The True Face Of The Dodgers

MLB is running this “face of [team]” promotion, which is mildly interesting, I guess. Fans can vote by using hashtags for the “face” of their team, and so far the results have been expected — Joey Votto, Felix Hernandez, Joe Mauer, etc… with the obvious exception of the fact that Oakland fans trolled the game and voted Eric Sogard.

So I got to thinking, and well, people aren’t taking this seriously enough. Giants fans, you’re really voting for Buster Posey when this face exists? Come on now. People are making this a popularity contest, but it’s supposed to be about faces.

And the Dodgers, well… they have some faces. Who is the true face?

Dee Gordon, out at second:

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Gordon, looking at his stat line:

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Former utilityman and future broadcaster Jerry Hairston either in shock or realizing he chose poorly:

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Super mega happy A.J. Ellis:

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Evil Zack Greinke:

Passive-aggressive face:

mattingly_colletti_press_conference“I have so many dollars face,” even though this picture is two years old:

“You may have thought you heard me say I wanted a lot of money, but what I said was: Give me all the money you have." (via)

“You may have thought you heard me say I wanted a lot of money, but what I said was: Give me all the money you have.” (via)

Derp face:

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Whatever the hell this is:

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2013 Dodgers in Review #30: SP Zack Greinke

90topps_zackgreinke2.63 ERA / 3.23 FIP 177.2 IP 7.5 K/9 2.3 BB/9 (A-)

2013 in brief: Might have made some noise in the Cy Young vote had Carlos Quentin not assaulted him.

2014 status: Still under contract for the rest of time.

******

With all that happened in Zack Greinke‘s debut season as a Dodger, it seems that absolutely no one remembers just how terrified we were when it began. No, not the huge contract, which we loved, or the opt-out, which I really had no problem with at all, and certainly not three days into camp, when we learned about how engaged he was in scouting Corey Seager when he was with Milwaukee.

No, it was early in March, when we started hearing that Greinke’s right elbow was giving him trouble. He was scratched from a March 11 start, then when he returned two weeks later, he didn’t exactly give everyone a lot of confidence by looking terrible.

Miraculously, he was declared ready for the season, and he threw 6.1 perfect innings in his debut against the Pirates. Okay, he didn’t, but…

But most of all, there was Zack Greinke, throwing six and a third perfect innings in his Dodger debut before allowing a hit to McCutchen. Lest you be eager to point out a potential mistake and note that Garrett Jones actually had a single in the second inning, let me remind you how that play actually went down…

…and so I stand by my statement. Greinke went 92 pitches, striking out six, in what was known to be an outing where he’d have a bit of a leash on him after his abbreviated spring.

So with Greinke and Clayton Kershaw leading the way, everything was puppies and roses, especially when he looked good over five innings against San Diego his next time out and… oh… oh no. Damn you, Carlos Quentin.

You know what happened, and so I’m not going to regurgitate it here. Greinke had surgery, but was back on a mound for a rehab stint in less than a month, on May 10. Needless to say, we were terrified:

Considering that the original diagnosis for Greinke was around eight weeks, or mid-to-late June, this would be a phenomenally quick recovery. Is it too soon? I don’t know, and neither do you; we aren’t doctors and don’t know the specifics of his health. We’ve heard that he’s already thrown two bullpen sessions of 60 pitches where he’s reached 90 MPH, and that all sounds great.

My hope, however, is that he’s nearly ready to come back because he’s nearly ready, and not because the team has lost seven games in a row. We’ve seen that be attempted and fail far too many times — looking at you, Matt Kemp from last year — and it’s the last thing this club needs.

Greinke returned on May 15, and… it wasn’t good. In his first four starts, he allowed at least four runs four times. His velocity was down. There were quiet reports indicating that he had absolutely come back so quickly mostly because the team was in such sad shape. There were flashes, like when he threw six scoreless on June 6 against the Braves, but it was mostly about inconsistency. In four starts from June 16 to July 3 — remember, this is when things started going wonderfully for the team — he allowed four or more earned runs three times. And, of course, he was a primary participant in the June 12 brawl with Arizona.

But on July 8, he went into Arizona and shut out the Diamondbacks over seven innings. His next time out, he shut out the Rockies on two hits… and then shut down the Nationals on one run over six innings… and he’d kicked off a run where over his final 16 starts of the season, he allowed more than two earned runs once.

Why? Well, it helped that the velocity came back:

greinke_2013-velocity

…but I found it fascinating that he was seemingly doing it without his best pitch, though that ended up changing as the season went on. Over the second half of the season, his K/BB was 80/19; only Kershaw and Ubaldo Jimenez topped his 1.85 ERA. Oh, and he merely hit .328/.409/.379 in 72 plate appearances, contributing 1.2 WAR on offense alone. Yeah, he was that good.

Greinke kept up his run in the playoffs, striking out 17 against just two walks in three starts, and I know I can’t wait to see what a full season from him might bring. There’s so much risk in these nine figure deals, especially for pitchers, and when you can look back one year in and say “yep, I’d do that deal again 10 times out of 10,” that’s a nice place to be.

******

Next! Chris Capuano‘s weird year!

NLCS Game 5: Dodgers 6, Cardinals 4, Back to St. Louis

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When Zack Greinke loaded the bases with none out in the first, missing badly a few times, you could be forgiven for thinking the worst. After last night’s loss, with elimination staring them in the face and the knowledge that an injured Hanley Ramirez wasn’t likely to be the savior this time around (hitless again today, he left after six), it wasn’t at all hard to see the fifth game of the NLCS — and the 2013 season with it — falling apart before it even got started.

But he managed to escape that first inning without damage, thanks to a crucial Matt Adams whiff and a nice Juan Uribe double play, and after getting Yadier Molina into a double play to end that third, he cruised through seven, retiring 13 consecutive Cardinals. Greinke wasn’t really at his best today, striking out only four, but clearly he managed to make it work. If that doesn’t say enough about how fantastic of a pitcher Greinke is, I don’t know what does; it’s the 15th consecutive time he’s allowed two or fewer runs.

Greinke also knocked in the second run of the game with a single in the second, but that’s really just a gateway into the other main story of this game: Offense, sweet, sweet offense! A third-inning ball crushed by Adrian Gonzalez! A fifth-inning ball absolutely crushed by Carl Crawford! A seventh-inning blast from A.J. Ellis, pushing the lead to 5-2! Gonzalez hitting yet another in the eighth! In the first four games of the NLCS, the Dodgers had scored only seven runs; they nearly matched that today.

Brian Wilson threw a quick eighth behind Greinke, while Kenley Jansen ran into trouble (thanks partially to Yasiel Puig losing a ball in the sun), allowing two runs to score and the go-ahead run to come to the plate. But he survived — technically, he struck out the side, while inciting thousands of heart attacks while doing so.

With the win, the Dodgers finish off the Los Angeles portion of the NLCS by doing all you reasonably could have asked — they took two of three, and they send the series back to St. Louis. So after a day off tomorrow, we get something truly fun on Friday night: Clayton Kershaw against Michael Wacha in St. Louis, with the Cards trying to earn a trip to the World Series in front of their home fans, and the Dodgers trying to push it to Game 7. I can’t say this has always been fun, but… lord, this is fun.

You All Know There’s No Way Ricky Nolasco Starts Game 4, Right?

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As things currently stand, the Dodgers are planning to send out Hyun-jin Ryu against Adam Wainwright in tomorrow’s Game 3, and Ricky Nolasco in Tuesday’s Game 4 against Lance Lynn. If the series goes beyond that, the Dodger rotation is lined up for Clayton Kershaw in Game 5, Zack Greinke in Game 6, and Ryu again in Game 7.

You may remember that this was the plan in the NLDS, too — Ryu in Game 3, Nolasco in Game 4, Kershaw ready for a possible Game 5. That didn’t happen, of course, because Kershaw came back on short rest to start Game 4 instead. And I’m telling you right now, there’s no way that Nolasco starts Game 4 this time around either.

Yes, that’s despite Don Mattingly saying that “we haven’t talked not even once on using Zack on short rest” and then immediately changing the subject to trying to “regroup”. I assume I don’t need to remind you not to ever, ever trust the statements of baseball officials in public — it was only a few days ago that Rick Honeycutt was flat-out insisting that Kershaw wouldn’t start Game 4 of the NLDS, don’t forget, and Mattingly all but admitted to the press earlier this year that he wasn’t always truthful to them.

That’s especially the case when you look at how Greinke himself replied to Dayn Perry when asked about it:

 ”I mean, I could probably respond to it [the question], but I might give information out that we might want to keep a secret, so I just won’t respond to that question for that reason.”

Greinke’s not known to be a man who plays games with the media, so you tell me if that sounds like a guy who hasn’t had a talk “not even once” about starting on three days rest.

Unlike Kershaw, Greinke has started on short rest before… sort of. Last year, he actually started three straight games for Milwaukee, but that was more than a little bit of a fluke. Greinke made only 4 pitches on July 7 before being ejected, so the Brewers brought him back the next day; since that was the final game before the All-Star break, he also started their first game back on July 13. In 2007, he spent most of the year in the bullpen, and moved into the rotation in late August, three days after a relief appearance.

The only two times that Greinke made real starts on short rest came in the midst of another playoff run, in 2011. He started the season finale on three days rest as the Brewers tried to secure home field advantage (six innings, two earned runs) and then again in Game 2 over Shaun Marcum against Arizona. That was one of the weirder starts of his career, because he struck out seven and walked none, but also allowed three homers. Part of the decision-making at the time? That Greinke had a low season innings count after missing time due to a broken bone suffered in a freak accident (he’d broken a rib in a basketball game). That doesn’t sound familiar, does it?

It’s fair to remember that Greinke missed much of the spring with right elbow soreness, though that hasn’t been an issue so far as we know this season. Over his last four starts, dating back nearly a month, he’s thrown only 345 pitches, an average of about 86 per. Over the same time frame, Nolasco has thrown 186, but that’s because he hasn’t started in well over two weeks, an entirely separate concern. You really think that Mattingly, still without a contract for 2014, is going to down with Nolasco, if the series is 3-0? Or risk going down 3-1, if they win tomorrow? Not a chance.

Ryu will start tomorrow, of course; he has to. But then starting Greinke in Game 4 allows you to start Kershaw in Game 5, also on short rest. That’s not ideal, of course, but remember that he only threw 72 pitches in Game 2, which is why I didn’t hate the move to lift him nearly as much as everyone else did.

That does, of course, leave you in a bit of a spot for Game 6. Ryu on short rest? Nolasco then? Edinson Volquez? But without ignoring the issue, that’s a problem for later. If you don’t even survive long enough to see Game 6, then it’s not a problem, because right now, it’s far from a guarantee. We’ve already seen Nolasco get pushed aside once. With the season on the line, it’s going to happen again. Believe it.

Dodgers 1, Padres 0: Start the Playoffs Now, Please

greinke_sandiego_gonzalez_2013-09-22If you’re wondering if Zack Greinke is ready for the playoffs… yes. Yes he is. Greinke allowed just three baserunners in five scoreless innings against the Padres, leaving after 72 pitches only because this game was utterly without meaning, as these days increasingly take on an “are we there yet?!” feel. It’s only been a few days since the Dodgers clinched, but they’ve been the obvious division champions for weeks now, and September feels like an endless slog at this point. (He says, fully aware that he’s complaining because his favorite team did so well that they laugh at the very idea of a pennant race.)

Andrew Cashner actually managed to match Greinke, until he allowed a Michael Young double in the seventh to score the game’s only run; in the only actual news of note, Andre Ethier made a pinch-hit appearance in the ninth, his first game action since September 13, but struck out — one of six consecutive Dodgers to whiff to end the game. J.P. Howell got the win, because wins, and I bring that up only because of the “Greinke in the Cy Young race?” conversation we had earlier.

Kenley Jansen closed it out easily and… oh lord, a day off tomorrow? When will then be now?