Irony

Per Tony Jackson:

Joe Torre said this morning that, “Right now, we’re going with the hot hands.”

Per Diamond Leung:

The Dodgers have optioned third baseman Andy LaRoche a day after doing the same to Blake DeWitt. Pinch-hitting specialist Mark Sweeney is back on the active roster. The 38-year-old is hitting .094 with three RBI in 60 games with the Dodgers.

Actually, you can make that .092 after today’s pinch hit strikeout.  I guess he wasn’t in an “ideal pinch hit situation.”
Now, yes, I’m quite aware that LaRoche wasn’t exactly lighting the place up, but what do you expect when you get very limited playing time?  59 at-bats spaced out through a month and a half is getting a chance?  That stretch of four consecutive starts last week was the most amount of consistent playing time LaRoche has had all season.  By the way, that’s also the fallacy that I’ve noticed amongst some journalists regarding the Blake trade and I forgot to mention this, last night.  In some places I’ve been readin, the gist is basically that we acquired Blake because “the younger players” (i.e. DeWitt and LaRoche) failed to capitalized in their opportunities to seize the job.  Well, they’re half right.  DeWitt, after coming out gangbusters the first couple of months, eventually did fail to keep the job, but after having an opportunity to the tune of 280 at-bats.  Somehow 59 spaced out at-bats is “failing to seize an opportunity?”  While I can understand sending him to Las Vegas to get more at-bats, he has nothing left to prove over there.  He’s already conquered Triple A, so to speak, and he could still be valuable off the bench.  With him gone, here is our bench’s OPS+:
Angel Berroa: 40
Pablo Ozuna: 70
Danny Ardoin: 36
Andruw Jones (if he’s finally fallen to the 4th outfield spot): 36
And finally…
Mark Sweeney: -18
Again, LaRoche isn’t tearing it up, either, with his 68 OPS+, but…
68 > -18
I mean, on what planet does a player sporting a -18 OPS+ deserve to come back up in place of LaRoche?  I suppose the Planet Torreletti, that’s where.

Planet Torreletti: a world where Mark Sweeney is valuable.

The downside to all of this, though, is Nomar’s injury.  During today’s game, Nomar left the game after irritating his knee from a play and will be evaluated tomorrow.  Hopefully this doesn’t spur on a LaRoche for Jack Wilson trade…

But moving on to more positive news, it’s hard to believe, but admist the Ethier benching on Friday, the Blake trade yesterday and the news today, uh, we actually swept a team.  Also, for the first time since May 30th, the Dodgers have returned to .500!  Mediocrity has never tasted so sweet.

Even better, our pitching has returned, thanks to two great pitching performances from Thunder Thighs, and Derek Lowe, and continued today with a great performance by Clayton Kershaw.  Kershaw went 6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 5 K and not only did he have his curveball going, but he was also throwing a pretty nifty changeup.  And, FINALLY, he picks up his first MLB win and only his second total, this year.  Granted, all of this came against the Nationals, a team who has an even worse offense than us, if you can believe it, but a win is a win.  And how about Matt Kemp and his 14 game hit streak?  He’s looking better by the day.  Now it’s off to play San Francisco for three and then, of course, the big four game series against Arizona, beginning on Thursday.  How about we start NOT being below .500 anymore?  Works for me.

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg

MSTI’s First Half Review: Offense

Is it that time of the year already? Sure, it’s not really “halfway” through the year since the Blue have already played 95 games, but here we are at the All-Star break. This won’t be as extensive as last year’s season reviews, since there’s only three days to do it in, but it still will touch upon everyone who appeared in a game for the Dodgers this year. So today is offense, tomorrow pitching, and the next day will be front office/coaching staff/awards/overall grade. And on Thursday, a big MSTI announcement. How did we do this last year? That’s right:

First, some quick ground rules. Completely unscientific and arbitrary, this is how we’ve seen the results of the season. One important distinction, is that the letter grade is based upon what we reasonably could have expected of the player entering the year, not comparing him to other MLB players at his position. You’ll soon see why this is so important.

Less than 10 IP or 100 at-bats gets you an “incomplete”. Stats are presented (BA/OBP/SLG).

We’ll knock that down to 50 at-bats for the half-season review, but everything else remains the same.

Catcher
Russell Martin (.294/.394/.436 10hr 45rbi) (A+)
Without question, the best offensive player so far. There were actually some inane stories out there that I won’t even subject you to linking to saying that he’s been off his game this year, but that’s mostly thanks to his very slow start to the season, hitting .197 as late as April 20th. But you know what? Martin’s actually having the best offensive year of his career overall. His 118 OPS+ is up 5 from last year, and while his slugging % is down slightly (.029 less than last year), it’s more than made up by his exemplary .394 OBP, which is actually better than Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, and Hanley Ramirez. Plus, he plays third base! What can I say? This guy’s the heart and soul of the team. He’s the best player, and he never complains. Love this guy. Love him.

Gary Bennett (.190/.261/.381 1hr 4rbi) (incomplete)
What a weird, weird season for the initial 2008 recipient of the Mike Lieberthal Memorial “Guy Who Rots on the Bench Behind Russell Martin” Award. Bennett only really got notice in two of my posts all season, and they couldn’t be more divergent – first, he got some recognition for a good game in Milwaukee on May 15, and then just five days later we cheered his being placed on the DL, saying,

“Left foot plantar fasciitis.” Let me say, the quotes could not be thicker around that. We’ve had no word of any injury problems surrounding Bennett, but tons of stories about his throwing problems, and suddenly his foot hurts? Hey, call it a bad foot, the flu, or the heebie-jeebies; whatever it takes to get this guy’s head right and get those lollipop throws off the field. Seriously, he even made Rotoworld today, which is rare for a mediocre backup catcher, and at no point is the foot mentioned.

Thanks for showing up, Gary. Lousy hitter who can’t throw – fantastic. If you wanted to hit the slots in Vegas the rest of the summer, that’d be A-ok by me.

Danny Ardoin (.211/.250/.263 0hr 2rbi) (incomplete)
Another member of the Loyal Order of Backup Catchers, Ardoin’s been.. well, he’s an improvement on Bennett, anyway. He’s not much of a hitter either, but everything I’ve read about him says that the pitchers like throwing to him way better than Bennett. As far as I’m concerned, the team is screwed if Martin’s hurt anyway, so it doesn’t really matter all that much which one backs him up, but I’d really like it if it would be Ardoin rather than Bennett, whenever he’s healthy. Amazingly enough, Ardoin’s already doubled Mike Lieberthal’s RBI total from last season.

First Base
James Loney (.291/.351/.446 7hr 50rbi) (C+)
Loney gets a C+ not because he’s been that lousy, but simply because we had such high expectations for him. After last year’s offensive explosion in the second half, who among us wasn’t drooling at the prospect of him playing 1B for the entire season? But after the first two months, he was only hitting in the .270s with 5 homers. Of course, he dominated in June (.362/.425/.500), only to fall back in July, hitting just .224 so far. He’s been.. okay. Not bad, not great. I still think he’s got it in him to pick it up.

Second Base
Jeff Kent (.253/.304/.407 9hr 40rbi) (C-)
This, I must say, was a tough one. On one hand, he was really bad for a good portion of the season – I assume you haven’t forgotten the whole chase to be the worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years, but on the other hand, Kent’s 40 years old, and how much can you ever depend on a guy that age, anyway? At least he’s been able to stay relatively healthy, and his bat has turned it around a bit lately.

On the plus side, no one’s accusing Kent of being involved in any clubhouse fiascos so far, so at least he’s got that going for him. 

Third Base
Blake DeWitt (.263/.330/.372 5hr 34rbi) (A)
Just like Kent, this is a tough grade to assign. I know it seems like a long time ago now, but do you remember how desperate this team was at the hot corner at the end of March? Nomar was hurt, LaRoche was hurt, Abreu was hurt, and the trade options were either unavailable or unappealing. So we turn over the job to the guy who was guaranteed to put up Hu-like offensive numbers. Except that.. he was good. Really good, slugging .517 in May. He was a lock for Rookie of the Year and surprise of the year. Go Blake!

Of course, great story aside, he’s cratered since then, with just 4 extra base hits in the last 6 weeks, which is Pierre-like levels of mediocrity. Ah hell, it doesn’t matter. He shouldn’t be starting every day anymore, but that’s a topic we’ve already covered. He gets an A simply because I shudder to think what would have happened if he hadn’t held things down for the first two months.

Andy LaRoche (.192/.294/.341 2hr 3rbi) (incomplete)
Seems like LaRoche is shaping up to be part of the next Dodgers holy war, following in the footsteps of Juan Pierre and Hee-Seop Choi. No, he hasn’t done much in the bigs. But the people who want to write him off are insane – he’s gotten just 44 at-bats this year. Look, he’s got nothing more to prove in the minors (career .895 OPS). The Dodgers need power. Blake DeWitt is slumping badly. So then why can’t LaRoche ever start more than two games in a row? Why has he been benched the day after hitting a home run both times? Some things, I’ll never understand.

Shortstop
Rafael Furcal (.366/.448/.597 5hr 16rbi) (R)
That’s right, I gave Furcal an “R”. Why? Because the best way I can sum up his 2008 is “ARRRRRRRGGGHH!!!!” From the best start of his career, to an injury that was to keep him out a few days, to surgery that will end with him missing 4 months. Despite everything that’s gone wrong with this season, it’s hard to point to anything that was more damaging than this. Furcal’s back woes not only cost the team its hottest hitter, but lead to the failings of Hu, the misery of Angel Berroa, and the so-far entertaining Nomar era. Think about it, the Dodgers are one game out. It’s not much of a stretch to say that if Furcal had stayed healthy, the Dodgers are in first place, is it?

Angel Berroa
(.192/.253/.219 0hr 0rbi) (F)
I have to say, of all the stats I looked up for this article, Berroa surprised me more than anybody. He really has zero RBI? Not even one? Despite starting 21 games? That would be incredible, if it weren’t so depressing. Look at it this way, Berroa’s had 72 at-bats without an RBI. That’s the most in MLB by a large margin, nearly double the 40 at-bats by Washington’s Roger Bernadina. Yikes! Actually, now that I think about it, maybe Berroa doesn’t deserve an F here. Maybe he should be getting a C. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t all know he was going to suck from day one. And to the surprise of no one except perhaps Ned Colletti, he has. He’s been exactly as bad as we thought, not that it was possible to be any worse, so in that sense he’s been the average Angel Berroa.

Nah, forget it. Big. Fat. F.

Chin-Lung Hu
(.159/.224/.206 0hr 7rbi) (D)
This really should be an F, because Hu’s utter failure to perform once Furcal went down has to rank as one of the bigger disappointments of the season. The only thing bumping him up to a D is the fact that his defense more than lived up to its sparking reputation. But I don’t think it was too much to expect that he had a shot to be a decent hitter, since after a breakthrough 2007 where he OPS’d .871 in the minors, he popped 2 dingers in 29 late-season at-bats in the bigs. And then.. fizzle. Now, he’s apparently had some vision issues since returning to AAA, so if that’s what caused this, I haven’t completely given up on him. It’s just that if he could have been even a mediocre hitter, we could have kept his slick glove in the lineup and avoided the entire Berroa fiasco.

Infield
Nomar Garciaparra (.250/.328/.400 2hr 12rbi) (!!!)
What a year for Nomahhh. Breaks his hand in spring training, comes back to play in all of 8 games (hitting .226) before hurting his calf and missing two more months.. only to return at shortstop. You can’t make this stuff up. In fact, I wish I had predicted this in the offseason, just so I could see what kind of responses I’d have gotten saying that I’d completely lost my mind. Remember last year when Nomar couldn’t be moved from 1B to 3B to make room for Loney because he was “too fragile”? Well, a year and several injuries later, now he’s playing shortstop. Unbelievable. He’s hit okay since coming back (.286/.333/.500 in 8 games), but there’s just no way this doesn’t end with him somehow spontaneously combusting turning a double play, right?

Luis Maza
(.228/.282/.278 1hr 4rbi) (C… ish)
Remember, we’re doing these grades based not on how they compare to the rest of the league, but based on how a player has performed based on reasonable expectations at the beginning of the season. This is why Hu gets a D, since he was below expectations, and why DeWitt gets an A, since he was so far above. The only time this method runs into a problem is in the case of Luis Maza, because for someone who runs a Dodgers blog and likes to think he knows entirely too much about the Dodger organization.. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard of this guy coming into the season. So it’s hard to say I had any expectations of him. That said, he’s been pretty much what you’d think he’d be – a quad-A player who’s a mediocre hitter and a decent fielder, albeit with a particularly lousy arm.

Mark Sweeney
(.094/.181/.125 0hr 3rbi) (?)
Sweeney gets a question mark for a grade. That’s partially because he doesn’t even deserve to attain a letter, but mostly to represent the question of, Why is Mark Sweeney on This Team? He serves no function. He’s a pinch-hitter who can’t hit. He can’t hit lefties. He can’t hit righties. He can’t hit at home. He can’t hit on the road. He can’t hit during the day. He can’t hit at night. We do not like him here or there, we do not like him anywhere.  His OPS is negative 18, which I believe means he’s lapsed into some sort of an unknown dimension. He’s 38 years old, and he’s got 6 hits in 72 at-bats! It’s the end of the line, and it’s just stubbornness on the part of the Dodgers front office that they allow him to keep making outs (he’s supposedly coming off the DL on Friday). I would love to know what kind of pictures Sweeney must have of Colletti with a lampshade on his head in order to keep his job.

Time to go, Mark. Time to go.

Terry Tiffee
(.250/.400/.250 0hr 0rbi) (incomplete)
Tiffee only went 1-4 in his short time up, but I’ve been backing him for over two months. Now back at Vegas, he’s kept up his amazing season, currently rocking a .396/.434/.598 line. Sure, say it’s a fluke, say whatever you like. Maybe you’re right. But there is simply no argument you can use to convince me that he shouldn’t be taking Mark Sweeney’s place. None. Tiffee is more useful than Sweeney in every conceivable way – hitting, fielding, versatility, you name it. (And I did, right here.) I suppose I’m venturing more into Colletti territory than Tiffee, but really, all Tiffee’s done is hit all year long. What else does he have to do?

Tony Abreu (n/a) (incomplete)
Knock, knock.”
“Hello?”
“Is this Mr. Abreu?”
“Yes, who are you?”
“I’m opportunity. And I’m knocking.”
“Hmm.. thanks, but no thanks. Bye!”

Outfield
Matt Kemp (.278/.331/.437 9hr 49rbi 20sb) (B)
We’ve exhausted a lot of pixels on Kemp around here lately, so I won’t revisit it all again. But suffice it to say, there’s been nothing boring about Kemp’s season. To wild trade rumors to arguments about what type of player he is and will be, Kemp’s been front and center. As you probably know, considering his age and inexperience, I’m pretty satisfied with what he’s done, especially his improvement in the outfield. The strikeouts have to be cut, of course, but remember that he’s only 23. Guys like Matt Holliday and Ryan Howard hadn’t even made their debuts by 23, instead being allowed to develop in the minors. Considering Kemp’s already been (roughly) an average MLBer at that age, let’s cut the kid a little slack, okay?

Andre Ethier (.286/.350/.464 11hr 41rbi) (A-)
Don’t look now, but Ethier is leading the entire team in homers and slugging %. That’s pretty impressive for a guy who’s been continually jerked around in terms of playing time when both Jones and Pierre were available. He gets a bit of a demerit for that .195 June, but he’s come roaring back in July with a 1.061 OPS. So of course, we can look forward to him seeing some bench in two weeks when Pierre returns. Because that’s what a team who can’t hit should do – bench their biggest power hitter. Amazing.

Juan Pierre (.277/.327/.318 0hr 24rbi 35sb) (D)
This isn’t the place to rehash the whole Pierre argument yet again, but it’s pretty simple, as far as I’m concerned. He’s having the worst season of his career by every single offensive stat (save steals), which is saying a lot when it’s the fourth straight season he’s declined since his career year of 2004. Regardless of how you feel about him, he’s not even living up to his own mediocre standards. That’s not good, and I can’t imagine it’ll be any better if his knee is any less than 100% when he comes back. Yet Joe Torre is infatuated with him, but I guess that’s something more to discuss in Torre’s review. Of 19 MLB leftfielders with enough at-bats to qualify, Pierre is dead last in OPS, coming in nearly 340 points lower than leader Matt Holliday’s. That’s not just bad, that’s really bad.

By the way, in that “career year”, his OPS+ was 107 (it’s down to 69 this year). Andre Ethier’s this season is 110. Just sayin’.

Andruw Jones (.167/.261/.253 2hr 9rbi) (you don’t even deserve a letter, Andruw)
What. A. Disaster. Hey, we’re not always right at MSTI either, because we both supported this deal when it was signed. But geez. I can’t even get on Colletti for this one, because really, who the hell saw this happening? If you didn’t see this link the other day, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark says Jones is on pace for the Worst Offensive Season in Baseball History.

You know what, I can’t even talk about him. You don’t need stats on this one. You have eyes. You’ve watched the Dodgers. He’s awful, and no one seems to know why. What a mess.

Delwyn Young (.255/.327/.343 1hr 5rbi) (C-)
Have to admit, I’m a little torn on Delwyn. We’ve been big fans of his for a while, because on a team that’s struggling so badly offensively, a guy who’s done nothing but kill the ball at every stop would seem like a useful player to have. I mean, it was just last season that he broke a 41-year-old PCL record for doubles. That said, he hasn’t really done all that much with the big club this season. Oddly enough, his stats are the exact opposite of what I had thought; I was all set to say “but he doesn’t get to play that much with the OF logjam, and its hard for a kid to be a pinch-hitter”. Except that as it turns out, he’s hitting .342 off the bench vs. only .203 as a starter.

Jason Repko (.000/.000/.000 0hr 0rbi) (incomplete)
Oh, Jason. Poor Jason. Just can’t catch a break. You come up and go 0-5 with 4 K’s in your first game, and then get all of two more at-bats before getting sent down, probably for good. Damn shame, really.

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

Too Many Problems, Whatcha Gonna Do

Full disclaimer: this isn’t going to be fun. Trust me when I say I do NOT enjoy writing such negativity about the team. I don’t. I’m a Dodgers fan first and foremost despite not even growing up in the Los Angeles area, and nothing would please me more than to see them realize their potential and win. It’s just that I have to call them as I see them, and in the last few hours, I’ve come across so many different things that are just blowing my mind – and that’s without even getting into the possible elbow injury Takashi Saito sustained last night. This might get all over the place, so strap yourself in for an unfortunate article of inane Joe Torre quotes, fun with on-base percentage, the possible return of the worst player in baseball, and incredibly depressing news about the other worst player in baseball.

Let’s start at the start, where Nomar Garciaparra batted leadoff last night for the first time in just about six years. He’s clearly nowhere near your prototypical leadoff hitter, but I didn’t even mind the decision by Torre. Clearly, the offense is sputtering, to put it nicely, so if you want to engage in a little “throw things at the wall and see what sticks”, that’s fine by me. That was your reasoning, right Joe? (All of these Torre quotes are via Diamond Leung unless otherwise noted).

On Nomar Garciaparra and not Matt Kemp leading off: “We’ll sacrifice the speed for someone that will give us a quality at-bat.”

First of all, way to take a nice backhanded swipe at Kemp, there. Look, I realize that my last few articles have sort of made this blog Matt Kemp’s tragic illness, but I can’t read something like this and let it pass. So tell me. Tell me, please, in what way at all does Nomar give you a more “quality at-bat” than Matt Kemp? Is it because Nomar’s got a better chance of doing something productive? No, it can’t be that – Kemp is better than Nomar across the board this year, .278/.331/.437 vs. .228/.313/.368. Okay, so it must be that Kemp is a bit of a free swinger and you want the leadoff guy to work a good at-bat and see some pitches, right? That’s a fair argument. Wait, no, can’t be that either- Kemp has shown more patience at the plate as well, averaging 3.72 pitches per plate appearance while Nomar only sees 3.30.

So, let me rewrite that quote the way it should have read:

On Nomar Garciaparra and not Matt Kemp leading off: “We’ll sacrifice the speed, average, on-base percentage, power, and plate patience for someone who will be inferior in every single one of these areas except for Highly-Concentrated Veteran Goodness.”

Well, when you see it that way, it makes total sense. Joe, why else do you like Nomar batting leadoff, according to Doug Padilla of the LA Daily News?

“He’s aggressive and he’s not your prototypical leadoff hitter because he doesn’t go up there thinking about walking, that’s for sure,” Torre said. “He does put that little extra pressure on the pitcher knowing that if he goes ahead and throws a strike he can hit it out of the ballpark.”

The first part doesn’t even make sense. First of all, for a leadoff hitter especially, getting on base is getting on base. The idea is to be on base to be driven in by the guys hitting behind you. A walk is as good as a hit to accomplish that. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if your leadoff hitter walked every single time up? How awesome would that be? But does that mean Torre thinks that Matt Kemp goes up there “looking to walk”? Even here, where we’re very pro-Kemp, we’ve gotten on him for the egregious amount of whiffs. I’m pretty sure he didn’t accomplish that by not being aggressive enough at the plate.

As for the second half of that, he likes that Nomar puts pressure on the pitcher because he knows that if he grooves one, Nomar can hit it out of the park. I’m not even sure where to start with that one. Is it the simple fact that Nomar really can’t hit it out of the park? He’s got all of nine homers over the last two years, which is hardly what I call a power hitter anymore. Or is it the fact that if you want a guy who can park one, Matt Kemp is undeniably a better choice? Kemp has nine homers in the first half of this season, in about 150 at-bats fewer than Nomar has gotten over the last two years – and Nomar’s on the decline, while Kemp is certainly still on the rise. Speaking of Kemp, Joe?

On Kemp: “He goes up there and sometimes has quality at-bats. Other times, he gets impatient.”

Which is true, because he’s young and inexperienced, but it just serves to confuse the issue further. In one breath, Torre is praising Nomar for being “aggressive”, and then he turns around and chastises Kemp for being “impatient”. Nomar is a notorious first-pitch swinger, has been his whole career. No, I can’t find the stat to back that up, but I’m pretty sure that’s such common knowledge that I don’t even need to. How is that in any way the example of patience?

I also couldn’t help but chuckle at this line from Padilla, discussing Kemp’s on-base percentage:

Kemp had been in the leadoff spot for the past 11 days, batting .255 there with a pedestrian .340 on-base percentage.

.340 is a “pedestrian” on-base percentage. Those are Doug Padilla’s words, not mine. So maybe, just maybe, this will help explain why we all hate Juan Pierre batting leadoff so much – because Pierre’s OBP batting leadoff is an abysmal .294, 46 points lower than the “pedestrian” Matt Kemp. I just don’t understand why Kemp is criticized while Pierre is praised so heartily for this, yet it’s clear in every way that the on-field performance just doesn’t support that.

Back to Joe Torre, I implore you to read this carefully, because it just might be the greatest thing ever uttered:

On Jeff Kent: “He’s the perfect example of a player. He’s struggling, but we know we’re going to get a professional at-bat every time he gets in the box.”

“He’s the perfect example of a player.” I love this sentence. I want to get it tattooed on my back. I want to take it out behind the middle school and get it pregnant. I want it to be prominently displayed on all forms of United States currency from now until the end of time. “He’s the perfect example of a player.” As opposed to, say, Russell Martin, who is the perfect example of a 1920s vaudeville singer, and Brad Penny, who is the perfect example of a hamster. And here we are again with these old-school statements that in reality, mean absolutely nothing: “we know we’re going to get a professional at-bat every time he gets in the box.” It’s not even that I want to get on Jeff Kent here, who’s been pretty decent over the last month (.289/.375/.434, though he is riding a brutal 1-16 stretch right now). It’s just, what do things like that even mean? A “professional at-bat”? Because amateurs like Andre Ethier will wander up with a hockey stick, or James Loney will interupt the at-bat to stroll back to the dugout to refill his Big League Chew? Look, I respect Joe Torre for all he’s done in this game, but when he consistently comes up with meaningless lines and logic that just don’t make any sense, well, let’s just say it’s not filling me with confidence that this team can get turned around. The Dodgers have enough problems right now without creating their own.

Speaking of creating their own problems, back to Padilla, whose article is just a goldmine today:

Pinch-hit specialist Mark Sweeney, on the DL since July 4 with a strained right hamstring, will have one more minor-league rehab game and is expected to return to the roster Friday for the start of the second half.

Oh, good! I don’t know what we’d do without that pinch-hitter who’s hitting .094 with 6 hits on the season, but that’ll definitely turn the team around. Here’s the question, though: if he really comes back, who’s going to be cut to make room for him? I assume it’s Luis Maza or Angel Berroa, who are somewhat redundant with Nomar playing short. But if it’s Andy LaRoche… well, I don’t know what I’ll do here, but trust me: it will not be pretty.

Finally, Andruw Jones and his quest for becoming the most hated man in LA. Before I saw what Torre had said, I was surfing Google Image Search for pictures of sombreros to Photoshop onto Jones after his unbelievable 5 strikeout performance last night. I was really holding out hope that the knee was really the cause of his problems, but since his return he’s been just as lousy as ever, hitting .172/.200/.172 with 13 strikeouts in 29 at-bats. You might think things couldn’t possibly get worse for him, but that would mean you haven’t read what Jayson Stark of ESPN.com had to say (bold is mine):

NL LVP of the half year: Andruw Jones, Dodgers
 
Sheez, what happened to this man? If Andruw Jones‘s second half resembles his first half, he’s potentially heading for (ready for this?) the Worst Offensive Season in Baseball History. At this rate, he’d finish with a .172 average, .261 slugging percentage, five homers, 21 RBIs, 125 strikeouts and only 64 hits. And you shouldn’t be flabbergasted to learn that the all-time list of players who have had numbers that gruesome consists of, well, nobody. Heck, only three other players in history have even had twice as many strikeouts as hits (in a season of 100 or more whiffs): Rob Deer (175-80 in 1991), Dave Nicholson (126-60 in 1964) and Mark McGwire (118-56 in 2001). But at least those fellows made a few home run trots, or finished over the Mendoza Line.

Great! So we’ve already seen Jeff Kent try to be the worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years, now we’ve got a contender for Worst Offensive Season in Baseball History. Two terms you definitely want associated with two of your supposed power bats, right?

Things are looking pretty great right now. All-Star Break can’t come quickly enough.

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

I Know it’s the 4th of July…

…you’ll be busy. You’ll have a family barbeque to get to, a local fireworks celebration – whatever it is you do to enjoy a national holiday. Really, if you’re actually reading this post right now, I’m a little disappointed in you. But I implore you, make some time in your day to catch the Dodger game (1pm PST). Because as you should already know, both Nomar Garciaparra and Andruw Jones have sped up their rehab in order to be available today. Tell me you’re not interested in seeing Nomar playing shortstop for the first time since 2005! Especially now that it’s been another year and nine more injuries since “he’s too fragile to play third base” was offered as a reason that he couldn’t be shifted across the infield from first base to make room for James Loney. And you know you want to see if Jones is going to offer any glimpse of the player he once was, especially since his rehab was originally supposed to end a full two weeks from now on July 18th. I know it’s only 3 minor league games, but he did go 4-8 with a homer and a stolen base in Vegas – and zero strikeouts. Is it possible that the knee really was the source of his problems? I guess we’ll have to see. But if he can come back and be even half of his former self, that would still help this power-starved team and be a massive improvement on the guy who was approximately 1/100000th of his old self earlier this year.

Of course, bringing both of these guys back will require some roster moves, especially for Nomar because, having been placed on the 60 day DL, he’s no longer on the 40-man roster. Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com says:

The Dodgers will need to make two roster moves to make room for the veterans. Newly arrived outfielder Jason Repko is one likely candidate. The other could come from a group of bench players, including Angel Berroa, Andy LaRoche and Mark Sweeney.

Repko, fine. Yeah, it’s only been seven at-bats, but the four K’s and zero hits haven’t exactly made much of an impression. Get an OF back in Jones, send one down in Repko. But here’s the thing, Ken. There’s a bunch of guys that could get the axe for Nomar. Angel Berroa’s got an OPS+ of 27, to the surprise of absolutely no one except Ned Colletti. With Nomar around, Berroa and Luis Maza seem a little redundant – and Maza’s OPS+ is 44, which is still bad, but at least he can play second as well. Mark Sweeney may be the most useless player the Dodgers have ever had, and yes, I do remember Jason Grabowski. He’s hitting .094, for chrissakes. There’s even a case to be made for sending down Blake DeWitt, now that he’s down to hitting .169 over the last month. The point is, there’s a lot of filler on the roster right now. However, in no way should Andy LaRoche be considered among them. I know, he’s not really lit the league on fire yet. But unlike Berroa, Maza, and Sweeney, he’s actually got a future. 30 big league at-bats is hardly enough to decide what it is. If Andy LaRoche is the one sent down for Nomar… well, that might be the end of this blog entirely, because I don’t know if I could ever rationally write about this team again.

On to trade rumor news, because that’s always a topic I find endlessly fascinating. First, the shortstop problem. We’ve discussed the possibility of David Eckstein before, and although I wasn’t really for it, I understood why he might be in the conversation. Well, hopefully this juxtaposition from the Toronto Sun can put an end to that right here and now:

It’s no surprise that the Blue Jays are shopping right-hander A.J. Burnett.

But what they’re looking for in return certainly is.

The Jays are looking to obtain a shortstop in talks with other teams.

Wait, the Jays have two shortstops, Eckstein and John McDonald. Why would they want another?

“They’re offering Burnett to any team that needs pitching,” said an American League general manager. “They’ve told us they’re not happy with either David Eckstein or John McDonald.”

McDonald signed a two-year contract for $3.8 million last fall and before spring training the Jays signed Eckstein to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. Eckstein has had problems in the field while McDonald is hitting .163 in 29 games.

Manager Cito Gaston has given as much playing time at short to Marco Scutaro, who was signed as an utility infielder.

Fantastic. The Jays are in last place and even they can’t stomach Eckstein. I especially like the “has had problems in the field” part of this. I know the Dodgers are desperate at SS… but not that desperate, right?

Finally, C.C. Sabathia, also known as “an expensive starting pitcher the Dodgers simply do not need, yet the media seems to insist that they do”. I can’t find the video, unfortunately, but my eyes nearly fell out of my head watching Tim Kurkjian on ESPN last night saying that the Dodgers “desperately need a starting pitcher”. Yes, the fact that the Dodgers have the #1 pitching staff in the NL (by ERA), a bonafide young ace in Chad Billingsley, and a lousy offense shouts “more pitching!” Well, Ken Rosenthal is reporting the Brewers are jumping into this with both feet, saying:

The Brewers’ offer for Sabathia includes Class AA left fielder Matt LaPorta, according to sources with two other clubs that are interested in acquiring the pitcher.

Class AA shortstop Alcides Escobar also may be in the Brewers’ proposed deal, one of the sources says.

To put this into Dodgers terms, consider sending Matt Kemp and Chin-Lung Hu – plus likely more since LaPorta is considered an even better hitting prospect than Kemp. How many times can I say “pass”?

Have a happy holiday, folks.

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

Random Stupid Quotes And Stupid People: Mark Sweeney

From this morning’s L.A. Daily News, Mark Sweeney explains the reasons of his struggles this year:

I never make excuses, but

Yet here comes the excuse…

The situations I have been in haven’t been ideal for pinch-hitting and putting your piece into a team, because offensively we have struggled. There are times when you feel like you’re in the flow of the game and you want to put your piece in, whether it’s advancing a runner or putting a ball in play.

O.K., I am now convinced that Sweeney is on crack.  What the hell does this mean?  For starters, what is an ideal pinch hitting situation and non-ideal pinch hitting situation?  I’m guessing that he means one where he’s able to come up with runners on, as opposed to the bases empty and, because he feels he’s getting more of the latter, that’s why he has struggled.

So, basically, the reason he is now hitting .098 is because of the fact that his team cannot give him “ideal situations” to come in and do his job.

O.K., let’s look a little more in depth into this.

In his 61 at-bats this season, only 29 of them (less than half) have been with the bases empty.  In these 29 at-bats, he is 2 for 29 (which is a third of the amount of hits he has all season, by the way), which amounts of to .069/.100/.103 line.

O.K., fine, so, you’re right, Sweeney Poo (poo?).  Discounting the fact that some of these at-bats also count the starts that you’ve had this year, we get it; you’re not great with the bases empty.  You’re a lean, mean, pinch hitting machine when it matters… that’s right, with runners in scoring position!

Sweeney with RISP: 1 for 17, .059/.227/.059

Err… O.K.  They can’t be in scoring position.  Just on base.

Sweeney with runners on first and second: 0 for 3: .000/.000/.000

O.K., so you mean second and third?

Sweeney with runners on second and third:  0 for 3: .000/.000/.000

Bases loaded?

Sweeney with bases loaded: 0 for 1: .000/.500/.000

No…?  How about leading off an inning?

Sweeney leading off an inning: 0 for 8: .000/.000/.000

Close and late?

Sweeney close and late: 2 for 19: .105/.250/.158

How about scoring position with two outs?

Sweeney with RISP with 2 outs:  0 for 10:  .000/.167/.000

Oh, forget it, you just suck.  And for that matter, quit your whining, Mark.  Guess what?  You decided to spend your career specializing in a role that is one of the hardest in the game.  What the hell do you expect, to step into the game with bases loaded, 0 outs every night?  To blame your failures on the rest of the team for not giving you “ideal situations” is ludicrous, especially when you have completely sucked in every which possible situation.  I’m sure our starting rotation also doesn’t like our offense and it’s a freaking rarity when they get “ideal situations.”  That hasn’t stopped most of them from doing their part.  Your job is to hit the ball… regardless of who’s on base.  A bases empty situation doesn’t exempt you from doing your job.

There’s your veteran leadership…

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg