Sunday, February 19, 2012

What could go right... and what could go wrong (Part II)

Here is my second installment of the "right/wrong" preview for the 2012 season, this time focusing on the pitching staff.


Clayton Kershaw
Right: Kershaw posts another line similar to last year: 21-5, 2.28 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 248 K's, 5 complete games, 2 shutouts. Thus, he earns another Cy Young Award.
Wrong: Well... he actually gives up a hit? Maybe a run or two? But seriously, the only scary thing about last year is that he set the bar too high, ala Tim Lincecum, whose "off year" was only a 13-14 record, but with 2.74 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 220 K's. If Kershaw slips a little, people will wonder if a career-high 233 1/3 innings was too much for a 23-year-old.

Chad Billingsley
Right: Bills finally finds any sort of consistency, rather than one good start - one bad start that has plagued him. He uses his stuff to regain his form from his All-Star first-half of '09, when he went 9-4 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.
Wrong: The downfall continues, and we once and for all declare him nothing more than a #4 or #5 starter.

Ted Lilly
Right: Lilly went through one of the more dramatic turnarounds in baseball last year, though rather quietly. He continues his fantastic final two months and gives the Dodgers something close to the 2.94 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and .183 BAA. Even a slight increase in those numbers is still good enough.
Wrong: He looks more like the batting practice pitcher he was for the first four months, including the horrific June and July starts.

Aaron Harang
Right: Harang stays healthy enough to post 28 starts again. While he's only made four career starts in Dodger Stadium, maintaining an ERA around 3.65 from the bottom of the rotation will do.
Wrong: Injuries continue to pile up, and he misses the friendly confines of spacious Petco Park, as his home/road splits show (3.05 ERA, 1.21 WHIP home/4.70, 1.65 road).

Chris Capuano
Right: Capuano gives the Dodgers 33 starts like he did the Mets last season. He slashes the homers (27) and keeps his strikeouts up (168 in 186 innings).
Wrong: Just like Harang, the home/road splits continue to be alarming (3.82 ERA, 1.21 WHIP home/5.42, 1.41 road). Plus, while making 33 starts is great... getting pounded in many of them isn't.

Nathan Eovaldi
Right: While it looks unlikely Eovaldi will start the year in the rotation, you have to think at some point he'll get some starts. So, he'll look to use his sharp stuff to make some noise as a promising, young arm. Five of his first six career starts went at least five innings with two or less runs.
Wrong: He either hits a wall or gets bounced around between starting, relieving, and the minors. Hopefully the Dodgers can pick a role for him and stick to it.


Javy Guerra
Right: From unknown to 21 saves, it's hard to do any better than Guerra's rookie season. Critics still aren't sold if he's the real deal, so he'll keep on flashing nerves of steel and locking down games at the end.
Wrong: The sophomore slump hits, and the National League has a better gameplan this time around. Or, it could be as simple as Kenley Jansen is just too good, and Guerra has to settle into a new role and doesn't excel as much.

Kenley Jansen
Right: It's hard to top setting a Major League record for K/9 at 16.1. The next step is to be dominant over the entire season, and quite possibly become the next stud closer.
Wrong: Lost in Jansen's terrific season was his rocky start. He gave up four runs in an inning his first appearance, and later in April got rocked for five runs in 1/3 inning against the Braves. Kind of like Kershaw, he set the bar so high for himself, that he'll probably need to weather some sort of storm at some point.

Matt Guerrier
Right: Guerrier reminds fans why he got a three-year, $12 million deal to begin with, as he regains his form from his Minnesota days. He's able to get big outs anywhere between innings 6-8.
Wrong: He doesn't do a whole lot better than a 4.07 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, which isn't bad, but not as good as it was the previous two years with the Twins.

Mike MacDougal
Right: MacDougal continues to erase any doubt that he's washed up, as he made big pitch after big pitch to post a 2.05 ERA in 69 appearances. Even if the ERA goes up a bit, he still can be productive in bridging the gap between starter and closer.
Wrong: While the 2.05 ERA was great, the reality is that a big 1.46 WHIP possibly showed a lot of luck, too. With a career 1.53 WHIP, too many baserunners could easily lead to some horrific outings.

Scott Elbert
Right: Hong-Chih Kuo is history, so the role of left-handed specialist has fallen on Elbert's lap. That could be a good thing, as Elbert appeared in 47 games for a 2.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 34 K's in 34 1/3 innings. Thus, it appears as if the issues that caused him to leave during the 2010 season are over.
Wrong: The sample size is small, so maybe he's still not quite ready to pitch well for an entire season. Plus, fair or not, there's still the possibility of personal issues popping up again, as he's only a couple years removed from it.

Todd Coffey
Right: Coffey won't be asked to get too many big outs late in games, but you never know. He bounced back quite well after getting hammered in 2010, so anything close to the 3.62 ERA and 1.26 WHIP he posted with the Nationals last year will do.
Wrong: A career BAA of .283 is a little scary. I can see him getting lost in the shuffle or released if he doesn't pitch well and guys like Blake Hawksworth and Eovaldi are ready to step in.

Josh Lindblom
Right: There's always room for power arms, and Lindblom is no different. He certainly showed what he could do, as after appearing various times in June, he made many more trips to the hill after being recalled in late July. A 2.73 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 28 K's in 29 1/3 innings showed he could be ready to take on an even bigger role late in games this year.
Wrong: The experience just isn't there yet, so it's natural that he'll go through a rough patch at some point. And when that happens, will he try to blow everyone away, or will he become better at location and mixing up his speeds? That will be the key.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What could go right... and what could go wrong

With pitchers and catchers on the verge of opening up Spring Training, it's time to start thinking baseball again. Now that the Dodgers have extended Clayton Kershaw for a couple more years, and with no other major player signings coming up, the roster looks to be nearly locked in.

Let's take a look at the projected starting lineup, and what could go right for each of these guys... and what could go wrong as well.

(Coming up soon, a look at the pitching side from the starters and relievers.)

The Lineup

Catcher - A.J. Ellis
Right: Ellis makes the most of finally earning a starting nod, assuming he'll beat out newcomer Matt Treanor. He'll build on his solid September of hitting .323 and give the Dodgers at least something at the bottom of the order.
Wrong: He's a career .262 hitter, and has played in only 87 games over the span of four seasons, a result of being sent up and down numerous times. If he starts the season off slow, it could mean less playing time once again.

First Base - James Loney
Right: It's simple for Loney: he continues to be the hot hitter he was after the All-Star break, when he hit .320. Also, he keeps flashing the great leather he always has.
Wrong: Like I said, it's simple: he goes back to being the lost, powerless hitter he was the first half of the season, when he hit .268 with a mere 16 extra-base hits in 325 at-bats. Ouch.

Second Base - Mark Ellis
Right: The other Ellis provides the same kind of spark that departed veterans Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles gave at various points the last couple of seasons. He's only two years removed from hitting .291 with the A's. Plus, do you know he's only committed 55 errors in 5,577 total chances? That's pretty awesome.
Wrong: He gives little hitting support at the bottom of the lineup, and become just another mediocre, veteran player.

Shortstop - Dee Gordon
Right: Gordon was one of the most electrifying players in baseball last season, hitting .304 and stealing 24 bases in 56 games. He will learn how to be a better leadoff hitter and provide plenty of excitement on the bases.
Wrong: He goes through a sophomore slump as pitchers adjust to him, and he can't up his OBP from .325 last season. Also, his defense doesn't get any better, as 10 errors in basically 1/3 of the games is way too many.

Third Base - Juan Uribe
Right: Remember Uribe? It's hard to considering he was a complete bust last year. But he goes back to being the clutch hitter he was with the White Sox and Giants, winning a ring with each.
Wrong: While he appears to be completely over his sports hernia that ended his 2010 season prematurely, the injury bug strikes again, and his hitting continues to get worse and worse.

Left Field - Juan Rivera
Right: Rivera came to L.A. for pretty much nothing from Toronto, and proceeded to give a nice spark, hitting .274 with 46 RBIs in 62 games. Now he has a chance to build on that and add a few more long bombs in the middle of the order.
Wrong: He turns into the player who got dropped from the Blue Jays in the first place, and continues to watch his power numbers dwindle.

Center Field - Matt Kemp
Right: Kemp's 50/50 prediction comes true! Well, that may be stretching it, but a season close to 40/40 again, along with more highlight reel walk-offs and diving catches leads to an MVP award.
Wrong: Maturity issues strike again, and his numbers fall like the last time he signed an extension with the Dodgers. Also, his strikeouts only get worse, not better.

Left Field - Andre Ethier
Right: Andre the Giant and Mr. Walk-Off returns from his year-and-a-half absence. He gives Kemp some much-needed support, and creates a great 1-2 punch while finding his power stroke again.
Wrong: Andre the Giant is down for the count, becoming only a singles hitter again. Plus, his negative attitude gets in the way of team chemistry, and he earns his way out of town.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cy Young Kershaw inks a new deal

Reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers agreed on a two-year, $19 million deal on Tuesday. The signing prevents arbitration, as Kershaw was seeking $10 million as opposed to the $6.5 million the Dodgers were offering. I'd say Kershaw almost got exactly what he wanted, as well he should.

The deal also signifies what is most likely the last major transaction from Frank McCourt, who had to approve of the deal before he's shown the door in April. As Ned Colletti pointed out, McCourt has extended Kemp for eight years, Kershaw a couple years, and was on the verge of perhaps signing Prince Fielder before the Tigers stepped in.

True, McCourt also ran the once proud Dodgers into a cost-cutting laughingstock, but at least he did something right. Right?

Anyway, this contract reminds me of the one Kemp signed a couple years back. In January of 2010, Kemp signed a two-year, $10.95 million contract. While the '10 season was awful, he obviously rebounded in a tremendous way with his MVP-caliber '11. And he did it all without PED's, unlike the other guy who won the award. Imagine that.

Kershaw has already had his monster season, winning the Cy Young and the NL's pitching Triple Crown. All he has to do now is continue to be the ace that he's already become, and he too will find himself with a phat new deal, ala Kemp. It's hard to judge right now what kind of money he can earn, or if it will be anywhere in Kemp's neighborhood. But with a new owner about to come into town, I'm sure he'll get something nice.

With this deal now sealed and delivered, the focus can squarely move onto Spring Training and new ownership. After an offseason full of signing role players (cost-cutting moves, remember), it'll be fun to see the boys report to Camelback Ranch soon, along with the home stretch of getting a new owner. I'm excited, that's for sure. You should be, too.

Coffey added to the bullpen

The Dodgers and veteran right-handed reliever Todd Coffey reached a one-year, $1 million deal this past Friday. The deal also includes either an option for 2013 worth $2.5 million, or a buyout for $300,000.

Coffey is coming off a pretty good season with the Nationals. In 69 appearances spread out of 59 2/3 innings last season, he went 5-1 with a 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 46 strikeouts. Over his seven-year career, he has a 4.08 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.

So far, his career looks like it's bounced up and down between a good season and a mediocre one. His numbers are certainly better than with the Brewers in 2010, where he had a 4.76 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. But, he put together a great '09 campaign, tossing a 2.90 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 83 2/3 innings. So, he's proven he can be effective.

Right now he's just another option in middle relief, joining guys like Matt Guerrier and Mike MacDougal. It's hard to see him cracking the late innings, unless youngsters Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen stumble, which is entirely possible given their youth. We shall see.