This Would Be Funny If It Weren’t So Excruciating

Man, it’s one thing to watch your offense struggle… and it’s another thing to watch it struggle like that. You figure you’ve got a perfect opportunity to break out of your offensive malaise, because you’re up against the worst team in baseball, and not only that, the 22-year-old opposing moundsman is something called “Collin Balester“, who I’m not afraid to admit I had never once heard of in my life before tonight. But what do we end up with? One run on seven hits, plus another wasted outstanding pitching performance (Derek Lowe the victim tonight, as it seems he so often is.)

Make no mistake, though. Regardless of what the scoreboard said, the Dodgers were shut out tonight. Their one run came after loading the bases on zero hits – back-to-back hit batters and a walk - and only came around when Nationals catcher Jesus Flores had a brainfart in not tagging Nomar at the plate on Matt Kemp’s fielder’s choice grounder to third.

Really, I can’t describe this any better than Dodgers.com reporter Michael Schwartz put it:

The Dodgers’ run of offensive futility has gotten so bad, they’re inventing new ways not to score runs.

And against the worst team in baseball no less.

Tuesday’s episode included four double plays, 10 runners left on base and a lineout double play with the bases loaded, as the Dodgers dropped their season-high-tying fifth straight game, 2-1, to the Nationals at Nationals Park.

It’s unbelievable. It’s not outright futility, the matching 0-5′s turned in by Kemp and Andre Ethier aside. It’s the complete lack of situational hitting that’s destroying this team right now. Four for thirty-nine with runners in scoring position over the last three games is completely unacceptable. Another opportunity lost, with Arizona on their way to defeat against San Diego. I’m still not ready to jump ship, not when you still have six more games left with the team you’re three games behind. But clearly, this needs to get fixed now. And yeah, I do feel like I’ve written the same post four days in a row.

So what now? Obviously, just hoping guys turn it around isn’t enough, although you can’t really replace the entire lineup, either. Look for some lineup changes for game two, although this quote from Torre seems to say that it’s more about rest than performance:

Torre still hopes to give Kent, catcher Russell Martin and possibly third baseman Casey Blake a breather in Los Angeles’ series against the last-place Nationals to keep them fresh in advance of this weekend’s showdown in Phoenix against the first-place D-backs, who entered Tuesday leading the Dodgers by three games in the National League West.

Kent could use a break, although he is 4-9 lifetime off of Nationals starter Tim Redding. If you’ve read this site at all lately, you know I want to see Martin get a break. Here’s what worries me, though: if Blake takes a seat, is Torre going to put Martin there again? Because we’ve been through this. That’s NOT a break for Martin. Put Nomar at third and Angel Berroa at short, or don’t rest Blake at all. I cannot stress this enough. I also have zero faith that it’s actually going to happen.

Finally, expect to see a roster move before the game, as Cory Wade is expected to be activated off of the disabled list. No word on who leaves town for him… but it has to be Tanyon Sturtze, right? The Dodgers are already carrying 12 pitchers on the roster, so it has to be an arm that goes down. I suppose it could be Ramon Troncoso too, optioned to Vegas until rosters expand, but Sturtze is barely…

Who am I kidding. Of course it won’t be Sturtze.

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

Let’s Not Get Swept on National TV, Okay?

Since the less said about the Dodgers at the moment the better, there’s definitely a few things of note to mention from last night’s Las Vegas game (thanks to Torgy for pointing most of this out).

* Andruw Jones… played first base? Jones has played in 1835 games in the majors, 325 in the minors, and this is the first time he’s ever played the infield. Now, he had missed the previous four games with a sore knee, so this very well may have been a way to get him some at-bats without asking him to run in the outfield in a non-DH game. But who knows. Maybe with the outfield logjam, they might be interested in getting him some time as a right-handed option to James Loney at first base in September? That would be a sight to see. How weird does that picture to the right look, too?

* Why again did Tanyon Sturtze stick while Eric Stults went down? We questioned this at the time, and Stults was very good last night for Vegas in the high altitude of Colorado Springs, allowing just 2 hits and a single run over 6 innings, striking out 6. Stults is never going to be an All-Star, but he’s proven he belongs in the big leagues, especially with that complete game shutout of the White Sox. Besides, when you’ve got innings-limited guys like Kershaw and Maddux back-to-back in your rotation, wouldn’t you prefer having a guy who can go multiple innings like Stults rather than someone who’s basically useless in Sturtze – not to mention how annoying it is for poor bloggers to keep the names straight?

* It’s probably time to give up on Greg Miller, right? If you’re unfamiliar with Miller’s story, he was basically Clayton Kershaw before Clayton Kershaw was. He made it to AA in 2003 as an 18 year old, and was completely dominating in his 4 starts, putting up a 40/7 K/BB ratio. In Double A. At 18. He blew out his arm soon after that and hasn’t been the same since (a more indepth profile can be found over at FireNedCollettiNow from a few days ago). Anyway, after one of the weirdest lines you’ll ever see last night (in one inning, he didn’t give up a hit – yet allowed 4 runs thanks to 3 walks and some lousy defense), he’s now up to a 7.21 ERA and is walking more than a man per inning. I hate to give up on a guy who’s only 23, but with control like that, he’s barely an AAA pitcher right now, and he’s using up a valuable 40-man spot. This is definitely a situation that will need to be reviewed in the offseason.

Speaking of the 40 man roster, Tony Jackson discusses who might be called up when rosters expand on September 1st:

With apparently none of the Dodgers’ minor-league affiliates looking like they’ll be playoff bound, the team’s September callups should start arriving on Sept. 2, the second day of the upcoming homestand. It looks like A.J. Ellis will be coming up from Vegas to be the third catcher. He is hitting .309 this year, so he’ll edge out Lucas May, who is hitting .228 at Jacksonville, even though May is on the 40-man roster and Ellis isn’t. Although I have long been under the impression that James McDonald was a lock for a callup, that apparently is still being discussed and is far from assured. But it looks like Ellis will be the only guy not presently on the roster who will be called up. Dodgers don’t have a lot of flexibility. The 40-man is full, and there aren’t a lot of guys on it whom you can look at and say, “He’s expendable.”

When you’ve still got guys like Sturtze and Mark Sweeney on the roster, I don’t think it’s that hard to find guys to dump, but Jackson isn’t wrong about the tight roster situation, especially with all of the guys on the DL. But just to get Ellis on the 40-man, here’s an idea. You figure that Chin-Lung Hu or Blake DeWitt or both will likely be called up to add infield depth (DeWitt’s been playing mostly 2B in the minors lately), plus you hope to get back Rafael Furcal at some point. Once you get Hu and DeWitt up, there’s absolutely no need for both Angel Berroa and Pablo Ozuna, not that there’s really much of a need for either one right now. Hell, bring up both Hu and DeWitt, and DFA both Berroa and Ozuna. You keep the same amount of bodies in the middle infield, you immeasurably improve your infield defense, hopefully improve the offense too, and free up two roster spots on the 40-man. Makes sense, right?

Finally, I hate to get nit-picky and point out mistakes for the sake of it, but come on, Bill Shaikin:

Blake, who turned 35 Saturday, has stabilized third base for the Dodgers and said he had not ruled out returning to Los Angeles. When the Indians traded him, he said, they told him they hoped to offer him a contract this winter, to return to what was the only major league club he had known.

“The only major league club he had known”? I knew off the top of my head that Blake came up with Toronto and also saw some time in Minnesota; upon looking it up, I found that he played in Baltimore too. It may have been only 112 at-bats over 4 seasons, but still, you’re the Los Angeles Times. Do a little research, would you? He’d played for three other MLB clubs, so that makes you look pretty bad.

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

The Best Defense is a Good… DEFENSE!

Hey, sometimes timing works out great, right? No, I’m not going to completely rehash yesterday’s post. But this can’t be ignored. Russell Martin, playing out of position at third base, made two errors tonight in the span of three batters. Casey Blake, playing his third-best position at first base, made another error. Martin’s first error didn’t lead directly to a run, but it did mean that Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis was able to make the final out of the 6th inning rather than lead off the 7th inning, which would have been greatly helpful to the Dodgers pitching. His second error was much more painful, because rather than having none on and two out for Matt Holliday, Willy Taveras was on first with one out; two singles later, the game was tied. Blake’s error hurt as well, allowing a run to score as it came with the bases loaded and one out. Fortunately, Martin’s bat was a little better with 2 hits, but still – he’s not a third baseman, and this cannot be counted as a day off, especially with a cross-country road trip coming up. Let’s hope that Joe sees it that way, too.

(No, I’m not ignoring the fact that Danny Ardoin threw a ball into center field that led to the go-ahead run – that definitely hurt. Those things are going to happen, especially when you play twice a month. But at least he was in his normal position instead of being toyed with in the field.)

Moving on before thinking about this makes me even more upset…

* Juan Pierre started tonight in lieu of Andre Ethier. Surprisingly, I don’t really have a problem with that. Much as I despise seeing Pierre play, you’ve still got to get him some playing time, and tonight was a really great time to do it. As Tony Jackson reports, “Pierre also is hitting .481 (13 for 27) for his career against Jeff Francis, while Ethier is 4 for 17 (.235).” It just constantly blows my mind that Pierre is usually not good enough to even play, yet when he does play, he’s suddenly good enough to hit leadoff and get more at-bats than any other player. I know, I know, he’s “got speed”, whatever that means. It’d be one thing if he was getting a start with Matt Kemp getting a day off, because then you really don’t have another legit leadoff man, but come on. Look at the stats entering the game tonight:

In 61 games in the leadoff spot, Juan Pierre has an awful .263/.297/.299 line for a .595 OPS.
In 31 games in the leadoff spot, Matt Kemp has a tasty .326/.384/.551 line for a .935 OPS.

We’re supposed to believe that there’s even an argument for Pierre over Kemp leading off when both are playing? That’s a little insulting.

* Over at AaronGleeman.com, Aaron wonders why the Twins didn’t go after reliever Al Reyes before he was signed by the Mets:

Reyes is 37 years old and has a history of arm problems to go with some off-field issues, but like many veteran relievers floating around the waiver wire and piling up on the scrap heap these days, he’d be a worthwhile addition to the Twins’ right-handed relief options.

With a 4.33 xFIP this season Reyes would rank second to Matt Guerrier (4.14) among the team’s right-handed relievers, and his 4.07 xFIP over the previous three years is better than Guerrier, Jesse Crain, and Boof Bonser (and would be better than Brian Bass, except he didn’t pitch prior to 2008).

No, I don’t care about the Twins, and yes, the Dodgers bullpen has been excellent thus far. But the post got me to thinking – should the Blue have tried to go after Reyes? Excellent pen or not, he only has to be better than the weakest link, and when you’ve got Tanyon Sturtze on the payroll, that’s not a tough hurdle to clear. Using Gleeman’s own statistic of xFIP (basically a fancy way of predicting a pitcher’s expected runs allowed per 9 innings, independent of defense), maybe they should have: While Reyes has a xFIP of 4.33, Sturtze is at a truly awful 9.28. However, this doesn’t really mean that the Blue should have acquired Reyes; it just further proves what we’ve been saying all along – that Sturtze doesn’t belong in the big leagues at this point. Would Al Reyes be a better option for a roster spot right now? Sure he would. But so would Eric Stults, Mike Myers, Mike Koplove (once he gets back from Beijing), Matt Riley, and probably James McDonald, too. So that’s only half of the AAA Las Vegas team that’d be preferable – plus even AA lefty Scott Elbert. Passing on Reyes doesn’t really bother me; keeping an inferior option when you’ve got several better ones on the farm does.

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

On the Other Hand, Going to Vegas Can’t Be a Punishment

Yesterday, Vin detailed the then-pending trade for Greg Maddux, and while I was very happy to hear that Maddux was coming back, today I’d hoped to discuss the players sent back to San Diego to see if the deal was worth it.
Except that the return going south is, according to Tony Jackson and other sources, “two minor league players to be named later or cash considerations.” So it’s a little difficult to analyze a trade in which you have no idea what’s going the other way. We’ll get to that when the information comes out, but in the meantime, a roster move had to be made to get Maddux onto both the 25 and 40-man rosters.
According to the press release the Dodgers just sent out, injured reliever Scott Proctor was shifted from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL, and lefty Eric Stults was sent back down to AAA Las Vegas. Proctor’s been on the DL since June 22 and is only 3 days short of actually having been gone 60 days, so that’s a no-brainer. But as for the other move, well, I hesitate to make too big a deal of who’s the last man on the staff. In the long run, it’s probably not that big of a deal, especially when Stults is almost certain to return when rosters expand on September 1.
That said, I have to ask: why was Stults sent down rather than Tanyon Sturtze? Neither had gotten into a game since they were recalled on the same day last week – Sturtze, in fact, still hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2006. Stults has been outperforming Sturtze in the minors this season, but that’s almost irrelevant since Stults has had major league success this season – have we already forgotten his completely dominating complete game shutout of the White Sox earlier this year? In 6 starts, he had a 3.18 ERA, which is good for a 139 ERA+.
Not only that, now that Kershaw and Maddux are both in the rotation and both unlikely to go deep into games (for different reasons), the club could certainly use an effective multi-inning guy like Stults, rather than a busted veteran who hasn’t pitched in the bigs in over 2 years (and hasn’t pitched effectively in the bigs in 7 years!)
Again, this isn’t really something to get all that worked up about, but it is definitely a questionable decision worth discussing. I’m pretty sure we’ll revisit this when (not “if”) Torre puts him into a high-pressure situation and Sturtze completely blows it. Right?

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

On the Other Hand, Going to Vegas Can’t Be a Punishment

Yesterday, Vin detailed the then-pending trade for Greg Maddux, and while I was very happy to hear that Maddux was coming back, today I’d hoped to discuss the players sent back to San Diego to see if the deal was worth it.

Except that the return going south is, according to Tony Jackson and other sources, “two minor league players to be named later or cash considerations.” So it’s a little difficult to analyze a trade in which you have no idea what’s going the other way. We’ll get to that when the information comes out, but in the meantime, a roster move had to be made to get Maddux onto both the 25 and 40-man rosters.

According to the press release the Dodgers just sent out, injured reliever Scott Proctor was shifted from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL, and lefty Eric Stults was sent back down to AAA Las Vegas. Proctor’s been on the DL since June 22 and is only 3 days short of actually having been gone 60 days, so that’s a no-brainer. But as for the other move, well, I hesitate to make too big a deal of who’s the last man on the staff. In the long run, it’s probably not that big of a deal, especially when Stults is almost certain to return when rosters expand on September 1.

That said, I have to ask: why was Stults sent down rather than Tanyon Sturtze? Neither had gotten into a game since they were recalled on the same day last week – Sturtze, in fact, still hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2006. Stults has been outperforming Sturtze in the minors this season, but that’s almost irrelevant since Stults has had major league success this season – have we already forgotten his completely dominating complete game shutout of the White Sox earlier this year? In 6 starts, he had a 3.18 ERA, which is good for a 139 ERA+.

Not only that, now that Kershaw and Maddux are both in the rotation and both unlikely to go deep into games (for different reasons), the club could certainly use an effective multi-inning guy like Stults, rather than a busted veteran who hasn’t pitched in the bigs in over 2 years (and hasn’t pitched effectively in the bigs in 7 years!)

Again, this isn’t really something to get all that worked up about, but it is definitely a questionable decision worth discussing. I’m pretty sure we’ll revisit this when (not “if”) Torre puts him into a high-pressure situation and Sturtze completely blows it. Right?

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