Thursday, January 31, 2008 preview: Starting Pitchers

The newest '08 preview takes a look at the starting rotation. The start of the article is actually very interesting, as it flashes back to the LoDuca-Penny trade that Paul DePodesta was largely criticized for when it happened. The best quote is this:

"This flashback serves as a reminder that snap judgments on roster moves are made at one's peril. After all, anyone want to trade Brad Penny for Lo Duca today?"

So very true. While LoDuca's career is certainly stumbling (bad knee, bad team, oh and that steriod thing...), Penny has been in 2 straight All-Star games while winning 16 games each. The way he stepped up his game after fizzling out in the 2nd half of '06 was remarkable. I can say with full confidence that he is now considered an ace, and people should stop questioning his ability.

The rest of the article focuses on the rest of the spots. Derek Lowe is considered the key, as he suffered through an injury-plagued season. He's shown that he can be a big-game pitcher in the past. Hiroki Kuroda is an unknown, but expectations are somewhat high because of his contract. Luckily for him, he's expected to be the 4th starter, which should ease some tensions. Chad Billingsley is considered an "ace-in-training" because of his great stuff. This could be his year.

Then there's the last spot, which could go to any of these guys: Jason Schmidt, Esteban Loaiza, Hong-Chih Kuo, Eric Stultz, and Chan Ho Park. Injuries and just plain bad pitching have hurt all of them. Should be interesting.

Monday, January 28, 2008


It's Monday again, so time for another mailbag installment. This week the topics are the crowded outfield, why Dodger Stadium needs renovations, how much rest Russ Martin should get, players out of options currently on the roster, who will wear #25, and the language barrier between Martin and Hiroki Kuroda.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lieberthal calls it quits

Even though he was no longer with the Dodgers, it's still worth noting that after 14 years, Mike Lieberthal has retired. The former two-time All-Star selection had hopes of playing one more year with LA, but was declared a free agent last October when his option was declined.

I know the common question on most people's minds is, Was he even really part of the team last year? The answer is... no. He appeared in only 38 games last year, posting a .234 AVG and a measly 1 RBI. 1 RBI in 77 at-bats is pretty hard to do, even with the little PT. In games in which he had 3 or more at-bats, the Dodgers were 3-11. With Russell Martin having such an amazing year, and with the Dodgers scratching and clawing for runs nearly every game, it was hard to get him in many games.

What should not be forgotten is that he did have a nice career. He finishes with a .274 AVG, 150 HR and 610 RBI. His fielding was outstanding, committing only 64 errors in 1,093 games for an overall fielding percentage of .992.

2 southpaw relievers invited to Spring Training

The Dodgers have given non-roster invitations to lefties Tom Martin and Mike Myers in hopes of solidifying their bullpen. Both have had plenty of major league experience.

Martin is a former Dodger who appeared with the NL Champion Colorado Rockies last year. He appeared in only 29 games, posting a 4.91 ERA before being released in July. For his career, he has a 4.92 ERA with 224 K's in 316.7 IP.

Myers is a side-winding lefty who has plenty of experience playing for Joe Torre. He pitched all of 2006 and part of 2007 with the Yankees, signing with the White Sox to end last season after being released in August. While he is counted on to pitch against top lefty sluggers, he has had mixed success. He had a 3.23 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in '06, and had decent success with the Yanks in '07, posting a 2.66 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He absolutely bombed in his 17 games with the White Sox, pitching a horrendous 11.20 ERA and 2.04 WHIP. Yikes!

Both will look to find a spot in the 'pen next to Joe Beimel, and I would think at least one of them would make it. The early favorite would probably be Myers, though Torre did release him just last year, so nothing is etched in stone. The big lefty sluggers in the NL West are Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, and Adrian Gonzalez. Good players, but nearly as bad as facing the power in the NL East like Myers had to last year.

Even if one or both are signed, don't exactly hold your breath that it will last all season. They may only be good for a short run until they start getting pounded again. In the more friendly pitchers park of Dodger Stadium, maybe they can have more success.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Player Profile: Matt Kemp

The latest installment of my Player Profile series looks at a man with an unlimited ceiling of potential, Matt Kemp.

Kemp was born in Midwest City, Oklahoma where he attended Midwest City High School. Not only was he a standout baseball player, but a great basketball player as well. He skipped college when he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 6th round of the 2003 draft.

After spending the 2003 season in the Rookie league, he made his way to A and A+ ball for the 2004 season. He stayed in A ball at Vero Beach for the entire 2005 season, hitting .306 with 27 HR and 90 RBI in 109 games.

The 2006 season was quite the roller coaster ride. It started in Jacksonville for 48 games, then to Las Vegas for 44 games, then the call came to LA for 52 games. With the big club, he made a huge splash right away. After going 2-3 in his 2nd game in Atlanta, he proceeded to homer in 3 straight games to start the month of June vs. Philadelphia. On June 11, he hit 2 home runs in Colorado, and his AVG was as high as .378 in the middle of the month. For the month of June, he had a .293 AVG, 7 HR and 16 RBI. While he was giving a much needed power boost to the Dodgers, he also struck out 26 times.

As is the case with any number of rookies, he hit the proverbial wall after June. Playing time became less and less, as he only appeared in 25 games the rest of the way, finishing the season at .253 AVG, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 6 SB, 9 BB, 53 K. 9 walks and 53 strikeouts represented his free swinging ways quite nicely.

Even with the weak ending to the '06 season, he was penciled in as the main right fielder going into the 2007 season. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a separated shoulder in the home opener vs. Colorado on April 9. After rehabbing and spending 39 games back in Las Vegas, he returned on June 8 in Toronto. While he did receive the majority of playing time, he still had to sit at times with Andre Ethier, Luis Gonzalez, and Juan Pierre also vying for PT. Still, he put up some pretty impressive numbers when it was all said and done: .342 AVG, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 10 SB, 16 BB, 66 K. Even though he still did not take many walks, his plate discipline was much improved. He played in nearly double the amount of games as '06, yet his K's were much more under control.

For as many tools as he's shown the couple of years we've seen him in LA, his decision making is erratic too often. He has a cannon of an arm, yet will unleash unnecessary throws that sail over everybody. He has good speed, yet will get caught trying to get extra bases at bad times. Those factors have played in all of the trade talks, yet Ned Colletti has preferred to stay on the positive side and let him learn his way through the mistakes. Good move. He's still one of the top young players in baseball, so holding onto him is smart.

This upcoming season looks to be a big one for him. He's all but declared the starting right fielder. The addition of Andruw Jones and the return of Jeff Kent should give him plenty of RBI chances in a lineup that looks pretty good up and down. Can he turn into the big power hitter he's shown signs of in the past? Perhaps. I do know that if he cuts down on his silly mistakes, he's a legit All-Star consideration for years to come.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 preview: Outfielders

This week, the around-the-horn preview of the Dodgers focuses on the outfield situation. As has been talked about here, there, and everywhere, Juan Pierre is the ultimate question mark heading into the season. Given a huge contract to come to LA from the Cubs last year, he either did his job or failed miserably, depending on who you talk to. Those who focus on the positive note his 96 runs, 196 hits, and 64 stolen bases. Those on the negative side point out his 33 walks, .331 OBP, and lollipop arm in the outfield.

What most people want to see is Andre Ethier in left, Andruw Jones in center, and Matt Kemp in right. I think people need to realize that the only thing etched in stone right now is Jones in center. I really don't believe that Kemp is automatically the starter quite yet, but most likely will win that outright. No matter who starts, knowing Joe Torre, I can see him giving the veteran Pierre plenty of chances to succeed.

Next week: Starters

Not so fast my friend... Mattingly steps down

In what I can only describe as a strange, rather odd change of events, Don Mattingly has stepped down as the hitting coach for the Dodgers. He will remain with the team as a minor league special assignment coach for the upcoming season. Mike Easler, the former Triple-A hitting coach, will fill the spot.

Since the reason given was "family reasons," my first thought was that someone is in serious danger in his family. I don't know if it's some sort of terminal illness or something else along that line, but that was my first thought. Don't get me wrong, I certainly hope nothing like that is wrong. But when no specific reason was given other than he needed to spend more time at home in Evansville, Indiana, my thoughts were decidedly negative.

I don't think I'll ever know just how much of an impact a hitting coach can have. To me, if you have the hitting talent, they'll shine through. If you don't, they won't. Take last year for example. Eddie Murray started the year, but was canned when he blamed for not being nearly approachable enough to help the young talent. In stepped Bill Mueller, a former AL batting champ praised for his more personable approach, and the hitting remained the same - weak. While I loved the Mattingly signing, I'm not so sure it'll really matter as much as people think.

Of course, should the Dodgers falter at the plate during the opening of the season like they did all last year, people will be clamoring for Mattingly to come back. I can only hope that everything on the homefront turns out to be fine, and he'll be back in blue sometime during the year, if not 2009.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Torre talks about roster decisions.... sort of.... ok not really!

Joe Torre came back from his winter hibernation to finally discuss the many roster questions he is faced with in year 1 of the LA experience. While many questions were asked, it's hard to say many, or any, of them were answered. Here's what he had to say:
  • He has talked with Juan Pierre about competing for playing time with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, but no final decision has been made about starters.
  • When Pierre is in the lineup, it will be in the 1st or 2nd spot in the order because of his speed.
  • He doesn't know if Rafael Furcal will still hit leadoff.
  • He doesn't know if Jeff Kent will still his cleanup.
  • He doesn't know if Russell Martin will hit 8th, where he wants someone who will take walks.
  • In fact, he has no clue about a lineup yet, period.
  • He has talked to Nomar Garciaparra about playing mostly 3rd, but other positions as well.
  • But, he hasn't officially named Andy LaRoche as the starter at the hot corner yet.
  • The bench may very well be comprised of possible future stars.
  • He will not place a lefty in the starting rotation just for the heck of it.

All in all, he really didn't offer any perspective that we didn't already know. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Heck, it's still February. We'll have to check back in Spring Training before finally getting some answers.


Monday = Mailbag. This week, it's about why Nomar has to battle for the 3rd base job, why there's been no talk about going after Johan Santana recently, the reason only big name minor leaguers are chosen for mini-camp, why the payroll is not as high as the Yankees, and how effective the bullpen can be.

Here you go.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Proctor finalizes 1-year deal

Add Scott Proctor to the list of people who have agreed to a deal before heading into arbitration. He signed a 1-year/$1.115 million deal. He wanted $1.3 million, so I'd say he didn't do too badly for himself.

Proctor was traded to the Dodgers from the Yankees last year for Wilson Betemit at the trade deadline. Appearing in 31 games for LA, he went 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Pretty good numbers in my opinion. In the month of September (you know, that month where practically the entire team crashed and burned), he only gave up 3 earned runs, lowering his overall ERA from 3.91 to 3.65.

Along with Joe Beimel (who's the last guy on the arbitration-eligible list) and Yhency Brazoban, Proctor will again play a big role in bridging the gap between the starters and the Broxton-Saito 8-9 inning connection.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Repko back for another go-around

Jason Repko avoided arbitration today, signing a 1-year/$487,500 deal to remain with LA. It's a slight increase in the salary he earned last year, and performance bonuses could bump it up even more.

Repko is a tough guy to figure out, all because of injuries. He tore his hamstring in Spring Training last year (remember the pop up that Furcal and he got hurt on?) and was out for the rest of the year. In 2006, he was gone for 2 months thanks to a badly sprained left ankle. He's basically had zero luck the last 2 years.

When he's actually healthy, he's really not that bad. I know his stats aren't that great (low AVG and OBP), but I know that if he could put all of his talents together, he could be pesky at the plate. It's hard to see how he'll ever be able to do that though, especially considering that his speed has to be affected with leg injuries. Assuming he makes the team, I can't see him being anything more than a late-inning pinch runner and/or defensive replacement.

Only 2 guys remain arbitration eligible: relievers Scott Proctor and Joe Beimel. Since both are big parts of the bullpen, something will be worked out.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The State of the Dodgers - Colletti style

GM Ned Colletti answered a bunch of questions about the current Dodgers' roster at mini-camp today. Here's the highlights:

  • Andy LaRoche and Nomar Garciaparra will compete for the 3rd base job, with neither having the edge over the other right now. No other 3rd baseman, like Pedro Feliz, will be signed.
  • Andre Ethier could very well start over Juan Pierre, over vice-versa. It looks like Matt Kemp will be a starter, obviously with Andruw Jones.
  • Jason Schmidt is showing good progress in his rehabilitation, but no timetable will be set.
  • Efforts to resign RH reliever Rudy Seanez and LH pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney are not going great, mostly because of money issues.

The rest of the article takes a look at where the youngsters, like Tony Abreu, Delwyn Young, and Chin-Lung Hu, fit in.

Looking at the responses, they all seem to be on track with what I would be thinking. The 3rd base job should be won, not handed to, especially considering both guys did not have good seasons at all in '07. Ethier should probably get more starts than Pierre, but a split in PT wouldn't surprise me. Good news on Schmidt; he can just a HUGE bonus if all works out considering he's the forgotten man of the league. If Seanez and Sweeney can't be resigned, I wouldn't exactly lose sleep over it. preview: Middle Infielders

The 3rd part of the season preview is up, and it takes a look at 2nd base and shortstop. A grand total of 6 All-Star appearances makes up the duo of 2B Jeff Kent and SS Rafael Furcal. Both seem to be coming back this year with something to prove.

For Kent, it's that his 40-year-old, battle tested body can hold up the rigors of another long season, and that he can not be a cancer in the locker room. For Furcal, it's that he can be the all-around threat at the plate that he was in 2006, and not the guy that struggled in 2007 because of nagging ankle and back injuries. They form a solid double-play duo. As long as they stay somewhat healthy, they can still wreak plenty of havoc from both sides.

Next week: Outfielders

Brazoban re-ups with Dodgers

The Dodgers have resigned RH reliever Yhency Brazoban to a 1-year/$540,000 deal, avoiding arbitration. There's a bunch more money to be made if he meets certain performance bonuses. He'll be one of the key power arms coming out of the 'pen once again this year.

Brazoban was practically an unknown up until the trade of Guillermo Mota (along with Paul LoDuca) to the Marlins in late August of 2004. After taking over a bigger role in the bullpen, he went on to appear in 31 games, going 6-2 with a 2.48 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

2005 was an interesting year. With a preseason injury to then-closer Eric Gagne, he tried to fill in the closer role, but failed miserably. While he did have 21 saves that year, he was also 4-10 with a 5.33 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. '06 and '07 were complete throwaways because of elbow and shoulder problems. He appeared in only 9 games total those years.

Assuming he's healthy heading into this year (as big an IF as there is), he can slide into the 5-8 inning role along with Scott Proctor and Joe Beimel. He has shown in the past that he can really let it fly, but with arm problems, it remains to be seen just how effectively he can still do that. But, for relatively cheap money, and only a 1 year investment, it's a good signing and well worth the risk. It could pay off big time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


The newest mailbag is up at the Dodgers official website. This week's topics are expectations of Hiroki Kuroda, why they sold Wilson Valdez to Korea, a preseason caravan, if mini-camp represents the best prospects, exactly how poor Juan Pierre's fielding and throwing was last year, and where Rich Donnely has gone.

Happy reading.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Valdez goes bye-bye

It's not like we're talking major breaking news here, but somewhat noteworthy still. Wilson Valdez has been sold to the Kia Tigers of the Korean League on Saturday. With Tony Abreu and Chin-Lung Hu battling for playing time as top prospects, Valdez was expendable.

While people might look at his paltry .216 AVG, he actually had quite the impact to start the season. After hitting so well out of spring training that the Dodgers were forced to keep him, he went on to have 3 3-hit games in the course of 6 games. But, with Rafael Furcal coming back from an ankle injury, PT was pretty much non-existent after that. After gathering only 3 hits in his next 31 at-bats, covering the span of about a month, he was designated for assignment on May 15.

He did finish the year with a .343 AVG at Triple-A Las Vegas, so it's a bit surprising that no other team looked into acquiring him.

Feliz and Hall rumblings

A couple of more rumors to check out, both dealing with the 3rd base situation. The first is from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, and is about Pedro Feliz, formally of the San Francisco Giants. Not only are the Dodgers showing interest, but the Brewers, Phillies, and Giants are as well. The other 3 teams seem to have more interest, though. Rosenthal seems to think that the Dodgers will stay on their current course of Andy LaRoche or Nomar Garciaparra. Signing Feliz would mean Garciaparra would be $8.5 million utility player.

The second rumor, courtesy of ESPN's Buster Olney, is about Bill Hall, which has been discussed somewhat off and on. I remember a couple of months ago, the talk was centered around both Hall and Ben Sheets, but now it's just Hall. Hall has switched positions with the Brew Crew many times, mainly because he has too much power potential with his bat to sit him (35 HR and 85 RBI in 2006). With the signing of Mike Cameron, he'll have to be at 3rd base exclusively. Olney points out that a move to the Dodgers would mean a trip to 3rd base anyway, so what's the point?

My take is simple...... stop the madness! I know both Feliz and Hall have power potential, but LaRoche needs a chance to show his stuff. Now that the Dodgers have signed Andruw Jones, and with Jeff Kent coming back, a healthy Raffy Furcal, and the emergence of James Loney and Matt Kemp, LaRoche should not feel too much pressure to perform. Hopefully he can just relax and hit the ball like he has his whole life. Nomar can still be a capable player when healthy, which is virtually never anymore. After a good offseason of adding talent without subtracting any, a move now would be foolish. Let the kid play!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008 preview: Corner Infielders

The 2nd of 7 installments of the Dodgers' roster is up, and this time looks at 1st and 3rd base. 1st base is obviously wrapped up, with James Loney proving he was worth the trouble of moving Nomar Garciaparra to 3rd base. He should be a building block for years to come.

Over at 3rd base, the situation is much different. I talked about Nomar yesterday and his quest to regain the starting nod. Andy LaRoche is the other X factor in all of this, and he has shown just as much, if not more, promise than Loney in the minors. Can he translate that into big league success? So far, it's been anywhere from a "we'll see" to "no." He hasn't proved he can handle being an everyday 3rd baseman yet, from a production and injury standpoint. Time will certainly tell.

Next week: Middle infield

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Nomar's fresh start

Nomar Garciaparra and wife/soccer legend Mia Hamm are getting prepared for their celebrity soccer challenge on January 26 to promote funds and awareness for bone marrow transplant patients and their families. Good for them. In between talking soccer (which for the record, I absolutely hate. I mean seriously, what is so much fun about watching a 1-0 game all the time?), he discussed the upcoming season. Here's a quote:

"I'm preparing myself for whatever. I want to be flexible and agile if I'm asked to play other positions besides third base. I always prepare myself to do whatever's asked of me. Right now it's third base. But I've talked to Torre and he loves the fact, being in the National League, that I can play other positions. I don't think that's a sign that I won't be playing third base. We've just seen before how things change and I want to be flexible."

The rest of the article, which can be read right here, mainly goes into last season's debacle, sitting the bench in September, and how he still respects Grady Little.

Having a guy of his caliber, a six-time All-Star for crying out loud, around the clubhouse is always a good thing. Looking at things realistically, he only has had 1/2 a good season in 2 years with LA. The good was obviously the first part of the 2006 season, where he hit .358 with 11 HR and 53 RBI. He made the All-Star team, though it was by fan vote, which still pisses me off that he was originally left off. Anyway... injuries tanked his hitting to only .222 in the 2nd half, and was a complete non-factor in the playoffs vs. the Mets.

Last year, his power numbers were slim and none, and slim took a hike! Hitting .283 wasn't bad, but with 7 HR and 59 RBI. Yuck. 121 games, 431 at-bats, and only 7 homers to show for it. It's safe to see why Little wasn't comfortable playing him in September, whether you agree with the decision or not. His body was just broken down.

The general consensus is that Andy LaRoche should get the nod, and I can't disagree with that. He's proven he can hit anywhere in the minors, now it's time to step it up on the big stage. Since injuries happen to every team, having a guy like Nomar who can play any infield position ready on the bench is a big plus. All it takes is 1 rolled ankle to turn a season around (ask Rafael Furcal about that), so playing time could always jump in no time. Hopefully LaRoche will produce and Nomar can become the ultimate utility man, still getting plenty of PT.

Monday, January 7, 2008


The latest mailbag has been posted at This week features questions about rushing Clayton Kershaw to the majors this year, Jason Schmidt's health, Tommy John in the Hall of Fame, extending Rafael Furcal's contract during the season, and info on Xavier Paul.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Kansas City... the home of washed up ex-LA Dodgers!

I guess Kansas City is trying their best to be Dodgers East, and the best way they can do that is by signing ex-Dodgers. The first signing came a few days ago when Chin-Hui Tsao signed a minor-league deal. Ok, not too bad of a signing, as long as they are willing to roll the dice a bit on the injury factor. He started off the year really well for LA, then completely fell apart. For a team like the Royals, it could be a good acquisition, if everything goes right.

But here's what takes the cake...... Hideo Nomo has also signed a minor-league contract. That's right, HIDEO FREAKIN' NOMO!!! Apparently he really DIDN'T fall off the face of the Earth like I thought he did years ago. Ok Kansas City, I know you're desperate for pitching in the worst way, but this is just a whole different level of crazy. Good luck with that....... you'll need it!

I really feel badly for any KC fans out there. That's gotta be painful. I mean just knowing that every night you're more than capable of posting an L has got to suck. Hang in there, fans......

...... at least you still have Kyle Davies. preview: Catchers is keeping an eye on the upcoming baseball season by starting a weekly preview of certain positions. This week kicks off with a look at the catchers, specifically Russell Martin.

Read the preview here.

Next week - Corner Infield

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Another week, another mailbag up at This week's topics are why Juan Pierre could start over Andre Ethier, free agents after the '08 season, why they haven't pursued Pedro Feliz, benching Andy LaRoche if he struggles for Nomar Garciaparra, traveling to China during the last Vero Beach Spring Training, where the money comes from to sign free agents, and if signing Gary Bennett is a bad PR move.

What is interesting to read is a guy named Tito from Gardena, CA defending Pierre. He basically points out that he lead the team in many categories, and most importantly, played in every game. I can understand that logic, and acknowledge that people have been perhaps laying it on too thick this offseason in critiquing his game. If he can show any ability to get his OBP up, then he is still one of the most dangerous men in baseball on the base paths. If Etheir shows that he is the man, then by all means play him. But we should all probably just let it play out in Spring Training and the early part of the season, then start making our judgments.

And with all of that said, here's the mailbag.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008 Dodgers preview

Much like Ken Gurnick of looked back at the previous 12 months in La-La Land, he has now posted a brief preview of the 2008 season. Nothing really monumental to report, just the basic comings and goings after the '07 season. One funny thing to look at is the "Arrivals" and "Departures" section. It's amazing just how many veterans were sent packing once the season was up.

Another small tidbit that I saw was that Juan Pierre has a no-trade clause. I must have missed that one along the way because I don't recall reading that elsewhere. Combine that with 4 years and $36.5 million remaining, and you can see why trading him is darn near impossible. But, perhaps if he's told he's the 4th outfielder going into the season, I would think he could still be a starter on plenty of other teams, leading to a trade.