Let’s Pack It In

Credit where credit is due: Ted Lilly was excellent last night. After allowing an early home run to Miguel Tejada, he retired twenty in a row and left having struck out five without issuing a walk. Now why, after just seven innings and 87 pitches, Joe Torre felt the need to replace him (once again, it’s not like Garret Anderson offers more at the plate than your standard pitcher) to squeeze another inning out of Hong-Chih Kuo is beyond me, but that’s pretty much par for the course, isn’t it?

So good for Lilly, and good for us. While I didn’t like the trade for a variety of reasons, none of them were because I thought Lilly was useless; he’s certainly an improvement on what Carlos Monasterios would have offered from that slot. Unfortunately, Lilly’s nice outing was somewhat obscured by all of the other bad news from yesterday, and there was quite a bit of it.

Injuries!

1) Jeff Weaver was placed on the DL with left knee tendinitis, and – stop me if you’ve heard this before – had concealed the injury from coaches for about two weeks, which I’m sure had nothing to do with his allowing ten earned runs in his last five games.

2) Manny Ramirez had what was termed “a setback” in his rehab, and no date has been set for his return. At this point, I’d be surprised to see him back before the end of August, which means those who advocate trading him should probably look for something else to do. Update: Buster Olney, via MLBTR,  notes that players on the DL cannot be passed through waivers. I’d say the chances of Manny moving at this point are maybe 5%.

3) Russell Martin felt pain in his hip on an awkward slide last night and is headed for an MRI. While I’d usually joke that his absence wouldn’t really hurt the lineup that much, he did have the only two RBI to back up Lilly.

4) Perhaps worst of all, Rafael Furcal strained his back in Monday night’s game and required an MRI as well. He’s hoping to avoid the DL for now, but won’t play tonight either. Let’s not speculate too hard here, but when you have ever heard news that Furcal’s back hurts and had it end well?

The offense!

If not for the injuries and Lilly (and Kuo and Jonathan Broxton), the bigger story here would be that the offense, once again, was non-existent. Scott Podsednik and Ryan Theriot combined to go 1-8, with Podsednik 4-24 and Theriot 1-12 as Dodgers. Boy, who could have seen that coming? It’s not just them, of course, since Matt Kemp and Casey Blake each went hitless (though each walked, and scored on Martin’s hit), but once again the offense contributed nothing in eight of the nine innings.

With Manny no closer to returning and now Furcal & Martin possibly on the shelf, things don’t look like they’re headed in the right direction on the offensive side. And Torre’s not helping, because apparently he’s learned nothing from the Juan Pierre experience – it doesn’t matter how fast Podsednik and Theriot are, you simply cannot bat them 1-2 in the lineup if you expect to score any runs.

I get, of course, that Furcal’s absence doesn’t help him fill out the lineup card. Still, no one had a higher OBP in yesterday’s lineup than Jamey Carroll, and it’s not particularly close. Since Carroll looks like he’s going to be playing for the foreseeable future, he has to be hitting higher in the lineup in order to give the middle of the order a prayer of having people to drive in.

Of course, when the bottom 3rd of the lineup could be Ausmus-Theriot-pitcher, and the only reliable threat (Furcal) has been subtracted, it’s hard to get excited about any part of the lineup.

The draft!

Remember back in June, when the Dodgers drafted highly touted high schooler Zach Lee, and the pick was widely panned because Lee had a commitment to LSU and was considered unsignable? Yeah, about that…

Dodgers no closer to signing top pick

LOS ANGELES — There haven’t been any conversations between the Dodgers and first-round Draft pick Zach Lee since shortly after Lee was selected, assistant general manager of scouting Logan White said on Tuesday.

Lee, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-handed pitcher from Texas, was considered to be a difficult sign going into the Draft because of a commitment to play quarterback at Louisiana State and reported bonus demands in excess of $3 million. A day after the Dodgers took Lee at No. 28 overall in June, LSU issued a statement reaffirming Lee’s desire to play college football.

“We had get-to-know-you dialogues when we first drafted him, and that’s it,” White said. “… He likes football, he likes baseball. He’s a good kid.”

Granted, most of these negotiations do tend to go right to the deadline; you’ll notice that most of the other first-rounders haven’t signed yet either. Still: wonderful.

Which all means…

Yesterday’s win aside, the Dodgers are still seven games out in the wild card, and any hopes they have for postseason play rest on them putting together a historic run. With the offensive performance and the injuries piling up, does anyone really have faith in that happening?

It’s hard to say this, but it’s time to be realistic. Lilly’s debut was nice, but it only covered up more offensive shortcomings, and now without Furcal, Martin and Manny this team really has no prayer. I never thought I’d say this three days after the trading deadline, but it’s time to sell. See what’s out there for guys like Lilly, Podsednik, Octavio Dotel – maybe even Vicente Padilla, Hiroki Kuroda, and Casey Blake, if you could get out from under his salary for next year. I’d rather finish ten games out with pieces for the future, than six games out with nothing to show for it.

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Update: Found this on Olney’s blog today, and thought it was interesting. Former catcher (and ex-Dodger Brent Mayne) checks in from time to time with Olney about the finer points of catching, and today they were discussing Carlos Santana getting destroyed by Ryan Kalish while blocking the plate in Boston. Mayne was asked if he thinks catchers should block the plate at all, and, well, you’ll see the part that caught my eye.

“I think catchers should do it — BUT learn how to do it right. I believe if you make the play correctly (which Mayne goes into extensively in his book, ‘The Art of Catching’) you end up with some momentum going into the play (as opposed to being a sitting duck) and you end up as low as you can get without laying down. Which is super important because, if you’ve ever played football, you know the lowest guy usually wins. My technique also gets your knees into a safe position … a position that if you’ve hit the knee will bend in the direction God intended it to bend. Unfortunately for Santana, he did the goofy ‘hockey goalie, throw the leg out’ thing. You’ll also see Russell Martin making that same move and I’ll guarantee the same thing will happen to him as Santana one of these days. I actually don’t even consider that ‘blocking the plate’ … it’s more like just getting your leg in the way. And it’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

Blake DeWitt Makes His Case

Just as I was about to write a post saying that while I’m pleased with Blake DeWitt‘s play this year, sooner or later he’s going to have to show some power, he crushes a three-run shot deep into the night, setting in motion a much-needed offensive showing by the Dodgers in a 12-4 win.  DeWitt’s got an .801 OPS since May 1, along with an improving glove, but he hadn’t been able to leave the yard until last night.

What I really found interesting was this section from Tony Jackson’s recap, though:

“I finally had to call him in at one point and tell him, ‘No, you’re not going (to the minor leagues),”‘ Torre said. “And then I said, ‘We’re going to make another move this weekend, and it’s not going to be you then, either.”‘

If this sounds odd to you, it’s because when I wrote a post defending DeWitt a few weeks ago, when there were rumors he may get sent down rather than Nick Green, I said this:

Again: I don’t really think they’d actually do something that stupid, so this is probably a bit premature. Still, you’d have to think the fact that Torre even acknowledged there’s a possibility it could be DeWitt got back to Blake eventually, which is exactly what he doesn’t need.

Couldn’t a conversation saying “you won’t be sent down” have been avoided had Torre not initially put it out there that DeWitt may be sent down? Just sayin’.

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This is going to require a fuller post in a week or two, but it’s going to get interesting when Vicente Padilla returns. Carlos Monasterios was excellent again last night, earning his third win while somehow striking out zero. I know John Ely wasn’t great his last time out, but he put enough good starts in a row together that I think he’s earned his spot. Monasterios has been surprisingly good for a Rule 5 pick, but he’s also striking out less than 4 per 9 innings. While he’s worth his roster spot, that’s not a recipe for long-term success, so it seems clear to me that he heads back to the long man role when Padilla returns.

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Hey, even Steve Dilbeck thinks it’s time to give up on Garret Anderson!

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I don’t pretend to follow the draft all that closely, though I did have it on in the background as I worked last night. That was enough for me to hear Peter Gammons claim that Chase Utley had never been drafted out of high school (he was in fact drafted by the Dodgers, but chose to attend UCLA) and that “there’s some thought that Matt Wieters may have been retarded.” Sure, he meant “in his development” by various factors, but those are the words that came out of his mouth. High entertainment, and that doesn’t even count the “Bud Selig & Harold Reynolds Traveling Road Show”.

So when the Dodgers chose Texas high school righty Zach Lee, it was admittedly the first time I’d heard of him. Yet it didn’t take long for me to learn all I needed to know about him: that he’s a fantastically talented athletic pitcher who’s going to require a truckload of money to skip out on his commitment to play quarterback at LSU. Since the Dodgers aren’t exactly known for having “truckloads of money” right now, except to pay the McCourt children and divorce lawyers with, this seems like a bizarre choice.

Thoughts from people more invested in scouting than I back this up, with the most ominous thought at the bottom…

Fangraphs:

A top quarterback prospect from Texas, it will clearly take a lot ($$$) to sway Lee away from his commitment to Louisiana State University. A team drafting Lee in the first round will have to have a pretty good feel on his signability. Lee has a three pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball, slider, and change-up. His arm slot tends to wander at times. Thanks to his focus on the football field, the right-hander is still raw but he does display solid control for his age. (Marc Hulet)

Tiger Bait Interview (via MOKM):

“At this point I’m leaning a lot more to toward college,” Lee said. “I think the opportunity to be able to go in and possibly compete for a starting job early in football and also to be able to compete and play for the baseball team – both elite programs – is pretty hard to pass up along with getting an education on top of it.”

Keith Law (emphasis mine):

The Los Angeles Dodgers took Zach Lee, described by one draft-room source of mine as “the most unsignable player in the draft,” and I’ve spoken to several other sources who speculated that they may have taken him knowing they couldn’t sign him with the intention of getting the compensatory pick next year when, they hope, they have more money to spend in the draft. Lee has spurned inquiries from several teams and indicated that he’d prefer to go to LSU to play football, although if he does sign, the Dodgers have perhaps the best athlete among pitchers in this draft, a right-hander with an excellent delivery and a chance for three above-average pitches.

Less than 24 hours after the draft, and we’re already speculating that the Dodgers simply decided to punt, thanks to the divorce. Hooray…?