Monday, December 27, 2010

Hu is shipped across the country

The Dodgers have given up on Chin-lung Hu, trading him to the Mets today for lefty Michael Antonini. The trade signals an end to Hu's career with the Dodgers in which he had many call-ups, many demotions, and not many hits.

Over the course of four seasons, Hu appeared in 96 games, hitting a paltry .191 with a .241 OBP. He did hit .400 in 2009... though that was by going 2-for-5 in five games. He also had little power and virtually no stolen bases. Other than those minor points, I'd say he really left his mark.

But seriously, Hu was a guy that never could firmly grasp his hold on a big league job. With Rafael Furcal getting up there in age and injuries, Hu was groomed to one day take over, yet could never make it happen. There was no doubt he had a good glove (three errors in 225 total chances), but with such poor numbers at the plate, it wasn't nearly good enough.

Besides, Hu was out of options, and with Jamey Carroll and Juan Uribe ready to play some short when necessary, trading him was a smart move. Plus, the Dodgers would like to see Ivan DeJesus Jr. get his chance, and that certainly looks to be the case now.

Antonini has gotten as high as the Triple-A level, but has never appeared in a major league game. In four seasons with many different minor league teams, he has a 25-26 record and a 4.04 ERA. Last season with Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo, he went 8-12 with a 4.49 ERA.

It's hard to get too excited over a guy like Antonini, but we'll just have to keep an eye on him for the future.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Durable Guerrier joins the 'pen


Well, so much for the rumors about Bill Hall joining the Dodgers. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that Hall has inked a deal with the Astros to play second base. Oh well.


The Dodgers made yet another offseason move to strengthen their bullpen on Thursday. This time they plucked away Matt Guerrier from the Twins with a three-year, $12 million deal. Other teams interested in his services were the Rockies, Yankees, and Red Sox.

What we know about Guerrier is that if the bullpen needs to be called upon, he's most likely the guy to answer. His 76 appearances in 2008 and 79 in 2009 led the American League, and 74 last season was third. If Don Mattingly wanted a workhorse, he's got one.

Guerrier also has some nice statistics for holds the last four seasons: 14, 20, 33, and 23. Last season he went 5-7 with one save, a 3.17 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 42 strikeouts in 71 innings. The year before he had a 2.36 ERA, but in '08 it was 5.19. Let's hope that was an aberration.

In looking at last season's splits, he did his best work in the beginning and end of the year. His July ERA was 8.00, and 5.27 in August. But, he bounced back with great work in September at 1.67, and didn't give up a run in 1 1/3 innings against the Yankees in the postseason.

As of now, Jonathan Broxton is still the closer, so it looks like Guerrier will team with Hong-Chih Kuo to bridge the gap. That's a pretty good combination from both sides of the rubber. Plus, there's young Kenley Jansen, who was very impressive at the end of the season. If Ronald Belisario and Broxton get back to normal, that's a fantastic bullpen.

But, if there's one thing we learned about last season, it's that looking good on paper means nothing once the games have started. A bullpen that dominated in 2009 looked all out of whack last year. So, if Broxton continues to fade under the spotlight, Belisario remains ineffective, Jansen shows his youth, and Kuo's arm troubles resurface, then the Dodgers are thin once again, even with Guerrier.

While many things can happen, the Dodgers have to love what they did this offseason to improve their pitching. They have five legit starters (Kershaw, Billingsley, Lilly, Kuroda, and Garland), a swingman that can do a little of everything (Padilla), and a bullpen that is deep (Broxton, Kuo, Guerrier, Jansen, and Belisario). Ned Colletti has definitely taken a huge step forward in that regard.

Next up is still looking to add a left fielder. There's rumors about getting Bill Hall, who spent last year with the Red Sox and hit .247 with 18 homers and 46 RBIs in 119 games. Not exactly a killer year, but he does have pop, and hit 35 homers in 2006, so maybe he's still good, right?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dodgers add Gwynn to the outfield mix

It wasn't the big splash Dodger fans were looking for, but Tony Gwynn, Jr. hopes to be the sparkplug the Dodgers need in their order.

Tony Gwynn's baby boy has inked a one-year, $675,000 deal. His role is yet to be determined, but if the roster stays in place, he'll compete with Jay Gibbons to start in left field. Both are lefties, so adding a right-handed bat seems to make sense.

Gwynn is known for two things: defense and speed. His range in the outfield is incredible, as he can play all three positions and cover a whole lot of range, which will immediately place him in the role of defensive replacement late in close games at the very least. Whether he starts games is something that won't be answered for now.

The other plus is his speed, as he has stolen 42 bases in parts of five seasons with the Brewers and Padres. He's also been caught only 14 times, and was 17-for-21 last season.

The downside is that his bat is pretty weak, as evidenced by his career .244 average and .323 OBP. After hitting for a promising .270/.350 in 2009, he went backwards last season with a .204/.304. That's a good reason for concern.

Still, he's a young player who has plenty of time to figure things out. Plus, he could always nicely ask his dad for help. But seriously, at 28 next season and with his speed, he just needs to figure out how to use his legs to get on base more often. If he does that, he can be a good addition at the top of the lineup.

If he still can't hit, or the Dodgers bring in a better hitter to play left, he'll be the first option off the bench to pinch-run and play the outfield late in games.

Navarro comes full circle

The never-ending saga of who will be the starting catcher for the Dodgers has taking another turn.

Not long after Russell Martin was let go and Rod Barajas was brought back, the Dodgers have come to terms on a one-year deal with Dioner Navarro. That's the same Navarro who was once the "catcher of the future" a few years ago for the Dodgers before being shipped off to the Rays in 2006.

In many ways, the tales of Navarro and Martin are eerily similar. Both were young backstops in the Dodgers' organization, both played in the '08 All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium, both looked ready to become the best catchers in baseball... and both crashed and burned and were non-tendered. As Martin most likely moves on to another team to catch, Navarro is back to where he started.

Navarro only appeared in a combined 75 games over the '05 and '06 seasons before moving on to the Rays. In Tampa, he hit his peak in '08 by hitting .295 with seven homers and 54 RBIs. Just when things appeared to looking bright, he tanked to an abysmal .218 in '09 and .194 last year.

The last straw for the Rays was when Navarro was not announced to be a part of the postseason roster, and he packed his bags and went home. So much for staying to root your teammates on. Anyway, the writing was obviously on the wall for his dismissal.

The Dodgers will now have three catchers of various experience. Barajas is the #1 catcher right now, as he was brought back because of the pop in his bat and ability to handle a staff. A.J. Ellis came on in September of last season to show some promise going forward. Now Navarro will return to L.A. looking to stake his claim as the top guy.

I honestly feel bad for Ellis at this point, as he must never feel comfortable with the big club. Just when he thought he'd be getting some starts and be the backup to Barajas, he once again will have to compete to stay away from the minors. But, maybe this will be extra motivation for him this offseason.

Padilla is back for insurance

The Dodgers continued their rapid-fire rebuilding of the starting rotation by resigning Vicente Padilla to a one-year, $2 million deal. The sweet thing for him is that he can get bumped an extra $8 million by hitting various incentives.

Padilla has rebuilt himself into an effective starting pitcher the last couple of seasons with the Dodgers. He made eight starts at the end of the 2009 season and went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA, and had two great starts that postseason. Last year with marred with all sorts of injuries, as he made 16 starts for a 6-5 record and 4.07 ERA.

What makes Padilla so intriguing is that when he is healthy, he has some nasty stuff. His fastball shows good movement, and he even unleashed the "Bugs Bunny" curveball this past year, which totally threw off hitters. So, a healthy Padilla makes for a good pitcher.

But, at 33 next season, there's definite concern about maintaining his health. With Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jon Garland slated to be in the rotation, Padilla can take the role of swingman. He can make spot starts after the inevitable injury bug hits. He can fill the role that Jeff Weaver performed in the past by taking the ball for multiple innings of middle relief as well.

In addition, don't be surprised to see him close out games as well. Jonathan Broxton is the closer as of now, but with the way he melted down at the end of last season, Padilla would be a good person to step into that role. I doubt that's the plan now, but as the season progresses, I can see it happening.

I'll bet Garland is a big uncomfortable with this signing, as Padilla could seemingly aim for that #5 spot in the rotation. I think Garland will keep it, as he's a whole heck of a lot more durable than Padilla. But, a poor spring from Garland and a good one by Padilla, and that may become an interesting story.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The catching shuffle: Barajas in, Martin out

One of Ned Colletti's biggest offseason decisions to make was what to do with Russell Martin. Bring him back in, or cut ties with the injured former star? Turns out the former beat out the latter.

Colletti has made up his mind, as Martin was non-tendered at Thursday's deadline. In his place will be Rod Barajas, who was acquired during last season from the Mets. Barajas signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal and will start behind the plate with A.J. Ellis the backup.

Despite the fact that Martin has had an alarming drop of production the last three seasons, and that he currently isn't even running because of a hip injury, Colletti called this one of the toughest decisions he's ever made. It's understandable, considering that Martin is a two-time All-Star who at one point looked like he was close to becoming the best catcher in the game.

But then a surprising free-fall came, in which his numbers tanked the last three seasons. In 2007, he hit .297 with 19 homers and 87 RBIs. In '08, it was .280 with 13 homers and 69 RBIs. In '09, .250 with seven homers and 53 RBIs. Finally, last season was cut short to 97 games, but his numbers were .248, five homers, and 26 RBIs. Wow.

After Martin was non-tendered, reports came out that Colletti was unwilling to pay Martin as much as he thought he deserved. The Dodgers and Martin tried to work out a contract before the deadline, but Martin's asking price of $5 million, even with that lowered from previous asking prices, was still too high for Colletti, who reportedly was offering $4.2 million. It was all she wrote once both sides couldn't agree on terms.

Now the question has been raised: Has Martin played his last game as a Dodger? Well, Colletti appears to be willing to let him come back, but only in a utility role. That could mean time at second, third, outfield, and even some catcher. Martin seems interested in doing so, according to a report. Still, I'd be surprised to see this happen. I think if another team guarantees him a spot behind the plate, he'll jump at it. And I can't blame him for doing so.

As for the new starter, Barajas raised some eyebrows when he came over from the Mets on August 22. He ended up playing in 25 games while hitting .297 with five homers and 13 RBIs. Believe me, five homers might not seem like much, but with the power-outage the Dodgers went through at the end of the season, they definitely were a bright spot.

Hitting one homer every five games isn't a likely pace to maintain, but he did hit 17 homers last season in 99 games last season, plus 19 the year before, so he's shown an ability to mash. Ellis improved his numbers in September of last season by hitting .455 with a .561 OBP in 15 games, so his playing time will be increased as well.

Overall, it'll be a strange sight not seeing Martin behind the plate on Opening Day in 2011. But, I have to agree with the decision to non-tender him. He doesn't deserve the money he was asking for based on the last three seasons and his broken hip. He was a great for a few years, but sadly, it's time to move on.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Theriot traded for Hawksworth

Ryan Theriot was traded today for Cardinals' pitcher Blake Hawksworth. Theriot was a candidate to get non-tendered by the Thursday deadline, but that's obviously not going to happen anymore.

Theriot came over to the Dodgers in the trade deadline deal that brought Ted Lilly to LA and sent Blake DeWitt to the Cubs. Appearing in 54 games playing second base, Theriot hit .242 with a .323 OBP, and gave very little power with five doubles, one homer, and no triples. A solid .309 average in August gave way to a meager .141 in September.

The official signing of Juan Uribe made Theriot expendable, as Uribe fills the void of primary starter at second while also playing other infield positions. The Dodgers needed to get more pop in their lineup, and Uribe's 24 homers last season are more than six season's worth of homers for Theriot at 16.

Hawksworth pitched mostly out of the bullpen in his two years with the Cardinals, making eight starts last season. For his brief career, he's gone 8-8 with a 4.07 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, and 81 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings. He'll be right in the mix out of the 'pen.

What's promising about Hawksworth is probably equally as concerning: he had a great rookie season in '09. But, he followed that up with a sub-par sophomore season. Two years ago, he went 4-0 in 30 games with a 2.03 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and .209 BAA. Last season those numbers dipped to 4-8 in 45 games, 4.98 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, and .310 BAA.

Since Theriot was not in the future plans, it's worth getting a guy who's shown he can get hitters out. Hawksworth struggled with that last year, but the hope is that he'll bounce back and be one of the key arms late in games.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Colletti updates closing and catching situations

Ned Colletti was just interviewed on MLB Network's "Hot Stove Live" and updated the status of both closer and catcher:

Closer - As of now, Jonathan Broxton will be the closer heading into Spring Training. When asked what happened with him last year, Colletti said that he checked out physically time and time again last season, so it was mostly a lack of confidence. No other potential closer was discussed.

Catcher - There's still no definite answer on what will happen with Russell Martin, but they have until Thursday's non-tender deadline to decide. Colletti admitted that they'll have to make a decision without much knowledge on how well Martin is progressing towards being healthy for the spring. I tried to read between the lines on what Colletti was saying, but I still have no idea if he'll be back or not. We shall see.

Two-time champion Uribe the newest Dodger

Fresh off of signing three pitchers to the starting rotation, Ned Colletti is now adding more punch to the offense.

Juan Uribe has agreed to a three-year deal worth $21 million to join the Dodgers
. The deal is pending a physical, so there's always the slight chance it falls through.

What Uribe gives the Dodgers is a power hitter who can fill a hole in the infield, most likely at second base. Last season, he hit .248, but with a 24 homers and 85 RBIs. Project those numbers with the Dodgers, and he would have finished second in homers (Matt Kemp, 28) and third in RBIs (Kemp, 89; James Loney, 88).

Another good quality of Uribe is his versatility playing the infield. While it looks like he'll be at second, he has plenty of experience at short and third as well. He doesn't look like the trimmest person in the world, but he has a great glove, which makes him very valuable for later in games when there's defensive shuffling.

Three years has probably struck people as being too long. But, my guess is the Dodgers had to be bold in order to get him, hence the extra year or so. Colletti knows that he couldn't go through another season with such little pop in his lineup, so this is a nice move.

With Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal another year older and not as productive as they once were, Uribe can slide into their positions as well to provide some rest. Still, look for another third baseman to be brought in as well since Blake can't be considered the everyday answer there anymore.

Heading into the Winter Meetings next week, Colletti can keep focusing on improving the offense. He's off to a great start with Uribe, but he can't stop there. Adding another power source will be key.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dodgers snag Garland to complete rotation

With only two starters under contract at the end of the 2010 season, the Dodgers knew they had a lot of work to do to strengthen their rotation.

Not even a month later, they already completed their Christmas shopping.

First it was Ted Lilly, then Hiroki Kuroda, and now Jon Garland has returned to the Dodgers with a one-year, $5 million deal to be the fifth starter. The signing gives the Dodgers five starters who won at least 10 games this past season.

Garland is coming of a fine season for the Padres in which he went 14-12 with a 3.47 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 136 strikeouts in exactly 200 innings pitched. He was a big reason they spent most of the season in first place of the NL West before losing it at the end to the Giants.

He'll be entering his 12th big league season in which he sports a career 4.32 ERA. Keep in mind that he pitched for the Dodgers in '09 after being traded for Tony Abreu at the trade deadline. He pitched very well, going 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA, but was a victim of the numbers game and got left off the postseason roster under Joe Torre.

The Dodgers obviously had many needs going into the season, but the starting rotation was the one that arguably struck out the most. Just like that, it's been taken care of, and Ned Colletti deserves plenty of credit for this.

Don't get me wrong, Garland isn't Cy Young material, and I would expect his ERA to be closer to 4.00 than the mid-3's he had last season. But, for an end-of-rotation guy, he fits the mold very well. He routinely pitches 200 innings and has only been on the DL once in his career.

With the Winter Meetings a week away, Colletti can now concentrate on getting his offense some more thump. He's got the horses to start the game, now he needs guys to give them run support. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Eveland inks minors contract

Dana Eveland has signed on with the Dodgers for one year on a minor league deal. The lefty was recently with the Pirates.

Eveland's best year was in 2008 with the A's, going 8-8 with a 4.34 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 168 innings. He's a career 16-21 with a 5.74 ERA and 1.74 WHIP. Um, ouch!

He's only 27, so maybe he's young enough to get something out of him. His numbers aren't pretty, as he's already bounced around four teams in his brief career, with the Dodgers now being his fifth. I'm not sure starting is in his future, but maybe a southpaw out of the 'pen will work out.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kuroda officially returns as rotation takes shape

It's official, Hiroki Kuroda is back.

Kuroda did indeed sign a one-year, $12 million contract to stay with the Dodgers. Included is a full no-trade clause and an additional $500,000 in performance bonuses. The Cardinals, Rockies, and Phillies were said to be interested in his services, but he chose to re-up with the Dodgers without taking any offers.

As I've talked about in my previous post, this really gives the Dodgers a solid 1-4 in the rotation. Clayton Kershaw will be the anchor, Chad Billingsley a solid #2, and Ted Lilly and Kuroda interchangeable in the 3-4 spots. In a division that features the world champion Giants and their deep rotation, the Dodgers can at least counter with some good arms of their own.

The key now is what the Dodgers do with their offense. Will they make a big splash and get a big bopper? Will they go after a couple solid bats and spread out the money? Will they not make a splash at all? Honestly, it could go any of these three ways. Wait and see.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Welcome back, Kuroda?

Based on what ESPN's Buster Olney has to say, it sure looks that way.

Olney is reporting that the Dodgers have agreed to a one-year deal with Hiroki Kuorda for $12 million. Kuroda originally signed with the Dodgers back in 2008 for three years and $35.3 million.

Kuroda has enjoyed a solid stay in the big leagues. Over the last three seasons, he has gone 28-20 with a 3.60 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 362 strikeouts in 497 innings pitched. Last season he was 11-13, but with a career-best ERA of 3.39, strikeouts of 159, and innings of 196 1/3.

The talk after this past season was that he was all set to pack his bags and head back to Japan to finish out his career. But, this looks like he's willing to give it one more go in the states. After going through his strongest season to date, it only makes sense to come back and get paid pretty nicely.

If Kuroda really is back in the fold, then the Dodgers would have a starting rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, and Kuroda, with a fifth starter to be named later. I'll take that. Kershaw is right on the edge of getting tagged with "ace" status, and the other three have shown how good they can be as well.

The price tag of $12 million struck me as a little expensive at first, but I think it's worth it considering the Dodgers know what they'll get in Kuroda. He won't overpower people, but he's gotten better in each of his seasons and knows what it takes to get batters out. For someone who could be the #4 starter, it works out great.

The downside, and understandably so, is that he'll be 36 next season. His full season of health in the 2010 season is proof that even in an older age, he can hold up just fine. It won't always be this way, so a one-year deal, and nothing more, is probably a smart move.

With the starting rotation seemingly set (keep in mind this deal still needs to go through), the Dodgers now need to fully shift their focus to the offense. They need someone who can hit the damn ball! Hopefully far and long, too.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gibbons resigns as Podsednik walks

The Dodgers made a couple of moves with their outfielder today, as Jay Gibbons has agreed on a one-year deal, while Scott Podsednik has declined his option to become a free agent. Gibbons's deal will be worth $650,000. Podsednik turned down $2 million.

Gibbons was an interesting story last season, as he tore up Triple-A to the tune of a .347 average with 19 home runs. When he was called up in August to the big club, he hit .280 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 37 games mostly in left field.

For this cheap, it's a good sign by the Dodgers. Gibbons showed some signs of having pop left in his bat, and for the Dodgers, they'll take that any way they can get it. Who knows if the Dodgers will make a big splash and sign a slugger, but I can see him getting some time in left field and being a key pinch-hitter.

As for Podsednik, the word is that even with declining his option, he's still talking to the club about coming back. Not too sure how serious those talks are, however. Seems obvious to me that the Dodgers didn't want to pay him $2 million.

If he does sign elsewhere, it's really not a big loss. He's a good source of speed at the top of the order, but he only had a .313 OBP when he came to the Dodgers. That's just not good enough, especially on a team that lacks power. Plus, he was 5-for-8 in stolen base attempts in 39 games, so it's not like he was setting the world on fire. A decent player, but not one they'll miss.

Monday, October 25, 2010

World Series preview: Rangers vs. Giants

It's got nothing to do with the Dodgers, but here goes anyway...

Starting Pitching

Giants - Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner
Lincecum may be the ace, but Cain has been pitching like one as well. In 13 2/3 innings this postseason, Cain is 1-0 without giving up a run. Lincecum is 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA, and 30 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. Sanchez has been trusted as the #2 starter, and responded with a 2.93 ERA in 15 1/3 innings. Bumgarner won the clincher in Atlanta in a pressure situation, and also pitched two scoreless innings in the final game in Philly.

Rangers - Cliff Lee, Colby Lewis, C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hunter
It's hard to claim anyone has done better than Lincecum and Cain, but Lee is definitely that guy. He's gone a perfect 3-0 this postseason for a 0.75 ERA, plus 34 strikeouts in 24 innings. Lewis shut down the Yankees to win the ALCS, as he won two games in that series, and a collective 1.45 ERA in three October starts. Wilson had two great starts before losing to the Yankees in Game 5. Hunter faded as the season wore on, as has been hit around in two postseason starts.

Edge: Giants, but slightly. Lee is awesome, but the Giants can go four deep. Hunter is a question mark.


Giants - Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez, Guillermo Mota
Nobody has been better this postseason in finishing out games than Wilson. He's a perfect 5-for-5 with no runs surrendered. Romo had 21 holds during the regular season. Affeldt, Lopez, and Casilla have all stepped up in October. Despite Sanchez only lasting two innings in Game 6 in Philly, the bullpen held the Phillies down the rest of the way for the win.

Rangers - Neftali Feliz, Darren Oliver, Darren O'Day, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando
The young Feliz notched 40 saves this season, and has only given up one run in 4 1/3 innings this postseason. He's looked stronger in each appearance. Holland didn't find much success against the Rays, but had two strong appearances against the Yankees. O'Day has been called on seven times in 11 games, and has only given up one run. Oliver had a solid season, but not so much in the postseason with a 5.40 ERA.

Edge: Giants. Wilson looks unstoppable, and their top setup men have produced through two series thus far.


Giants - Buster Posey
Cooled a bit after a great start to the postseason, but has still made a huge difference. Went 4-for-5 with two RBIs in the Game 4 win.

Rangers - Bengie Molina
As good as the Giants have been since Posey took over, the Rangers gladly stuck Molina in as their catcher and haven't looked back. Hit two big homers to help lead the Rangers to wins in Game 1 against the Rays and Game 4 against the Yankees.

Edge: Giants. The Rangers still have big sluggers in their lineup, so Posey's success means a little more to the Giants.

First Base
Giants - Aubrey Huff
Collected hits in 7 of 10 games this postseason. Although, no extra-base hits.

Rangers - Mitch Moreland
Only played in 47 games during the regular season, but has stepped up to hit .303 in October, with 8 hits in 10 games.

Edge: Giants. Even without a longball yet, Huff is the bigger threat.

Second Base
Giants - Freddy Sanchez
Has 11 hits this postseason in 10 games. Comes in with a five-game hitting streak.

Rangers - Ian Kinsler
Hitting a great .342 with three homers and nine RBIs in 11 games. Plus, two steals.

Edge: Rangers. Sanchez quietly does well, but Kinsler is a stud.

Giants - Edgar Renteria
After not starting in the Atlanta series, received four starts against the Phillies. But, he's a collective 3-for-18.

Rangers - Elvis Andrus
Has hit safely in all 11 postseason games for a .333 average. Is 7-for-8 in stolen base attempts, and has been a huge sparkplug leading off.

Edge: Rangers. Andrus is showing the world how his speed can change games.

Third Base
Giants - Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval
Sandoval is pretty much a forgotten man, though his big two-run double in Game 4 against the Phillies helped lead to a win. Uribe was very quiet until his game-winning solo shot against the Phillies in the clinching Game 6.

Rangers - Michael Young
Hitting .255 this postseason, but with seven RBIs in 11 games. Had two multi-hit games against the Yankees

Edge: Rangers, but slightly. Uribe and Sandoval haven't hit much, but have come through in the clutch when needed. Young has picked it up more as the postseason goes on.


Left Field
Giants - Pat Burrell
Is only hitting .207, but has drawn some walks that have lead to run. Usually gets yanked late in the game for a defensive replacement.

Rangers - David Murphy
Has six runs scored in eight games, but only hitting .200.

Edge: Giants. Both men are pretty even, but Burrell has a bigger power threat to make a difference.

Center Field
Giants - Andres Torres
Started very slowly against the Braves, but has picked up five hits in the last two games against the Phillies. Stole 26 bases during the regular season, but is only 1-for-4 this postseason.

Rangers - Josh Hamilton
The ALCS MVP has made all of his hits count. After shaking off the rust from injury against the Rays, he tore apart the Yankees with four homers, eight RBIs, and eight walks.

Edge: Rangers. Hamilton looks like the best hitter in the game again.

Right Field
Giants - Cody Ross
The darling of the postseason, has four homers, four doubles, and eight RBIs in 10 games. If there's a big hit to be had, he will get it. Was named NLCS MVP.

Rangers - Nelson Cruz
Has hit in all 11 postseason games, good for a .375 average. Plus, five homers and eight RBIs, and has teamed up with Hamilton for a deadly heart of the order.

Edge: Rangers. Ross has been fantastic, but Cruz continues to mash.

Giants - Eli Whiteside, C; Travis Ishikawa, 1B; Mike Fontenot, 2B; Nate Schierholtz, OF
Schierholtz can be used as a defensive replacement, mostly for Burrell. Fontenot could get a start if Sanchez isn't hitting.

Rangers - Matt Treanor, C; Jorge Cantu, 1B; Andres Blanco, 2B; Jeff Francoeur, OF; Julio Borbon, OF
There hasn't been much of a need for bench production this postseason. Francoeur has gotten the most opportunity, but is only 2-for-14. Cantu and Borbon are hitless.

Edge: Push. The Giants will use their bench more, and the Rangers can change the game with one swing from Francoeur and Cantu if needed. So, no real advantage either way.

My prediction: Rangers in 6.
I think the Giants have slightly better pitching, but I really like the Rangers' offense. Plus, the Rangers just have the "it" factor right now, and that will carry them to a championship.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lilly will stay with the Dodgers


The deal will be for three years and $33 million. He will have a full no-trade clause for the first two years.


Well that was fast.

Ted Lilly wasted very little time this offseason, as he has agreed to remain with the Dodgers on a three-year contract. A physical is still pending, so the deal may take a few days to become official.

Lilly came over to L.A. at the trade deadline at the end of July. In 12 starts, he went 7-4 with a 3.52 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 77 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings. He won his first five starts before suffering a loss on August 29 in Colorado.

For his career, Lilly has pitched 11 seasons and compiled a 113-96 record with a 4.18 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. His best run came from 2007-2009 with the Cubs, where he won 44 games, including 17-9 in '08.

The Dodgers have many questions that need to be answered this offseason, so they have to be happy about already answering one of them. Lilly was clearly one of the top starters available this offseason along with guys like Bronson Arroyo, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Carl Pavano. The fact that Lilly wants to stay with the Dodgers is a good sign.

With Clayton Kershaw becoming more of an ace each season, and with Chad Billingsley regaining his form, Lilly will slide in at the #3 spot in the rotation quite nicely. True, he'll be 35 next season, but so far, he's still shown an ability to be a good pitcher.

The next question mark will be Kuroda, and if the Dodgers will now try to resign him. If he walks, then there's two open spots in the rotation that need to still be addressed. There's also Vicente Padilla to consider, but his many injuries this season are a major concern.

This shouldn't be considered a major signing, but a good step forward to start the offseason. Kudos to you, Dodgers. Now keep it going.

Friday, October 15, 2010

2010 NL West Awards

As the League Championship series are about to start, let's take a look back at the regular season in the NL West. Here I'll give my awards for the division.

To view my midseason awards, click here.

MVP - Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres
Even with the Padres collapsing down the stretch, Gonzalez did all he could to earn a playoff spot. He finished the season with a .298 average, .393 OBP, 31 home runs, 101 RBIs, and 33 doubles. He also played in 160 games and committed only eight errors for a .995 fielding %.

Honorable mention: Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies; Brian Wilson, RP, Giants; Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

Cy Young - Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies
He couldn't quite get that magical 20th win, but he still was dominant all season long. In the end he put together a 19-8 record with a 2.88 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 214 strikeouts in 221 2/3 innings. His road numbers were stronger away from Coors Field (as is the case with every Rockies' pitcher), but he still was 9-2 with a 3.19 ERA at home. Plus, let's not forget about his no-hitter back on April 17 against the Wild Card champion Braves.

Honorable mention: Matt Cain, SP, Giants; Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants; Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers

Rookie of the Year - Buster Posey, C, Giants
There isn't any doubt about this one. Posey was clearly the top dog of the rookies. In helping the Giants claim the NL West crown, he finished the year with a .305 average, .357 OBP, 18 homers, 67 RBIs, and 23 doubles. He also gunned down 23 base stealers in 62 chances.

Honorable mention: Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants, Eric Young, OF, Rockies

Comeback Player of the Year - Aubrey Huff, 1B, Giants
After doing next to nothing with the Orioles and Tigers last season, Huff was signed by the Giants to try and revive his power. It worked, as he ended up hitting .295 with a .380 OBP, 26 homers, 86 RBIs, 35 doubles, and even a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen bases. The Giants don't have any big stars in their lineup, but Huff is one of the big pieces to their success.

Honorable mention: Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks

Best Relief Pitcher - Brian Wilson, Closer, Giants
Both Wilson and Heath Bell have similar numbers, but Wilson gets the nod based on his clutch performances down the stretch. A couple years ago, Wilson had 41 saves, but with a 4.62 ERA. After lowering his ERA last season, it went down to a minuscule 1.81 this year. He also had a whopping 48 saves and 93 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings.

Honorable mention: Heath Bell, Closer, Padres; Hong-Chih Kuo, Setup/Closer, Dodgers

Monday, October 4, 2010

2010 report card

The 2010 season is history, as the Dodgers failed to reach the playoffs (or come anywhere close to it for that matter). Here is my report card for the whole team.

Clayton Kershaw - Stepped up into the #1 role with a 2.91 ERA and 212 strikeouts in 204 1/3 innings.
Hong-Chih Kuo - Pitched in a setup and closer's role and excelled both times. A 1.20 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and 73 strikeouts in 60 innings.
Kenley Jansen - Only appeared in 25 games, but was awesome with an 0.67 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 27 innings. A future star indeed.
Hiroki Kuroda - Doesn't have "ace" numbers, but really good ones for a guy in the middle of the rotation. A 3.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 159 strikeouts, and a career-high 196 1/3 innings pitched.
Rod Barajas - Gave good pop when he came over for the Mets, as he hit .297 with five homers and 13 RBIs in 25 games.
Jamey Carroll - Played the super-sub role very well, hitting .291 with a .379 OBP in 133 games.

Chad Billingsley - Close to an A, but did have some bad starts in the beginning of the year. After peaking at 4.61 in mid-July, ended the year with a 3.57 ERA. Also had 171 strikeouts.
Andre Ethier - Would have easily been an A, but a broken pinkie in mid-May really hurt his numbers. Still, finished with a .292 average, 23 homers, and 82 RBIs.
Ted Lilly - A good addition at the trade deadline, as he went 7-4 in L.A. with a 3.52 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.
James Loney - His average dipped to .267, but still collected 88 RBIs and played his usual stellar defense.
Rafael Furcal - Hit .300 with 22 steals, but only appeared in 97 games. The injury bug struck again.
Jay Gibbons - A nice comeback story, and some decent games too. Hit .280 with five homers in 37 games.

Matt Kemp - Led the team with 28 homers and 89 RBIs, and still covers great ground in center. But, his season was plagued by bad baserunning, a sometimes aloof attitude, and a .249 average.
Manny Ramirez - Injuries derailed his season and his power, hitting only eight homers in 196 at-bats before being shipped to the White Sox.
Casey Blake - The veteran has started to slip, as he hit .248 with 17 homers and 64 RBIs. Still has a good glove at third, though.
Vicente Padilla - Great stuff when he's there, but only made 16 starts for a 4.07 ERA. Plus he got shelled Opening Day... in Pittsburgh!
Russell Martin - Another year taking a big step backwards, only hitting .248 with five homers and 26 RBIs. Lost for the year on August 4 with a hip injury.
Reed Johnson - Only hit .262 and gave little power.
Carlos Monasterios - Started the year off great in the bullpen and making spot starts, then faded as the year progressed for a 4.38 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.
Ramon Troncoso - Saved himself a bit with a pretty good second half of the season, but still had a 4.33 ERA and only eight holds.
Octavio Dotel - Logged 18 2/3 innings before being traded again to the Rockies, but compiled a respectable 3.38 ERA. Better than most of the other bullpen clowns.
Ryan Theriot - Covers good ground at second, but a .242 ERA for someone hitting high in the order is way too low.
Blake DeWitt - OK average at .270, but very little power with one homer and 15 doubles in 82 games. Never fully claimed the second base job like he was penciled in to do.
Scott Podsednik - Was brought over to spark the top of the order, but a .313 OBP and five steals in 39 games didn't cut it.
Brad Ausmus - His numbers look like a D (.222, no homers, two RBIs in 21 games), but I like him. So it's a C.

Jonathan Broxton - Even with 22 saves, crumbled in the second half to finish with seven blown saves, a 4.04 ERA, and countless times ripping the hearts out of Dodger fans.
Ronald Belisario - Went from a top setup guy to a season full of distractions and a 5.04 ERA.
John Ely - Started the year great, then got creamed to balloon his ERA up to 5.49 with a 4-10 record.
Jeff Weaver - Somehow went 5-1, but with a horrible 6.09 ERA.
Ronnie Belliard - Was brought back for his bat... then proceeded to hit .216 with two homers and 19 RBIs.

Garret Anderson - Supposed to be the key lefty bat off the bench, and was miserable with a .181 average, two homers, and 12 RBIs in 155 at-bats. A complete waste.
George Sherrill - Looked to be the setup man in the eighth, but got bombed to the tune of a 6.69 ERA.
Charlie Haeger - A great start in Florida with 12 strikeouts, then got crushed to go 0-4 with an 8.20 ERA in nine games.
The Ortizes - Russ (10.29 ERA in seven innings) and Ramon (6.30 in 30) sucked.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hasta la vista, Mr. Torre

Joe Torre's Dodger career started with a win in 2008, and it has ended with another victory to close out the 2010 season.

Ted Lilly went seven strong, Matt Kemp homered for the fifth straight game, and Hong-Chih Kuo picked up another save as the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks, 3-1. The Dodgers have ended the 2010 year with an 80-82 record, good for fourth place in the NL West.

Today was obviously all about Torre, who has guided the Dodgers to a three-year record of 259-227 for a .533 winning %. He also won two NL West titles and was a perfect 6-0 in the NLDS. The final hurdle was never cleared, as the Phillies won the NLCS the last two seasons by a 4-1 margin both times.

As for this one, the Dodgers wasted no time in getting on the board. Rafael Furcal and Jamey Carroll both struck out to begin. Andre Ethier then singled. Kemp has been on a tear lately, and it continued with a two-run blast to left center, a 423 foot bomb, making it 2-0.

The Diamondbacks got a run in the fourth, their only one of the day. Rusty Ryal hit a ground rule double to start the inning. Two outs later, Gerardo Parra hit an RBI single, slashing the lead to 2-1.

The final run of the game, and the season, came in the seventh. With Leo Rosales in to pitch, Reed Johnson greeted him with a single. An out later, Ryan Theriot reached on an infield single, and Carroll walked to load 'em up.

Mike Hampton relieved. Yes, THAT Mike Hampton, the guy who was once one of the best lefties in the league. I'll give him credit for sticking with it and still finding a job after all this time. Well, Ethier took a pitch off the right field wall to score one, but Theriot was easily gunned out at home. Kemp was put on base intentionally, and James Loney grounded out to end the inning up 3-1.

Kenley Jansen took over for Lilly in the eighth and made quick work of the Diamondbacks. Tony Abreu grounded out, and Augie Ojeda and Ryal struck out. Jansen ended this season with an impressive 0.67 ERA, four holds, and three saves. Actually, "impressive" doesn't cut it. He was flat out awesome in the short time he was here.

Kuo came in for the save, and he needed a clean inning for a 1.20 ERA. He got it, as a leadoff walk to Brandon Allen didn't hurt, with Kelly Schmidt grounding out to Loney to end the game. It was Kuo's 12th save.

Why is a 1.20 ERA a big deal? Because Kuo passed Eric Gagne for first place in the all-time Dodgers' list for lowest ERA in a season with at least 50 innings pitched. Gagne also had a 1.20 ERA in 2003, but Kuo's was statistically a bit better. Anytime you get mentioned in the same breath as doing something better than Gagne, that's a great accomplishment.

Plenty of other stories took place during this game. The first was Brad Ausmus, as this was the last game of his 18-year career. He had a good game, too. In the second he led off with a double, and singled in his last at-bat in the ninth. Not a bad way to go out. I can only hope the Dodgers try to keep him around as a coach, as he can be a great addition to Don Mattingly's staff.

Another story was John Lindsey. If you recall, Lindsey is the guy who finally made it to the big leagues after spending 16 years in the minors. Torre made sure he shared the spotlight, as he got to pinch-hit in the seventh to get an ovation before being lifted. He also took part in the pre-game lineup card exchange. A class move all around by Torre.

Kemp certainly ended the year with flair (and rewarded those who are in fantasy baseball championships this week). Over the last five games, he's hit five homers and 12 RBIs. Dodger fans can only hope it carries over into next year and he can lead the team. We shall see.

Lilly perhaps finished his brief Dodgers' career with another gem. He went seven innings for four hits, one run, two walks, and nine strikeouts. Even with the Dodgers tanking in the second half, he was a great trade deadline addition. Too bad it really didn't matter. A high price tag puts plenty of doubt into his future in L.A., but maybe the Dodgers pull it off. Doesn't seem too likely, though.

So this is it for the 2010 season. Plenty will be written in the offseason about what went wrong and what should be done going forward. For now, I'll take the time to commend Torre for helping make the Dodgers relevant again. This year wasn't so hot, but the previous two years have been. When it was all said and done, I'm glad he came, even if he didn't end this year on the greatest note.

Now the Dodgers get turned over to Mattingly and his zero managing experience. The roster will undoubtedly feature changes, perhaps many. This offseason will definitely be an exciting one.

Finally, to everyone reading this, thanks again. This has marked my third year writing about the boys in blue, and I'm looking forward to many more. See you soon!

A managerial debut for the ages

After years of blood, sweat, and sacrifice, Jamey Carroll has finally reached the pinnacle of his career: a win in a meaningless regular season October game in which he was pretending to be the real manager.

Nonetheless, a combination of a great start from Chad Billingsley and another homer from Matt Kemp was enough to lift the Dodgers over the Diamondbacks, 3-2. It was a well played game between two teams... that did absolutely jack squat this year.

In all seriousness, it was good to see a hard worker like Carroll get the win, as he was the chosen one of Joe Torre to manage Saturday night's ballgame. Carroll certainly wasn't a huge offseason signing, but he has played well this year. So good for him.

The game flew right by, as both Billingsley and Joe Saunders threw up blanks through four innings. In fact, Billingsley had a no-hitter going into the sixth, but it was broken up on a single by Gerardo Parra.

The Dodgers were the first to strike in the fifth. With two outs, Andre Ethier, hitting in the #2 spot, hit a single. Up came Kemp, who unloaded for the fourth straight game. His two-run shot to left made it 2-0. He is now up to 27 homers for the year.

In the sixth, Rod Barajas lifted a long fly ball to center. Chris Young got under it, but didn't exactly make a textbook attempt at catching it (you know, glove above his head, catching it with both hands). Instead, his lazy attempt at catching it near his left shoulder resulted in the ball bouncing off his glove for a three-base error. Reed Johnson's sac-fly RBI made it 3-0.

Billingsley would last into the eighth before getting pulled. Brandon Allen hit an infield single leading off. Parra then struck out, but Ryan Church pinch-hit and was plunked to put two on. Stephen Drew's RBI single into right made it 3-1.

Carroll came out to give Billingsley the hook in favor of Ramon Troncoso. Tony Abreu immediately got another run in with a sacrifice fly, and it was 3-2. Kelly Johnson struck out to end the threat.

With the score at 3-2 entering the ninth, Carroll went with Kenley Jansen for the save. It worked. Jansen blew away Young, then gave up a single to Adam LaRoche. Justin Upton pinch-ran and stole second. Two straight strikeouts of Miguel Montero and Allen ended the game. Jansen now has four saves.

Billingsley got the win to get his record up to 12-11. That's certainly not an indication of how well he's improved this year, however. Tonight's effort of 7 1/3 innings, four hits, two runs, one walk, and nine strikeouts lowered his ERA to 3.57. He's done a great job of answering critics who thought he couldn't bounce back from last season. He definitely has.

It was also great to see Jansen get the crack at getting the save. I was worried Jonathan Broxton was going to run out there, but I'm sure Carroll wanted to, you know... WIN. So kudos for not going that route. Jansen pretty much just threw fastballs. Actually, I'm not sure if he even went with a secondary pitch. But he shows great potential of growing into the closer's role in the future, or at least being a top setup guy.

Kemp has ended the year on quite the hot streak, as he now has four homers and 10 RBIs in the last four games. His batting average hasn't really changed (.249), but his home runs have been no-doubters. It's a good way to end the year, but the obvious focus for him now is to be that type of all-around player for an entire season. The talent is there, now let's see if the desire is.

I remember two years ago when these two teams were neck-and-neck for the NL West crown until the end of the season. My how times have changed. Things have been much worse for the Diamondbacks, as they went from losing the West by two games to the Dodgers in 2008 to having a combined 135-188 record since then. Ouch.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, are a day (or possibly two, depending on Sunday's Padres-Giants result) away from relinquishing their two-year hold on the NL West title. This year hasn't gone as planned, but hopefully it's just a bump in the road. Let's also hope that they don't tank like the Diamondbacks have after winning the division in 2007.

Sunday will be a big day for the Dodger organization, as they say goodbye to Torre. Love him or hate him, he's done a lot with this club, taking them one step away from the World Series twice. That can't be ignored. His final act will be sending Ted Lilly to the mound.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Loss guarantees a losing season

With zero riding on the final three-game series of the season, the Dodgers could at least finish at .500 if they got the sweep.

A quick 5-0 hole put an end to that thought.

The Diamondbacks built up a five-run lead after three, then held on get the win, 7-5. The loss means the Dodgers will finish the season with a losing record, their first since going a pathetic 71-91 in 2005.

Well, at least this year's Dodgers won't be THAT bad.

But make no mistake about it, this season has been a big disappointment. After two straight appearances in the NLCS, Dodger fans were thinking of bigger things this year. Instead, they regressed big time in the second half of the season, easily becoming one of the league's worst teams. That's why they'll finish in fourth place in the NL West.

As for this game, it didn't take long for the Diamondbacks to tee off of John Ely. Ely, if you recall, had a great start to the season, but his nosedive is symbolic to how this season has gone for the Dodgers. If he was trying to pitch his way into the rotation next year, he'll now need one heck of a Spring Training to get that done.

Stephen Drew doubled leading off the game. Chris Young did the same, and it was already 1-0. Kelly Johnson singled to center, and the lead was now 2-0. Somehow Ely didn't give up a hit the rest of the inning.

But don't worry, he sure gave up some more in the third. He got Drew swinging to open the inning, then walked Young, who stole second on a close play. Johnson took a walk as well for two on. Three straight runs came in on a double by Adam LaRoche, a single by Mark Reynolds, and sac-fly RBI from Brandon Allen, making it 5-0.

The Dodgers finally got on the board in the fifth off of the great Zach Kroenke. Actually, he's not great, as it was his first career start, but maybe he'll be great someday. Matt Kemp hit one out to deep left for his 26th homer of the season.

Good old Ely soon gave it right back and one more. With Drew on base from a walk and steal of second, LaRoche hit a two-run homer for his 100th RBI of the season. The Diamondbacks haven't had a lick to cheer about this season, but LaRoche's play has been a bright spot.

Down 7-1 in the sixth, the Dodgers made a small run. Esmerling Vasquez came on, and Ryan Theriot walked. Casey Blake took one as well, and Andre Ethier singled to load the bases. Kemp was then plunked for the easy RBI, and it was 7-2. Carlos Rosa came in, and James Loney's RBI single made it 7-3. Rod Barajas got a sac-fly RBI to put the score at 7-4.

With Sam Demel now on in the game, Reed Johnson led off and was beaned. Theriot's grounder forced Johnson at second for one down. Blake took a walk, and both men advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch. Ethier grounded out to second, but the run scored to cut the deficit to 7-5. Kemp struck out swinging to end the inning.

Hong-Chih Kuo struck out the side in the eighth, allowing a bloop double to Cole Gillespie with two outs. Ronald Belisario pitched the ninth and allowed a couple runners, but got out of it unscathed.

The Dodgers could do nothing in the final two innings with the bats. Aaron Heilman plowed through then in the eighth. Juan Gutierrez came on for the save, and only Theriot reached on a walk with two outs. Blake struck out to end the game and assure the Dodgers of a losing season.

Since it was the final series of the season and both teams are not in the playoff picture, Joe Torre did his annual tradition of letting a player manage. Like last year, Brad Ausmus got the nod, with Russell Martin as hitting coach (so many jokes come to mind with that move, but I'll let it go), and Jeff Weaver the bullpen coach. Ausmus beat the Rockies last year, but fell to .500 with this loss.

Like I said before, Ely was just awful. He lasted 4 2/3 innings for seven hits, seven runs, three walks, and three strikeouts. He'll mercifully end the season at 4-10 with a 5.49 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. Yikes. And to think, after a strong start against the Diamondbacks on June 1, he was 3-2 with a 2.54 ERA. My how he has fallen.

Actually, it's more like the rest of the league caught up to him. He just never made the adjustment. In fact, he didn't come close to making any adjustments. Check out his monthly ERA totals after June: July - 19.80, September - 7.47, October - 13.50. Granted that only covers six starts, but that's because he went up and down from Triple-A since he kept getting shelled so much.

The bullpen did a good job, probably because the Diamondbacks were very deflated after watching Ely leave, which meant batting practice was over. Ramon Troncoso, George Sherrill, Kuo, and Belisario went 4 1/3 innings for three hits, no runs, no walks, and six strikeouts. At least that went well.

On the second-to-last game of the season, Torre will let Jamey Carroll take the reigns and manage tonight. Chad Billingsley will get the ball looking to improve to 12-11, despite improving very much from last season's bump in the road.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Road games end with sweep in Coors

Matt Kemp blasted a grand slam as part of a five-run third, and the Dodgers held off the Rockies to pick up a three-game sweep in the daylight, 7-6. The win ended the away game part of the schedule for the Dodgers, who ended up 35-46 away from Chavez Ravine.

The Rockies were the first team to strike. In the second, Troy Tulowitzki got what seemed like his 700th hit of the season with a triple leading off. A sac-fly RBI by Todd Helton to right put them up 1-0.

The third is when the Dodgers broke the game open, at least for a little. With one out, Chin-lung Hu doubled. Carlos Monasterios popped up to make it two down. Trent Oeltjen got the start in the leadoff position and walked. Ryan Theriot then bounced one to third that was bobbled by Ian Stewart, and the bases were loaded. A walk to James Loney forced in a run and tied it at 1-1.

Kemp has had success in the past when hitting with the bases juiced. This season, however, he was 2-for-9 with no extra base hits. That all changed when he launched one off of Jhoulys Chacin into deep right to clear the bases and go up 5-1. It was his 25th shot of the season.

Miguel Olivo led off the bottom of the third and immediately got another run with a solo homer, making it 5-2. In the fourth, Reed Johnson hit a double leading off, went to third on a groundout, and scored on Hu's sac-fly to put it at 6-2.

Still in a hole, the Rockies tried to get some back in the bottom of the fourth, but blew a chance to really make a dent. Tulo singled, Helton walked, and Ryan Spilborghs singled to load the bases with one out. Stewart got one in on a groundout to cut the score to 6-3. Olivo was given the intentional pass to get to Chacin, who lined to short to end the inning.

Now in the fifth, Oletjen was beaned leading off, and soon went to second on Olivo's throwing error. An out later, Loney hit an RBI single, and the Dodgers got their lead up to 7-3.

Monasterios started the fifth but would soon be chased. Jonathan Herrera singled with an out, but Carlos Gonzalez lined to right for two outs. Tulo singled (again) and Helton walked, and once again the bases were loaded. Ramon Troncoso relieved and Spilborghs greeted him with a two-run single, and it was 7-5.

From there it was a matter of the Dodgers trying to hold on. The seventh inning featured the Rockies loading the bases yet again. Herrera singled, Tulo singled (like I said... again), and Spilborghs walked off of George Sherrill. Jeff Weaver came in (remember him?) and got pinch-hitter Melvin Mora to fly out and end the inning.

Hong-Chih Kuo pitched the eighth and struck out two, so Joe Torre gave the ball to Ronald Belisario to close it out. Well, it wasn't exactly pretty, because for the umpteenth time this game, the Rockies loaded the bases. This time it was on a walk to Tulo (at least it wasn't a hit), a single by Helton, and a single by Spilborghs.

With one out, Seth Smith got a run into on a groundout to make it 7-6. It all came down to Olivo, who hit a liner to short to end the game. It was Belisario's second save of a season he'd rather forget.

The Rockies doubled up the Dodgers in the hit column at 12-6. But, the two errors by the Rockies really hurt them. It led to the five runs being scored in the third, and another one on Loney's RBI in the fifth. It was a little surprising considering the they are one of the better fielding teams in the National League, but I guess it was just one of those days for them.

Kemp's grand slam was obviously the big blow, as his one swing was better than anything the Rockies did in their numerous attempts with the bases loaded. The Dodgers drove in runners today, while the Rockies left 11 on base. That was another big difference in this one.

Oletjen did a great job in the leadoff spot, taking three walks, getting beaned, and scoring twice. Loney hit his 87th RBI of the season, which is just near his normal mark of 90. His batting average is only .269, though, so he's taken a step backwards in that regard.

The bullpen was great today, which is never an easy task in Coors. Troncoso, Sherrill, Weaver, Kuo, and Belisario combined to pitch 4 1/3 innings for six hits, one run, two walks, and five strikeouts. It hasn't been an easy ride for the 'pen this year, as too many guys haven't come close to living up to their potential, but at least today they got the job done.

One positive aspect about getting the sweep is that the Dodgers are now 78-81. So, they have a chance at finishing at .500. It's a small consolation for a disappointing season, but avoiding a losing record would be nice.

The Diamondbacks come to town for the final three games of the season starting Friday. Starting pitchers don't really matter at this point, so it's subject to change, as was the case with Clayton Kershaw getting scratched today. For now, it'll be John Ely starting and trying not to get shelled for once. It won't be easy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bullpen hands one away

Coming into this season, the Dodgers thought they had the best late-game combination in the majors. George Sherrill would get through the eighth, bridging the gap to Jonathan Broxton in the ninth.

Four runs given up in the eighth inning today is truly symbolic to just how much of a flop those two have been.

Chad Billingsley was fantastic, but it was washed away in the end as the Diamondbacks teed off on the Dodgers' horrible bullpen to take the win, 5-4. It was a new low even for the Dodgers, who have had plenty this year.

Simply put, this season cannot end soon enough.

Before the mess happened late in the game, both Billingsley and Joe Saunders put up blanks through four innings. The Dodgers did put two men on in each of the third and fourth, but came up empty both times. Not a surprise at all considering the Dodgers wouldn't be the Dodgers had they actually come through in those spots.

Believe it or not, the Dodgers did put together a two-out rally to score the game's first runs in the fifth. Ryan Theriot bunted his way on base. Matt Kemp followed with a single for two on. James Loney scored them both with a two-run double, making it 2-0.

Miguel Montero led off with a triple in the bottom of the frame, though it should have never been more than a single. A dying fly ball landed in front of Johnson in right, then bounced by him. How in the world that was scored a triple and not a single with an error is beyond me. Actually I do know - the game was in Arizona. Connor Gillespie's sac-fly RBI made it 2-1.

In the sixth, Rod Barajas hit a ground rule double with one out. Billingsley "helped himself out" (overused cliche for when a pitcher gets a hit) by singling. The problem was that Barajas couldn't score because he's painfully slow. Right on cue, Rafael Furcal grounded into an inning ending double play.

Barajas made sure to make his next hit count in the eighth. Russell Mitchell singled with one out. Johnson grounded out, but Mitchell made it to second. Barajas then belted a two-run shot to give the Dodgers what appeared to be a comfortable 4-1 lead at the time.

We should have all known better, as the Dodgers once again found a way to make an easy win into a painful loss. Billingsley got yanked for Andre Ethier to pinch-hit in the eighth, and Ethier grounded out. That meant it was bullpen time. And it also meant a long half inning.

The bottom of the eighth started off fine, as Ronald Belisario got Augie Ojeda grounding out to first. Joe Torre then went with the lefty Sherrill against Stephen Drew, who ended up walking. That was the start of the downfall.

Tony Abreu stepped in, someone who never grabbed the chance to be the everyday second baseman when he was with the Dodgers. He didn't deserve it either because he sucked. So of course that meant he launched a two-run homer to cut the lead to 4-3.

Kelly Johnson kept it going with a single. Who would Torre bring in? Yup, Broxton. And how did Broxton do on his first pitch? Oh, it was only a two-run bomb from Chris Young to give the Diamondbacks a 5-4 lead. Not only was it predictable, it was laughable. That's what Broxton's season has come down to - one big joke.

Juan Gutierrez worked around a single by Kemp in the ninth to get the save.

When the Dodgers sit down after the season and look for how they can improve, their first move needs to be getting rid Sherrill and Broxton. Sherrill has a 7.08 ERA this season, and Broxton has a 6.65 ERA since the All-Star break. They're simply way too unreliable to trust anymore. Do the right thing and dump these clowns by any means necessary.

People will surely point out the past successes of these two, especially Broxton, for reasons to keep them. I say, "Who cares?" They've bombed so badly this season, there's no way they've earned their way back into town. Pull the plug and don't look back.

Billingsley deserved a much better fate, but plenty of starting pitchers have said that, only to watch blown save after blown save. He lasted seven innings for four hits, one run, one walk, and 13 strikeouts. That many strikeouts, only one run allowed, and it's a no-decision. Un-freakin'-believable.

The Dodgers now have to go into Colorado for three to begin the last week of the season (mercifully). The Rockies have stumbled lately to fall 4 1/2 back in the NL West and four in back of the Wild Card. Playing the Dodgers must feel like an early Christmas present to them. Ted Lilly will start it, and either Sherrill, Broxton, or most likely both will blow it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kershaw mows 'em down

If you blinked, you missed the latest dominating start from Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw lasted into the ninth inning as he gave up one run with nine strikeouts. Kenley Jansen cleaned it up for the save, and the Dodgers got a win over the Diamondbacks, 3-1. The Dodgers are now on a season-best two-game winning streak.

OK, so that was a slight exaggeration. But if you've suffered through these last couple of months like I have, you know winning has been few and far between. So savor it while it's here.

It's obvious the Dodgers have nothing to play for these days, especially against a team in a similar situation. Their starting lineup included the likes of Trent Oeltjen, Russell Mitchell, and Chin-lung Hu, in addition to new starters like Jay Gibbons and A.J. Ellis. Not exactly a lineup that would send shivers down anyone's spine.

However, the Dodgers were the first team to get on the board thanks to one of those subs. In the third, Ellis walked leading off. Hu popped up and Kershaw struck out while failing to get down a bunt. Hitting in the leadoff spot, Oeltjen laced an RBI triple for the 1-0 advantage.

The following inning, the Dodgers pushed another run across. Andre Ethier took his turn hitting a triple, this time to lead off. A sac-fly RBI by Gibbons to center made it 2-0.

That was more than enough for Kershaw, who kept the Diamondbacks totally off-balanced all night. The formula was simple: fastball and hook. But boy were they effective. Granted the Diamondbacks aren't exactly tearing the cover off the ball either, but he was awesome regardless.

The Dodgers got their last run of the night in the ninth with the game flying right by. Reed Johnson entered the game in left for Gibbons in the seventh, and he smoked a solo shot to right to go up 3-0. That was only his second of the season, not that he's a big home run threat anyway.

Kershaw was given a chance to finish what he started, but that only lasted two batters into the ninth. Chris Young singled on a full count leading off. Tony Abreu, the former Dodger who's never been confused with a power hitter, took a fastball over Matt Kemp's head in center for the RBI, making it 3-1.

That was it for Kershaw, who got yanked for Jansen. Hong-Chih Kuo got the save against the Padres the previous night, so it was good to see Jansen get the opportunity (and not that other guy). Immediately, he got Kelly Johnson popping up for the first out, but walked Stephen Drew to put two on.

Even in a throwaway game that means absolutely nothing at this point, it was still a big spot for a young guy like Jansen. He has closer written all over him, but has to show if he has the moxie to actually thrive in that roll. Two on and one out on the road is a great situation to test him.

In the end, he passed with flying colors. Adam LaRoche notched his fourth strikeout of the game for the second out. Ryan Church pinch-hit and was caught looking to end the game. Jansen's fastball was just too much to handle.

I'm glad the Dodgers didn't blow Kershaw's chance for a win, which now makes him 13-10. I've gone over this before, but he definitely deserves more wins than he's gotten. In a way he's like Felix Hernandez, as both pitcher's records aren't nearly a reflection for how well they've done. That's not to say Kershaw has done as well, as I don't think anyone's been better than King Felix this year.

Still, Kershaw has a 13-10 record and 2.91 ERA. Hernandez is 12-12 with a 2.31 ERA. So, the comparisons are there. By the way, it's great to see Hernandez getting plenty of Cy Young talk, as people are wise to ignore the overrated win-loss record. If that award is for the best pitcher, then a lousy offense shouldn't penalize him. Hopefully it won't.

The Kershaw-Jansen connection is something we all can grow to love, as both showed how they can take over a game. Kershaw is clearly the top dog of the staff, and Jansen will surely be in the closer's mix for next season. These are two guys the Dodgers can certainly build around.

Next up is another start by John Ely. He's done everything he could to make people forget about his great start to the season. I'm talking a 19.80 ERA in July and 7.84 in September. It's no surprise he hasn't won since June 29. Daniel Hudson, on the other hand, has been fantastic since coming over in the Edwin Jackson deal.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Padres roll through the Dodgers

Whatever ills the Padres may have these days, their cure is simple: play the Dodgers, and get well again.

For the fifth straight time, the Padres beat the Dodgers, this time by a score of 6-0. As if I really need to say this, but the Dodgers are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.

In other words, the loss made official something we've all known for awhile, and that's the Dodgers have taken a huge step backwards this season. Tuesday night's loss was the icing on the cake.

The game started off typically, as the Dodgers had their first two men reach on a single by Rafael Furcal and a walk to Jamey Carroll. Andre Ethier was so excited that he grounded into a double play. Matt Kemp ripped one back to... the pitcher for the final out.

In the third, the Padres got their scoring started. With one out, David Eckstein walked and was forced at second on Miguel Tejada's grounder. Adrian Gonzalez doubled to put runners on the corners. Ryan Ludwick was brought in at the trade deadline to drive in runs, and that's what happened with a two-run double.

The Dodgers again put two runners on in the third. This time Raffy walked and Carroll singled. With one out, Ethier struck out and Kemp grounded into a fielder's choice. So much for the "big RBI guys" getting the job done for L.A.

The fifth is when the Padres put the game away for good against Chad Billingsley. The bases got loaded on Will Venable's single, David Eckstein's hit-by-pitch, and Gonzalez's intentional walk with an out. Ludwick was also beaned to force in a run, making it 3-0. Yorvit Torrealba's sac-fly RBI and Chase Headley's single made it 5-0.

The rest of the game meant more of the same for the Dodgers. Some men would get on, but they'd be stranded. A.J. Ellis singled to start the fifth, but was erased on Josh Lindsey's double play. Carroll made it no further than first after his single to open the sixth.

Then there's the ninth, which featured a completely typical end to any chances the Dodgers had in making the playoffs this year. Kemp struck out for one down, which should be to the surprise of absolutely nobody. Casey Blake and James Loney then hit singles.

How would the Dodgers officially end their postseason shot? Reed Johnson grounded into a game ending double play. There was never a more appropriate way for this game to end.

Billingsley was alright through four innings, but the fifth killed him. He ended with five innings pitched, six hits, five runs, three walks, and six strikeouts. He evened his record at 11-11.

Carlos Monasterios did a good job in pitching two scoreless innings, giving up only one hit. Ramon Troncoso didn't give up a hit in two innings, but gave up a run in the ninth thanks to two wild pitches.

In looking at the hit column, the Dodgers won with an 8-7 edge. The difference, for the umpteenth time this season, was when those hits came. The Dodgers stranded five in scoring position, and the Padres got four RBIs with two outs. It's happened over and over this season.

That's why the Dodgers need to do what it takes to get some sort of slugger in the heart of the order. They thought Ethier and Kemp would be the guys, but they don't look close to handling that roll. The Padres have Gonzalez, whom they can build around.

Imagine if the Dodgers had someone like Adam Dunn hitting cleanup. Automatically, Ethier and Kemp would have less pressure on them. Dunn strikes out a lot, but he also hits for plenty of power and takes lots of walks. Instead of scratching and clawing for every run, the offense can have someone who can win a game with one swing.

Dunn is just an example, as there are obviously more guys to take a hard look at in the offseason. But the point remains the same - the Dodgers need someone with thump in the order. They can't continue to let their offense drag down good starting pitching.

There's two more games left against the Padres, and tonight's game is on ESPN. Ted Lilly was rocked is his last start, so he'll look to get back on track.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dodgers fight back to win in 11

The Dodgers showed something on Sunday we haven't seen in a few months: heart.

Despite being down 6-1 before you could barely blink, the Dodgers battled all the way back to send the game into extras. In the 11th, A.J. Ellis hit a walk-off single with the bases loaded to down the Rockies, 7-6.

The game didn't figure to be high-scoring, as the combination of the Dodgers' offense and Clayton Kershaw starting meant it could go by quickly. Instead, Kershaw was hit hard, and the game took 4:21 to complete.

Way back in the first, the Rockies went to work right away. Dexter Fowler and Jonathan Herrera walked to start the game in a bad sign of things to come. Carlos Gonzalez flied out, but both runners advanced. Already, Joe Torre chose to put Troy Tulowitzki on to load the bases. With the streak that Tulo's been on, that's the best decision Torre's made all year.

Then again, it didn't quite work out. Melvin Mora struck out for two down, but Jason Giambi cleared the bases with a double to go up 3-0. The ball had a chance to be caught, as Jay Gibbons leaped high into the air, only to just miss the catch.

Actually, Gibbons looked like he jumped two inches off the ground as the ball went off the top of his glove. Kobe Bryant he is not.

Andre Ethier got the Dodgers on the board in the bottom of the frame with a long solo homer to right. It was measured at 424 feet and went several rows into the bleachers. It was his 23rd of the season.

Kershaw didn't settle down, as the Rockies again got to him for three in the second. Some bad fielding by Jay Ramirez... uh, I mean Gibbons started the inning when he dropped a fly ball. Yes it was sunny, but come on now. Fowler singled an out later for two on.

The next three hitters brought in runs. Herrera hit an RBI double to go up 4-1. Gonzalez brought another one in with a single, and Tulo hit into a fielder's choice to make it 6-1. Giambi had another chance to drive in more runs, but his hard liner to center was right at Matt Kemp.

The score stood at 6-1 going into the third, and little did we know at the time that the Rockies would do nothing the rest of the game. In innings 3-11, they would gather only three more hits and no runs. Give the Dodgers' bullpen (minus one guy, but we'll get to him later) lots of credit.

The comeback started in the fourth as Gibbons reached on a strikeout, but with a wild pitch to get to first. Casey Blake and James Loney couldn't reach for two outs. Ryan Theriot kept the inning going with a single, and Rod Barajas followed with one of his own for an RBI to make it 6-2.

Jamey Carroll came in to replace the ineffective Kershaw, as Torre knew they had to go after the runs while they were there. It worked, as Carroll's RBI single slashed it to 6-3. Rafael Furcal hit an RBI single himself, and it was now 6-4.

Kenley Jansen relieved in the seventh and worked out of a two-on, one-out jam. In the bottom of the inning, Kemp led off with a long homer to center, his 23rd to match Ethier, and it was 6-5. Old friend (for a few weeks anyway) Octavio Dotel got the last out by striking out Blake.

Hong-Chih Kuo held the Rockies down in the ninth, and Huston Street came on looking to do the same for a save. After Reed Johnson grounded out, Raffy doubled. A wild pitch sent him to third, and the Dodgers were in business. Kemp doubled down the left field line to tie the game at 6-6. Ethier was intentionally walked, but Gibbons and Blake couldn't end the game with a big hit.

Kuo and Street stayed on to pitch the 10th and not give up a run. Now in the 11th, Torre gave the ball to good old Jonathan Broxton. He walked Ryan Spilborghs, but got Eric Young to ground into a double play. Things were looking up for Johnny Boy.

So that naturally meant that Broxton would find a way to suck. Seth Smith walked, Fowler singled, and Herrera walked to load the bases. Torre yanked him, and George Sherrill did a great job in striking out Gonzalez for the final out.

Manny Delcarmen was given the task of extending the game even more. Johnson hit a leadoff single to start a rally. Raffy then forced Johnson at second on a grounder, and the throw to first was deemed too late. It was a bad call, as replays clearly showed it should have been a double play. But it wasn't, so take that, Colorado!

Kemp singled as Raffy hustled to third. Ethier was Mr. Walk-Off in 2009, and the Rockies made sure none of that happened again by putting him on base. With a full count, Ellis smoked one over Tulo's head to end the game.

It was a great comeback for a team that hasn't shown much fire the second half of the season. Ultimately this win won't lead to a playoff berth, but maybe it will lead to some more wins to close the season. If the Dodgers can play with more confidence because of this, they can finally play the spoiler like today.

Kershaw will certainly have his better days, as he lasted only four innings for four hits, six runs (four earned), four walks, and two strikeouts. He was bailed out by the combination of Ronald Belisario, Jansen, Kuo, and Sherrill. They combined to through 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball.

Then there's Broxton, who looked lost yet again. For the remainder of the season, he needs to be benched and not get close to appearing in a game again. Enough is enough. Torre's trying to get him figured out, which is admirable, but it's not working. Be it mental or physical, he's not right. Rest him for the final two weeks and start over next year.

On the positive side, it was great to see Raffy, Ethier, and Kemp play big roles on offense. That's what the Dodgers envisioned happening coming into this season (along with some Manny guy). They drove in four runs between them, along with two doubles and two homers. It's too little, too late to save this season, but it was still fun to see.

The Dodgers will take Monday off before welcoming the Padres for three. The Padres have struggled this month, but not against the Dodgers, whom they swept in three last week. Chad Billingsley will go against Clayton Richard in the first game.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Torre's farewell tour begins with a loss

The Dodgers put up five runs on Friday night, the second time this entire month they've reached that number. They actually gave their fans somewhat of a reason to be excited while watching the game.

Of course they gave up seven, so they lost anyway.

The offense left 11 on base, Hiroki Kuroda never really got on track, and Jonathan Broxton was his usual pathetic self. Even with some good performances at the plate, it all added up to a loss against the Rockies, 7-5. Colorado remains 1 1/2 games behind the Giants in the NL West, and 2 1/2 behind the Braves in the Wild Card.

The buzz at Dodger Stadium was obviously Joe Torre's decision to not return for the 2011 season, paving the way for Don Mattingly to take over. It's unknown if Torre will ever manage again, but regardless, his Dodger career is now down to 14 games, with eight at home.

The Rockies didn't take long to strike, and it started on an bobble by Rafael Furcal, allowing Eric Young to reach leading off the game. The error would prove costly, as Young stole second, then scored with two outs on a long two-run shot by Troy Tulowitzki to make it 2-0.

In a strange sight, the Dodgers actually battled back. In the second, Jay Gibbons singled to start. Casey Blake grounded out, but Gibbons reached second. Matt Kemp laced an RBI triple down the right field line to cut it to 2-1. A.J. Ellis had a big night, and his RBI single tied it at 2-2.

Kuroda was victimized by singles in the fourth. Carlos Gonzalez singled leading off, and advanced to third an out later on Todd Helton's single. What followed were three straight RBI singles by Melvin Mora, Seth Smith, and Miguel Olivo, making it 5-2. Overall, the Rockies hit five singles in the inning.

The bottom of the fourth brought one run back for the Dodgers. Kemp singled with one out, and actually stole a base. Cleanly. Wow! A wild pitch sent him to third, and Ellis again came through with an RBI single to go down 5-3.

The Dodgers added another run in the fifth. Ryan Theriot hasn't done much of anything in... well, forever. But he led off the inning by getting beaned. Way to take one for the team. Andre Ethier drew a walk to put a couple runners on. James Loney grounded out, but both runners moved up. Gibbons hit an RBI groundout to make it 5-4.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, that's as close as it would get. Kuroda left after six and Broxton came in. This wasn't a save situation, so Broxton should have been more comfortable, right?


Broxton was awful, walking three (one intentionally) and giving up two hits in getting only two outs. Consecutive RBI singles by Helton and Mora with two outs brought in George Sherrill as Broxton was showered with boos. Sherrill got Jay Payton flying out to end the inning.

On a side note, I remember when Payton was supposed to be the next big star of the league. I used to watch him for the Mets' Double-A team in Binghamton. Basically, I forgot all about him. So it's good to see him still around, even if it is with the Rockies.

The offense didn't go quietly, but they still blew way too many opportunities to score. In the seventh, Ethier walked, and Loney and Gibbons singled to load the bases with one down. Matt Belisle came in to strikeout Blake and get Kemp grounding out.

Nothing happened in the eighth, but the Dodgers still tried to make some noise in the ninth. Huston Street came on for the save, and Ethier singled with one down. After Loney struck out, Gibbons singled, and Blake followed with an RBI single for a 7-5 score. Kemp struck out to end the game.

I wouldn't say Kuroda pitched that poorly, as only one of his seven hits surrendered went for extra-bases (Tulo's homer). But, he just couldn't make the big pitches to get off the field. He ended with six innings, seven hits, five runs (three earned), one walk, and seven strikeouts.

Broxton sucked, but I could just cut and paste that line from every other game, so I'll skip over him. The rest of the 'pen did a good job. Sherrill got out of the seventh, and Ronald Belisario and Ramon Troncoso each pitched a scoreless inning.

The bottom of the Dodgers' order of Kemp and Ellis combined to go 5-for-9 with two runs, three RBIs, two doubles, a triple, and a stolen base. Gibbons had three hits. Ethier reached all five times thanks to a single and five walks. So it's not like they didn't put runners on.

The difference came down to hitting with two outs. The Rockies got four RBIs, the Dodgers had one. That was the game right there. If you can't deliver when the pressure is on, you won't win. That's why the Rockies continue to win down the stretch.

Hopefully the Dodgers can give Torre some wins on the way out, but I wouldn't hold my breath. They still have eight games left against contending teams in the Rockies and Padres. So far, this whole "spoiler" thing has flopped.

John Ely will get another start today against Jhoulys Chacin. The strange thing is that I don't know if it's even on TV. It's listed at 4:10 ET, which made me think it's a FOX game. But in looking at the preview, that game's not listed. My guess is that it was once a FOX game, but has since been switched to something better. In any case, if you can find the game somewhere, have fun watching it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Torre to step aside for Mattingly

Joe Torre has made it official: he will not be coming back to manage the Dodgers after this season. His replacement will be hitting coach Don Mattingly, who has worked for Torre since 2004.

Torre came to L.A. in 2008 with a three-year contract. The previous year, the Dodgers went 82-80 under Grady Little while fading down the stretch. Torre won four World Series titles with the Yankees, but was more or less forced out of town after losing the ALDS to the Indians, 3-1.

Right away, Torre made an impact. He guided the Dodgers to an NL West title with an 84-78 record, thanks in large part to the torrid run by Manny Ramirez when he was acquired at the trade deadline. They took down the heavily-favored Cubs in the NLDS with a sweep, but fell to the Phillies in the NLCS, 4-1.

The next season brought another NL West crown with an even better record of 95-67. Despite the 50-game suspension of Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers remained one of the best teams in the league the whole season. Even with home-field advantage in the NLDS, the Dodgers were still not favored against the Cardinals. It didn't matter, as the Dodgers got another sweep. However, just like last year, the Phillies took the NLCS in five games.

This season started off with hope of getting to the next level, but reality has been much different. After being only two games in back of the NL West lead at the All-Star break, the Dodgers have gone 23-36 since then to fall 11 games back. The combination of a horrible offense and a shaky bullpen have been the downfall.

I'm not surprised that Torre made this call. I would have been more surprised if he said he was coming back. With ownership in a mess and the financial situation cloudy to say the least, I think Torre just had enough. And who can blame him? He's won enough in his career that he doesn't need to hang on anywhere he doesn't want to anymore.

I'm mixed on how I think Torre has done as a manager this year. It's not fair to totally blame him for the horrible second half. There were so many games lost from either a poor offense or a blown save. But I have to wonder if too many players tuned him out. I just don't see much, if any, fire from too many players. And that's a big problem.

Mattingly has been groomed for this spot for awhile, and despite some rumors for Tim Wallach, he ultimately did get the gig. If he can he can get his players to show the passion and fire that he brought as a player, he'll be great. Someone with as much baseball background as him deserves a shot at some point.

Still, I'm not sure if I'm too crazy about this move. I can't shake the fact that guys like Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier (excluding his red hot start) have gone backwards this year. They're both good enough to be in the MVP race year after year. But this season, they've spent more time striking out than anything else. Mattingly has to take some of that blame.

I hope this all works out for the Dodgers. Change can be a good thing. I haven't had the sense for awhile that Torre would be back, so maybe the players are relieved to have this over with and to have a different voice going forward.

If Mattingly can get the young guns back on track, and if the bullpen mess can be straightened out, the Dodgers can compete next year, even with ownership in flux. Donny Baseball has some of the pieces to succeed, now let's see if he can make things happen in 2011.

Giants thump pathetic Dodgers

The Dodgers once again proved on Thursday night just how far things have fallen this season.

Ted Lilly was pasted, the offense sucked, and the Giants didn't break a sweat in winning big, 10-2. With the Padres dropping another one, the Giants are now officially in first place in the NL West by 1/2 game.

Believe it or not, the Dodgers did lead this game at one point, all thanks to an error. Rafael Furcal doubled leading off the game. Ryan Theriot attempted to sacrifice him to third, but Jose Uribe's throwing error let Raffy score to go up 1-0. Casey Blake and Matt Kemp struck out and James Loney grounded out to end any promise of a threat.

The Giants struck back off of Lilly when Aubrey Huff tripled with two down. Unlike the Dodgers, the Giants cashed in, as Buster Posey's RBI double made it 1-1.

Things started getting ugly in the third. Edgar Renteria laid down a bunt with one down and beat it out. Freddy Sanchez doubled to put runners in scoring position. Huff got another big hit with a three-run shot to make it 4-1. Posey made it back-to-back jacks with one of his own, and it was 5-1.

When teams are down 5-1, it usually isn't a good thing. But, it's not insurmountable either, even in the late innings. With the Dodgers, it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever what inning it is. When you have a bunch of clowns they call hitters failing miserably all game long, there's no way they'll overcome a four-run deficit.

Sure enough, they didn't. Not only did they not come back, they started getting kicked around when they were down. Lilly was mercifully yanked with two on and one out in the fourth. Ramon Troncoso came on and ended up walking Sanchez with the bases juiced to make it 6-1.

The lone highlight of the night came when Russell Mitchell hit his first big league homer to lead off the fifth. Who knows where someone like Mitchell will go in his career, who's only hitting .059 (1-for-17) since being called up. Even if that ends up being his only hit this season, I'm still glad he's been given a chance. It's the right thing to do.

Not to be outdone, the Giants smacked another homer themselves. Guillen connected on a two-run shot to put it at 8-2 in the fifth. A two-run double by Sanchez in the eighth closed out the scoring for the night.

With nothing to play for, the Dodgers sure as heck reminded everyone that they'll be home watching the playoffs this October. This team has no fire, no passion, and are nothing more than whipping boys right now. It's almost impossible to even watch.

Lilly has certainly had his good days with the Dodgers, but Thursday was not one of them. He only lasted 3 1/3 innings for seven hits, six runs, no walks, and three strikeouts. He dropped to 8-11 on the season.

Six relievers were used, with Jeff Weaver and Jon Link each giving up two runs in an inning of work. Gosh, can't imagine why Weaver's ERA is 5.02 and Link's 5.40. Then again, they do blend in well with the other relievers used: Troncoso, 4.76; George Sherrill, 6.42; Ronald Belisario, 5.29; Octavio Dotel, 3.99. At least Dotel is decent. But that's about it.

I mentioned a few games ago about the Dodgers playing the role of spoiler and how they would have to embrace that. So far, forget it. They not only haven't embraced it, they look like they just want to get the hell out of the season as fast as they can. If Clayton Kershaw wasn't nearly perfect on Tuesday, this would have been a sweep.

One red-hot team just slapped the Dodgers around, now another has their crack in the Rockies. They've won 11 of 13 and are right in thick of things for the playoffs. Playing the Dodgers is just what they need to get that extra boost. Hiroki Kuroda will go against Ubaldo Jimenez.