So, as the first series of the year concludes, here are some random observations, thus far, as I try to think positively and completely forget about last night’s terrible loss:
On the offensive side of things (FUCKING HELL, THAT SUCKED!!), Blake DeWitt has capitalized on his opportunity at third base and has filled in more than adequately (What kind of swing was that, Kemp?!). DeWitt has started his 2008 season 5-9, while looking solid on defense and his at-bats have been efficient (THAT BALL WAS YOURS, ANDRUW!!). He seems to show some good plate discipline and works the count, as shown by his 3 BB so far. As of now, there are no reasons to keep him away from 3B if he keeps performing
at this level, regardless of the Giles signing… or, excuse me, non-signing… or signing…. non-signing. Unless DeWitt completely Wally Pipp’s both Nomar and LaRoche, my guess is that he’ll probably be sent back down, eventually (DIE, PIERRE!!), but he’s earned a longer look.
It’s also been really cool to see that Furcal guy reappear after going MIA at the end of 2006. I think when going back to the failures of 2007, sometimes people forget his injuries and just how much it killed the Dodgers, last year. Thankfully, he’s finally looking healthy, or to put it another way: finally staying the hell away from Jason Repko, and, when he’s on his game, he can be an absolute monster, both offensively and defensively. Hell, you could even make an argument that, when healthy, he’s the team’s MVP. So far, he’s been off to a great start and if he can stay healthy, he’ll provide the Dodgers with one of the better leadoff men in the game. Healthy Furcal = very good.
Jeff Kent is back into form and says: “Spring Training, my ass,” while James Loney continues to do his thing, but some of the downsides have been Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, as well as Andruw Jones. Martin has been pressing big time lately and I expect him to get out of it, so I am not really concerned with him. Matt Kemp, on the other hand, has been getting schooled since his RBI single to open up the season, and looks more like the Kemp of 2006 than 2007. The plate discipline has seemed to erode slightly and he’s getting suckered into chasing some of those fastballs on the outside corner and just missing fastballs, in general. Granted, some of the former might be due to the absolute piss poor umpiring this series, but, like Martin, I expect Kemp to rebound… again, we’ve only completed three games.
Having said that, the one who concerns me the most right now is Andruw Jones. After watching him throughout the Spring, he has not really looked good at all, at least offensively. While he’s been as advertised defensively, he’s been taking some God-awful swings and what I’ve noticed from him during all of Spring Training, and now, is that he seems to be hellbent on pulling the ball. If he can get away from this habit, I expect him to improve, but if not… I fear 2007 Andruw again. I’m still on the optimistic side about the signing, and feel, ultimately, he will be a good addition, but my optimism has somewhat tapered…
On the pitching side of things, I’m relieved to see Takashi Saito round into form, after his injuries this Spring, but what’s been really fun to watch is the continuing maturity of Brad Penny as a pitcher the past year or so, and Opening Day was a good example of that. One of the problems that has historically bitten Brad Penny in the ass has been his inefficiency with his pitches, thus leading to higher pitch counts and shorter outings. He improved in this area somewhat last year and it was nice to see him be able to go into the 7th inning in an outing that was really far from his best. Granted, it was against the Giants, so feeling some sense of accomplishment in beating them is like boasting you beat your 5 year old nephew in a game of chess, or saying that you outhit Juan Pierre, but, nonetheless, it is a step in a positive direction. Penny has gradually moved away from trying to strike out every hitter and, instead pitch to contact, and he’s become a better pitcher for it. As usual, the only challenge is whether he’ll be able to carry his usual stellar beginning of the season into the second half…
So now it’s on to SD this weekend. Can we please finally, say, I don’t know, win a game against them?!