James Loney’s Obsession With the Rockies

James Loney has seven homers this season. Anything stand out to you on the list below?

2011 HRs Date Pitcher RBI BOP WPA Play Description
1 2011-04-06 @ COL Jason Hammel 1 5 0.091 Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep RF)
2 2011-05-27 FLA Javier Vazquez 1 6 0.122 Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep RF Line)
3 2011-05-30 COL Jason Hammel 2 6 0.043 Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep RF); Ethier Scores
4 2011-06-12 @ COL Ubaldo Jimenez 4 5 0.329 Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep RF); Carroll, Miles, Kemp, Loney Score
5 2011-08-07 @ ARI Ian Kennedy 1 6 0.116 Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep CF-RF)
6 2011-08-21 @ COL Kevin Millwood 1 6 0.118 Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep RF)
7 2011-08-26 COL Matt Reynolds 2 2 0.078 Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep CF-RF); Sellers Scores
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/27/2011.

Five of the seven have come against the Rockies. That’s 71.4% of his 2011 dingers, despite the fact that only 12.9% of his 2011 plate appearances have come against Colorado. But it gets better; his final homer in 2010, the only one he hit from September 1 on… came in Colorado on September 28 against last night’s starter, Esmil Rogers, so six of Loney’s last eight dingers (you know, the eight whole homers he’s hit in nearly the last calendar year) have come against Colorado.

If you’re Colorado, how are you not making a low-risk play for Loney this winter, even with the presence of Todd Helton? Not only to get Loney hitting in Coors Field every day, but to stop having to see him in the opposing lineup.

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More confirmation of why Dioner Navarro got cut, from Tony Jackson:

Dioner Navarro’s ouster from the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this week was hastened by a failure to devote the requisite time to game preparation that is expected of a catcher, multiple sources said before Friday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies. Navarro was designated for assignment on Tuesday, giving the Dodgers 10 days from that point to trade him, release him or outright him to the minors after he clears waivers.

Good riddance. For a guy who wasn’t performing at the plate, was having defensive issues, and had a history of locker room issues (quitting on Tampa Bay last year), the lack of effort is shocking. Fortunately, he’ll be someone else’s problem now.

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Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times wants the Dodgers to trade Jamey Carroll:

Work the deal. Get what you can, even if it’s precious little.

Carroll deserves the opportunity to play for a contender, to make a real postseason contribution. At his age, he may not get another chance. The Milwaukee Brewers had reportedly talked to the Dodgers about Carroll prior to the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

I agreed with this at the July 31 deadline. Carroll was a potentially valuable piece to a contender, and could have brought back a decent return. But now, I’m not even sure it’s worth it, since the Dodgers would only be able to talk to the team that claims him, preventing any sort of bidding war. (Such as it were.) It’d be nice for Carroll, I suppose, and I agree that he’s not a part of the team future. But I also understand the thought that with Juan Uribe out, Dee Gordon not back, and Casey Blake unreliable, you want to make sure you have more than just Aaron Miles and Justin Sellers to finish out the season. (Eugenio Velez doesn’t count. Eugenio Velez never counts.)

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Russ Mitchell, catcher? Don Mattingly noted that the team will try him behind the plate during winter ball in an effort to increase his versatility. Mitchell’s probably never going to hit enough to be an everyday player, so if he can make this stick, all the better for him. (It’s here where I’ll try to forget Ned Colletti’s claims that “catchers can’t be made”, at the time of the Trayvon Robinson deal.) Usually conversions like this happen in the low minors, though; I can’t think of another recent example where this kind of move has been tried (successfully) for a player who Mitchell’s age who has already seen big league time.

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.

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

The Rapture Is Truly Upon Us

In the final two innings of tonight’s game, the following occurred. Russ Mitchell hit a game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth off of White Sox closer Sergio Santos, who’d been nearly perfect all year. Juan Castro (!) knocked in the go-ahead run in the tenth, soon followed by run-scoring hits from James Loney and Jay Gibbons. Finally, Mike MacDougal finished for the save. That’d be one injury replacement minor leaguer, two veterans who don’t really belong here, and the worst first baseman in baseball, all contributing within the span of about twenty minutes.

Sure, superstar Matt Kemp crushed another homer and megastar Jamey Carroll had four hits. But you’re really going to tell me the rest wasn’t a sign from the heavens (or, uh, below)? Hope you enjoyed the last Dodger game ever to be played.

Casey Blake to DL, Russ Mitchell to LA

No surprise here: Casey Blake is headed to the disabled list, with Russ Mitchell called up to replace him, reports Ken Rosenthal. (h/t Rob @ 6-4-2.) Blake’s infection sounds particularly nasty, according to friends Marc Normandin and Corey Dawkins at Baseball Prospectus:

Infections can be rather serious—just ask Casey Blake, who was placed on the disabled list with an infection of the olecranon bursa in his left elbow. His was serious enough to require IV antibiotics, and he may require minor surgery to drain and clean the area out.

The Dodgers are expecting Blake to miss about three to four weeks and will be conservative in bringing him back, so as not to risk a recurrence. Because of the location of the bursa, it is susceptible to re-injury during the course of a baseball game by sliding and landing on the elbow.

I suppose Blake isn’t going to be the one to break the sorry streak of 37+ third basemen, as I surmised last September. Still, while Blake certainly wasn’t going to keep up the .321/.446/.509 run he was on (in only 66 plate appearances, of course), his loss is pretty damaging to a club that regularly rolls out a lineup that features 3-4 players hitting .220 or less. With Rafael Furcal also disabled and Juan Uribe at much less than full strength, you can look forward to a lot of underwhelming infield configurations over the next few weeks.

As for Mitchell, it’s no secret that I’m not a fan, claiming last September that his mostly underwhelming minor league career was inflated only by the friendly confines of Albuquerque. He didn’t do much to change that impression in September, getting just six hits in 43 plate appearances. Beyond that, ABQ hasn’t been nearly as friendly to him so far this year, as his line stands at .214/.281/.393 thus far. Still, injury concerns being what they are, there’s nothing wrong with his recall, particularly because he’s the only other infielder on the 40-man roster. (And calm down with the Corey Smith love just yet, friends.) Mitchell’s probably not going to contribute much at the plate, and at 26 isn’t really a prospect, but his defensive versatility should come in handy for the next few weeks. If anything, at least he’s an extra bat on the bench, which had been woefully short with Blake and Uribe active but unavailable in recent days.

MSTI’s 2010 in Review: Third Base

Third base!

Casey Blake (D)
.248/.320/.407 .727 17hr 3.1 WAR

Hell of year for Casey Blake, starting in spring training when we had to listen to rumors that he might actually be the club’s backup shortstop. That never happened, of course; unfortunately for Blake, what also never happened was his ability to perform at all like his career 2009 year, since he had his worst season since 2005 in nearly every way. Even coming off a few good seasons, when you’re 36, you don’t get the benefit of the doubt as far as having an off-season. You get people wondering if you’re cooked.

Though he had an okay April, Blake slumped badly by mid-May, leading me to point out that he was the only Dodger not riding the team’s hot streak:

Yet there’s one member of the Dodgers who hasn’t been able to enjoy the ride as much as everyone else, and that’s Casey Blake. Blake’s been, on the whole, pretty lousy this season: a .233/.323/.397 line with 3 homers isn’t going to get you very far as a third baseman. His .720 OPS in fact ranks him 20th among MLB 3B, and his .265 True Average tells a similar tale, putting him 22nd. Even his defense, surprisingly good last year (12.0 runs above average per UZR), has slipped below average to -0.9 this year. The standard “small sample size” warnings apply, but it’s hard to ignore that he has six errors in six weeks this year, after ten in six months last year.

Later in that post, I jokingly suggested that his failings were because he’d been clean-shaven to start the year, and he’d need to grow back the beard if he was going to succeed. A few days later we marveled that he was indeed growing it back, and it was fun for the next month: between May 15 – June 15, he hit .300/.371/.500 with four homers.

But it didn’t last. His overall OPS for June was just .692, and his July was completely atrocious, at just .174/.242/.314. In August, he contributed to another Jonathan Broxton implosion by allowing a nearly-certain 9th-inning double play ball go through his legs, and in September I had to ask if he was done:

Looking deeper into the stats helps to shed some light here. Blake’s BABIP of .307 is nearly identical to his career .305 mark, so he’s not been particularly unlucky, and his BB% isn’t far off from his usual line either. But he’s certainly striking out more (26.9% would be a career high, and is 4% more than usual), and you can bet that’s in large part because he’s offering at far more pitches outside the strike zone than he’s ever done before (swinging at 27.5% of such offerings, well above his career mark of 20.9%).

Then there’s the fact that he’s getting killed on fastballs. Last year, Blake was worth 18.7 runs above average against heaters, good for 9th among MLB 3B. This year, he’s dropped down to just 3.5 runs above average against fastballs. So we have an older player, who can’t catch up to fastballs anymore, and is losing his plate discipline and swinging at more balls outside the zone – and he’s getting destroyed by fellow righties (.223/.293/.363). You don’t have to go too far to think that the bat speed is slowing and he’s having trouble adjusting.

Unfortunately, history isn’t on Blake’s side either. There’s only been seventeen seasons since 1961 in which a third baseman 37 or older (since Blake will be 37 most of next year) has managed to even play enough to qualify for the batting title. Looking at that list, most of them are Hall of Famers (Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Brooks Robinson, Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken, Jr.), or about to be (Chipper Jones) – and even then there’s quite a few dreadful seasons on that list. Do we really expect that Casey Blake is the one who bucks that trend?

Needless to say, I don’t have high hopes for Blake in 2011. This is exactly what I was afraid of back in December of 2008, when he signed his three-year deal – that while he’d be fine in 2009, he’d be questionable for 2010, and totally undesirable in 2011. (Coincidentally, that’s very similar to how I felt about Ted Lilly‘s three-year deal.)

Still, there’s no chance of moving him, so he’ll be back. All you can really hope for is that the Dodgers, as I argued in my 2011 plan, take advantage of his large lefty/righty split (.895 vs .663 OPS) and make him a lefty-mashing 1B/3B off the bench. That’s what I want to do, and it’s what they should do; but I doubt it’s all that high on their list, unfortunately.

Oh, and since there’s no other 3B remotely on the radar in the system (unless Jerry Sands unexpectedly shows an aptitude for the position in the Arizona Fall League), expect a lot of talk next year about who replaces Blake in 2012 and beyond.

Russ Mitchell (inc.)
.143/.140/.286 .425 1hr -0.4 WAR

Mitchell was recalled on September 6, after rosters had expanded, and at the time I didn’t think much of him:

To be honest, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Mitchell. He’ll be 26 before next season starts, yet he had a line of just .241/.298/.406 last year, his second season in AA. Overall, his career OBP in the minors was just .321. Somehow that was good enough to get him to AAA, where he took advantage of the ABQ environment to rake: .315/.363/.535, with 23 homers.

That’s not an accident, either; his OPS at home was 1.164, but on the road it was just .834, and it’s not like ABQ is the only park in the PCL that caters to offense, either. Still, Mitchell offers nice versatility – while he’s primarily a 3B, he also saw time at 1B, 2B, LF, & RF this year – and it’s nice to see another homegrown prospect make the bigs, so maybe he’ll make an impression and get into the mix for a utility role next year.

Mitchell got a decent showcase, starting 11 games and receiving 43 PA in September, but he did absolutely nothing to make a mark. Sure, he hit two homers, and that’s nice, but he started out 0-15, managed just six hits, and didn’t walk even once while striking out eight times. Now, he started at 1B, 3B, and LF, and he can supposedly also play 2B and RF, so the versatility is nice, but he also managed to make three errors in his short time up.

Obviously, Mitchell didn’t really make much of a case towards a bench job in 2011, and there’s really no good reason he shouldn’t be in AAA to start the year. Best case scenario, he puts up some more ABQ-fueled numbers and can be overvalued in a trade.

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Next! We say goodbye to Manny Ramirez! We wish Scott Podsednik never came to town! We try to forget Garret Anderson ever existed! And we welcome back Jay Gibbons from baseball purgatory! It’s left field!