Friday, November 16, 2012

Kershaw comes close, but Dickey takes the Cy

It takes a pretty special pitcher having a pretty special season to unseat Clayton Kershaw from winning his second consecutive National League Cy Young Award.

If you're R.A. Dickey, you are that person.

Despite more gaudy numbers from Kershaw, Dickey was the voters' choice as he claimed his first ever Cy Young Award.  There really was no doubt, as Dickey gathered 27 of the 32 first-place votes, with Kershaw getting two, and Gio Gonzalez, Johnny Cueto, and Craig Kimbrel each getting one.  Kershaw did finish in second, losing out to Dickey by a total of 209-96, with Gonzalez right behind at 93.

I can't say I'm surprised about this, as Dickey had it all going for him in another lost year for the Mets.  In many ways, his season is a reflection of what Kershaw did last season - huge numbers on a bad team, and about the only reason to watch that team every fifth day.  Seriously, take away David Wright, and can casual baseball fans even name another Met?  I think not.

Even though the voters had no doubt, let's take a look at each man's numbers to see if they made the right call.

Dickey: 33 starts, 233 2/3 IP, 20-6, 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .226 BAA, 230 K
Kershaw: 33 starts, 227 2/3 IP, 14-9, 2.53 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .210 BAA, 229 K

When you break the numbers down, Kershaw certainly has a case for winning his second straight award.  He has a better ERA, WHIP, and BAA, while just barely being edged in strikeouts by one.  And don't forget, he easily could have been shut down late in the season with a sore hip, but fought his way back to the tune of a 0.67 ERA in four September starts.

Obviously the big stat that Dickey has an advantage in is wins, as he reached the magical 20-win mark.  That's pretty awesome, especially on a team that finished near the bottom in runs scored.  But so did the Dodgers, who were one behind the Mets (651-650).  For whatever reason, Kershaw was hit hard by the lack of run support, while Dickey found a little more love from his hitters.

I also think it's hard to ignore the remarkable story of Dickey, who overcame all sorts of hardships growing up, including some awful stories of sexual abuse.  He was the talk of baseball all season long, and proved over and over that he wasn't just a one or two month wonder.  He was the real deal.  Even though Kershaw went on to have another fantastic season, this award had Dickey's name on it for awhile.

Congratulations go out to Dickey for a fine season, along with Kershaw and all the others who received a vote.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dodgers may (or may not) add Hunter and trade Ethier

The offseason rumor mill continues to churn, with the latest news concerning the outfield.  It's being said that the Dodgers may try to sign free agent Torii Hunter, who's coming off a fine season with the fake Los Angeles team.

How would that be possible with Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp returning from injury, and Andre Ethier in the fold?  Apparently, it's Ethier who could become available.

Here's what we know about Hunter.  Initially, it was being reported that the Dodgers approached him about a two-year contract.  Last year, he hit .313 with 16 home runs and 92 RBIs for a disappointing Angels team that failed to even make the playoffs after splurging for Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson in the offseason.  Also, he's won a Gold Glove nine times.  Not too shabby.

Since this news surfaced last week, new details show that perhaps this report wasn't entirely accurate.  On one hand, it was Hunter's agent who approached Ned Colletti at the Winter Meetings about joining the club.  Also, who's to say Hunter would even want to risk accepting a lesser role if Ethier does stay?  It would be hard to imagine him signing as a fourth outfielder with his numbers.  That doesn't make any sense.

After coming off a season hitting .284 with 20 homers and 89 RBIs, Ethier is perhaps being dangled in trade talks.  This really isn't anything new, as he's the type of player you like to have on your club, but never seems to have the big numbers you want to see.  He signed a five-year, $85 million extension this past June, which appeared to end any thoughts of moving him.  Then again, maybe not.

It sure seems like these two moves directly correlate with each other.  Since word on signing Hunter has cooled in recent days, so should talk of trading Ethier.  Hunter is a tough player who will turn 38 next July, Ethier will be 31 next April.  Obviously, youth is on Ethier's side, who also has a Gold Glove in his trophy case.  Bottom line, unless the Dodgers are wowed with a trade offer for Ethier, I wouldn't be a fan of this trade off.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It's the offseason, so Dodgers grab a Big Mac

"I solemnly swear to turn the Dodgers into good hitters."

Wednesday marked another big addition to the Dodger family, as they officially announced Mark McGwire as the team's new hitting coach.  Reports came about a week ago, as McGwire informed the Cardinals that he was turning down an extension to head to LA.

It's a move that gets Big Mac closer to his family and home, as he lives all of 40 minutes away from Dodger Stadium in Orange County.

What McGwire has in front of him is a bunch of big names who failed to gel during the final month of the season, costing the Dodgers a playoff berth on the second to last day of the season.  With Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier already in the fold, not even the additions of Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Adrian Gonzalez could get them over the hump.  It was a slump that cost Dave Hansen his job as hitting coach.

Enter Big Mac, who now becomes the team's seventh hitting coach in the seven-year tenure of Ned Colletti.  What is working in McGwire's favor are the great numbers the Cardinals put up in his three years at the helm.  They finished first in the National League in batting average at .296, OBP at .337, second in runs at 2,263, and fourth in slugging % at .416.

Don't get me wrong, it certainly helped that a couple guys named Albert Pujols was there for the first two years, and Carlos Beltran last year.  But, there's also youngsters like David Freese and Allen Craig who provided a big boost, so I'm sure McGwire played some sort of role in their development.

There will always be a debate as to exactly how much a hitting coach can actually do.  I've stated in the past that I firmly believe pitching coaches have a much bigger impact on that game, as they can develop game plans, and tweak deliveries and different pitches.  Hitting coaches can game plans as well, like which pitches to attack, and can tinker with stances, but I'm not sure what else they can really do.

Nonetheless, this was an easy call for Colletti to make.  We all know about the checkered history of McGwire's, although years later we'd also find out he was just a member of a long line.  But as far as a pure hitting coach, you can't argue with the results.  Plus, there's the instant respect he earns from being a great player during his time, to being a great coach in St. Louis.

I'm excited to see him work with guys like Ethier and Ramirez, who are good hitters, but are capable of showing more consistency.  Once Kemp gets healthy, I'm sure he'll be chomping at the bit to get back to work.  Then there's Gonzalez, who went through a power outage in September and failed to be the big bopper in the middle the Dodgers wanted.  I'd like to see how McGwire can help him regain that power stroke.

The Dodgers now have their coaching staff in place, and with free agency ready to soon heat up, we'll see what else is in store for the Hot Stove season.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Should the Dodgers grab Kuroda?

One pitcher to keep an eye on this offseason: old friend Hiroki Kuroda.

As the Dodgers hope for the best on the health of Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly, Ned Colletti is faced with the task of strengthening the starting rotation with an ace at the top (Clayon Kershaw), a guy who could be a solid #2 (Josh Beckett), and two guys at the back end (Aaron Harang and Chris Capuno).

With the big dog of the free agency market being Zach Greinke and the huge price tag he'll likely demand, it's Kuroda who could very well be back in play.  After spending his first four seasons in LA, Kuroda jumped ship to the Yankees for $12 million last season, going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.

In other words, it typical, steady, effective Kuroda, even against the big boppers on the American League.

Kuroda has stated for a couple years now that he has a desire to eventually go back to Japan to finish his career.  The problem, which is more like a good problem, is that he's clearly still a top-tier pitcher, so teams will give him what he wants to stay.  The Dodgers couldn't afford him going into last year, but if he's looking for around the same one-year deal as the Yankees gave him, the Dodgers can definitely afford him his time around.

There's a couple obvious concerns about bringing him back in the fold.  One is his age.  He'll be 38 entering the 2013 campaign.  Effective or not, it's hard to ignore he's getting up there.  The other is the aforementioned desire to return to Japan.  Could he possibly lose his focus pitching in the States if his focus is back home?  Probably a stretch that something like that could happen, but still worth wondering about.

Personally, I would love to see him comeback.  Suppose he's signed, then the top five would be Kershaw, Beckett, Billingsley, Kuroda, and either Harang or Capuano, with the odd man out heading to the bullpen to play the long relief role and stay ready when called upon to start.  I would definitely be a fan of that rotation.

I'm not sure how serious the Dodgers even are about Kuroda, as this is all speculation at this point.  You have to think they'll at least engage in conversation with Greinke considering money is no longer an object.  I just hope even the deep pockets of Magic and the boys don't overpay for him, as long-term deals for pitchers is risky business.  I'd rather see Kuroda come in for a year as the Dodgers continue building their roster.