Clayton Kershaw Doesn’t Know How to Win

I’m completely kidding, of course. But thanks to the bullpen blowing his lead tonight – and yes, Brian Falkenborg, even though two of those three runs got charged to Kershaw, it was you who gave up that three run bomb – Kershaw has now gone almost 11 months since his last professional win, on August 20, 2007, for AA Jacksonville. I know, I know; wins are a terrible way to evaluate a pitcher, and for much of that time his pitch count has been so regulated that he’s been unable to go the five innings required to get the victory. Throw in the fact that the Dodgers simply cannot score, and there’s plenty of extenuating circumstances. I get it. But still… it’s been nearly a year since the kid’s last victory.

It’s with this in mind that I say I hope that Kershaw is sent down once Brad Penny and Hiroki Kuroda return to the rotation. No, it’s not that he’s been all that bad. He’s been almost exactly what we thought he’d be – very inconsistent with flashes of greatness. For a 20 year old kid coming straight out of AA, the fact that he’s been almost exactly league average (4.42 ERA vs. the 4.38 average NL ERA) is actually very impressive, as are the 33 K’s in 38.2 innings. Kershaw has come up in a situation where most pitchers would embarrass themselves, and he’s shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s got the talent to dominate once he harnesses his control and learns to be a pitcher.

But the fact is very simple: is he one of the five best starting pitchers the Dodgers have right now? I’d say no. Chad Billingsley is already one of the top young pitchers in the NL, and after a rough stretch Derek Lowe has been excellent (3.21 ERA over the last month). Penny and Kuroda are obviously guaranteed slots once they return, and you’ve still got both Chan Ho Park and Eric Stults for the 5th spot, each of whom have been surprisingly effective.

This is why I didn’t want Kershaw to be called up in the first place – not because I thought he’d be overmatched, but because I simply didn’t see the need to rush him. Perhaps if he’d been called up when Penny and Kuroda went down within days of each other, I would have felt differently, but the fact is that the Dodgers already have too many good starting pitchers for too few slots, and it’s certainly not as though Kershaw has nothing left to master. Send the kid down for the next two months while he feels good about proving that he can hang with the big guys. Let him work on his weaknesses, especially his command and ability to work deeper into ballgames. Give him another start or two in September once the rosters expand, and hope that he’s learned enough to be counted on for 2009 out of the gate.

In other much more disappointing news, Dodger announcer Charley Steiner reported during tonight’s broadcast that Rafael Furcal was returning to Los Angeles for another exam after waking up in Las Vegas with back pain after his very first rehab game last night. Considering that Furcal was expected to rejoin the Dodgers as soon as this weekend vs. San Francisco, it’s becoming more and more clear that we simply cannot count on him at all. Even if he’s able to make it back to the big club at some point, it’s entirely too much of a risk to assume that he won’t get hurt again. And since this team absolutely positively cannot continue to go with Angel Berroa at shortstop, it’s really time to start looking into acquiring a shortstop. As bad as we all knew Berroa would be, he’s actually been worse. A line of .183/.246/.217 is an absolute joke, and he’s been so bad that he’s been benched for Luis Maza the last two nights in search of “offense”, even though Maza’s only putting up a 54 OPS+ himself. Although I know it sounds like I’m just tooting my own horn here, it’s not as though we didn’t all know this is what was going to happen from the moment Ned Colletti acquired him. 

I looked into what we could do at shortstop recently, and it’s time to really amp this up. Contrary to what I wrote yesterday (that Nomar was useless since he wouldn’t beat Furcal back), it now seems that we’re really going to see Nomar as the starting SS on this team, and that’s pretty much unacceptable too. Ned, forget about C.C. Sabathia. Find this team a competent shortstop. Do it now. We’re begging you, here.

Finally – and I know this is starting to drag on, but hey, what fun would writing a blog while drinking be otherwise? - old pal Ken Rosenthal checks in with a new rumor, this time that the Dodgers are interested in Toronto DH/1B Matt Stairs. I know what you’re thinking; “MSTI thinks Rosenthal is a joker, and he especially couldn’t handle Colletti acquiring yet another old veteran part.” Well think again, because I actually don’t hate this idea, presuming that it lives under the following conditions:

1. That it means the end of the Mark Sweeney era
2. That it wouldn’t require sending much of value back to Toronto

Yes, Stairs is old. But unlike Sweeney, he can hit. The last time he didn’t get double-digit homers in a season was 1995, and he only got 88 at-bats that year. Just a year ago he put up 21 homers and a 138 OPS+. This year he hasn’t been as good, but still slightly better than average for an AL player and his 8 HRs would instantly make him tied for the club lead. Plus, he can fill in at 1B and the OF corners. I’m not saying I’m dying for this to happen, but if the above two conditions are met (and really, I can’t imagine that Sweeney would stick if Stairs came, they’re the exact same player, except that Stairs isn’t dead), I could live with it.

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