Clayton Kershaw’s Best Start Ever Leads Group Effort


Earlier this afternoon, I attended the Phillies/Mets game at CitiField, where Philadelphia starter Vance Worley lasted just three innings, allowing twelve hits and eight runs (five earned) in that time. In person, it was even worse than that; even the outs he was getting were hit hard. Who knew that it wouldn’t be close to being the worst starting pitching performance I’d see today?

The Dodgers saw to that by finally breaking out of their long offensive slump and pounding Florida starter Ricky Nolasco for fifteen hits and eight runs in five innings of work. The fifteen hits were the most by the Dodgers against any starting pitcher since 1982, and are the most allowed by a starting pitcher in Marlins history. Overall, they collected seventeen hits, their most since doing the same last May against Arizona.

In my mind, far more impressive than the group output – though that was badly, badly needed – is the fact that much of it came from names we haven’t seen contribute much this year. Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier, and Jay Gibbons all had three hits, with Furcal starting off the scoring by hitting his first homer of the year in the bottom of the third. The value of Furcal at the top of this lineup can’t be understated – I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but the team scores approximately 47 more runs per game with him in than without him since he’s arrived – and his day is all the more welcome considering what a slow start he’d been off to since returning from injury. Gibbons, who had contributed barely anything all year, finally made some sort of case with his roster spot with his three hits, though he did misplay a flyout to left into a double on Clayton Kershaw‘s ledger. The breakout from Ethier counts as a new contribution as well, since he was hitting just .228/.315/.316 in May coming into today’s game. With Matt Kemp getting ejected (along with Don Mattingly) for arguing balls and strikes in the 4th inning and early-season star Jamey Carroll‘s last hit now a week in his rear-view mirror, the offense from some unexpected sources was absolutely vital.

But it didn’t stop there. Casey Blake had two hits, Dioner Navarro had two… and so did Kershaw, whose pitching performance absolutely should not get lost in the offensive outburst, though it probably will. It figures that on a day where the Dodgers finally break out the bats, they almost didn’t need to, because Kershaw was dominant. The line says he allowed two hits and issued a walk, which combined with ten strikeouts over nine shutout innings is fantastic enough, but even that’s not enough praise; Logan Morrison‘s double should have been a simple out, but dropped thanks to swirling winds in left field that Gibbons couldn’t handle.

Of Kershaw’s eight innings, he set down the Marlins 1-2-3 in five of them. Not once did the Marlins bring more than four men to the plate in an inning, and the only inning they even put more than one batter on base – the 7th – it was hardly Kershaw’s fault, as that was when Gibbons and Furcal each misplayed balls caught in the wind to left field.

This was Kershaw’s second career shutout, and as far as Game Score goes, it was his most dominating performance yet. His score for today was 92, and as you can see from his list heading into today, that puts this squarely at the top. It’s also the second time this season that Kershaw has rewritten his “top five greatest hits” list:

Rk Date Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H ER BB SO HR Pit GSc 2B 3B
1 2010-05-09 COL W 2-0 GS-8 ,W 8.0 2 0 3 9 0 117 84 0 0
2 2010-09-14 SFG W 1-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 4 0 0 4 0 111 83 1 0
3 2009-04-15 SFG W 5-4 GS-7 7.0 1 1 1 13 1 105 83 0 0
4 2009-08-08 ATL L 1-2 GS-7 7.0 2 0 1 10 0 103 82 1 0
5 2011-05-13 ARI W 4-3 GS-7 ,W 7.0 3 0 2 11 0 106 80 2 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/29/2011.

Earlier today, Kershaw was tied for fifth on the baseball-reference pitcher NL WAR scoreboard with Jair Jurrjens and Ian Kennedy, just behind the injured Josh Johnson. This game ought to be enough to push him at least into third and possibly into second when b-r refreshes their standings overnight. With Kemp tied for the lead with Ryan Braun and Joey Votto on the batting side, that gives the Dodgers one of the most valuable duos in baseball leading their club.

All season long, we’ve worried that their production would be wasted by a supporting cast that just wasn’t up to the job. For one day, at least, this was a team-wide effort, and a great way to spend a holiday weekend.

******

The big news of the day, of course, was that Josh Lindblom was finally called up to the big club, with Kenley Jansen placed on the DL with shoulder inflammation. I say “finally”, because Lindblom was seemingly on the verge of making his debut as far back as spring of 2009. He just missed the cut, and when the club tried to turn him into a starter in the minors, it backfired terribly, leading to last year’s troubling AAA campaign where he allowed 13.5 hits per nine and ended with a 6.54 ERA in 40 games (10 starts). Back in AA this year and strictly as a reliever, he’s been striking out 12.2/9 and cutting down on the hits. Though it’s nice to see Lindblom finally make it, this is another blow to the bullpen, as Jansen had put together ten scoreless consecutive outings (and an 18/5 K/BB) before being touched in each of his last two.

It seems clear that the Dodgers are massively unimpressed by both the talent and environment in Albuquerque, at least when it comes to pitching prospects. Lindblom is now the third consecutive call-up to come from Chattanooga, following Javy Guerra and Rubby De La Rosa, and that’s where Jansen was sent when he was briefly demoted earlier this year as well.

Initially I was mildly bothered that Schlichting was DFA’d, since he’d shown flashes in his brief times up, but after checking the 40-man roster, it’s really a move that was unavoidable. Since the Dodgers have six players on the 15-man DL, and no obvious candidates to be moved to the 60-day DL, the 40-man roster is in a tight squeeze. Schlichting had been brutal in AAA this year anyway, walking more than he’d struck out with a high HR/9 rate. It’s probably likely that he doesn’t get claimed on waivers regardless, and it’s the right choice.

There May Be More Bullpen Intrigue Than We Thought

Remember the heady days of, oh, three weeks ago, when the top six spots in the bullpen were all spoken for and the only question was if Scott Elbert or Ron Mahay would be able to unseat Blake Hawksworth for the last spot?

Uh, yeah. About that, because beyond the obvious absences of Vicente Padilla and Ronald Belisario, a lot has happened in just the last 24 hours. Let’s do this in “it’s Friday night” bullet point format.

* Both Mahay and Matt Guerrier allowed homers tonight in the loss to the Giants, though it’s hard to completely kill Mahay for giving one up to Buster Posey, who’s, you know, sorta good. Otherwise, Mahay struck out two in his inning, without walking anyone. Travis Schlichting followed with a second rough outing, allowing two runs. He’d given up three hits and a walk, leading to three runs, his first time out. Great. Jonathan Broxton, at least, threw his second scoreless inning of the spring.

* Kenley Jansen made all our hearts skip a beat with his near-injury in fielding drills today:

Jansen, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, was doing a pitcher’s fielding practice drill requiring him to field a slow roller between the mound and first base. Jansen tried to glove the ball and flip it in one motion when his left leg went out from under him and he landed on his right jaw.

“I feel weak and dizzy,” Jansen said after returning to the clubhouse. “I don’t know what happened. My right hand was in the air and my glove was going toward the base and I hit my jaw and scraped my left knee.”

That’s only mildly terrifying, right? I’m less concerned about his jaw than his knee, since he was carted off the field, though he’s reportedly uninjured.

* Hong-Chih Kuo hasn’t even thrown live BP yet, but is scheduled to do so for the first time on Saturday. Meanwhile, Scott Elbert hasn’t seen game action since his last walktastrophe.

* Thanks to all the uncertainty, Tony Jackson thinks Mike MacDougal has a real chance to make the squad:

Instead, their hope is MacDougal will be a serious candidate to make the club and be a reliable middle reliever. Presently, he is one of a half-dozen or so pitchers who have a legitimate shot at what are probably three open spots in the bullpen, and at the risk of jumping to a hasty conclusion so early in spring training, he appears at the moment to be a clear favorite to land one of those spots.

* Unimportant lefty leaving: Dana Eveland, who was optioned to minor league camp today, having never appeared in a game after injuring himself on the first day.

* Unimportant lefty arriving: Randy Keisler, who hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2007, was signed to a minor league deal out of an open tryout camp.

So what does this all mean? Barring injury, the top four of Broxton, Kuo, Guerrier, and Jansen seem solid. Hawksworth was likely to make the team anyway due to his out-of-options status; that now seems assured. With Elbert and Schlichting each unimpressive, that might open the door for both Mahay and MacDougal, with Ramon Troncoso probably still having a say. That probably doesn’t sound great in theory, but don’t forget how often the bottom of any bullpen churns. As soon as Padilla returns, whomever’s on the bottom likely starts to look for a new address anyway. Besides, completely selfishly, it’s good to have some action in camp, right?

******

Back to the battle for the last bench spot, Justin Sellers made a great defensive play while Russ Mitchell made an error and Juan Castro couldn’t hang on to a ball that may have ended the 6th inning. Sellers, however, also struck out twice. Castro struck out with the bases loaded, but he also had an RBI single, so his odds of making the team are now 98%. In addition, Charley Steiner very clearly said that the battle was between Castro, Sellers, and Ivan DeJesus, pointedly leaving out Aaron Miles. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it’s a step in the right direction, so I’ll take it.

MSTI’s 2010 in Review: Relievers, Part 4

We’re back! Two more relief pitcher reviews to go.

Ramon Troncoso (D)
4.33 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 5.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, -0.2 WAR

It’s funny to think about it now, but Troncoso was the absolute savior of the bullpen back in April. With Hong-Chih Kuo on the DL, Ronald Belisario MIA, and George Sherrill falling apart, Troncoso quickly became Joe Torre’s go-to guy to get games to Jonathan Broxton.

Troncoso appeared in 15 of the team’s 22 April games, and was quite effective in holding opponents to a .208/.296/.292 line in the first month. As April bled into May and the appearances mounted, that led to a never-ending line of jokes and concerns that Torre would run him directly into the ground.

April 28 (doubleheader):

In each game, 4 relievers entered after the starting pitcher. In Game 1, following Hiroki Kuroda were Jon Link, Ramon Troncoso, George Sherrill, and Ramon Ortiz. After Charlie Haeger left in Game 2, you saw… Troncoso, Link, Sherrill, and Carlos Monasterios. I’ll forgive the usage of Link, who we all knew was getting sent back down to make room for John Ely today anyway, but Torre’s abuse of Troncoso is bordering on the ridiculous. He’s on pace to get into about 115 games this year, and Dylan Hernandez’ constant usage of the ‘paging Dr. El Attrache’ hashtag on Twitter has gone from “humorous” to “terrifying”.

May 11:

Jonathan Broxton began warming in the 8th inning, with the Dodgers up 4-2. Fine. Yet the Dodgers put up 3 in the top of the 9th after RBI hits by Loney, Blake, and DeWitt, so Broxton sat down. Also fine. Yet with a five-run lead, who comes in? Not George Sherrill, who’s been horrible. Not Carlos Monasterios, who for all his success is still a Rule 5 pick. No, Torre inserts Ramon Troncoso, now on pace for over 90 games this year. I can’t even begin to explain how boned this team is if Troncoso, the most vital non-Broxton reliever, breaks down, so you’d think you’d want to save him for important situations. But wait! This gets better. Troncoso walked Chris Young, and then gave up an RBI single to Rusty Ryal… which gets Torre to warm Broxton up again.

Troncoso, of course, got the final three outs in the next two batters thanks to a strikeout and a game-ending double play. So Torre managed to work out both of his best relievers… in a five-run game. All this, while guys who practically have middle names of “put me in only in five-run games” sat and watched.

May 20:

And then on top of it all, with Jeff Weaver warming and Carlos Monasterios wondering what he’s done to offend Joe Torre to make sure he hasn’t pitched in a week, who comes in? That’s right, Ramon Troncoso, who’s still on pace for 90+ games. The silver lining in Troncoso getting hit hard was that Ortiz got charged with the men he’d left on, but this was Troncoso’s third night in a row, and fourth in five nights. Am I really going to kill him for letting Adrian Gonzalez take him deep? Of course not. I’ll never understand Torre’s bullpen usage, ever.

May 25:

Hey, Joe. Why are you bringing Ramon Troncoso in A) when the team is losing, B) in a tight game when he’s coming off three homers in his last two outings, and C) when he’s on pace for approximately 180 games this season? Sure, Troncoso is claiming that he’s found “a flaw in his delivery”, but is absolutely anyone going to be surprised when he ends up on the disabled list by the end of the week? Anyone?

Troncoso didn’t end up on the DL, but he may as well have. After his nice April, he allowed an OPS of .899 in May and .830 in June. He was so bad that he ended up getting sent down to AAA in early July, and he bounced back and forth several times before returning for good when rosters expanded in September – and he wasn’t much better in ABQ either, with a 5.73 ERA and a 1.545 WHIP.

That said, it’s easy to blame Joe Torre for this. (Fun, too.) But there’s more to it than just Torre’s overuse. I’m actually going to toot my own horn a bit and say that I was worried about Troncoso as far back as last November, in the Maple Street Press Dodgers Annual:

Explain this: Ramon Troncoso’s strikeout rate per nine innings dropped from 9.0 in 2008 to just 6.0 in 2009, and he combined that with a rising walk rate – up from 2.8 to 3.7. Even his reputation for being a groundball machine suffered, with his GB/FB rate dropping from 3.44 to 2.10. One might say that’s a recipe for utter disaster, yet Troncoso’s ERA dropped nearly a run and a half from 4.26 to 2.72. How was that possible?

I went on to explain that it was in large part because Troncoso had been extremely lucky with his flyball rates in 2009, and those peripherals didn’t really support an ERA like that. So when the inevitable regression occurred, I wasn’t all that surprised and took a deeper look into why. It’s kind of a long read, so I won’t copy the entire thing here (though I encourage you to read it), and instead I’ll just show conclusions without the accompanying explanations:

1) His 2.72 ERA in 2009 was wildly misleading.

2) He’s actually been regressing each year, not just this year.

3) His home run luck from last year is evening out.

4) His hot start to 2010 was just a decent start magnified by the disaster around him.

5) A regression in 2010 wasn’t hard to see coming.

6) You can’t completely absolve Joe Torre.

Believe it or not, Troncoso’s 2010 WHIP was lower than his 2009, which should be reason 1,023,876 why ERA for relievers is unreliable. Troncoso is in no way guaranteed a job in 2011, but his history as a Dodger ought to at least get him a long look in spring training next year. 

George Sherrill (F)
6.69 ERA, 5.20 FIP, 6.2 K/9, 5.9 BB/9, -1.0 WAR

I think a lot of people are expecting me to rationalize Sherrill’s terrible year, and claim that it wasn’t that bad at all. I’m not, and it was. It’s just important to realize that there’s a bit more to it than just “holy crap, this guy suddenly became awful.”

Before we even get into how his 2010 unfolded, do remember that expectations for Sherrill were unfairly inflated headed into the season. His shiny 0.65 ERA as a Dodger in 2009 had people thinking he was a stud, and while he was very good, he actually struck out fewer and walked more in LA than he’d done with Baltimore in the tough AL East. (Just another example of why ERA, particularly for relievers, isn’t the best tool to judge a pitcher, friends. Did we really expect that 621 OPS+ from last year was going to stick?) 

So I certainly expected some regression. But this? No, not even I saw this coming. We first started hearing about trouble with Sherrill in the first days of spring training, as he’d reported with sore knees and then took a line drive off his right ankle, though it was reportedly not serious. Sherrill made it through the spring, and made his season debut in the 8th inning of Opening Day in Pittsburgh. How’d that go?

Even more concerning than that mess was the self-immolation of George Sherrill, who was so brilliant for the Dodgers last season. After an entire spring of hearing him claim that his mechanical issues were “no big deal” and that he’d be fine when the season started, he came in and after getting two quick outs, allowed a walk, a double, and a three-run homer to Ryan Doumit. With Hong-Chih Kuo on the DL and Scott Elbert trying to be a starter in ABQ, the Dodgers may be have a serious lefty problem in the pen if Sherrill can’t get straightened out, and quick.

But it didn’t get better. He allowed runs in three of his first five games, including blowing his first save opportunity on April 10 in Florida, and didn’t manage to get through an outing without issuing a walk until his sixth time out. He perked up a bit at the end of April, going eight straight games without allowing a run, but it was still troubling that he’d managed to strike out just two in that time. By the end of the month, he’d walked ten and struck out only five.

May started with back-to-back disasters, and ended when he was placed on the DL with “mid-back tightness”, as the club needed a roster spot for the returning Rafael Furcal. He missed barely the minimum, and returned to allow a run against the Angels on June 11. Few remember it now, since it was Jonathan Broxton who blew up in the 9th and Ramon Troncoso who got the loss in the books, but it was actually Sherrill who gave up the two-run homer to Robinson Cano in the tied 10th inning of the infamous June 27th disaster against the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball.

Two days later, on June 29, I looked into what had happened to Sherrill, and started off with a shocking realization:

in looking at Sherrill’s game log, one thing jumped out at me so clearly that I can’t possibly bury it any further: George Sherrill hasn’t had a strikeout since May 17. That’s more than six weeks ago, ever since he struck out Houston’s Michael Bourn (who struck out 140 times last year) in the 8th inning of a 6-2 Dodger win in Los Angeles. By (a completely unfair) comparison, Clayton Kershaw has 56 strikeouts since Sherrill’s seen his last one. He’s clearly fooling no one. How can you succeed like that?

Obviously, you can’t. Here’s why:

It’s not that hard to see what’s causing this, either. He’s not throwing as hard (88.3 MPH average on his fastball, lowest of his career). He’s not getting anyone to chase junk out of the zone (swings on just 21.1% of his pitches outside the strike zone, tied for his lowest ever). He’s not avoiding bats on any pitches (85.1% of his pitches are met with contact, and he’s getting just 5.5% swinging strikes, each worst of his career).

So is he hurt? He claims no, despite missing time this season with a bad back. There’s been questions all year about his mechanics, theories that his offseason was too short, and stories about being “cured” by watching Billy Wagner on TV. Obviously, none of it has worked. Maybe it’s all of the above. Or none.

Sherrill then went out and gave up runs in two of his next three outings, and the other shoe dropped over the All-Star Break, as he was put on waivers. That fooled a lot of people into thinking that he was off the roster immediately – since he clearly wasn’t claimed, he never left the team – but the timing made the team’s distaste clear.

His nightmare season continued when he allowed runs in his first two post-break outings, got stuck with the loss when he wasn’t warmed in the bizarre “Mattingly’s two mound visits” game, and finished out July with another blown save in San Diego. Well, okay, that one wasn’t totally his fault, and I apologize for the length on this, but it’s awesome:

First of all, please be sure to note that the two hits Sherrill allowed came on two ground ball singles which found their way through the infield. A few feet in either direction and the plays get made, and no one talks about George Sherrill at all. It’s not like he gave up two liners, hit a guy, and allowed a grand slam, despite what you may read elsewhere.

Here’s the part that makes even less sense: George Sherrill has been atrocious all year. You don’t bring him into the 9th inning of a tie game, but you especially don’t bring him in to face a right handed hitter. I’ve said this so many times in recent weeks that I won’t even bother linking to it, but if there’s one way that Sherrill can help the team, it’s in that he can still be effective against lefties. Cover your eyes before I post these splits:

Sherrill vs RHB, 2010: .436/.515/.745
Sherrill vs LHB, 2010: .190/.314/.333

Yet the first batter in the 9th inning was Scott Hairston, a righty. He got a base hit. Lefty Tony Gwynn Jr. sacrificed him to second, and the Padres – who clearly had read the scouting reports – pinch-hit for Everth Cabrera with righty Oscar Salazar.

Before we go further, I just want to drive this point home:

1) The winning run is on second.
2) George Sherrill cannot get righties out.
3) George Sherrill has already allowed a hit to a righty.
4) A righty is at the plate.

At this point, you’d think – you’d pray – that Torre would have put down his Bigelow green tea and decided to do something to, you know, manage the team to a victory. Like bring in Jonathan Broxton, say.

But no. Sherrill remained in the game. Salazar bounced a grounder up the middle. And the Dodgers are further out of 1st place than they’ve been all season. And you wonder why I don’t want to see them trade for a starter. What we really need to see are losing teams who put their managers on the trade block, because that’s where the Dodgers really need an upgrade.

Sherrill didn’t really perk up much over the remainder of the season (though he did amusingly draw a walk in his first big-league at-bat), but he wasn’t completely useless, as the quote above alludes to. Even in this completely nightmarish season, Sherrill was still pretty effective against lefties, ending the year at .192/.286/.288 against them, which puts his OPS against LHP at almost exactly what Pedro Feliciano of the Mets – well-regarded as a lefty-killer – had. It doesn’t make his unholy lack of success against righties okay, of course, but it’s something.

The Dodgers were almost certainly not going to pick up Sherrill’s 2011 $6.5m option, an absurd amount for a non-elite reliever, even if he’d had a good season. Now? He’s the most obvious non-tender in baseball, and may be looking at minor-league deals at best for next year. 

Travis Schlichting (C+)
3.57 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 5.6 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 0.2 WAR

Mr. Schlichting managed to run his season in reverse. That is, he was more successful in the majors (1.324 WHIP, 7.9 H/9) than in the minors (1.437 WHIP, 10.5 H/9), despite going back and forth four times.

Schlichting’s season debut was also the highlight of his year, since he pitched four scoreless innings to pick up his first career win in a 1-0, 14-inning affair against Arizona in June. I joked at the time that he probably punched his own ticket back to AAA with the effort, and that’s exactly what happened. He came back up for a quick stint later in June before being sent down again, and by the time he’d pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in Arizona on July 3, he’d run his scoreless inning streak to 10 to start the season.

I, of course, jinxed the hell out of that, and his season went pretty downhill from there. In 12.2 IP over his final 10 games, Schlichting allowed 9 ER while walking more than he struck out. I bet you’ll never figure out how that happened!

Man, I never get tired of hearing that players have hidden injuries, only to see said injury get worse. And by “never get tired”, I of course mean, “hiding an injury just never ends well”. In this case, it’s Travis Schlichting

“I was just trying to fight through it, because my mechanics were bad at the beginning of the year, and I think that’s when it started. I was just forcing it, and it kind of never went away. It wasn’t affecting me in games, so I didn’t want to make a big deal of it.”

Conte was unsurprised to hear the pitcher had a problem that he hadn’t talked about.

“That’s sort of part of the game,” he said. “Our job, of course, is not to let it get that far, so we always appreciate it when a player tells us when he has something going on. But we understand when players don’t.”

Figures. Assuming he’s healthy, Schlichting figures to be in the mix for one of the last bullpen spots with guys like Troncoso and Jon Link. Now will someone please fix his Wikipedia picture already?

******

Next! Ronald Belisario‘s mysterious season! Russ Ortiz‘ predictable disaster! And Octavio Dotel‘s unfortunate legacy! It’s relievers, part 5!

The Best Start of Clayton Kershaw’s Career…

…was also the 4th-most-valuable game any starting pitcher has had this year, based on WPA (Win Percentage Added):

Rk Player Date Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO Pit WPA RE24 aLI
1 Edwin Jackson 2010-06-25 TBR W 1-0 9.0 0 0 0 8 6 149 0.880 4.934 1.758
2 Roy Halladay 2010-05-29 FLA W 1-0 9.0 0 0 0 0 11 115 0.842 4.570 1.226
3 Mat Latos 2010-05-13 SFG W 1-0 9.0 1 0 0 0 6 106 0.841 4.661 1.348
4 Clayton Kershaw 2010-09-14 SFG W 1-0 9.0 4 0 0 0 4 111 0.832 4.661 1.338
5 Jake Peavy 2010-06-19 WSN W 1-0 9.0 3 0 0 2 7 107 0.825 4.440 1.809
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/15/2010.

In case you’re wondering why Kershaw ranks above “better” games like Dallas Braden‘s perfecto, it’s because WPA takes into account the game situation, so Kershaw’s performance with a razor-thin 1-0 lead was worth more than Braden holding down a 4-0 lead.

Last night’s outing tops his previous WPA score of 0.628, which he got by tossing 8 shutout innings against the Cardinals in July of 2009. Since allowing six runs in six innings against Washington on August 6, Kershaw’s torn off seven solid games in which he’s allowed 10 ER in 48.2 IP, striking out 48 against just 15 BB. The Dodger record in those games? Just 3-4, thanks to lousy offense, though last night’s one hit was certainly the worst.

And people say the Dodgers “don’t have an ace”…

******

Just when you thought you couldn’t hate the James McDonald (and Andrew Lambo) for Octavio Dotel deal any more, McDonald tosses out yet another quality start for the Pirates, this time going eight shutout innings in New York. Needless to say, the internet is all over it…

Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts:

The fact remains, the Dodgers parted with their two-time minor league pitcher of the year and an effective member of their 2009 bullpen, earning a minimum salary, in order to acquire Octavio Dotel. They nurtured McDonald through eight years in the organization, and then gave up too soon.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

It appears to be an outstanding trade by Neal Huntington, even at this early stage, given that it will not take any time to know what the Dodgers have in Octavio Dotel at this stage of his career. James McDonald has been very good, and Andrew Lambo has shown promise while playing around that nagging shoulder injury.

Jack Moore at Fangraphs:

McDonald’s peripheral numbers are actually quite similar to those of hard throwing left handed pitcher David Price of the Rays. Both have K/9 rates around 8.0 and walk rates around 3.5. McDonald has allowed fewer HRs this year in his small sample, but that’s unlikely to continue, as Price has a ground ball percentage in the mid-40s. McDonald’s fastball averages 92.5 MPH to Price’s 94.5, and Price’s arsenal contains a slider whereas McDonald relies on the curveball and changeup as his offspeed pitches. Both draw similar amounts of swinging strikes, with Price at 9.0% on his career and McDonald at 8.8%

Eight starts is nowhere near enough to say that McDonald can be an ace or that he’s the next David Price. Still, he’s shown tremendous potential and has a minor league track record to back it up. The Pirates haven’t seen much in the way of starting pitching talent in a long time. It’s looking like James McDonald will be the first step for the Pirates in their quest to put together a playoff-quality starting rotation.

Meanwhile, Dotel has walked 5.6/9 as a Dodger before shuffling off into free agency, and right now, the #4 and #5 starters in the 2011 Dodger rotation appear to be Charlie Haeger and Orel Hershisher. Great trade.

******

Man, I never get tired of hearing that players have hidden injuries, only to see said injury get worse. And by “never get tired”, I of course mean, “hiding an injury just never ends well”. In this case, it’s Travis Schlichting

“I was just trying to fight through it, because my mechanics were bad at the beginning of the year, and I think that’s when it started. I was just forcing it, and it kind of never went away. It wasn’t affecting me in games, so I didn’t want to make a big deal of it.”

Conte was unsurprised to hear the pitcher had a problem that he hadn’t talked about.

“That’s sort of part of the game,” he said. “Our job, of course, is not to let it get that far, so we always appreciate it when a player tells us when he has something going on. But we understand when players don’t.”

In Which MSTI Attempts to Jinx the Entire Pitching Staff

I’d written up a whole bit about how Vicente Padilla had shaken off the rough start to his 2010 by throwing out quality start after quality start, capped by tonight’s 9 K, 0 BB gem. As he struck out Ronny Paulino for the 2nd out in the 7th, it became clear that the bullpen would be coming in for the 8th, and I started doing some research on Padilla’s season, including this nugget, which I oh-so-brilliantly put on Twitter:

Unless something awful happens right here, this is going to be Padilla’s first outing of 2010 in which he doesn’t allow a homer.

Less than two minutes later, Marlins rookie Mike Stanton deposited the 112th and final pitch of Padilla’s night into the left field stands, because of course he did. I invited the punishment which I so richly deserved, which I’ll post along side to the right here for your enjoyment, because it’s the only way I’ll learn.

Still, Padilla’s got a pretty interesting stat line going on. 9 K against 0 BB is quite impressive, and he joins Chad Billingsley (11 K on May 31 against Arizona) in being the only Dodger to strike out as many as 9 without a walk this season. (Four Dodgers did it last season, including Padilla himself when he set down 10 on October 4th against Colorado).

Following up on what I mentioned last time regarding Padilla:

Vicente Padilla showed just how effective he can be when he’s right, allowing just three hits and a run over seven innings. Remember, his ERA has been misleading all season. After his first two lousy outings, in which he allowed eleven earned runs while not making it out of the fifth inning either time, Padilla’s allowed three, two, (DL stint), four, two, and one earned runs in the five starts since.

Just two earned runs in 6.2 innings certainly qualifies as a solid start in keeping that streak alive, though the fact that he has become so oddly homer-prone is disconcerting at best. Regardless, his slow start and ensuing injury were huge parts of this team’s May starting rotation panic, and his turnaround is of utmost importance.

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But wait! There’s more jinxing to come. Travis Schlichting started off his 2010 season by putting up 10 scoreless innings in his various MLB stints. (That’s 10.2 consecutive if you cheat a little bit and include the two outs he got to close out a 6-0 loss on June 12 of last year, in a game also started by Padilla… but for Texas.) Schlichting set down the Fish in the 8th inning, and as Vin Scully pointed out that Jonathan Broxton was warming to enter in the 9th, I noted the scoreless streak fact. What could go wrong?

Well, Rafael Furcal just had to go and extend the lead to five in the bottom of the inning, meaning that Broxton wasn’t needed (yet, anyway)… and you can note my increasing horror at this fact in this succession of tweets as Schlichting allowed his first run to cross the plate:

Ha. I only said it when Vin made it clear JB was coming in. @DodgersDynasty: @MikeSciosciasTI hopfully Schlichting doesn’t pitch the ninth.

Uh-oh. Vin: “With a 5 run lead, Broxton has stopped throwing, so Schlichting will go back out for the 9th inning.”

I’m more nervous about Travis Schlichting‘s mop-up 9th inning than his mom is right now.

Farewell, Twitter. I’ll miss you.

If you want to see the replies I got to those… well, you’re just going to have to go search it out yourself. Disaster city on my part.

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Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, & Casey Blake all hit homers, two of which came off of Marlins starter Chris Volstad (who was optioned back to AAA within 10 minutes of the game ending). Kemp’s blast was a particularly monstrous shot, in addition to two stolen bases. He’s OPSing 1.124 with three homers over the last seven days. Can we please at least agree that whether or not he did need some sort of wake-up call, that this is the result of an immensely talented player coming off a poor month far more than it is some sort of voodoo clubhouse magic worked by Joe Torre? I’m not immune to the idea that the time on the bench may have gotten into Kemp’s brain a bit, but the level that some people are going to credit this all to Torre is mind-blowing.

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Rafael Furcal had two more hits and 3 RBI. You may have noticed this, but he’s sorta good. I’m in the middle of writing the dedicated post to him which he sorely deserves, but know this: we’re in the midst of some of the finest shortstop play in the long history of the Dodger franchise, dating back to Brooklyn.

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I posted this on Twitter earlier, but I can’t help but add it here as well. In all of Dodger history, there have been 1,337 seasons in which a Dodger has received at least 134 plate appearances, or exactly what Garret Anderson had seen entering tonight’s game.

Rank those 1,337 seasons by OPS+ (Manny’s 2008 is at the top, no surprise), and you’ll see that Anderson ranks 1,318th. That means that 98.57% of previous Dodger hitters dating back to the 19th century were more productive with that amount of plate appearances than he’s been. And some could even play defense, too!

But why stop there and just say those things, when through the magic of baseball-reference I can show you them specifically? (And no, I didn’t have to start with Andruw Jones on the list. I could have just put GA at the top. But I wanted to make it clear that GA has some work to do just to reach the tubby depths of Jones’ 2008 debacle.)

Rk Player OPS+ PA Year Age Tm G AB R H 2B HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
1315 Andruw Jones 35 238 2008 31 LAD 75 209 21 33 8 3 14 .158 .256 .249 .505
1316 Juan Castro 35 246 1998 26 LAD 89 220 25 43 7 2 14 .195 .245 .255 .499
1317 John Shelby 35 371 1989 31 LAD 108 345 28 63 11 1 12 .183 .237 .229 .466
1318 Garret Anderson 34 134 2010 38 LAD 64 128 6 24 5 2 11 .188 .203 .289 .492
1319 Jeff Torborg 34 136 1969 27 LAD 51 124 7 23 4 0 7 .185 .241 .218 .458
1320 Wally Gilbert 33 171 1928 27 BRO 39 153 26 31 4 0 3 .203 .274 .229 .503
1321 Rube Walker 32 187 1957 31 BRO 60 166 12 30 8 2 23 .181 .243 .265 .508
1322 Bill Bergen 32 265 1905 27 BRO 79 247 12 47 3 0 22 .190 .213 .219 .431
1323 Bill Bergen 31 320 1908 30 BRO 99 302 8 53 8 0 15 .175 .189 .215 .404
1324 Randy Jackson 30 145 1957 31 BRO 48 131 7 26 1 2 16 .198 .246 .252 .498
1325 Bill Bergen 28 347 1904 26 BRO 96 329 17 60 4 0 12 .182 .204 .207 .411
1326 Doug Camilli 26 134 1964 27 LAD 50 123 1 22 3 0 10 .179 .226 .203 .429
1327 Ben Geraghty 25 138 1936 23 BRO 51 129 11 25 4 0 9 .194 .241 .225 .466
1328 Jul Kustus 25 192 1909 26 BRO 53 173 12 25 5 1 11 .145 .204 .191 .395
1329 Ramon Martinez 24 147 2007 34 LAD 67 129 10 25 4 0 27 .194 .248 .225 .473
1330 Moe Berg 16 138 1923 21 BRO 49 129 9 24 3 0 6 .186 .198 .240 .439
1331 Bill Bergen 16 372 1906 28 BRO 103 353 9 56 3 0 19 .159 .175 .184 .359
1332 Tommy Brown 14 160 1944 16 BRO 46 146 17 24 4 0 8 .164 .208 .192 .400
1333 Bill Bergen 12 143 1907 29 BRO 51 138 2 22 3 0 14 .159 .165 .181 .347
1334 Bill Bergen 6 273 1910 32 BRO 89 249 11 40 2 0 14 .161 .180 .177 .357
1335 Maury Wills 3 152 1972 39 LAD 71 132 16 17 3 0 4 .129 .190 .167 .357
1336 Bill Bergen 1 372 1909 31 BRO 112 346 16 48 1 1 15 .139 .163 .156 .319
1337 Bill Bergen -4 250 1911 33 BRO 84 227 8 30 3 0 10 .132 .183 .154 .337
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/6/2010.

That means there’s 19 seasons in which a Dodger has performed more poorly than Anderson, but two things should have jumped out at you immediately. First of all, a solid eight of those 19 belong to the legendary catcher Bill Bergen, who was an excellent defender but was infamous for being the worst-hitting player in baseball history (no, really; he holds the record for longest hitless streak by a non-pitcher) and who was out of baseball by 1912. Second, note the third column on line 1332; Tommy Brown was just 16 when he was pressed into service for the wartime 1944 Dodgers.

Finally, note that I’m even in a situation where I’m comparing Garret Anderson to a 16-year-old – and that the teen had a higher OBP. Anderson’s not going to come anywhere near the 250+ PA Bergen got on several occasions, and he’s probably not even going to get up to the 192 that Jul Kustus got in his one season in Brooklyn, 1909. But if you look at the PA numbers on the list below him, he’s going to be knocking some names off quickly. His next PA will dislodge Doug Camilli, and it won’t take long to say goodbye to Jeff Torborg, Ben Geraghty, and Moe Berg either. Even the 152 PA Dodger legend Maury Wills got in his final season (when he didn’t start a game after July 31 and was used strictly as a defensive replacement for the final two months because the team didn’t want to just cut him) isn’t out of reach.

We could be looking at the worst season in Los Angeles Dodger history;  with a little luck, the worst in Dodger history since Bergen’s 1911. Or as you know I’d call it, “the worst season by a Dodger in one hundred years.”