His speed, range and bat speed have all gotten worse and worse. He’s an embarrassment in the field and at the plate. If the Dodgers call him up, it is going to be both funny and sad. He’s one of the worst SS’s in all of professional baseball.

 

As a Royals fan who is normally (except in this case) very reasonable, I could not be happier. Berroa represents one of the Royals many “promising” young players who delivered for one season and turned into an absolutely horrible , well below replacement, players.

Royalsreview.com:

I bet we play .500+ ball with the curse of Berroa lifted.

 

Seriously, though – how in need are the Dodgers if they are wanting to take Berroa on?

 

 royals.com:

It would have been a good trade if all we got was a pair of jock straps.

Oh yeah. This is going to turn out great.

Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Yet Somehow, the Dodgers Are Only 3.5 Out of First

Quick hits to wrap up a holiday weekend:

* Baseball Tonight on Kershaw: 100% positive reviews. I’m not totally sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. 

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.571243&w=425&h=350&fv=]  

* Cubs blog Wrigleyville23 linked here and to the other usual suspects (SOSG, 6-4-2, DodgerThoughts) as part of their series preview, along with the note,

By and large, the Dodgers blogs are of a much higher quality and quantity than others we’ve seen lately (I’m looking at you, Houston).

I couldn’t help but wonder about their distaste for Houston, so I went back to their Astros preview post:

It’s hard to play Around The Blogs when opposing team’s blogs aren’t doing their part – namely not blogging. Such is the case with the Houston Astros. Nobody seems to be following them (cyberly).

There’s an SBN blog, an MVN blog, and a place called Spikes ‘n Stars, which doesn’t seem to like interleague play too much.

Other than that, I found a few blogs that haven’t been updated in months. Am I missing others?

You know what? With all of the quality Dodger blogs out there, maybe I picked the wrong team to follow (20 years ago…) Stay tuned for the relaunch of Jeff Bagwell’s Tragic Illness.

* As excited as I was to watch Kershaw’s debut, I got about 150% more pumped when I realized that a standard 5-day schedule would put him in Shea Stadium against the Mets on Friday night… which, not so coincidentally, is where I will be on Friday night. Score!

* Re: today’s loss to the Cubs. I was keeping an eye on this one while at holiday festivities, and its not hard to say that I had a few “issues” with Torre’s game management today. That said, Rob at 6-4-2 beat me to most of them:

  • Why didn’t Chad Billingsley attempt a suicide squeeze in the fifth with one out and runners on the corners? The Dodgers have been having trouble scoring runs; it seems like smallball is eminently called for in that circumstance.
  • Why was Chin-Lung Hu held at third on Kemp’s double? It would have taken a perfect throw to get him.
  • Why did Mark Sweeney get the start at first? Loney may be scuffling, but … c’mon…
  • To which I would add, why did Loney pinch hit for Luis Maza in the 8th? Maza’s only hitting .438 since his recall. I’m certainly not suggesting that Maza’s a better hitter than Loney, just that Maza’s not a guy who needs to be hit for right now. Had Torre held onto Loney (or had him hit for the next batter, Park, rather than sending up Delwyn Young) then either Loney or Young would have been available to hit for Chin-Lung Hu with 2 outs in the 9th as the tying run at the plate, rather than letting Hu go up looking completely overmatched, and have him predictably strike out to end the game.

    * By the way, Mark Sweeney? Yeah, he’s now hitting a solid .100. Come on; this is getting embarrassing. Why is he still taking a place on this team? He can’t hit; he can’t field. He serves zero purpose whatsoever. I know there’s injury issues right now – I get that. But still. You can’t tell me there’s no one better to take up a roster spot right now. Like, oh, I don’t know: Andy LaRoche?!

    * Which brings us to our newest cause up top, with Andruw Jones out of sight and out of mind. It’s time to get Andy LaRoche up here. (Westsidedodger the first to point this out). Make no mistake, this is not a criticism of Blake DeWitt, who deserves to keep his job. But this team has been struggling on offense for quite a while, and it’s starting to not look like a slump anymore. It’s really time to get the best bats available up in the bigs. And guys who are OPS’ing .932 and getting on base almost half the time (.476 OBP) in AAA count as “best bats available.” In terms of the 25-man roster, it’s simple. Less Sweeney, more LaRoche. As for playing time, it wouldn’t kill DeWitt to only start five days a week, and it’s not like we couldn’t use another third baseman when Russell Martin is still in the conversation for getting time there. Usually I’m staunchly against in support of the  ”don’t bring up a young guy if he may not see a ton of time because it’d hurt his development” theory, but LaRoche really has absolutely nothing to prove in the minors any more. Get him up, let him hit. He can play 3B once or twice a week and get some on-the-job training at 2B. Risky? Hell yeah. But I really believe it’d be worth it.

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

    Just Get the Knee Scoped Already, Would You?

    Obviously, last night’s loss can’t entirely be pinned on 9th-inning managerial decisions; it’s not Joe Torre’s fault that the team put up only one run and five hits last night. But I have to take some issue with how he used his pinch-hitters in the bottom of the 9th.

    After James Loney struck out and the skies opened, causing an hour’s delay, Matt Kemp walked and stole second on Blake DeWitt’s strikeout. That brings to the plate the #8 hitter, Chin-Lung Hu, who’s been an offensive disappointment thus far but did have a single and a triple in his last two at-bats. Available on the Dodgers bench against righty Ryan Franklin were switch-hitter Delwyn Young and righties Luis Maza, Danny Ardoin, and Andruw Jones.

    Now there’s lots of ways you can go here, with the tying run in scoring position and two outs. You can let Hu hit, hoping that his multihit game means he’s having a good night and still have plenty of options to hit for the pitcher at the #9 spot. You could let Luis Maza hit, who for all the complaints about his terribly weak arm in the field has still put up 5 hits in his 11 MLB at bats (.455) after hitting .402 in AAA. Or you could put Delwyn Young in, playing the lefty/righty game and using the hitter who’s probably the best of all the available options right now. Under no circumstances do you hit Andruw Jones, who’s been A) a bust of biblical proportions, B) nursing a bad knee which had kept him out of the lineup for the last 5 days, C) on an 0-7, 4K streak, and D) the only available Dodger who had faced Ryan Franklin before, but with a 0-5, 2K line. You especially don’t hit him in a 2-out situation when he’s having massive problems even making contact with the ball.

    So Torre chooses to send out Young, which is fine by me. He walks, and Kemp advances on a wild pitch, putting the tying run 90 feet away. Now, Torre is faced with another decision: someone has to hit for the pitcher, but who? You can discount Danny Ardoin since he’s the backup catcher and not much of a hitter anyway. You’re left with Luis Maza or Andruw Jones. Both righty, so that doesn’t matter. Small name who’s accomplished nothing vs. a huge name with a big history, no doubt; but the small name has been hitting all season wherever he’s been, while the huge name has been beyond terrible.

    Of course, Jones is Torre’s choice.

    And to absolutely no one’s surprise, he strikes out weakly and looks bad doing so. Game over.

    Yes, I am fully aware of the absurdity of the fact that I am arguing for Luis Maza over Andruw Jones in a two-out, bottom of the 9th situation. But the fact that I can even make this argument, and make it a pretty strong one, I believe, should be a pretty good indicator of what this has come to. Some of the blame has to go to Torre for even letting him be in such a situation last night; but something else has to be done. We can’t go all season with Jones eating up outs like this. It’s clear his knee just isn’t right. If he really only hurt it last week vs. Anaheim, and he was that horrible before that, what’s he going to be like trying to gut through a bad knee? Just get it taken care of, and hopefully come back with a clear head and healthy knee in two months.

    Also: Jeff Kent as cleanup hitter deathwatch: Yet another 0-4 puts him at a 64 OPS+. He is now 8% worse of a hitter than the worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years.

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

    I Always Hate Playing the Angels

    I don’t know what it is, but it’s never fun. Oh, maybe it’s the 27-35 record the Blue have against them, including dropping 5 of 6 last year. That could be it. Also, if I’m not mistaken, it was a game against them last year where James Loney almost destroyed his career on the right field wall. (Edit: I was right. And it was adding injury to insult, as it was the 8th inning of a 10-4 Angels win).  Anyway, ESPN actually gives some pub to the West Coast rivlary – and it only takes them 20 seconds to include the not-played-out-at-all “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of…” bit! At least Tim Kurkjian gives the Dodgers some respect, saying it could possibly be a World Series preview, and saying he actually spoke to a scout who said, “you know the Dodgers are going to win the division by six games.” Actually, I didn’t know that, but I’d be more than okay with it.

    [vodpod id=ExternalVideo.553191&w=425&h=350&fv=] from sports.espn.go.com

    Let’s do a bit of a roundup of things on a variety of topics.

    Luis Maza made his major league debut, and minorleaguebaseball.com has a short profile on him:

    Luis Maza, IF, Los Angeles Dodgers

    CALLED UP: Contract purchased from Triple-A Las Vegas when SS Rafael Furcal went on the DL.

    DEBUT: May 14 in a 6-4 win against Milwaukee. A late-game insertion on defense at shortstop after starting shortstop Chin Lung Hu was pinch-hit for, he did not bat.

    NOTES: In his 11th pro season without making it to the Majors, the 27-year-old Maza finally got the call from the 51s. With Las Vegas, he was hitting .402 (.472 against left-handers) and had played second, third, shortstop, left and right field. Ironically, he wasn’t even the team’s leading hitter at the time (that honor went to third baseman Terry Tiffee and his .430 average). But while Tiffee strictly profiles as a corner infielder and left fielder, Maza’s middle infield versatility worked in his favor. Originally signed by Minnesota out of Venezuela in 1997, he was a .273 career hitter coming into 2008. He spent his first nine years moving up the Twins’ ranks before signing with the Dodgers in 2007 as a Minor League free agent.

    If you saw his start against Milwaukee yesterday, you’ll know that it won’t matter if he’s hitting .402 or .902 – we need him to never be at shortstop ever again. I’ve never seen a shortstop with such a weak arm, to the point that the Milwaukee broadcasters were trying to figure out what he was even doing in the majors.

    When did we sign Mark Bellhorn? Rotoworld has this:

    Mark Bellhorn debuted for Double-A Jacksonville on Thursday and went 2-for-2 with a walk.
    Bellhorn didn’t hit for the Padres in 2006 and he received just 11 at-bats with the Reds last season, so he faces an uphill battle to get back to the majors at age 33.

    Bellhorn had one excellent season (27 homers, .512 SLG, and a 133 OPS+ for the 2002 Cubs), one good season for a champion (17 homers, 82 RBI, and 107 OPS+ for the 2004 Red Sox).. and at no point in his other 8 full and partial seasons has he even been within 20 points of league average in OPS. He started 2006 as San Diego’s regular second baseman, and was cut after putting up a solid .190 in 253 at-bats. He’s mainly a 2B/3B, but he’s played every position on the diamond. Let’s hope we’ll never need him.

    Finally, I have a lot respect for Tony Jackson of the Daily News,  but I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read this, in an article about Dodgers hitting coach Mike Easler helping Juan Pierre:

    Pierre, whose last home run came with the Chicago Cubs in 2006, will never come close to the 118 jacks Easler hit in his 14-year career. But that doesn’t change the fact that at times when Easler looks at Pierre, it’s as if he is looking into a mirror.

    “I remember going through exactly what he has gone through this year,” Easler said. “I remember one year (1982), leading the (Pittsburgh Pirates) in this, that and the other, and then I open the ’83 season on the bench. I couldn’t believe it. I did some things kind of like him. I pouted a little bit.

    Mike Easler was a very good hitter in this day, putting up a 111 OPS+ or better in each of the seven seasons in which he got 339 at-bats or more. (Which sort of makes him not even a little bit like Juan Pierre, doesn’t it?)  Not that anyone here really wants an in-depth examination of the 84-78 4th place 1982 Pittsburgh Pirates, but Easler led them in exactly.. zero offensive categories. No, really: not even a single one.

    Finally, and most hilariously… the picture on the front of today’s Fire Joe Morgan post? Yeah, that was me. Took it with my phone in a bodega on 9th Ave in New York City the other day.

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