MSTI’s 2011 in Review: Shortstop

2011 should be remembered as a year of transition in the world of Dodger shortstops, since we said goodbye to one of the best shortstops in Dodger history and hello to a hopeful future star, with a healthy dose of solid fill-in work from Jamey Carroll. Also, Justin Sellers! Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, though: the Dodgers had an infield position that ranked in the lower third of baseball by OPS, this time coming in 21st at .697. Funny how it’s hard to score runs when your infield is consistently below average, isn’t it?

Dee Gordon (B+)
.304/.325/.362 .686 0hr 24sb 0.5 WAR

Let’s simply start with this, illustrating the differences between Dee Gordon‘s two stints (the latter interrupted by injury) in the bigs:

Split PA R H 2B SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1st Half 85 11 19 2 9 2 16 .232 .250 .280 .530
2nd Half 148 23 49 7 15 5 11 .345 .367 .408 .776

Well, then. But does anyone remember just how far away we thought he was at the beginning of the season? Remember, when Rafael Furcal first injured himself in April, people started pounding the drum for Gordon, and I wasn’t exactly on board at the time:

It’s not going to be Dee Gordon. Sure, it’d be fun, it’d be exciting – and it’d also be a terrible idea. Gordon is absolutely not ready right now, and I’m of the opinion that I’m not sure he’s even going to be ready for next year. It’s not good for him, and it’s not good for the team. It shouldn’t happen, and it won’t.

He wasn’t, but that only lasted until early June when Gordon, surprisingly, got the call:

All of this takes us to Gordon, and I must admit that I am torn. He’s the most exciting player the Dodgers have in their system, and a roster spot used on him rather than Castro pushes the team light-years ahead as far as watchability and interest. Yet, the speed of his promotion is difficult to wrap my head around. Many observers, myself included, expected him to start 2011 in AA, and were somewhat surprised that he was pushed to ABQ to start the year. In an offense-heavy environment, he has a good-but-not-stellar line of .315/.361/.370. (Lest you think I’m being too harsh, remember that this is the team on which career nothing JD Closser is hitting .298/.389/.529.) Not a single reputable analyst expected him here this quickly, and when I interviewed Christopher Jackson, who covers the ‘topes daily, he joked that if Gordon were put in the majors right now, he’d break Jose Offerman‘s errors record. As we’ve all heard so many times, Gordon, who didn’t play baseball seriously until high school, is an extremely raw prospect, and not the type likely to be rushed.

At the time, we were pretty sure what we’d get from Gordon, and that was uncertain offense, no power or plate discipline, inconsistent defense… and mind-blowing, game-changing speed. In no way was that initial expectation wrong, because even though he hit just .232/.250/.280 in 22 games before being sent back down for Furcal in early July, and had games like this

Gordon was speeding around the bases for a triple, beating a perfect throw home on a sacrifice fly, effortlessly making outstanding defensive plays… and booting a relatively simple grounder to start the 7th inning, an inning in which the Reds scored four to put the game away. That came after a play in the second inning in which Gordon mistimed his approach to the bag on a sure double play ball, and only got one out; with the runner safe on second, the Reds ended up getting their first run of the game later in the inning.

…he also left us with a season’s worth of highlights in his few weeks up with the big club. On June 14, he put on such a show in one game against Cincinnati that I’m sure I crashed all of your browsers with the amount of animated GIFs I put together. It’s worth clicking through to see all of them, but I can’t not show my favorite here, a bunt in which he blew down the line to first so quickly several readers refused to believe I hadn’t manipulated it:


When he was sent back down, I was okay with that, yet optimistic about what we’d seen:

The Dodgers haven’t made it official yet, but we all know that Gordon is getting sent down later today to make room for Rafael Furcal, and that’s fine by me. Gordon has been basically exactly what we figured he’d be – overmatched offensively, inconsistent defensively, and occasionally completely breathtaking on both sides of the ball. For a player who was never supposed to be up this early, he showed the talent was real, even if he has much to work on. I look at his first taste as a success, and hopefully he can take that back to the minors with a better idea of what it takes to be a big league ballplayer.

That’s basically what happened, though not without some hiccups. Gordon returned on July 31 once Furcal was traded to St. Louis, and made it only a week before seeming to seriously injure his shoulder on a botched rundown play in Arizona. He missed just one full game before re-injuring himself on August 9 against Philadelphia, first in attempting to avoid a Ryan Howard tag and then on a swing; he was placed on the disabled list the next day and missed about three weeks, time which probably saved Eugenio Velez from a DFA.

Though the repeated injuries raised concerns about his durability, the best was yet to come. When he returned on September 1, he had two hits, then three the next day, a double in his only plate appearance the following day, and then three more the next day. After an 0-5 on September 6, he picked up seven more hits over his next two games, on his way to a .372/.398/.451 September (buoyed by an unsustainable .404 BABIP) that pushed his season average over .300.

It was a smashingly successful end to his season, though it wasn’t all gravy; in addition to the defensive lapses, of the 325 MLB players who had as many plate appearances as Gordon, only three drew fewer walks than his seven. This is a large part of why I’m not sure I see him as a leadoff hitter despite his speed, though as I noted in September, I didn’t mind getting him as many plate appearances as possible in a lost season. Let’s hope that next season he can be moved lower in the order, though that’s probably not all that realistic.

Still, considering that we were positive that he was rushed and that even seeing him next year wasn’t a given? Yeah, I’d say that ended up going pretty well.

Jamey Carroll (B+)
.290/.359/.347 .706 0hr 1.8 WAR

Pretty much all of our Carroll-related discussion over the winter was pointing out that he was one of the few Dodgers who could be relied upon to get on base, particularly important after adding low-OBP players like Juan Uribe and Rod Barajas. That ended up working out exactly as we’d hoped – Carroll finished third on the team in OBP, behind Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier – but one thing we weren’t quite sure of was what Carroll’s role would be, since the arrival of Uribe to play second base seemed to relegate Carroll to a bench role.

That question lasted for all of about two weeks, until Rafael Furcal injured himself yet again, pushing Carroll into service as the everyday shortstop on April 11. Between then and Furcal’s return in late May, Carroll hit a typical .303/.357/.359, nearly mirroring his season total, and with the rest of the offense stagnant in the early going, I started including him in the “big three” along with Kemp and Ethier (though a brutal error in Florida on April 25 only served to increase the growing furor around Jonathan Broxton).

When Furcal returned, Carroll returned to his bench role, seeing plenty of playing time at both middle infield positions. As you can see by his midseason review in July, we were more than pleased with his contribution:

Last season, Carroll had a .718 OPS and was largely hailed as the team MVP for stepping in to cover for Rafael Furcal at shortstop for nearly the entire season. For a 36-year-old career backup who had played in more than 113 games just once, it was quite the impressive feat. More impressive? The fact that he’s exceeding that this year, currently with a .734 OPS. In a lower run scoring environment, that’s good for a 111 OPS+. Once again, the team has been crushed by injuries. Once again, Jamey Carroll has risen to the occasion and more. I’m not sure what the future holds for Carroll in Los Angeles – this is the last year of his contract, and unsurprisingly teams are showing trade interest – but he has consistently outperformed expectations. I’ll miss him when he’s gone.

Carroll fell off in the second half – that .734 pre-break OPS was not quite matched by a .662 post-break mark – and since Dee Gordon got the call when Furcal was injured again and then traded, the main interest in Carroll the rest of the way is just when exactly we’d be saying goodbye to him, since several teams were showing strong interest in him at the deadline. At the time, I argued that it was best to trade him, and when it didn’t happen, I didn’t seem to be the only one who was disappointed, according to this story from ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson:

An hour or so later, when it had become clear to everyone that Carroll wasn’t going anywhere, he was inserted into the game, replacing the still-hitless Eugenio Velez, who probably was in the starting lineup only because the Dodgers were discussing a trade with some team that was interested in Carroll — there is strong evidence that team was the Atlanta Braves. But that trade never came together before the 1 p.m. PT deadline for players who had waiver claims on them, and there is no doubt Carroll was one of those players.

Later, in the clubhouse, Carroll had a look on his face like that of someone who had just been told he had won the lottery, then told that it was a mistake. But then, that’s kind of the way the soft-spoken, ever-stoic Carroll looks all the time.

“Am I still a Dodger?” he asked as two reporters approached him at his locker.

Told that he was, Carroll wasn’t about to publicly admit to being disappointed by that fact.

So what next? Carroll far outperformed the modest two-year contract that we weren’t so sure about when he received it in the 2009-10 offseason, and I need not remind you that second base and OBP are still giant holes for this club. But though I was certainly proven wrong about giving a multi-year deal to a 36-year-old, I’m not sure I can feel any better about it for a guy who is going to turn 38 in February (and yes, there will be enough teams interested that he should be able to pull another two-year deal if he wants). Regardless of what happens, Carroll has been an unbelievably valuable Dodger, and as tough as the last two seasons have been, I can’t imagine how much worse it might have been had he not been available to step in as needed. Wait, yes I can; we saw it in 2008 when we had to live with Angel Berroa and even the corpse of Nomar Garciaparra to step in at shortstop when Furcal was out. If this is it for Carroll as a Dodger, he will certainly be missed. Best of luck, Akbar.

Rafael Furcal (D-)
.197/.272/.248 .520 1hr -0.5 WAR

Furcal’s recap probably reads a lot like that of Casey Blake‘s, in that he was a popular and long-tenured Dodger who had little chance of staying healthy all year, didn’t, and contributed little in the time he was available.

Sidelined for much of the season by two serious injuries – 37 games in April and May with a fractured left thumb on a head-first slide and 26 games in June and July with a strained left oblique – Furcal played just 37 games as a Dodger. It probably says a lot about his Dodger tenure that 37 games isn’t even the fewest he played in a season, as he got into just 36 games during his 2008 season which was ravaged by back trouble. In between, he never really got going, with the fourth-worst wOBA of any shortstop with as many plate appearances as he had – and two of the guys below him lost their jobs. When he was traded to St. Louis at the end of July, it seemed like less of a trade worth analyzing and more of a foregone conclusion at the end of a nice Dodger career. (Though it was lost somewhat in the Trayvon Robinson excitement, outfielder Alex Castellanos hit .322/.406/.603 after joining AA Chattanooga in return for Furcal, raising hopes that he might be slightly more than the fifth outfielder which he’d been profiled as.)

Despite the injury-filled and unproductive end to his time as a Dodger, Furcal leaves as the best shortstop in Los Angeles Dodger history and arguably the best in team history alongside Pee Wee Reese. I’ve seen some suggest that perhaps he could come back to Los Angeles to play second base, but I think it’s more likely that some team that misses out on Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins will buy an ill-advised lottery ticket for multiple years to try and fill their own shortstop hole.

Justin Sellers (C-)
.203/.283/.301 .583 1hr 0.6 WAR

And the curse of first impressions strikes again: Justin Sellers comes up, hits a three-run homer in front of his hometown crowd in his third career game, and all of a sudden my Twitter feed is lighting up with people suggesting that Dee Gordon be traded so that Sellers can be the everyday shortstop going forward. Of course, after that… well,  you can see his line above, right?

But let’s first go back to spring training, when I actually was intrigued by having him on the club:

Sellers is someone who I’ve never talked about much around here, and I’ve been meaning to for a while. Despite looking like he’s about 14, his 2010 AAA stats were impressive: .285/.371/.497, with 14 homers. Don’t put too much stock into that, however; while I can’t say for sure because the great minorleaguesplits.com is no longer around, the power displayed is almost certainly a result of the Albuquerque environment, since he had just 17 homers in five previous seasons.

Still, there’s reason to like him. Most of the reports I’ve been able to dig up claim he’s an above-average glove, possibly making him the best defensive choice of these four, and he’s shown improvement in mastering the strike zone. In two seasons as a Dodger minor leaguer, he’s put up OBP of .371 and .360, thanks to a very good K/BB ratio of 115/99. In January, Baseball America gave him the title of “Best Strike Zone Discipline” in the Dodger system, and you don’t need me to remind you how starved this team is for that right now. Though it’s early, he’s off to a good start in the spring, having walked three times without a whiff. Unlike DeJesus, he did attend the winter development camp.

If there’s a knock against him, it’s that he’s been exclusively a middle infielder, though with Jamey Carroll and Juan Uribe both able to handle third base, that wouldn’t seem to be an issue. He’s not a highly touted prospect, clearly, so at 25 and on his third pro organization, I wouldn’t be all that worried about having him riding the major league bench as opposed to playing every day in AAA.

Sellers lost that competition and headed back to AAA, where he put up a superficially impressive .304/.400/.537 line with 14 homers, numbers that seemed nice, but which didn’t stand up when looked into further, as I did when he was recalled to replace Furcal on August 12:

I assume that by now I don’t need to tell you not to trust Albuquerque numbers, but don’t trust Albuquerque numbers. Never has that been more true than with Sellers, who should probably buy a home in ABQ (.387/.460/.737 with 11 homers) and never be allowed to put on the Isotopes’ road grays (.218/.338/.331). So you can imagine what that’ll look like in the big leagues.

And, well, that’s exactly what happened, isn’t it? I know I’m usually the guy saying “don’t judge a rookie by his first brief look,” but don’t forget that this is a 25-year-old rookie without much of a non-altitude-inflated minor-league track record while bouncing among three organizations. That’s not to say that Sellers has no future whatsoever, of course; as a plus glove who can play three positions for the minimum salary, he could be a reasonably useful bench piece for a few seasons. It’s just not someone I choose to think of as a possible starting solution, despite the gaping hole at second base.

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Next! Jerry Sands makes his mark! The flaming catastrophe that was JaMarcus Gwybbons, Jr.! And Jamie Hoffmann and Xavier Paul exist, briefly! It’s left field!

Report: Dodgers Agree to Trade Rafael Furcal to Cardinals

First reported by Craig Calcaterra at NBC Sports, and since picked up by several other outlets:

A source tells our own Craig Calcaterra that the Cardinals and Dodgers have agreed to the particulars in a Furcal deal and that Furcal is leaning toward waiving his no-trade protection to go to St. Louis.

This does not mean a deal is done, because as a player with 10/5 rights, Furcal could refuse the trade (or, possibly, Calcaterra’s source could be wrong, though it’s not like this is a story that’s coming out of the blue). But there’s just about no chance he does that; why, in his walk year (since there’s no way that option gets picked up), would he want to play the next few weeks on a losing team before likely getting shoved aside for Dee Gordon in September? He’ll go. Bet on it, and it’s the right move for both sides.

I’ll update this post when we hear who is coming back from St. Louis, but let’s set expectations here. Furcal’s value is far, far less than Hiroki Kuroda‘s, so don’t start dreaming about any Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, or Zack Cox types. Much depends on who picks up the majority of the remaining $4m or so on Furcal’s contract, of course.

More to come.

Matt Kemp’s Homer Tops Ted Lilly’s Homers


So much for that mini-slump Matt Kemp was supposedly stuck in during the early-to-mid part of July, right? Kemp entered tonight having reached base ten times over his previous five games, including three doubles, and then outdid himself in the 9-5 win over Arizona by driving in the first five runs on a single and a three-run homer – in addition to a nice diving catch in the top of the 7th. How ridiculous is Kemp right now? After the catch, Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Heyman actually tweeted that as far as he’s concerned, the best player in baseball right now is either Kemp or Toronto’s Jose Bautista, who’s sporting a line of something like .682/.951/2.933. High praise indeed, even if it’s probably not accurate, almost enough to not make you want to cry when reading Ramona Shelburne’s account of how Ned Colletti’s hands are tied by the McCourt mess in signing Kemp to the long-term deal he so clearly deserves. (Speaking of which, the latest report is that those two idiots could spend nearly $35m in legal fees alone settling their divorce case. That’s a completely appropriate use for that kind of cash, isn’t it?)

While Kemp will get the accolades, and rightfully so, it’s important to note that even he can’t drive in five runs on two hits without a little bit of help, and for once, he wasn’t the only Dodger contributing. Six other Dodgers had hits with Juan Rivera and Aaron Miles each chipping in two (Rivera’s were both doubles), and Andre Ethier with three plus a hit-by-pitch.

Of course, all that offense was needed since Ted Lilly gave up two more homers (including one to Willie Bloomquist, which really should be a felony, right?), plus another from Matt Guerrier. Mike MacDougal, terrifyingly the new setup man with Kenley Jansen on the disabled list with an irregular heartbeat, managed to get through the 8th without trouble (as I joked on Twitter, one benefit of his new status is that he won’t have to come in with men on base), and Javy Guerra finished up in the 9th.

The win puts them to 12-11 in July with one game yet to go; they haven’t had a winning month so far in 2011, unless you count March’s 1-0. They’ve also won 11 of 17, which is quite an encouraging streak, and a credit to Don Mattingly, I believe. They’re also still 12.5 games back in the NL West and 13 back in the wild card, so let’s not get too carried away. Still, this team could have easily rolled over and died, and instead they’re showing us some life. We can take some solace in that, at least.

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Roster notes: Josh Lindblom was recalled to take Jansen’s spot on the roster. Jansen is actually feeling well enough that he threw a bullpen session today, but due to the blood thinners he’s on, he’s not allowed to be in a position where he could get hit in the head. Casey Blake went 3-4 with a double in a rehab game tonight, and could take the spot of Juan Uribe, who may go on the DL thanks to a strained groin. Finally, because several of you asked last week, the reason Carlos Monasterios isn’t pitching in the minors is because he hurt his elbow so badly that he underwent Tommy John surgery this week. Don’t expect to see him in the bigs until 2013 at the earliest.

And when, oh when, will we be free of Eugenio Velez?

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Fun as it was to see the offense show some life, let’s not pretend that tonight’s game is in any way more important or interesting than the rapidly-developing trade market, and all of the focus is shining squarely on Hiroki Kuroda, Jamey Carroll, and Rafael Furcal.

The other day, I said that I thought it was 70/30 that Kuroda would stay in Los Angeles, but I’m beginning to soften on that stance. As Ken Gurnick notes at dodgers.com, Kuroda could easily end the speculation by simply saying he’s not going to accept any trades. He hasn’t done that, which sounds like there is at least the possibility that he’ll take a deal that he likes. That plus the fact that Kuroda’s standing as the best starting pitcher available (I’m assuming Ubaldo Jimenez isn’t going anywhere) was enhanced by his nice start the other night allows for the chance that the Dodgers could get a decent prospect in return. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Yankees saw A.J. Burnett lose to Baltimore (despite 10 strikeouts) tonight and have a doubleheader to deal with tomorrow, either.

As for the infielders, a few days ago I thought it was all but certain that Carroll was gone, particularly when Milwaukee lost Rickie Weeks, but now I think that’s less likely. The Dodgers reportedly would consider trading either Carroll or Furcal, but not both. You can make the argument that that’s foolish – hint: it is – yet if it’s going to be one or the other, you’d have to think it’s Furcal. He’s the one who isn’t going to have a place to play when Dee Gordon returns in September. He’s the one who still has $4m on his contract, and he’s the one who is now drawing interest from several teams, including the Diamondbacks and the Cardinals. (And let’s not miss this opportunity to laugh at the Cardinals for needing to replace the woeful Ryan Theriot, because, ha.) For all the talk of how awful Furcal’s season has been, he does have eight hits in his last six games, including a double tonight, and when he’s healthy he’s certainly a contributor. So I do think he goes, and Carroll stays.

Of course, if it were up to me, they’d both go; Carroll certainly has value in this market. What’s the harm of playing Gordon every day at shortstop, and Miles splitting time at second and third with Blake and Ivan DeJesus until Uribe is healthy? That’ll get you through the season, and while I like Carroll, if you can get something for a guy who’s about to be 38, you do it.

Finally, the end of Gurnick’s trade report is worth reprinting, if only because he presented it with no additional comment:

There also have been inquiries about catchers Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro.

I can think of a few inquiries there. None of them have anything to do with trades, though.

One Bad Inning Ends Dodger Winning Streak


Hiroki Kuroda had one bad inning tonight, allowing hits to Miguel Montero and Geoff Blum to lead off the second before letting Brandon Allen make the most of his second plate appearance of the season by blasting a three-run homer to right. Kuroda allowed just two other hits, retiring the last nine he faced, but this year’s Dodgers aren’t built to withstand even one bad inning. With the exception of Matt Kemp‘s solo homer to lead off the second – Matt Kemp, still good at baseball – the only other threat came when Ian Kennedy walked Rafael Furcal with the bases loaded in the fifth. And thus ends the five-game winning streak, sinking the Dodgers back to ten games under .500.

Speaking of Furcal, Steve Dilbeck asked earlier today how long the Dodgers can wait for he and Juan Uribe to come around. It’s a fair question; each has been either injured, awful, or both all season long, and that was the case even before they combined to go 0-6 with just the aforementioned walk. Unfortunately, the options to replace them are slim; all you can do at this point is keep throwing them out there and pray that they bounce back. What else are you going to do? As awful as Uribe has been, there’s too much time and money left on his atrocious contract to consider it a sunk cost, and if he’s to regain any of his value he needs to be on the field. Furcal is a different case, since his time as a Dodger is almost certainly at an end; still, Dee Gordon clearly showed that he wasn’t ready, so it’s hard to argue that a change should be made there right now. If anything, as Jon Weisman noted in our video chat earlier, perhaps the club should stop minimizing Jamey Carroll.

Finally, Christopher Jackson of the Albuquerque Baseball Examiner relays the news that the Isotopes released catcher JD Closser to make room for A.J. Ellis. Under normal circumstances, an AAA club releasing a 31-year-old member of the Official Fraternity of Backup Catchers who hasn’t seen the bigs since 2006 is hardly noteworthy, but absent more info, it does seem to be an odd decision. As Jackson notes, Ellis seems almost certain to return to the Dodgers sooner than later when Rod Barajas or Dioner Navarro either re-injure themselves or finally wear out their welcomes with general awfulness.

When that happens, the Isotopes will be left with 28-year-old Damaso Espino (.297/.338/.398) and… well, I don’t know. Perhaps Matt Wallach or long-lost Hector Gimenez moves up from AA Chattanooga, and that’s fine, but the argument could easily have been made that Closser (.297/.378/.486 with 10 homers and by all accounts excellent in the clubhouse) is superior to Navarro right now.

2011 Midseason Grades: Offense


The All-Star break is here, and that means it’s everyone’s favorite time of the year: midseason grades. It’s been a tough year for the Dodgers on and off the field, though we do of course have the pleasure of a few exceptionally bright spots. As always, the grades are in relation to what was reasonably expected of the player at the beginning of the season, not in comparison to other players in the bigs. Otherwise, Jose Bautista would get an A, and no one else would get above a Q. Fewer than 50 plate appearances or 10 innings pitched gets you an incomplete.

All stats are via baseball-reference. Today we’ll do hitters, and before the break is over we’ll get to pitchers, management, and one new kind of review. As always, these letter grades are subjective opinions and meant more for fun than anything. Except for Juan Uribe’s. There’s nothing fun about Juan Uribe.

Catchers

Rod Barajas D+ (.220/.262/.385 8hr 0.2 WAR)
And right off the bat, our rating system is being tested. Do I give Barajas an F, because he’s not any good, or a C, because we never expected him to be any good? I’ll go with a D+, because even though he’s underperforming his own mediocre career stats, he was still second on the team in homers until the final game before the break. I suppose that says a lot more about the Dodgers than it does about him, though. Due to the low bar for offense from catching in the bigs, he’s actually slightly above replacement, though it’s hard to look at the 46/8 K/BB without getting a little ill. He’s due to be activated from the disabled list on Friday, allowing us to start up the always fun “Navarro or Ellis?” game again. (It’ll be Navarro sticking, of course.)

Dioner Navarro F (.183/.234/.287 2hr -0.1 WAR)
You don’t need me to go back and really find all of the articles I wrote over the winter asking why he was worth a $1m major-league contract and why he was guaranteed a spot over the likely superior A.J. Ellis, right? Navarro came in with the lowest of expectations, yet after missing the first month with an oblique injury, has somehow still managed to underperform. Despite that, he still manages to come up with the game on the line in the ninth inning nearly every single night. The world is a twisted place.

Fun fact: Navarro is the only player in history with the name “Dioner”. Fun fact #2: he’s still looking for his first hit against a lefty in fourteen tries this season.

A. J. Ellis (C) (.222/.364/.222 0hr -0.1 WAR)
I realize I’ve heaped far more praise on a 30-year-old minor league lifer with absolutely no power than he really deserves, but the Dodger catching situation is dire, and his long minor-league record and short major league stints show an above-average ability to get on base, which is exactly what this lineup is missing. Defensively, I won’t insult your intelligence by citing CERA, but it’s hard to think it’s a coincidence that Chad Billingsley’s mid-season slump turned around precisely when Ellis started being his regular catcher. Too bad he’s almost certainly headed back for Barajas on Friday.

Hector Gimenez (inc.) (.143/.143/.143 0hr -0.1 WAR)
I would like to say something witty or insightful about Hector Gimenez, but that infers that I have absolutely any recollection of him as a Dodger whatsoever. Pass.

Infielders

James Loney (C-) (.268/.311/.342 4hr -0.5 WAR)
I feel weird giving Loney a C-, because his line and a grade in that range suggest that he was his normal mediocre self all season. Far from it; by early May, he was the most hated man in LA since OJ and we were all writing articles about how bad his season was going to be on a historical level. Since then, he’s basically been the best non-Kemp hitter on the team. That doesn’t mean he’s good – hooray, a .751 OPS from a 1B since April 26! – and again, that says a lot about the rest of the players on this team, but nothing tells you more about the plight of the 2011 Dodgers than the fact that their punchless overpaid first baseman is no longer even close to being the biggest issue here.

Jamey Carroll (A+) (.297/.368/.366 0hr 1.6 WAR)
Last season, Carroll had a .718 OPS and was largely hailed as the team MVP for stepping in to cover for Rafael Furcal at shortstop for nearly the entire season. For a 36-year-old career backup who had played in more than 113 just once, it was quite the impressive feat. More impressive? The fact that he’s exceeding that this year, currently with a .734 OPS. In a lower run scoring environment, that’s good for a 111 OPS+. Once again, the team has been crushed by injuries. Once again, Jamey Carroll has risen to the occasion and more. I’m not sure what the future holds for Carroll in Los Angeles – this is the last year of his contract, and unsurprisingly teams are showing trade interest – but he has consistently outperformed expectations. I’ll miss him when he’s gone.

Fun Carroll fact: since you know I have no use for RBI, regard this as more of a fun statistical quirk than any sort of value judgement, but he has somehow managed to step to the plate 311 times and drive in just 8 runners. I suppose that’s what happens when you don’t hit homers and you’re either batting leadoff (behind the pitcher and the horrible bottom of the lineup) or 8th (behind low-OBP guys like Uribe, Barajas, and Loney).

Aaron Miles
(A) (.318/.337/.381 1hr 1.1 WAR)
Credit where credit is due: Aaron Miles has been a really, really nice part of this team. I hardly need to remind you about all the jokes we made at his expense when he was signed and in the spring, but after being forced into far more playing time than anyone expected, he’s responded by becoming arguably the 4th-best hitter on the team. (Like Barajas and his homers, that says a lot more about the other hitters on the club, but still). We expected absolutely nothing from him – less than nothing, perhaps – and not only has he stepped up where needed, he led the NL in batting average in June.

It’s not all that simple, of course. .300 average or not, he’s not walking and he provides zero power, so his OPS is just barely over .700, and his .344 BABIP, 35 points over his career average, seems unlikely to hold. So let’s not get too caught up in praise for Miles to pretend he’s actually, you know, good. But for a non-roster guy who was something like the 8th infielder entering the season? Well done, Aaron. Well done.

Hey, you think we can sucker some team into trading for him at the deadline?

Ivan DeJesus, Jr. (inc.) (.188/.235/.188 0hr -0.5 WAR)
So far, DeJesus looks to be this year’s winner of the “Blake DeWitt Memorial LA-to-ABQ Frequent Flyer” award, because he saw three different stints with the big club, including the pleasure of flying all the way to Cincinnati for the pleasure of one pinch-hitting appearance in June. That being the case, you can’t really judge his big-league performance too much, though he also didn’t do a lot to change my perception of him as a bench player at best. Back in ABQ, he’s hitting .304, which is nice, though a .758 OPS in that environment isn’t encouraging.

Fun fact: for a guy whose name isn’t exactly “John Smith“, Ivan DeJesus is neither the best Ivan or the best DeJesus to play in the bigs this year.

Juan Uribe (oh holy good lord, F, and I don’t just mean the letter grade) (.207/.273/.306 4hr 0.4 WAR)
Uribe has been so bad that there’s an entire Tumblr dedicated to how sad he looks and makes us feel. He’s so bad that when an obviously fantastical rumor popped up for about five seconds about how the Dodgers might be looking to send him back to San Francisco, we jumped on it even though we knew it was BS, just for the small amount of hope it brought. He’s been so bad that he had a lousy April (.247/.303/.420) and hasn’t come close to even matching that since. He’s been so bad that of all the players in the bigs with at least 200 plate appearances, only three have a lower TAv than him. He’s been so bad that he has just one homer since April turned into May, and even that came off Brad Penny, so I feel like he was just trolling us. But hey, not like we have to stare at him for 2.5 more years or anything.

The funny part is, he’s actually been so good in the field that it pushes him above replacement level. That 0.4 breaks down into -0.4 oWAR and 0.8 dWAR. It doesn’t make him a good player, and it doesn’t justify the contract, but it’s something. I suppose that something should probably be enough to get him more than an F, but… no.

Rafael Furcal F (.185/.227/.228 1hr -0.5 WAR)
How do you even judge Furcal at this point? It can’t be on health, because he’s managed to end up on the disabled list twice more this year (though at least it wasn’t his back this time). It’s hard to do so on production, since he’s constantly either just about to go on the disabled list or just coming back from it. I suppose the fact that he’s not in a full body cast is something, but that line above… yeesh. Anyone who’s still dreaming of trading him to someone at the deadline probably needs to wake up because unfortunately, Furcal’s best days are behind him. As, probably, are his days of being able to obtain health insurance when he’s no longer a ballplayer.

Dee Gordon C+ (.232/.250/.280 0hr 0.0 WAR)
We all knew Gordon was recalled far too soon, and it showed: he was overmatched at the plate and made some critical errors in the field. He also brought the kind of excitement that we haven’t seen in years, if ever. If you have any doubt about that, just head on over to this GIF-heavy recap of the amazing feats he pulled off in just a single game. A lot of players end up with 0.0 WAR because they’ve been boring or barely playable, and haven’t contributed anything either positive or negative. That’s not the case with Gordon; he did plenty of things that hurt the team, but he made up for them with a ton of positives. That’s how it all evens out, and for a raw 23-year-old, yeah, I’ll take that.

Juan Castro A (.286/.333/.286 0hr 0.0 WAR)
Castro gave us the greatest gift of all, retiring this week before subjecting us to a fifth stint as a Dodger. That alone gets the man an A.

Casey Blake D- (.243/.346/.386 4hr 0.3 WAR)
Things the 37-year-old Blake has been on the disabled list for this season: sore oblique, infected elbow, pinched nerve in neck, Legionnaire’s disease, athlete’s thumb, bone-itis, ringworm infestation, osteoporosis. Also, he narrowly avoided a brush with the law for continually yelling at those damned kids to get off his lawn.

Casey Blake is old.

Russ Mitchell (inc.) (.115/.258/.269 1hr 0.1 WAR)
Mitchell has 74 MLB plate appearances in his short career. He has nine hits, and though one was a game-tying homer in the 9th inning against the White Sox earlier this year, that’s good for an OPS+ of 29. That’s an unfairly small sample size, of course, but he’s also hitting .244 in ABQ right now. Russ Mitchell: nope.

Outfielders

Jerry Sands (C-) (.200/.294/.328 2hr -0.4 WAR)
Like Gordon, Sands was probably promoted too soon, and like Gordon, he didn’t really provide results, but did provide hope for the future. All of the stories we heard about his maturity and plate approach seemed to be true, yet so far it hasn’t translated into production. Sands is crushing the ball once again in ABQ, and with the Dodger offense still stagnant, we’ll see him back up in blue before very long.

Tony Gwynn (B-) (.256/.316/.326 0hr 0.6 WAR)
It’s been something of an interesting season for Gwynn. He was his normal Gwynn-like self in April (i.e. bad), hitting .264/.291/.377 before going completely off the rails in May: he managed just two hits all month and received only four starts, as Sands took over the bulk of the left field work. At that point, with his batting average below .200 and with nothing to his name other than two game-saving catches, we started wondering how long he’d stick on the roster, especially when he didn’t get into any of the first three games in June. On June 4, he entered in the 8th inning and got two hits in a game that went 11 innings. He got a hit the next game, and the next, and before you knew it he’d hit in 7 of the first 8 games of the month. It would get better – since June 26, which was two weeks ago yesterday, he’s had five multihit games, including three with three and one with four. Now that Sands and Gordon are both in the minors, he’s effectively taken over as both the starting left fielder and leadoff hitter. Because he owns the only plus glove in what is a subpar defensive outfield, this was the outcome we’d always wanted. Now let’s see if he can really keep it up.

Marcus Thames
F (.197/.243/.333 2hr -0.6 WAR)
Injured? Yep, twice, even if only one led to a DL stint. Poor on defense? You better believe it. Unproductive on offense? Well, the line above doesn’t lie, right? I sure hope he’s renting, not buying.

Jay Gibbons
F (.255/.323/.345 1hr -0.5 WAR)
Well, he got DFA’d and claimed by no one, placing him back in AAA, so it couldn’t have been that good of a first half, right? You want to feel bad because his vision problems really derailed last season’s feel-good story right from the start… but then you remember he wasn’t really ever that good in the first place. The best part of that -0.5 WAR is that his oWAR is actually 0.1… meaning he’s really, really bad in the field.

JaMarcus Gwybbons, Jr. D-
Remember when the left field situation was going to be a nice trio between Gwynn, Thames, and Gibbons? Sheesh. Until Gwynn’s hot spurt over the last few weeks, they combined to offer absolutely nothing. Less than nothing, if you just went by WAR. At various points this season, we’ve made arguments for DFA’ing all three of them. Count this under “plans that were unlikely to work and then did, in fact, not work.”

Trent Oeltjen (inc.) (.265/.386/.441  1hr 0.6 WAR)
Hey, remember when Oeltjen went 4-4 with a homer in that 15-0 drubbing of Minnesota? That was rad, right? Unfortunately for him, he had 3 hits in 20 PA before that game, and just 2 hits in 20 PA since. 

Xavier Paul (inc.) (.273/.273/.273 0hr -0.1 WAR)
Paul’s ultimate contribution to the 2011 Dodgers is managing to grab a left field start before his departure, thus helping us push towards our ultimate goal of setting a record for most left fielders in a season. He’s got an 84 OPS+ for Pittsburgh since being picked up, though he’s improved his OPS in each full month there.

Jamie Hoffmann (inc.) (.000/.000/.000 0hr -0.2 WAR)
The man got four plate appearances. Let’s not infer too much from that. I still think he could be a pretty useful fourth outfielder in the bigs, as he’s a well-regarded defender having another high-OBP season in the minors, this time with a little pop.

Eugenio Velez (inc.) (.000/.000/.000 0hr -0.2 WAR)

Baron Ironglove von Pickoff. Still can’t believe he’s a Dodger. Or a major leaguer. Or a human being.

Matt Kemp (A+++) (.313/.398/.584 22hr 27sb 5.7 WAR)
I know you come here for informed baseball analysis and all (uh, I hope), and I could write 10,000 words on why Kemp is awesome. I will at some point, and 9,990 of those words will probably be about how I always said that he’d have a monstrous season this year, even as half the city was tearing him apart last year. There will be a time for that sort of insight, but for now, let’s leave it at this: 91 games into the season, Kemp has 5.7 WAR. That puts him on pace for about 9.9 WAR over the full season… a mark bettered by just two Dodgers in history. Yeah. His season is that good. Remember when everyone wanted to trade him, secure in the knowledge that he had neither the baseball IQ or work ethic to become a star? Yeah, me neither.

Matt Kemp is a shiny golden god.

Andre Ethier (B+) (.311/.383/.463 9hr 1.9 WAR)
Ethier, without question, represented one of the more difficult grades to give out. 30 game hitting streak? Yes, please. .383 OBP? Delicious. While his OPS is nearly 40 points off his 2008 career high, the lower offensive environment this year means that it’s good for a career-best 141 OPS+, so hooray for that. No, he’s not hitting lefties (.242/.282/.368), but he never hits lefties, so that’s not much of a surprise. All in all, it’s been a very solid year from one of the two main offensive threats this club has.

Yet… it feels like something is missing. Prior to his two-homer day yesterday, he’d hit just seven dingers, and his SLG is down for the third year in a row. It’s certainly not enough of a problem to criticize him, hence the good grade, and perhaps yesterday’s outburst was the start of something new. I just can’t help shaking the feeling that is very unpopular among the casual fans who love him so much: Ethier is a very good player, but not a superstar. We’ll need to keep that in mind when his contract is up. I don’t want to get too down on him, though: right now, he’s the second best player on this team, and that in itself is quite valuable.

******

Don’t forget: Matt Kemp is in the Home Run Derby tonight and will be live tweeting @TheRealMattKemp throughout.