2011 Midseason Grades: Pitching and Management

Thanks for all the feedback on yesterday’s hitting grades, and today we move on to pitching and management. Remember, the letter grades are just for fun, without a whole lot of thought or science behind them.

Starting Pitchers

Clayton Kershaw (A+) (9-4, 3.03 ERA, 2.45 FIP)
Is A+ even high enough? I’m not sure it is, though we certainly expected great things from him. Think about this: his HR/9 rate and H/9 rate are unchanged from last year, but he’s managed to do that while lowering his walk rate (again!) and increasing his strikeout rate. He’s leading the league in whiffs, and he has two shutouts among his three complete games. He’s 23. He’s lefty. He’s an All-Star.

Don’t let anyone tell you that he’s progressing towards being an ace, or one day he could be one of the best. Clayton Kershaw is, right now, one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball. The scary part? He could still get better.

Chad Billingsley (B) (8-7, 3.87 ERA, 3.41 FIP)
Over at Baseball Prospectus this morning, Geoff Young of DuckSnorts offers the opinion that Billingsley “should be a star, but isn’t”. And that’s true. 26-year-old Billingsley is walking more and striking out less than 23-year-old Billingsley did in 2008. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because he’s still a very valuable asset and the extension he signed over the winter was welcomed, but he’s also not going to be a Kershaw-level star like we’d once hoped he would be. Again, that’s not to get on Billingsley, it’s just seemingly who he’s going to be – a durable #2 or 3 type who will be consistently inconsistent (3 starts this year of at least 8 IP and 1 ER or less, 3 starts allowing 5 ER or more). That’s not a star, but it is a quality pitcher we should be happy to have.

Hiroki Kuroda (B) (6-10, 3.06 ERA, 3.73 FIP)
Only five pitchers have received less run support than Kuroda (shockingly, no other Dodger appears on the top 40 of that list), so let’s not pretend the poor win/loss record means absolutely anything at all. Conversely, the ERA is a little misleading as well, since he’s striking out fewer and walking more than he did in either 2009 or 2010, facts which are reflected in the higher FIP. Still, he’s been a solid member of this rotation… and probably the only Dodger with any real trade value at the deadline. I’ll be sorry to see him go, if he does.

Ted Lilly (D) (6-9, 4.79 ERA, 4.59 FIP)
Lilly hasn’t been awful (back, back, it’s gone!), but nor has he been (throw to second, and the runner is in!) in any way worthy of the $33m deal he received in the offseason. He’s (that ball is far, it is out of here!) striking out fewer than ever, and more (he’s going, and he swipes second without a throw) batted balls in front of a defense that isn’t great at converting them into outs isn’t (that ball is crushed into the second tier!) a good mix. Oh, and he’s 35 and has complained (Navarro’s throw to second, not in time, another steal!) of arm soreness already. Loving that three-year deal more than ever.

Rubby De La Rosa (A) (3-4, 3.74 ERA, 3.40 FIP)
Probably the most impressive of any of the rookies pushed ahead of their schedule this year, de la Rosa has shown immense talent while being forced to learn on-the-job. While his first few starts were dicey – good lord, the walks, and that one game that he nearly got bounced in the first inning was a heart-stopper – RDLR has shown marked improvement, even flirting with no-hitters in each of his last two outings. The talent is unquestioned, but the real concern now is limited his innings, since he’s quickly coming up on matching his previous high with more than two months remaining in the season. But if he’s limited and if someone like Kuroda is dealt… how do you finish out the season? John Ely? Dana Eveland? Yikes.

Jon Garland (D-) (1-5, 4.33 ERA, 4.59 FIP)
Hey, remember when Garland was signed largely because he’d never been on the disabled list before? If you do, then you probably also remember him saying he couldn’t get multi-year deals because other teams didn’t like the looks of his medical reports. Garland gets a lousy grade not because of his performance (ignore the 1-5, a 4.59 FIP is in line with his usual season), but because he sells his durability as a skill. Clearly, that’s one item he forgot to pack for his second (and likely final) tour with the Dodgers. At least that large 2012 option won’t kick in.

John Ely (inc.) (0-1, 6.23 ERA, 5.61 FIP)
Remember Ely-mania last year? Seems so far away, doesn’t it?

Relief pitchers

Jonathan Broxton (MRI) (1-2, 7 saves, 5.68 ERA, 5.56 FIP)
I have absolutely no idea how to grade Jonathan Broxton. Was he good this year? No, of course he wasn’t, and for many people that justifies their opinion that at around midseason 2010, he somehow lost his heart / mind / balls / toes / earlobes / whatever. The fact that he somehow managed to even close out seven games earlier this year is somewhat misleading, because he rarely did so smoothly; conversely, it’s difficult to blame him entirely for the big blown save in Florida because the Dodgers would have won if Jamey Carroll had merely fielded a simple ground ball.

I’d say the answer lies in the fact that he’s been on the disabled list for over two months due to a right elbow injury, with no estimated return date. We never saw the healthy Broxton this year, just as I felt we never saw a healthy Broxton in the second half of last year. The lesson, as always? Joe Torre cannot be trusted with relievers. You hate to say it about a guy who is only 27, but Torre may just have ruined Broxton’s career. Thanks for stopping by, Joe!

Hong-Chih Kuo (-) (0-0, 8.71 ERA, 4.12 FIP)
Take everything I said about Broxton above and multiply it by 100 for Kuo, because the anxiety issue he’s been fighting for years makes it impossible to really judge his on-field performance. Since returning, he’s at least managed to limit the walks (6/2 K/BB in 5.2 IP), though the results (five runs, four earned) haven’t all been there yet. The fact that he even returned as quickly as he did should count as a win.

Kenley Jansen (B+) (1-1, 4.40 ERA, 3.15 FIP)
I bet a lot of people will be surprised by this grade for Jansen. “But his ERA is 4.40, rabble rabble rabble!”, they’ll yell. That’s true, it is. That number is also heavily inflated by two poor outings – allowing 5 earned runs to Atlanta on April 19 in a game that the Dodgers were already losing in, and allowing 3 earned runs on May 23 in Houston, a game which preceded his stint on the DL with right shoulder inflammation by less than a week. Since returning from injury on June 18, he’s been nearly untouchable, striking out 13 while allowing just two singles in 9.2 innings. While the walks remain a problem, he’s actually striking out more per nine than he did in 2010, and you might remember that even last year’s rate was on the verge of being historic. The question for me is, why is he stuck in middle relief and garbage time rather than in higher leverage situations?

Matt Guerrier (C-) (3-3, 3.10 ERA, 4.44 FIP)
Boy, who would have thought that handing out an expensive multi-year deal to a non-elite middle reliever wouldn’t have worked out well? Besides everyone, that is. Guerrier actually hasn’t been that bad, but that’s sort of the point: players who get $12m over three years should be able to do better than “hasn’t been that bad”. Though he’s striking out slightly more than he did as a Twin, he’s allowing both more walks and hits than he did in either of the last two years, despite moving to the easier league. He’ll be 33 in less than a month. It’s not a good trend.

Mike MacDougal (C+) (0-1, 1.67 ERA, 3.74 FIP)
2003 All-Star MacDougal has done an excellent job of reviving his career after several years bouncing between the bigs and AAA. MacDougal, who made the 2003 All-Star team as a member of the Royals, has just a 1.74 ERA, emerging as a leader of the injury-plagued Dodger bullpen. The former All-Star has allowed only six earned runs to score, putting him in contention for 9th inning responsibilities. All-Star.

(I can’t do it. MacDougal has allowed approximately 982 of the 48 inherited runners he’s received* to score. For nearly the entire season, he’d walked as many as he’d struck out, before finally giving himself some distance in recent days. He’s not a good pitcher, but like Aaron Miles, we expected nothing, so the small contributions he’s made get him some minor credit. *note: numbers may be fabricated.)

Number of Ortizii: 0 (A++++)
Say what you will about this club, at least they’re not employing anyone named Ortiz who was last useful 6-8 years ago, much less multiple players like that.

Javy Guerra (B+) (1-0, 4 saves, 2.33 ERA, 4.01 FIP)
Guerra, like MacDougal all those years ago, is a perfect example of why we shouldn’t overrate saves. For a guy who walked 6.8/9 in the minors last year and was forced to the bigs simply because of injuries, he’s been fine. He’s keeping the ball in the yard, he’s cut down on the control issues, and he’s even managed to steal a few saves while serving as the last-ditch closer. As far as debuts go, his has been a successful one. Let’s just not go overboard in anointing him as the man in the 9th inning, because he hasn’t been that good – 13 K in 19.1 IP doesn’t thrill me – and in each of his last two saves, he loaded the bases before getting out of the jam. That’s not the kind of tightrope you can walk for very long.

Blake Hawksworth (B) (2-2, 3.00 WHIP, 4.12 FIP)
“Isn’t Ryan Theriot“, and that alone gets him a boost. Actually, I joke, but it’s sort of true: when healthy, Hawksworth has been a perfectly acceptable and average reliever, doing a decent job of keeping runners off the bases (WHIP of 1.000), and striking out more than double as he’s walked. Considering that Theriot is doing his usual “I’m not a very good baseball player, but I am short and white, and that counts for something, right?” routine in St. Louis, even just getting that moderate level of contribution in exchange is a big win.

Scott Elbert (B-) (0-1, 5.25 ERA, 2.54 FIP)
I know there’s been a lot of turnover in the bullpen this year, but Elbert is one of those guys where I constantly have to check if he’s still on the team or down in ABQ. I suppose that’s partically because he’s pitched just twice in the last two weeks, and partially because he’s rarely in for more than 2-3 batters at a time. As for his performance, he’s a bit of an oddity in that you’d expect a power lefty to be hell on lefty hitters, but he’s actually rocking a reverse split: lefties (.701 OPS) are actually doing more damage than righties (.561 OPS) against him. Overall, I guess you can say he’s been “acceptable”, in that he’s finally gained a foothold in the majors, but hasn’t exactly made us think he’s going to be a difference maker.

Then again, considering his mysterious disappearance at this time last year, even that is a massive step forward.

Ramon Troncoso (D) (0-0, 6.23 ERA, 4.92 FIP)
I know it’s popular to blame Torre for Troncoso’s downturn as well, and maybe that’s part of it, but I do remember writing a post last year that outlined how he had larger issues than overuse. Whatever it is, he’s barely a major league quality pitcher right now… which probably explains why he’s not in the major leagues. That’s what’ll happen when you aren’t striking anyone out and giving up an absurd amount of hits, though I’ll allow that since he was never a strikeout guy, pitching in front of a defense that does no favors probably doesn’t help.

Ronald Belisario (MIA)
Ha, no. There’s about as good of a chance that he pitches for the Dodgers again as there is that you’ll see Orel Hershiser or Don Drysdale out there.

Josh Lindblom (B+) (0-0, 1.69 ERA, 3.43 FIP)
Nearly two years after we first thought we might see him, Lindblom finally got the call this year, and so far, so good. It’s hard to make judgements based on just eight games, but he’s yet to allow more than one earned run in an appearance, and for now, that’s good enough.

Lance Cormier (dFa) (0-1, 9.88 ERA, 6.84 FIP)
I’m still convinced the only reason Cormier wasn’t DFA’d a week or two earlier than he eventually was (on May 24, when Rubby De La Rosa came up) is because he had a charity event for tornado victims set up at the stadium on May 15, and it would have been poor form to cut a guy just before or after that. I also like that we can say “nah, he wasn’t as bad as his ERA, look at his FIP” and while that’s true, even his FIP says he was awful.

Vicente Padilla (inc.) (0-0, 4.15 ERA, 2.61 FIP)
I sure do feel like we’ve talked about Padilla a lot this year for a guy who piched just 8.2 innings. First he was signed to a somewhat confusing 6th starter/longman/Broxton insurance role, in a move for depth I actually really liked. Then he required surgery for a forearm injury in the spring, preventing him from taking Garland’s rotation spot to start the year. He returned exceptionally quickly from that, taking over for the injured Broxton to nab three saves of varying quality in late April and early May, leading many to proclaim him the next big thing… until he returned to the DL with a recurrence of the arm injury. But the fun doesn’t stop there, because he was supposedly hours away from being activated in June before a neck injury flared up, leading to more surgery and probably the end of his season. Got all that? Phew.

Management

Don Mattingly (B+)
It may sound odd to praise a rookie manager when we weren’t fans of his hiring in the first place and when the club he’s leading is on pace for its worst finish in decades, but I don’t see how you pin much of this mess on Mattingly. He’s proven himself to be far more than a Joe Torre clone, in particular showing a nice willingness to be creative with his bullpen. It hasn’t been perfect, as some of his Navarro-related pinch-hitting escapades still burn, and he likes bunting more than I’d prefer, but he was handed a subpar roster that had its infield and bullpen totally destroyed by injuries, all as fans stayed away thanks to the off-field mess. It would be an impossible situation for any manager, and though the final record won’t be good, Mattingly has been a pleasant surprise, managing to keep the team playing hard through it all. Let’s just hope he doesn’t end up shouldering more of the blame than is needed when all is said and done.

Davey Mutha-F’ing-Lopes (A+^100)
I don’t usually grade the base coaches. Matt Kemp doesn’t usually lead the league in WAR. There you go.

Ned Colletti (F+)
Let’s quickly review all of the contracts handed out last winter by Colletti that were for at least $1m, shall we? Uribe, massive bust. Lilly, missing fewer bats than ever. Guerrier, adequate but overpaid and having one of the lesser years of his career. Garland and Padilla, both injured multiple times and likely out for the year. Barajas, crappier than usual and hurt. Thames, ineffective and injured. Navarro, hitting .183. To be fair, Kuroda has been very good, but it’s hard to say that without caveating that he clearly took a huge paycut to stay in LA.

There’s been a few positives – signing Billingsley was great, the no-risk NRI of Miles worked out, and trading Ryan Theriot for Hawksworth was a good move if you try to forget that it was necessitated by acquiring Theriot in the first place – and you want to be sensitive to the fact that the ownership mess has really put him in a bad position. But overall? Not good, Ned. Not good.

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Tomorrow, the final review of the series: me.

All Hail Aaron Miles & Jamey Carroll

Hey, I have to reach for positives somewhere, right? The Dodgers had just six hits today, and five came from Aaron Miles (three) and Jamey Carroll (two). The duo also combined for the only Dodger run, with Miles singling in Carroll after the latter had doubled to lead off the third inning. Credit where credit is due: Miles has five multihit games in his last ten, and while he’s not drawing any walks or hitting for any power, his recent production is still about 10,000% more than we’d ever expected from him.

Of course, when you’re rolling out a lineup that features Dioner Navarro 6th (3 K!) and Juan Castro 7th, you’ve basically conceded the game anyway. As we’d worried all season, once Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier stopped being world-beaters, this team was going to be in massive trouble, and they’ve each been in mini-slumps, with today’s combined 0-7 dropping both of their May OPS lines down near .700. Factor in Ted Lilly‘s continued issues with keeping the ball in the park, and this was a game that was over pretty much right after it began, save for a brief spurt of life in the 9th that came up short.

The Dodgers have scored just seven runs in their last three games, and five or more just twice over their last sixteen. It might not get much easier this week, with Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Madison Bumgarner, Gavin Floyd, and Mark Buehrle among the scheduled opposing pitchers.

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Let’s not overlook two brief bullpen positives from today’s game: Scott Elbert, making his season debut, struck out all three Diamondbacks he saw in the 8th inning. Javy Guerra, making his major league debut, followed by striking out one in a scoreless 9th inning. Elbert will have to prove it over much more than just one inning after how inconsistent he’s been over the last three seasons, but this is definitely a step in the right direction, and a glimpse into just how much talent he has if he can figure out how to harness it.

I Think The Rotation Is Ready For the Season (Updated)

Nice weekend for the starting staff, right?

Chad Billingsley, today: 3.2 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), 2 K, after last week’s 3 scoreless inning debut.

Clayton Kershaw, yesterday: 4 scoreless innings, facing the minimum 12 batters, giving him 7 scoreless innings this spring in which he’s allowed just 3 hits.

Jon Garland, on Friday: 3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit.

Any comments about the offense, or lack thereof, should be held back on a day that has a lineup missing Matt Kemp, Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier, Casey Blake, and Juan Uribe, and features Dioner Navarro hitting cleanup. On the other hand, Marcus Thames, on his 34th birthday, doubled off the left-center wall to tie the game at 3 in the 8th.

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25th man update: Justin Sellers replaced Juan Castro in the starting lineup at shortstop, walked once in two tries and made two errors on the same play in the first inning, destroying a WGN banner in the process. Castro struck out pinch-hitting in the 5th (against Carlos Marmol, to be fair) and later doubled. Aaron Miles, playing third, tripled and scored the first Dodger run, while Ivan DeJesus went 0-2. The arrow is still pointing strongly in Castro’s direction.

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Ramon Troncoso got four outs on seven pitches, prompting new DodgerTalk co-host Joe Block to claim that he’s made the team; Troncoso has now thrown 3.1 scoreless innings without allowing a walk. I think that may be a bit premature, but with the turmoil at the back end of the bullpen, there’s certainly opportunity. You’d think that his history, and time away from the overuse of Joe Torre, would get him some consideration, though.

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Hey, Navarro’s going to get a hit sometime, right? I know, it’s spring, it’s early, I get it. Just saying, guys who have hit .212 over the last two seasons and have an arguably superior player behind them need to show something a little more than not getting on base once over their first eleven plate appearances. He at least plated Gabe Kapler on a sac fly today, though of course if Kapler hadn’t been on third, it’d have just been another flyout. Meanwhile, A.J. Ellis drew a walk and threw out a runner trying to steal.

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At the Los Angeles Times blog, Steve Dilbeck wonders what might happen if James Loney‘s knee troubles end up being worse than they appear. Despite Russ Mitchell getting the most playing time in Loney’s absence right now (where’s John Lindsey?), Dilbeck thinks that Casey Blake would get the bulk of the time during the season, with Juan Uribe sliding to third and Jamey Carroll entering at second, because it’s just not realistic to think that Jerry Sands breaks camp with the team.

I think Dilbeck’s assumption is probably correct, but it got me thinking – would that alignment actually make the team better? There’s a few reasons to think that it might:

  • Carroll would add badly need OBP. His mark has been .355 or higher in each of the last three seasons, four of the last six, and five of the last seven. Carroll doesn’t hit for power, but then again neither does Loney; overall, Carroll had a higher OPS+ last year.
  • It’d help optimize the lineup, since Carroll could be a good #2 hitter, pushing Blake down to 6 where he belongs.
  • It’d shift Uribe to 3B, which is his stronger defensive position.
  • It’d improve platooning possibilities. If Blake were the 1B, then he’s a much more dangerous hitter against lefty pitching than Loney is (though I hope that’s going to happen regardless). You could also spot in Gibbons against tough righty pitching, which likely wouldn’t happen if Loney was in.

It’s not all roses, of course, because you couldn’t expect the 37-year-old Carroll to play every day, and you’d weaken an already questionable bench by removing him from it. The ideal solution is that Loney is healthy and productive, so by no means am I rooting for him to be out. But just the fact that this is a conversation worth having shows the extent of the questions that he’s going to have to answer this year.

Update #1: Well, looks like Carroll has injury concerns of his own:

Jamey Carroll was unable to throw comfortably Sunday after taking a pitch off his right index finger Saturday, but X-rays were negative.

Carroll was able to hit despite the swelling in the finger and will probably need a few more days before he can return to game action.

Update #2: I’d meant to note that Scott Elbert, who was originally supposed to pitch today, did not. Here’s why:

Scott Elbert, the lefty reliever struggling with his control in games, was held back from a scheduled Sunday appearance and instead will throw batting practice Monday while working on a mechanical adjustment.

 

Scott Elbert Should Be in AAA, And That’s Okay

You’ll probably hear people say that Scott Elbert punched his ticket back to the minors this afternoon in Arizona, as he walked four of the six batters he faced and managed to get just six of his 21 pitches across for strikes. That comes after a spring debut in which he walked two in one inning, meaning that he’s walked six of the ten spring batters he’s seen.

Now maybe his slow start to the spring is what’s going to get him knocked down to AAA, and maybe it’s not, but my feeling has always been that it shouldn’t matter. Unless he was able to come to camp and dominate, that always should have been the plan. And why not? He’s always had control issues, walking 5.0/9 in the minors, and last year that went up to an untenable 7.1/9. That’s of course before his well-publicized but little-understood leave of absence that meant he didn’t pitch after June.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have a wealth of other options, even in the absence of Ronald Belisario and Vicente Padilla, including Ron Mahay, who I’ve been high on. Elbert’s undeniably talented, yet there’s no reason to force him onto the roster before he shows he can harness his control issues and when he hasn’t pitched in a real game in about eight months. He has a minor league option remaining, and there’s no harm in using it. That’s not a reflection on today’s performance; it’s simply what the plan should always have been with him. I still have high hopes for a long and successful major league career from Elbert, it’s just that the events of the last year mean that starting the season back in the minors is hardly an insult.

On the other hand, it’s possible that today’s trouble was all the result of some global conspiracy, coming as it did in the same game as Tim Redding tossing three shutout innings and Juan Castro (!) bashing a homer, which probably assures him of a roster spot. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K…

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Clayton Kershaw today received a $500k salary for 2011, his last before arbitration. While I’ve made my preference for a long-term contract for him clear, it’s hard to argue having a guy like Kershaw on the books for a lousy half-million. For the production we expect to get from him this year, is there a better value in the bigs? I think not.

Should the Dodgers Be Looking For A Lefty Bullpen Arm?

Ponder this: it’s the first week of January, yet there may not be a single pitching spot up for grabs when camp starts in roughly six weeks. While the offensive side may see mild competition at backup catcher and the possible addition of a low-cost righty outfielder (and as I have been for months, I’m still on board the Lastings Milledge train), the pitching staff seems to be entirely set, barring any unexpected trades.

The rotation is obvious, as Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, and Jon Garland will head up one of the more solid starting groups in the game. Then, assuming the Dodgers carry seven relievers – as they almost always do – it seems pretty obvious that the seven are going to be Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen, Vicente Padilla, Matt Guerrier, Ronald Belisario, & Blake Hawksworth. You can quibble about Belisario and Hawksworth, I suppose, but each are out of options and I doubt either is exposed to waivers, particularly with Belisario reportedly throwing well in winter ball. Behind them, there’s familiar names like Travis Schlichting, Jon Link, and Ramon Troncoso in the mix as well, ready to start at ABQ and come up when depth is needed. It’s a solid group.

Yet the question must be asked: should the Dodgers try to ensure that there’s another lefty in the bullpen alongside Kuo? If so, who?

Kuo may be the only southpaw in that group, but he’s of course hardly your typical lefty reliever. He may well end up with part of the closer’s job again, and since he’s dominant against all batters there’s no need to restrict him to just lefties anyway. Now, you don’t have to have a second lefty, but since Kuo generally doesn’t pitch on back-to-back days and may be held back for the 9th inning anyway, there’s a real risk that the team would almost never have a real situational lefty available for big spots in the 7th and 8th innings.

Unless you’ve really got your heart set on Dana Eveland, the only viable internal candidate is Scott Elbert, who has begun to make the transition from starter to reliever. Elbert was impressive in the AFL, his power stuff (10.4 K/9 in the minors) would play well in the bullpen, and I’d love to see the longtime prospect finally break through. Elbert comes with obvious risk, of course; not only was there the well-known leave of absence that cost him much of last season, but until he harnesses his control (5.0 BB/9 in the minors) relying on him in late-inning situations may be dicey. Considering that he didn’t pitch in the minors last year after June, starting him off back at ABQ may not be the worst idea in the world.

If you’re willing to look outside the organization, there’s several veteran options who may come at a reasonable cost – and no, I’m not talking about Brian Fuentes, who is overrated and reportedly wants a three-year deal. There’s a few familiar names out there, including several former Dodgers. Let’s take a look at who’s out there with their 2011 ages, 2010 K/BB stats, and 2010 performance against lefties…

Will Ohman, 33 (9.2 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, .636 OPS vs. LHB)
Ohman’s 2009 in Dodger blue was nothing less than an injury-filled disaster, as he pitched just 12.1 terrible innings before being non-tendered. Yet Ohman had several successful seasons before that and bounced back with Baltimore and Florida last year, starting his year with 25 straight games without being charged with a run. Though his walk rate was certainly higher than you’d like, he’s still getting lefty hitters out; his 2010 OPS is nearly identical to his career mark of .646.

Joe Beimel, 34 (4.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, .653 OPS vs LHB)
Beimel was something of a fan favorite in LA during his three seasons as a Dodger (2006-08), and was vocal in his preference to stay with the team. He had to wait until March of 2009 to sign with Washington, and made it only until July before being traded to Colorado, where he’s been ever since. Though he was successful against lefties in 2010, it was significantly lower than his career mark of .720, and the declining K rate is a concern.

Dennys Reyes, 34 (5.9 K/9, 5.0 BB/9, .862 OPS vs LHB)
Yep, that’s the same Dennys Reyes who was signed as an amateur by the Dodgers in 1993 and pitched in 25 MLB games before being included in the horrendous “Paul Konerko for Jeff Shaw” debacle of 1998. Though the loss of Konerko is obviously the most egregious, Reyes has made a career for himself as well, pitching in over 600 games for 9 teams since leaving LA. Reyes very nearly signed a $1.1m deal with the Phillies last month before it fell through, so we know what his price range is. That awful line against LHB last year may be an aberration, since he’s been very good against them over his career (.669), yet it’s not promising, and he fell apart in the second half last year after a good start.

Ron Mahay, 40 (6.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, .520 OPS vs LHB)
How old is Ron Mahay? He tried to make it as an outfielder in the Boston system in the early 90s, briefly appearing as a replacement player in 1995, before converting to pitching and getting back to the bigs several years later. Despite his age, Mahay was death on lefties in 2010. That’s not a rate he’s managed for his entire career, but he’s still sub-.700 against them over 14 seasons, and he did strike out three times as many as he walked last year.

Randy Flores, 35 (5.8 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, .888 OPS vs LHB)
Yep, .888. I almost didn’t include him, but figured I might as well just to be complete, and it is at least down to .780 for his career. Still, Flores doesn’t seem like the right kind of fit here.

So does anyone here interest you? Reyes and Flores are non-starters for me, and though Beimel was fun to have around, his performance has been decent at best. I’ve always been a big Ohman fan – yes, I’ll admit that part of that is because he’s perhaps the funniest guy in the league – though I wonder if his poor 2009 experience has soured the relationship on both sides. That leaves Mahay, who signed just a minor-league deal last season and was excellent.

Of course, if you do sign any of these guys to a major league contract, then one of the current seven has to go. Perhaps that’s the long-rumored trade of Broxton for an expensive left fielder. (Unlikely.) Or perhaps they want Jansen to gain more experience in the minors. (Very unlikely.) Maybe “being traded for Ryan Theriot” isn’t enough to guarantee Hawksworth a spot. (Possible.) Or maybe Belisario takes a wrong turn on the way to Arizona and somehow ends up in Siberia. (Even odds.)

So your choices are:

1) Go with just one lefty in the bullpen.
2) Add Elbert, find a way to dump someone else.
3) Add one of the free agents, find a way to dump someone else.

Me? If it’s cheap – less than $1m, or even better a minor-league deal – I’d try to get Mahay and see if Hawksworth slips through waivers. If not, then let Elbert and Hawksworth battle it out in camp.

*****

I, for one, will be so happy when Adrian Beltre finally signs somewhere so Dodger fans can stop hoping that he’s coming back. Beltre’s a fine player, but he’s not a superstar, and he wants superstar money. Not that signing him for 3B and pushing Blake to LF wouldn’t be fun and all, but the Dodgers have to be at or near their payroll limit, and I just can’t see how fitting Beltre in would work – especially when you don’t know if you’re getting awesome Beltre (2004, 2010), or average-to-slightly-above Beltre (most other years).

******

I should have mentioned this the other day when I noted that Ivan DeJesus didn’t make John Sickels’ top 20 Dodger prospect list, and that I didn’t align with people who are hoping that he’d claim the 2B job in camp, thus pushing Juan Uribe to 3B and Blake to LF. The Dodgers recently announced the roster for their offseason development camp, which starts later this week in LA and features some of the brightest prospects in the system, like Jerry Sands, Dee Gordon, Trayvon Robinson, Rubby de la Rosa, and Chris Withrow. Seven attendees of last year’s camp saw big league time in 2010 – Carlos Monasterios, John Ely, Jon Link, Travis Schlichting, Kenley Jansen, A.J. Ellis and Russell Mitchell.

Ken Gurnick describes it as…

This will be the fourth year of the developmental minicamp, which is designed to take the best and brightest of the farm system, accelerate their Major League arrival and aid acclimation to what they will encounter when they get there.

Yet DeJesus wasn’t invited. Nor was he given a token call-up last September, like Mitchell and several others were. It’s not that I don’t like DeJesus - far from it – it’s just that all the signs seem to be pointing in the wrong direction for him, and that he won’t be the second baseman in 2011. We’ll learn more about how he’s percieved when Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus prospect expert, publishes his Dodger system review on Tuesday.