Thursday, December 26, 2013

Taking a look at the loaded Dodgers' bullpen

If you're a Dodger fan looking for quality arms, then Christmas was very kind.  Ned Colletti announced the signings of Chris Perez, Jamey Wright, and J.P. Howell on Tuesday, giving the Dodgers one of the deepest, and hopefully best, bullpens in all of baseball.

To go along with the signings of those three is the return of Brian Wilson, who was re-signed about three weeks ago.  With that in mind, let's take a look at the arms that could form the 'pen in April, with their 2013 stats in parenthesis.


Closer - RHP Kenley Jansen (28 saves, 16 holds, 1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP)
Enters the season as the clear-cut closer, and there's little reason to believe that will change.  Then again, in a crazy spot like closer, anything can happen.  Didn't Brandon League enter 2013 as the closer?  And wasn't Jonathan Broxton once a "shutdown" closer?  You get the point.  Still, with a great fastball and cutter, it's hard to believe Jansen will flop.

Setup - RHP Brian Wilson (3 holds, 0.66 ERA, 0.88 WHIP)
In a great move by Colletti, was brought back as both the primary eighth inning guy, and a fallback option in case Jansen has some troubles.  Was everything the Dodgers could have hoped for and more in 2013, and with more time ticking away since his Tommy John surgery in 2012, should have even stronger stuff for 2014.

LHP J.P. Howell (11 holds, 2.03 ERA, 1.05 WHIP)
Got the multi-year deal he was searching for, and with a .164 average against left-handed hitters, will find himself in plenty of big situations once again.  Two straight seasons of great numbers with the Rays and Dodgers shows he's up for the challenge.

LHP Paco Rodriguez (20 holds, 2 saves, 2.32 ERA, 0.90 WHIP)
About the only thing that went wrong for him in an incredible rookie year was the nosedive he took at the end of last year, as he was actually left off of the NLCS roster.  But with a fresh arm and deceptive delivery, showed what he could do for many months.  The hope, of course, is that his arm strength can last during the rigors of a full season.

RHP Chris Perez (25 saves, 1 hold, 4.33 ERA, 1.43 WHIP with Indians)
He's a two-time All-Star, so he certainly knows how to get the big outs.  Last season was a disaster in every way for him, whether he was getting hurt, blowing saves, or getting busted by the law.  The best thing for him could very well be pitching in friendly Dodger Stadium against weaker offenses and away from the closing spotlight.  I like the addition, as I'll take a chance on him over a bum like Ronald Belisario any day of the week.

Long Relief - RHP Jamey Wright (6 holds, 3.09 ERA, 1.20 WHIP with Rays)
As Colletti recently admitted, he wished he was more aggressive in re-signing him after the 2012 season.  A year of long relief success later, that's exactly what he did in bringing him back to LA for the same role.  There really aren't a whole heck of a lot of pitchers who actually embrace the role of getting ready quickly to pitch multiple innings at a moment's notice, and he's one of the best, so it's a good move.

Battling it Out:

RHP - Chris Withrow (4 holds, 1 save, 2.60 ERA, 0.90 WHIP)
Like Rodriguez, is another young arm who got plenty of big outs. I bet people will look at those numbers above and be pleasantly surprised. I can see him teaming with Perez and Rodriguez in the middle innings to bridge the gap to Wilson and Jansen. He's got the hard stuff to do it.

RHP Jose Dominguez (1 hold, 2.16 ERA, 1.68 WHIP)
A young man with electric stuff, as he can reach 100 MPH at any point.  He's very fortunately to have such a low ERA, as opponents hit .314 off of him, albeit in a small sample size with 8 1/3 innings.  Still, there's something about power arms out of the bullpen that is so intriguing, and if he can learn to pitch to corners and mix in some soft stuff, he can be a huge weapon.

RHP Brandon League (14 saves, 2 holds, 5.30 ERA, 1.55 WHIP)
Ahhh, good old League, the guy who won't go anywhere thanks to two years left on a three-year, $22.5 million contract.  What a shame it would be if he beats out better arms like Withrow and Dominguez, but that's a definite possibility.  Maybe Rick Honeycutt found something in his delivery that will improve him?  I'm searching for something here, because it's hard to get even a little bit excited to see him pitch again.

Don't Forget About:

LHP Scott Elbert (Did not pitch in 2013)
Still recovering from Tommy John surgery, he will be out until around the All-Star break at best guess.  Pitched mostly in 2011 and 2012, and with ERA's of 2.43 and 2.20, respectively, it's easy to see why a lefty with hard stuff like him sticks around.  Suppose Rodriguez gets worn down again, then possibly Elbert steps in down the stretch.  It might not be entirely realistic to count on him for any of 2014, but like it says above, don't forget about him.

Bottom Line:
By my count, that's nine guys duking it out for between 7-8 spots in the bullpen (taking out an injured Elbert).  Plus, you have to remember that when fully healthy, the starting rotation sports six guys in Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, Chad Billingsley, and Josh Beckett.  You know those first three names won't be anywhere near the bullpen, so one of Haren, Billingsley, or Beckett may have to be do the Chris Capuano act of bouncing between starter and reliever.

With the way this team gets hurt, Don Mattingly might not need to make many tough decisions on who stays and who goes, much like the outfield situation from last season.  But of the three names on the "Battling it Out" list, I'd say as of right now Withrow gets the nod, with League and then Dominguez.  League is awful, but has that damn contract, so he can't be ignored.  Dominguez has to show more consistency before getting a permanent stay in LA.

Colletti has stated that he's all but done with roster moves, so it would be a surprise to see another reliever signed.  Then again, if the Dodgers bid and are successful in getting Masahiro Tanaka, then that throws a wrench into all of these plans, not that that's a bad thing if this kid is the real deal.  We shall see.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another bullpen boost as Howell re-signs

More good news for the Dodgers' bullpen, as J.P. Howell has signed for two years and $11.25 million, with a vesting option for 2016.

The option would be triggered if he makes 120 appearances in the next two seasons.  Will that happen?  It's possible, as 55 appearances with the Rays in 2011 led to 67 with the Dodgers last season, which adds up to 122.  He's made 60+ appearances two other times with the Rays in 2008 and 2009.

Last season was his first in LA, and it was a good one.  He pitched in 67 games, which was good for fourth on the club behind Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen, and the legendary Ronald Belisario (not).  Primarily as a middle-late inning reliever, he collected 11 holds while going 4-1 with a sparkling 2.03 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.

In addition, left-handed batters hit a mere .164 against him, and right-handed ones weren't much better at .222.  He only surrendered two home runs in 62 innings, and struck out 54.

All in all, he was more than effective in getting the job done, and teamed with Rodriguez to form a pretty deadly duo from the left side.  Now that same combination will be back to get the ball to Brian Wilson and Jansen in the late innings.  It's a win-win.

Not surprisingly, Howell was originally seeking a three-year deal after his big season.  Ned Colletti was reluctant to do so, and Howell can blame the awful Matt Guerrier and Brandon League for that.  Much like Juan Uribe, Colletti was able to find a common ground by settling at two years.  The only difference is that Howell got a $6.25 million option for a third year, and Uribe only has two years.

There's still more work to be done if you're Colletti, as a bullpen that relies on guys like Chris Withrow, Javy Guerra, Jose Dominguez, and League are either inexperience, bad, or both.  There's four good relievers in Rodriguez, Howell, Wilson, and Jansen, no doubt, but putting in a right-handed pitcher to get out of a sticky situation in the earlier innings is still important.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

With Ellis gone, Dodgers' bench looks depleted

Yesterday the Dodgers decided to bring back Juan Uribe on a two-year, $15 million deal to remain the starting third baseman.  Today, their bench took a hit when Mark Ellis decided to sign with the Cardinals.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that Ellis will ink a one-year deal with St. Louis, pending a physical.  It's not too surprising that Ellis is gone considering the Dodgers declined his option after signing Alexander Guerrero to a four-year deal, but there was still some talk of keep him aboard as insurance.  Now, he becomes insurance for talented youngster Kolten Wong.

Now that Ellis has moved on, the Dodgers' bench suddenly looks pretty bare.  The following have packed their bags for elsewhere this offsesason: Nick Punto (A's), Skip Schumaker (Reds), Jerry Hairston (retired), and now Ellis.  Not exactly the most productive players at the plate, but versatile guys who filled in at multiple positions.  And with an injury-prone team like the Dodgers, little things like bench depth becomes that much more important.

The question now is what the Dodgers will do with their bench for 2014.  Some in-house candidates include Tim Federowicz, Dee Gordon, Scott Van Slyke, and Elian Herrera.  All four have big league experience, albeit with not very good results.  Other candidates could be Nick Buss, Drew Butera, and Justin Sellers.

All of these guys are decent, but certainly not the greatest options to fill in when called upon.  Ned Colletti made it a point after the Dodgers were eliminated by the Cardinals in the NLCS that he wants to get younger on the bench.  With that in mind, it's not surprising that he let some of the old boys go.

Who's out there that the Dodgers can sign for their bench?  Just to throw some names out there, there's Mark Reynolds, Casey McGehee, Jayson Nix, Roger Bernadina, and Chris Coghlan, to name a few.  There's always the trade option, and if Colletti really is serious about moving one of his outfielders, you can guess he'll want some depth in return for salary relief.

I'll miss Ellis, as I always appreciated how hard he played no matter how banged up he was.  It's obvious he's not scaring anyone at the plate anymore, but his defense earned him a final nod for Gold Glove this year, something I'm not sure many people realized.  He probably felt like the Dodgers didn't find him very useful anymore, so I can't blame him for leaving.

I can see Colletti either relying on some of the youngsters to step up and fill roles, or blow the thing up completely and sign a few new guys.  Depth on the bench and in the bullpen are his biggest priorities as January starts to roll around.  Let's see what kinds of moves he makes.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Welcome back, Juan Uribe

*** UPDATE ***

The deal is for two years and $15 million, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.


After floating the idea out there that Michael Young could be the Dodgers' starting third baseman in 2014, Ned Colletti was able to convince Juan Uribe to stick around after all.

Uribe has agreed to stay in LA by signing a two-year deal, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  The money is not known yet, but is probably in the $10-15 million range, as best I can guess.

The picture above is a huge reason why Uribe was able to get something more than just a one-year deal with maybe an option for another, as his NLDS-winning two-run run to beat the Braves will go down as one of the biggest moments in Dodgers' postseason history.  That hit was the culmination of a complete turnaround from where he was after the previous two seasons.

And what a turnaround it was.  After winning a World Series ring with the Giants in 2010, he signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Dodgers.  In 2011, he played in 77 games and hit .204 with 4 homers and 28 RBIs.  The following year he played in 66 games, hitting an even more pathetic .191 with 2 homers and 17 RBIs.

Yet, there he was on the 2013 Opening Day roster at third base, albeit as a backup to Luis Cruz.  Thanks in large part to Cruz's own incompetence, Uribe slowly got more starts, and ended up playing in 132 games, hitting .278 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs.  He also was fantastic at the hot corner, becoming one of the three finalists for Gold Glove that ended up going to the Rockies' Nolan Arenado.

During the latter part of the season, I wrote about how Uribe probably earned himself a new deal thanks in large part to his good season, and because the free agent market for third basemen was so pitiful (check out my article here).  There was a thought that the Dodgers would chase after current shortstop and World Series champion Stephen Drew and push Hanley Ramirez to third.  Then there was the recent talk of putting Young at third, which seemed like a pretty desperate solution.

Now that Uribe is back for the next two seasons, the Dodgers obviously have to hope that he doesn't repeat the first couple of season from his old deal.  It's hard to name a worse player in all of baseball than him from that time, or at least one who received as much playing time as him.  He was slow, old, out-of-shape, and had a look on his face that suggested he was completely lost.  I couldn't wait for him to leave town.

Then 2013 hit, and when the other options weren't there, I never thought I'd say this, but I'm happy Colletti was able to convince him to stay with a reasonable deal.  One year with an option would have been better, but two years isn't a big commitment in the grand scheme of things (Uribe reportedly wanted a three-year deal to start the offseason).  For Uribe, the motivation will be to prove that he's not simply another "contract year" player who rose to the occasion, got the money, then tanked again.

Colletti can now shift his focus on adding to the bullpen and his bench... and who knows, maybe a trade of one of his outfielders?  We'll see.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dodgers enter Winter Meetings looking to get younger, fill some gaps

Mark Saxon over at wrote his latest blog about the Dodgers' intentions as they head to Lake Buena Vista, Florida for the Winter Meetings.  In a nutshell, don't expect a huge splash like they had last year in signing Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

What we should expect to see is a focus on adding a third baseman (which could mean re-signing Juan Uribe), and a focus on restoring bench depth and relievers.

It's not exactly the most exciting news in the world, but keep in mind the Dodgers have already done some work in November.  They signed Alexander Guerrero with the hope that he can anchor second base the next four years, or even play some short and shift Hanley Ramirez to third.  Dan Haren was chosen for one year over Ricky Nolasco for four, which was a smart move.  They also brought back Brian Wilson to continue one of the best late inning combinations with Kenley Jansen, a fantastic move.

As I pointed out during the year, the timing for Uribe's resurgence could not have been any better for him.  The free agent market for third basemen is basically zilch.  Uribe went from hitting .191 with 2 homers and 17 RBIs in 2012 to .278/12/50 this past year.  His OBP shot up from .258 to .331, and his games played from 66 to 132.  There's always a risk that he could regress again, but a similar contract to Wilson's (one year, with an option for another) would make sense.

On the relief side, there's a bunch of guys with closing experience like Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, and Kevin Gregg (who was actually released by the Dodgers last Spring Training).  Those guys will probably require longer contracts than one or two years the Dodgers will offer, so I'd be surprised if any of those guys sign.

For middle relief, names like Mitchell Boggs, Jesse Crain, and Kyle Farnsworth pop up from the right side, and J.P. Howell and Matt Thornton from the left side.  The Dodgers would like to bring back Howell, but again, he wants a three-year deal, and the Dodgers appear to have learned their lesson from the horrible Matt Guerrier and Brandon League deals, and don't want to go above to.  Good for them.

None of these names will blow you away, but then again, the Dodgers have their core in place, especially if Clayton Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez get extended before next season.  Right now it's all about plugging in holes, so stay tuned for small signings here and there.

What's about the only news that could blow you away?  If Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier get traded.  Buster Olney takes a look at that possibility (Insider only).

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wilson is back, as Belisario gets booted

Some good news coming out of the Dodgers' bullpen these last few days.  Brian Wilson has been re-signed to a one-year, $10 million contract on Thursday, with a player option for 2015 that could pay him the same.

The other good news?  Ronald Belisario has been non-tendered, mercifully ending his roller coaster ride in LA.

Wilson did everything the Dodgers could have hoped for towards the end of 2013, and then some.  He was signed as a free agent in late-July after winning two World Series rings with the Giants (one as their closer, another as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery).  He made his debut on August 19 and proceeded to go 2-1 with an 0.66 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 18 appearances covering 13 2/3 innings.

In the playoffs, he made six appearances without surrendering a run, as he clearly showed the world that he has plenty of gas left in the tank.

With that in mind, I'm shocked that he's back.  I thought for sure he would land a closer's role somewhere.  Maybe he could've and never could agree on terms, or maybe he just liked pitching in LA and was never blown away by any other offer.  Either way, it'll be great to see the Wilson-Kenley Jansen combination shutting down the eighth and ninth innings again.  That's great news for a team looking to take the next step to the World Series.

If I'm a starting pitcher for the Dodgers, I'm thrilled that Wilson is back because my chances for a higher win total just went up.

As for Belisario, there was no way the Dodgers could conceivably give him another deal after watching how inconsistent he's been the last couple of seasons.  This past year in 77 appearances, he went 5-7 with a 3.97 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, which is very high.  His stuff is never in doubt, but his ability to throw for strikes consistently was only getting worse and worse.  Plus, he had a 7.36 ERA in seven postseason appearances.

In other words, good bye, and good riddance!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hanley wants to stay awhile... and the Dodgers will take him

As Hanley Ramirez was celebrating a World Baseball Classic championship with his Dominican Republic teammates on Thursday, he dropped a bit of news: he's working on a contract extension with the Dodgers, and it could be done this winter.

For how much and how long?  That he wouldn't say, so let the speculation commence.

Ramirez enters 2014 in the final year of his six-year, $70 million contract he originally inked with the Marlins in 2009.  We all know how he started off as the next five-tool star, only to fall on some pretty hard times before reviving his career with the Dodgers.

Despite all of the injuries Ramirez went through last season (thumb, hamstring, back, ribs), there was no doubt this guy meant everything to the Dodgers in winning the NL West.  It seems like he played in more than 86 games, but alas, we only saw him in about half of the games.  In those games, he hit .345 with 20 homers and 57 RBIs, a clear indication of just how good he was.

The Dodgers really have no choice but to extend him.  Obviously they still feel that at 30 entering next season, he still is in the prime of his career and is an MVP-like player.  The fact that he put up those great numbers with injuries all over his body shows the talent he has.  Plus, his defense at short was much-improved, and he may actually switch to third for next season if needed.

Those who are skeptical of such an extension will point out that both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier received mega-deals after they put up big numbers, and proceeded to see their numbers go down ever since.  Ramirez, fair or not, is injury prone, though the Dodgers hope he can't possibly be as banged up in the future as he was in 2013.  The bottom line is, no matter who the player is, there's always risk involved in long-term investments.

I'll wait to see what kind of deal Ramirez does sign, but I'm probably going to like it no matter what.  Along with Yasiel Puig, Ramirez brought so much more energy and production to a fledgling Dodgers' squad this past season.  Look how flat they were once he was beaned in the ribs during Game 1 of the NLCS.  They only could muster a couple of wins as their offense tanked.  A healthy Ramirez was good enough to lift them to the Fall Classic.

Hopefully the Dodgers get this done soon, then shift their attention to filling other spots, such as in the bullpen.  Could a trade of Kemp, Ethier, or Carl Crawford be next?  You never know.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Nolasco packs his bags for the Twin Cities

He better dress warm.  It's slightly colder in Minnesota than it is in LA.

While Ricky Nolasco might not have gotten the enormous five-year, $80 million deal he was originally seeking (or at least floated out there to inflate his own value), he signed a four-year, $49 million contract with the Twins on Wednesday.  The Twins had an astronomical 5.26 ERA from their starters last season, so you can understand why they're desperate to bring any arms of value into the fold.

Kudos to both Nolasco and the Dodgers on this one.  First, let's give credit to Nolasco for what he brought to the table in LA after being acquired from the Marlins in early July.  The Dodgers went 10-2 in his first 12 starts, as he personally went 8-1.  He was big part of the Dodgers' red hot summer run, and gave them four great starters along with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

And here's where the Dodgers deserve credit - they recognized that he's probably not that good, as his final few appearances were rather poor.  After going 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA in August, he went 2-2 with a 6.66 ERA in September.  He fell off so badly that he only got one start in the playoffs, losing Game 4 of the NLCS at home against the Cardinals, lasting only four mediocre innings.

Oh ya, he also was skipped over in Game 4 of the NLDS, as Don Mattingly chose to put Kershaw on the mound with only three days of rest.  The same Kershaw who eventually ran out of gas in getting drilled in the NLCS Game 6 to end the season.  Could the two things relate to one another?  Who knows, but you have to wonder.

So, while we all know the Dodgers have incredibly deep pockets, I'm happy to see them stay away from throwing around $50 million at Nolasco for multiple years and instead give Dan Haren $10 million for a year.  It makes much more financial sense, and while Haren won't get as scorching hot as Nolasco did in August, he can still be a very effective 4-5 starter in that rotation.

Good luck to Nolasco in Minnesota, who most likely becomes their #1 starter by default.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dodgers sign Haren for end of rotation

As Dodger fans wait on any possible movement with big names like David Price and Masahiro Tanaka, management added a piece to the back end of the rotation.

Dan Haren has agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal on Monday, with an option for another year in 2014, and $3 million in incentives.  He'll slot in right behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu as Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley work their way back from injuries.

Now 33 and with over 2,000 innings of Major League pitching already under his belt, it's safe to say we can't expect to see the same guy who was an All-Star from 2007-2009 with the A's and Diamondbacks.  In 31 starts with the Nationals last season, he went 10-14 with a 4.67 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, as his team went from World Series contenders to flameouts for a variety of reasons.

Taking a closer look, however, you'll see some encouraging second half splits.  After he returned from a right shoulder injury in June, he ended up going 6-4 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 13 starts after the break.  Plus, his BAA went way down from .299 to .226.

If you're a believer in a second half performance carrying over into the next season, then Haren gives you plenty of reasons for optimism.  With the Dodgers, he can fit nicely into the 4-5 spot and not feel immediate pressure to beat other teams' aces.  It's a low-key signing, but a good one if his shoulder problems don't come back.

Now Haren has to prove he should keep his rotation spot when Beckett and Billingsley are declared good to go.  As Ned Colletti pointed out, the Dodgers know more than any other team that you can never have enough starting pitching.  Remember how Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang, and Chris Capuano were all left out of the rotation coming out of Spring Training last year?  Well, one injury after another made them scramble to call up guys like Stephen Fife and Matt "Ball 4" Magill to make emergency starts.  It wasn't pretty.

I applaud Colletti for going with a deal like this over giving Ricky Nolasco way too much money.  Haren might not get as hot as Nolasco was for a stretch last season, but he can still be very solid behind the studs at the top of the rotation.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Nolasco wants the big bucks

But then again, don't we all?

As Ricky Nolasco hits the free agent market, he let it be known what he thinks he's worth: five years and $80 million.

Yes, really.

Maybe the two-year, $35 million contract that Tim Lincecum signed to remain with the Giants made guys like Nolasco think they can raise the bar even higher.  And you know what?  It might just work.

Let's take a look at Nolasco's 2013 season.  He started off the season making 18 starts with the Marlins, going 5-8 with a 3.85 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.  He was then moved to the Dodgers in early July and went 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 16 starts.

Looking at those numbers, it's safe to say that the trade worked out for the Dodgers, and his numbers improved.  And that would be true, as he was as red hot as a pitcher could be through his first 12 starts.

And then September 14 hit, and Nolasco was absolutely pummeled at home by the Giants, and everything fell apart.  His two starts after that weren't any good either, and his Game 4 start in the NLCS only lasted four ineffective innings against the Cardinals, putting the Dodgers in a 3-1 hole.

So, we've seen the absolute best and worst of Nolasco in a short amount of time.  Obviously he's going to sell his first 12 starts to prospective teams, as well as the innings he eats, as he's hovered around 190-200 the last three years.  For teams hard pressed to find quality starters, that's tough to ignore.

Unless Nolasco is willing to ease his contract demands, there's no way we should expect to see him back in Dodger blue next season.  Keep in mind that Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett are still lurking, and guys like David Price and Masahiro Tanaka could be sought after.

Teams that are being linked to Nolasco are the Giants, Twins, Padres, and Phillies.  There could always be more, but my guess is more in the two to three year range, not what he currently is asking for.  Even the big money Dodgers have to draw a line at that.

Trade rumors for Kemp heating up

Have the Dodgers already run out of patience with Matt Kemp?

If you are to believe the rumors swirling around in the Hot Stove season, then perhaps they are.  As Kemp works to recover from ankle and shoulder injuries, both the Mariners and Rangers have been linked to acquiring him in recent days.

For the Dodgers, moving Kemp would serve a couple of purposes.  One, they still have four outfielders for three spots with the emergence of Yasiel Puig, who isn't going anywhere.  This was the same exact scenario all last season, but was never an issue because Kemp was hurt a lot, and Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford were banged up at times as well.  Don Mattingly never had to make any tough decisions because injuries controlled all of that.

The other reason is that the Dodgers might be admitting that they don't believe Kemp will ever live up to his massive eight-year, $160 million contract he inked in 2011.  He still has six years and $128 million remaining, which is huge for a guy who's spent much more time on the DL than producing wins for the Dodgers.

Sometimes injuries are chronic, which seems to be the case with Kemp's shoulder.  And sometimes injuries are freak accidents, like Kemp hurting his ankle with an awkward slide into home.  But no matter how it happens, right now he's a bit of damaged goods, and that might be putting it mildly.  Maybe the Dodgers would be wise to take a good offer if it comes their way.

While the rumors of moving to the Mariners don't include any names yet, the move to the Rangers is linked to shortstop Elvis Andrus.  Speaking of huge contracts, Andrus has nine years and $123 million remaining.  He's only 25, plays great defense, and has lightning fast speed.

The downside, other than that bloated contract, is his inability to get on base consistently.  He's not at all a power hitter (four homers, four triples, and 17 doubles this past season in 156 games), so a .328 OBP leaves something to be desired.  But 42 steals in 50 chances speaks for itself.  He was tied for fifth in baseball with teammate Alex Rios.

Say the Dodgers do pull the trigger on this deal, then would it work?  Defensively it would, as Andrus would play short and Hanley Ramirez can slide over to third, which would be better for his body, and Juan Uribe would be allowed to walk.  Plus a guy like Andre Ethier can enter the 2014 season knowing that centerfield is all his, and maybe would put up better numbers.

Offensively, however, I'm not so sure.  A healthy Kemp (if that ever happens again) is such an explosive hitter.  A 3-4 combination of Ramirez and Kemp can compete with anyone... if healthy.  You see, everything goes back to that word - "healthy."  Both of those guys have a hard time avoiding the injury bug.

We'll see over the winter if these Kemp trade rumors go anywhere, of if it's simply a case of Ned Colletti seeing what kind of value his star player has without really intending to move him.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Another Cy Young award for the masterful Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw blew away the Cy Young competition the same way he blew away hitters all season long.

In what turned out to be a completely lopsided vote, Kershaw claimed 29 of a possible 30 first place votes in winning his second Cy Young Award in three years.  Adam Wainwright got the lone other top vote and finished second, and Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez was third.

There really was no doubt who would win this award, as Kershaw's season was unlike any other.  In 33 starts, he finished 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, .195 BAA, and 232 K's in 236 innings.  Throw in three complete games, two of which were shutouts, and you've got a pure ace.

Compared to the rest of the National League, he finished first in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts; second in innings; and third in wins and complete games.

The next step for Kershaw is inking a massive extension, which is rumored to be in the $300 million range.  If you watched him on the live Cy Young Award announcement on MLB Network, or a little bit later on SportsCenter, you'd see how he avoided that questions all together.  And who can blame him?  He'll let his agent take care of that.

What I love about Kershaw is that even with another Cy Young in his trophy case, he talked about the need for getting a ring, and how all of the stats don't matter compared to winning a World Series.  The Dodgers will lock him up, then get to work on adding a few more pieces to get over the hump in October.

A Cy Young Award and a World Series ring in 2014?  Hey, when it comes to Kershaw, nothing is out of the question.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Puig falls short in Rookie of the Year race

Yasiel Puig had one of the most impactful rookie seasons in Dodgers' history this year, igniting a fire in June when the Dodgers were in dead last place in the NL West.  He ended up hitting .319 with 19 homers, 42 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases.

All awesome numbers... but still not good enough to beat Jose Fernandez for Rookie of the Year.

In what turned out to be pretty much a blowout, Fernandez took home 26 of a possible 30 first place votes in winning the National League Rookie of the Year.  He's the fourth Marlin to take home the prize.

As much as I'm a believer in how Puig helped turned a dreadful season around in LA, I can't say I'm surprised by this.  If this was voted on in June, July, or August, then Puig would have easily won.  But as Puig slowly cooled off, and the negative attention started coming his way, Fernandez was red hot to close out the season, despite being shut down after a September 11 start against the Braves.

The argument can be made that Puig's team not only made the playoffs, but went to the NLCS, while the Marlins were eliminated... well, pretty much once Opening Day hit.  But, if that's the stance that people are going to take, then that takes away great seasons by players who have bad teammates, which isn't right.

Puig still has plenty to be proud of, as he was so good this season, the Dodgers seem open to at least exploring the possibilities of trading Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, or Carl Crawford.  In other words, right field belongs to Puig and no one else.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Greinke wins an award... for his hitting, of course

Zack Greinke finished the 2013 campaign with a 15-4 record, a 2.63 ERA, and a 1.11 WHIP.  Pretty darn good numbers.

What's even better?  His .328 average at the plate.  And for that, he's claimed his first ever Silver Slugger Award.

The award that honors the top hitter at each position was pretty much a no-brainer in the National League, as Greinke was clearly the top choice.  The next closest amongst pitchers with more than just a handful at-bats were Henderson Alvarez of the Marlins and Tyler Chatwood of the Rockies, who each hit .300.  But even they had between 20-30 less trips to the plate than Greinke.

In 58 at-bats this season, Greinke had 19 hits, including three doubles.  He also drove in four runs, walked seven times, and only struck out 10 times.  Heck, he even stole a couple bases just for good measure.  Not bad for a guy who entered the season with a .170 after playing nearly his whole career in the American League.

The Dodgers were shut out of any Gold Gloves despite having five candidates.  Just yesterday it was announced that Clayton Kershaw is a finalist for the Cy Young, along with Don Mattingly for Manager of the Year and Yasiel Puig for Rookie of the Year.  Look for at least Kershaw to join Greinke with some offseason hardware.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Options for Capuano and Ellis declined, so sayonara to them?

With the offseason officially in full swing after the Red Sox downed the Cardinals to win the World Series on Wednesday, the Dodgers made some news today by declining the options on Chris Capuano and Mark Ellis

Both will be bought out for $1 million each.  Capuano could have made $8 million next season, and Ellis $5.75 million, so this obviously saves some cash for bigger needs.

Then again, both could also resign at much more realistic rates.  The early returns are that Ellis is the more likely of the two to be brought back.  The Dodgers view Alexander Guerrero as their long-term answer at second base, or at least they hope.  But then again, he could also play shortstop, which would slide Hanley Ramirez over to third, opening up second for Ellis again.

I do think the Dodgers will make an effort to bring Ellis back, especially because he's still very good on defense.  He was a finalist for a Gold Glove, but lost out to Brandon Phillips, which there's certainly no shame in doing.  Offensively, Ellis hit .270 with 6 homers and 48 RBIs, so it's not like there's much production there.  That will probably cost him a starting nod.  But, off the bench, I can see him contributing.

As for Capuano, I wouldn't expect to see him back next season.  Give the guy a bunch of credit for battling back from two Tommy John surgeries.  I can only imagine the uncertainty he must have felt going through that rehab twice. 

But, as the years and innings continue to pile up, I just don't see him getting any better.  He went 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.41 WHIP this year, which is nothing special.  I think the Dodgers will look elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2013 Postseason Report Card

The final installment of my report card series focuses on the postseason.  While it started off great with a 3-1 Division Series win over the Braves, it all came crashing down in a 4-2 defeat against the Cardinals.  Let's take a look.


Brian Wilson - The most consistent pitcher when it was all said and done, he was scoreless in six appearances, striking out eight in six innings.  I would think he earned himself a closer's job next season.

Zack Greinke - Didn't get the luxury of working with much run support, but a 2.57 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in three starts is pretty darn good.  He did blow a 2-0 lead in Game 1 against the Cardinals, but like I said before, his offense gave him next to nothing.

Adrian Gonzalez - Found his power stroke with three homers and two doubles in 10 games, and hit a healthy .316.  Capped off a big season for him at first base.

A.J. Ellis - Caught every single inning in both rounds, plus hit .323 with a .400 OBP.

Carl Crawford - The Dodgers needed his two home runs in the clinching game against the Braves, and ended up with a .310 average with four homers total in the leadoff spot.  Also, led the team with 26 total bases.

Kenley Jansen - His 4.15 ERA and 1.62 WHIP are very high for him, but that's because of a rough Game 5 against the Cardinals, which was a win anyway.  Saved both his games and struck out 10 in 4 1/3 innings.

J.P. Howell - Much like he did all season long, quietly put together good numbers with a 1.50 ERA and 1.33 ERA in six innings.  Was the only lefty available in the bullpen in the NLCS, which shows how much he was trusted.

Chris Capuano - Made one appearance, which came in the big Game 3 win over the Braves, tossing three scoreless innings.  It wasn't pretty with three walks, but no runs surrendered is the bottom line.


Clayton Kershaw - He was well on his way to an easy A, but it's hard to ignore his rough Game 6 against the Cardinals.  Take away those four innings and seven runs, and he surrendered only one run in the other 19.

Hanley Ramirez - So, so good against the Braves by hitting .500 with a homer and four doubles... then got beaned in the ribs in Game 1 against the Cardinals, and was 2-for-15.  He showed a lot of heart in even playing those games, but his power bat was sorely missed.

Yasiel Puig - When he wasn't striking out he did some damage, but 14 K's in 10 games is way too much.  Was moved to the middle of the order before the playoffs to drive in runs, but only had four RBIs, and his 0-for-10 in the first two games of the NLCS included six K's.

Juan Uribe - Gets this only because of his great NLDS, as his two-run shot in the eighth inning of Game 4 was the series clincher.  His bat was atrocious the next round, hitting only .130 with three singles and seven strikeouts.

Hyun-Jin Ryu - Started off being hit around against the Braves, but was fantastic in getting the Dodgers their first win in Game 3 against the Cardinals.


Nick Punto - Did an admirable job in filling in for Hanley Ramirez when he was injured.  But, getting picked off of second in the seventh inning in Game 4 of the NLCS was just killer.  Not quite as bad as Kolten Wong, but still...

Mark Ellis - Got the start in all 10 games, and while he wasn't bad, just wasn't that good either.  Hit .250 with nine strikeouts, and never made much of an impact.


Andre Ethier - Battled through a bad ankle injury, and eventually found his way back into the starting lineup.  Unfortunately, that may not have been a good thing, as he hit a lowly .130 with no extra-base hits or RBIs.  A big disappointment.

Skip Schumaker - Got some starts thanks to Ethier's injury, but did nothing with them.  Hit .158 with two RBIs, and proved to be nothing more than a bench player.

Ricky Nolasco - Got skipped over in the NLDS in favor of Kershaw on short rest, then took the loss in Game 4 of the NLCS.  He wasn't awful, but only gave four innings in an ineffective start.


Michael Young - Signed to be a big veteran bat off the bench and for his versatility.  Instead, went 1-for-10 and failed to make any sort of impact at all in what might be a disappointing end to his career.

Dee Gordon - Only had one chance to make an impression, and got nailed trying to steal late in Game 2 against the Braves.  It's the ultimate small sample size, but he failed to do the only job he was put on the roster for.

Paco Rodriguez - It was a tough end to the season for Paco, as he simply ran out of gas.  The Braves smacked him around twice to the tune of a 27.00 ERA, and was left off the NLCS roster.

Chris Withrow - Six walks in five innings was his biggest undoing, as he had a 5.40 ERA and 1.80 WHIP in four appearances.

Ronald Belisario - Somehow found his way into seven games, which was way too much.  Ended up with an enormous 7.36 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.  Thank God for Brian Wilson.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013 Report Card

(Note: This is my annual report card, but for the regular season only.  I will be back with a postseason report card very soon.  To view my mid-season report card, click below.)

2013 Mid-Season Report Card


Clayton Kershaw - The soon-to-be Cy Young Award winner was everything the Dodgers could've hoped for.  Led the NL in ERA (1.83), WHIP (0.92), and K's (232), while finishing third in wins (16) despite a horrible lack of run support for much of the season.

Zack Greinke - A rough start because of injuries eventually gave way to an ace-like end.  A 1.85 ERA in the second half paved the way to a 2.63 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and a 15-4 record.

Kenley Jansen - Saved the day in the bullpen, as one of the key moves to turnaround the season came in early June when he took over the closer's role.  Finished with 28 saves and a fantastic 13.03 K/9.

Hanley Ramirez - Playing in only 86 games was tough, but was terrific when he was in there.  Hit .345 with 20 homers and 57 RBIs, and made the offense a whole lot better just by being in the lineup.

Adrian Gonzalez - Played through neck pain early in the season, which led to some uncharacteristic errors at first.  But he finished with 157 games played, hitting .293 with 22 homers and 100 RBIs, and was a steady influence all season long.

Yasiel Puig - There's no denying the electricity this guy brought at a time the Dodgers desperately needed it.  Ended up hitting .319 with 19 homers, 42 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases, not to mention the eight assists from the outfield.

Juan Uribe - Who knew?  This guy totally changed his career around, becoming a vacuum at third base, plus hitting 12 homers and 50 RBIs.

Brian Wilson - Even though he only appeared in 18 games at the end, was the perfect setup man with an 0.66 ERA.  Definitely proved his arm troubles are a thing of the past.

J.P. Howell - Quietly had a 2.03 ERA and 1.05 WHIP as one of the primary left-handed relievers.

Paco Rodriguez - Faded at the end, but you can't forget how good he was for so long.  Still fresh out of college, pitched in 76 games to a 2.32 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.

Hyun-Jin Ryu - Wasn't expected to be more than maybe a #4 guy, but outpitched those expectations  by going 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.


Andre Ethier - His numbers continue to be unimpressive (.272/12/52), but something should be said about his versatility in the outfield, especially with so many injuries to others.  Still plays very solid defense.

Carl Crawford - Had his usual ups-and-downs as far as injuries go, limiting him to 116 games with some days of rest mixed in.  Only had 15 stolen bases, but is still somewhat of a threat at the plate as he worked his way back from Tommy John.

Mark Ellis - His days as a starting second basemen could be over with the signing of Alexander Guerrero, but still sets a great example of how to play hard.  Hit .270, but remains great on defense.

Ricky Nolasco - Started his Dodger tenure a house of fire... but oh, those last three starts.  ERA shot up from 3.14 to 3.70, and probably cost himself more starts in the playoffs.  But, went 7-0 in his first eight starts, which played a big role in the summer run.

Chris Withrow - The flamethrower hit the rookie wall towards the end, but still had a 2.60 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 43 K's in 34 2/3 innings.  A power arm to keep an eye on in middle relief.

A.J. Ellis - Turned himself into one of the final candidates for a Gold Glove, where he's valued most.  Only hit .238, but his 52 RBIs included some big ones along the way.

Nick Punto - Gets upgraded because of his ability to play three infield positions (third, short, second), which was big because of the revolving door of injuries to everyone else.

Michael Young - Did a solid job by hitting .314, even though he was short on power.  Plus, he appeared at all four infield positions.


Matt Kemp - Somehow played in 73 games, even though it seemed like much less.  Once again his season was derailed by one injury after another, and you have to question if his body is too brittle to ever be a star player again.  Never thought he'd have 6 homers and 33 RBIs for the whole season.

Scott Van Slyke - Never really took advantage of any sort of playing time he was given, hitting .240 with 7 homers and 19 RBIs in 53 games.  Seemed like he should've made a bigger impact.

Skip Schumaker - Wasn't bad, but never really was the good pinch-hitter he was signed to be, hitting only .263 in 319 at-bats.  At least he pitched two shutout innings, though!

Carlos Marmol - Definitely was better off in LA after a disastrous stint with the Cubs, and did have a solid 2.53 ERA.  However, his 1.55 WHIP showed his control problems will never go away.

Stephen Fife - More injuries disrupted his season, but had four wins with a 3.86 ERA, so wasn't too bad.


Dee Gordon - Got passed over by Justin Sellers (Justin Sellers!) for shortstop when Ramirez was hurt to start the season, and proved again why he'll never be an everyday player with an awful .234 average.

Tim Federowicz - Maybe there's a reason A.J. appeared in so many games - this guy was pretty bad.  Had nearly as many strikeouts (56) as total bases (57), and never gave Don Mattingly a reason to play him more.

Ronald Belisario - Mr. Inconsistency was just that - inconsistent.  Is no longer a strikeout pitcher, and a 3.97 ERA and 1.47 WHIP showed how unreliable he is.

Chris Capuano - Speaking of inconsistent, there's him.  One start he'd look good, the next start he'd get bombed en route to a 4.26 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.  His best days are clearly behind.

Jerry Hairston - Left off the playoff roster because of a pitiful .211 average with no pop at all. 


Brandon League - An absolute abomination as the closer.  And to think, his numbers actually IMPROVED to a 5.30 ERA and 1.55 WHIP after being demoted.  That says it all right there.  A horrible deal by Ned Colletti.

Matt Magill - Failed to take any soft of advantage of spot starts, bombing his way to a 6.51 ERA and 1.99 WHIP.

Matt Guerrier - Earned his way to Chicago with a 4.80 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.  Remember how he was signed to be the primary setup man?  Yikes, that's a scary thought.

Peter Moylan - Pathetic numbers with a 6.46 ERA and 1.96 WHIP.

Ramon Hernandez - Was given 17 games to prove his worth.  Well, he did by hitting .208, earning him a ticket out of town.

Justin Sellers - A horrendous choice to start the season at short, hitting .188.  Ouch.

Luis Cruz - Had one of the biggest downfalls I can recall in recent memory.  Had third base all to himself over Uribe, yet hit .127 in 45 games, and more than played his way to the waiver wire.  Boy was he bad!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Revisiting some postseason questions

Back on September 30, I took a look at five reasons the Dodgers could win the World Series, along with five reasons why they wouldn't (read my original report here). 

Well... we obviously know they didn't, so let's take a look at each key point and break it down.

Reasons They Will

1. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke as the 1-2 punch.  Everything was working out quite nicely for this... and then Game 6 of the NLCS hit.  And that's when Kershaw had his worst start of the season with seven runs in four innings.  Even with that clunker, he had a 3.13 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in four October starts, striking out 28 in 23 innings.

Greinke was also solid, recording a 2.57 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in three starts.  The only downside is that he twice surrendered a 2-0 lead to the Cardinals, and on the losing end against the Braves, though that was hardly his fault.  He was signed to be the ace right behind Kershaw, and that's what he did.

All in all, these guys definitely provided the punch, but their offense did not give them the love they needed.  They both went in the first couple of games in St. Louis, and both were loses because of virtually no run support.  In other words, there wasn't a whole lot more they could do.

2. Hanley Ramirez is the best hitter around.  Absolutely yes for the NLDS.  No way for the NLCS.

The reason?  It's simple - Joe Kelly beaning him in the ribs in Game 1 of the NLCS.  Ramirez was already banged up enough from the season, but this is the injury that caused his average to tumble from .500 after the NLDS to .323 five games later (he sat out Game 2).  What a shame, too, because the offense was never able to overcome his lack of production.

3. Yasiel Puig on the big stage.  Of the regular starters, Puig's .333 led the team for the postseason.  He was much better in the NLDS, as he had a hit in all four games, including multi-hits in three of them, all wins.

With that said, he was pushed back to the #5 spot right before the start of the postseason, and he only had two RBIs the entire way.  Not exactly the type of production you'd want from a guy in that spot.

4. Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen closing out games.  Both men brought the goods, and both more than delivered.  Wilson did not allow any runs in six appearances, and showed the world that he's ready to close again in 2014.  Of course, staying on to be the top setup man would be nice as well!

Jansen only had one slip-up in Game 5 of the NLCS by allowing a couple of runs, but the Dodgers still won, so it didn't matter.  He had a whopping 10 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings, good for an incredible 20.77 K/9.  He collected a couple of saves as well.

5. Road Warriors.  The Dodgers played four games away from home, and only won one of them.  They split in Atlanta before wrapping it up at home, and lost all three games in St. Louis.  The injury to Ramirez was definitely a big reason why, but for a team that finished tied for tops in the Majors with 45 wins away from home, their play on the road in the postseason was a disappointment.

Reasons They Won't

1. No Matt Kemp.  Absolutely this turned out to be a big issue.  There were countless amounts of times the Dodgers had runners on, failed to drive them in, and I'd think about Kemp getting the job done.  Not the beat up Kemp, the version that is feeling good and the ball is jumping off his bat.  As we saw in the NLCS, a run here or there could've meant a World Series trip for the Dodgers.  We'll never know.

2. Injury prone.  Oh boy, did I call this or what?  Everything was going quite smoothly until Kelly plunked Ramirez, and the Dodgers were never the same. 

The numbers don't lie: in the NLDS they averaged 6.5 runs a game, and in the NLCS they averaged 2.2, including two shutouts.  Of course, it's not like everybody was hurt, as guys like Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe did a big pile of nothing against the Cardinals.  It sure seemed like a trickle down effect once Ramirez was clearly not the same.

3. Yasiel Puig on the big stage.  I already pointed out his solid .333 postseason average.  But, there were bumps along the way.  He started off 0-for-10 with six strikeouts through two games of the NLCS.  When he did start to hit, he infuriated the Cardinals with his antics on the bases in celebration.  Then there was his bad overthrows in the Game 6 blowout. 

Bottom line is that you have to take the good with the bad with him, and hope there's more good.  There was a lot of good against the Braves, but not so much with a World Series berth on the line.

4. Streaky offense.  Just look at my numbers from above about the runs averaged per round.  When you get to the NLCS and fall over four runs shy per game than the previous round, all the pitching in the world probably won't get you the wins needed to advance.  That's exactly what happened.

5. Ricky Nolasco fading.  In 10 games, Nolasco only made one start, which was Game 4 of the NLCS.  With the Dodgers trailing in the series 2-1, he lasted only four innings and gave up three runs, taking the loss.  He wasn't awful, but certainly wasn't good either.

He was lined up to start Game 4 of the NLDS, but Mattingly went with Kershaw on three days' rest instead.  That move ended up working, but who knows if Kershaw felt some long-term effects from that.  Maybe he had a dead arm in the last start?  Nobody knows for sure, and he's definitely not telling anyone if he was less than 100%.  It's just a shame that after such a fantastic start, Nolasco faded so badly that the rotation in the playoffs was thrown a bit out of whack.

According to agent, Mattingly will be back

Whether it be for one year or beyond, the agent for Don Mattingly, Ray Schulte, said his client will indeed be back for the 2014 season.

Now it's up to the Dodgers to decide if Donnie Baseball will get his wish and not be a "lame-duck" manager with a one-year contract.

This news is a bit surprising to me, as the joint press conference Mattingly held with Ned Colletti on Monday sure seemed to suggest that both sides would split.  Maybe a couple of days off has led to cooler heads, so a solution should come soon.

The Dodgers have said that no decision will be announced until after that World Series.  That may be because Bug Selig prefers to hold off on such announcements so the attention isn't shifted away from the Fall Classic.  Remember when news leaked a few years ago that Alex Rodriguez was opting out of his Yankees' contract (only to sign that horrible 10-year deal with them soon after) during the Series?  That was awful timing.

I'm hoping there's a good solution to this, as Mattingly deserves more time in LA after leading the Dodgers to an NL West title and a trip to the NLCS.  Plus, he did it without Matt Kemp for much of the season, along with the long list of other injuries he's had to get through from stars like Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Puig and Ryu named to Baseball America's All-Rookie team

Congratulations goes out to Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu for being named to Baseball America's All-Rookie team on Tuesday.  The only other teams with multiple players chosen were the Cardinals (Matt Adams, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal) and the Braves (Evan Gattis, Julio Teheran).

Puig joins Wil Myers and A.J. Pollack in the outfield.  He was called up on June 3, and proceeded to hit .319 with 19 homers, 42 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases.  There's no doubt that his style of play was a big factor in turning a dreadful Dodgers' season around, which lasted until Game 6 of the NLCS.  Plus, his cannon arm in right field made runners think twice about advancing an extra base, no matter where they were.

In addition to the Cardinals and Braves pitchers, Ryu is joined by Garrit Cole and Jose Fernandez (who took home the site's Rookie of the Year award).  His 192 innings were the most for any rookie.  He finished the season 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 154 K's.  Control and off speed pitchers were the key to his success, which proved to be a great change of pace from more powerful pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

The official Rookie of the Year award by the BBWAA will come on November 11.  Do either Puig or Ryu have a chance of winning the top award?  For quite awhile I would've said yes to Puig, but probably not anymore.  It's a combination of Puig cooling off a bit towards the season's end, his not-so-great relationship with opposing players and the media, and Fernandez's scorching hot close to the season which most likely favors the Marlins' ace.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Doubts surround Mattingly's possible return

Judging by today's joint press conference with Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly, something seems pretty obvious: Mattingly will only return with a multi-year contract, and nothing less. 

Will he get what he wants?  The jury is still out on that.

In what was probably a surprise to most people, his 2014 option has already vested (or, became permanent) after beating the Braves in the NLDS.  Even with that, it's not a slam dunk that Mattingly will use that to return on what is basically a one-year deal.  In fact, that appears unlikely.

Mattingly contests that a one-year deal basically gives him the dreaded "lame-duck" status, something his old boss Joe Torre desperately tried to avoid in his Yankee days.  It's understandable given the intricacies of running a big league clubhouse.

Still, given the tone of his delivery, I'm not at all convinced that this thing will get figured out.  Even with a run that lasted until Game 6 of the NLCS, fair or not, Mattingly's decision making was a subject of scrutiny all season long.  Will that be enough to chase him out the door?  It could be.

Maybe all of this talk is just what both sides need to hear to clear the air, and Mattingly will ink another three or four-year contract this week.  Maybe it's his final words in Dodger blue, and he'll take over a club like the Nationals or Tigers with the retirements of Davey Johnson and Jim Leyland, respectively.  Maybe he'll be out of baseball for the 2014 season.

Colletti said this week will be spent evaluating Mattingly, the coaching staff, and player evaluations for next season.  So, we should soon find out if Donnie Baseball is locked in with the Dodgers for the foreseeable future.

Dodgers continue international splash by signing Guerrero

Just three days after being ousted in the NLCS by the Cardinals, the Dodgers are already back to work in upgrading their club.

In what has been rumored for most of the season, the Dodgers officially signed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million deal today.  Based on plate appearances, that total could get bumped up $1 million per season, topping out at $32 million. 

While it's very early to project just how good of a player Guerrero will end up being, it looks like a good signing on a few different levels.  For starters, as we saw in the NLCS, the Dodgers really need to find ways to improve their offense up and down the lineup.  While a healthy Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez obviously make a big difference, the book on Guerrero is that he has plenty of power and speed on the bases.  So, if he pans out, that's a huge plus.

It also means that the days of Mark Ellis being the full-time starter would appear to be over.  I'm not saying that he has no value, because if you watch the amount of games that I do, you have to respect how hard he works in the field and at the plate.  But, the bottom line is that in 126 games this season, he hit .270 with 6 homers, 48 RBIs, and 4 stolen bases, which are not exactly eye-popping numbers.

What Ellis did have was a great glove, as his .989 fielding % ranked eighth in all of baseball at second base.  He only committed six errors all season in 533 total chances.  And we all know that in the National League, having a great defense is big if you want to win, so while Guerrero has been described as having a good glove, he'll have to prove it.

The last reason this will probably turn out to be a good signing has to do with a guy not even on the Dodgers, and that's Robinson Cano.  Magic Johnson alluded to not signing Cano towards the end of the season, but with management's reputation for throwing a whole lot of bucks at the big names, it was hard to believe the door was closed.  Now I think the door might only be open a slight crack, if at all.

It's hard to blame Ned Colletti for being aggressive in the international market based on the success of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasiel Puig this season.  Plus, we all know of the strong history of international players in Dodger history, from guys like Fernando Valenzuela, Hideo Nomo, and Chan Ho Park.  It's worked before, and it can work again.  Guerrero can make that happen.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

In the end, Dodgers never could overcome Ramirez getting plunked

Even though the Dodgers lasted until Game 6 of the NLCS, the turning point occurred in the third batter of Game 1.

That's when Hanley Ramirez was beaned in the ribs by a Joe Kelly fastball.  Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig struck out after that, and the Dodgers never were the same.

From there, Ramirez was practically in a no-win situation.  If he sits out, people question if his mere presence is enough for the Dodgers to boost their chances of winning.  If he plays, he's so banged up that he's essentially a singles hitter in the #3 spot.  In other words, he's another version of Andre Ethier.

The numbers for HanRam this season are very telling.  Let's break it down between regular season, NLDS, and NLCS.

Regular Season
.345 AVG, .402 OBP, 25 2B, 2 3B, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 10 SB

.500 AVG, .556 OBP, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB

.133 AVG, .316 OBP, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB

No surprise there.

Ramirez has played the entire season with some sort of injury, including his thumb, hamstring, back, and then his ribs.  The fact that he was still able to put up such great numbers shows the talent he has.

But a broken rib is a broken rib, and any athlete would have a hard time playing through that.  Add in the fact that he's a baseball player, and his ribs feel the pain each time he swings a bat and makes a throw, I don't think his 2-for-15 performance against the Cardinals is shocking at all.

The beaning also affected him on defense, as he was clearly reluctant, and possibly not even able to, dive for some hard grounders in his area.  Who knows if he would've gotten to them anyway, but the Cardinals were able to knock Clayton Kershaw out of Game 6 early because of those hits, so his lack of range on those didn't help.

It's not fair to pin the entire series loss on just Ramirez getting hit, as plenty of other guys didn't step up when they were needed the most.  But as the saying goes, Ramirez was "the straw that stirred the drink," and without his production, everybody else suffered as a result.  He couldn't hit like his normal self, and the Dodgers averaged 2.2 runs per game.

That's what ultimately did them in.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dodgers rocked, season ends in blowout Game 6 loss

Clayton Kershaw on the mound.  Hanley Ramirez a late addition to the lineup.  Some momentum after winning Game 5 with four home runs a couple of days before.

None of it mattered.

The Cardinals scored four in the third and five in the fifth, and the Dodgers had two hits the entire game in getting absolutely creamed, 9-0.  That's it for this season, as the Dodgers deepest run since 1988 ended with a 4-2 series loss.

A sign of bad things to come happened in the first.  Carl Crawford legged out an infield single to short, but was quickly erased on a double play ball from Mark Ellis, who was pretty bad all around in this one.  Kershaw gave up a one-out double to Carlos Beltran, but nothing came of it.

Kershaw again wiggled out of trouble in the second when Shane Robinson hit a two-out single, then went ahead to third on two straight wild pitches.  Again, Kershaw got out of trouble by striking out Peter Kozma.

The third inning?  No such luck.  The season was essentially lost here, as the Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate, a completely shocking sight against someone of Kershaw's caliber.  A double by Matt Carpenter with two outs led to an RBI single from Beltran for the 1-0 lead.

What's probably forgotten is that Matt Holliday struck out to make two down.  Six batters came to the plate afterwards, as Yadier Molina started it on an RBI single up the middle.  Kershaw didn't get the outside corner on a full count to Matt Adams, as home plate umpire Greg Gibson was squeezing him for whatever reason.  Oh, I know the reason... the game was in St. Louis.  Robinson's two-run single with the bases loaded made it 4-0.

Chances were slim, but at least Crawford led off the fourth with a walk against the red hot Michael Wacha.  Three straight popups came next, as the bats were just pitiful all night long.

In the fifth, Kershaw was KO'd.  An RBI double from Adams is what finally did him in.  Ronald Belisario came in, and with the bases loaded, Wacha's grounder to Ellis at second was inexplicably thrown home late, making it 6-0.

A sacrifice fly from Carpenter, a wild pitch by J.P. Howell, and a single by Beltran scored the other runs, as the Cardinals completely ran away with this one at 9-0.

The last hit of the game for the Dodgers came in the sixth, as A.J. Ellis doubled leading off.  Shocker of shocks, he was stranded right there.

It's a shame this game turned out to be such a trainwreck, as it was obviously not a reflection for the type of season the Dodgers put together.  They came such a long way from being in last place in June, had the 42-8 run, won the NL West, beat the Braves in the NLDS, then couldn't come through when most needed in the NLCS.

As you can see, there were many positives, but Game 6 was anything but that.  Kershaw lasted only four innings for 10 hits, seven runs, two walks, and five strikeouts.  He couldn't locate his fastball well, and they took advantage of it.  What also didn't help was a small strike zone by Gibson, and even though that ultimately didn't matter because of the offense, it still affected him enough to throw him off his game.  And that's the truth.

Two things that I knew had to happen if the Dodgers wanted to win coming into this game: the offense had to give some support, and Beltran couldn't do the damage.  Um... no check and no check.  Adrian Gonzalez, Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, and Juan Uribe combined to go 0-for-15 hitting in the 3-7 spots.  Wow, I knew they were bad during the game, but it didn't hit me just how bad until I just looked at the box score.

A lot of Cardinals did damage, but it started with Beltran.  He went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.  That's something I'll never understand about this series, the way the Dodgers stubbornly gave him pitches to hit, and he certainly did.  He's so good in the postseason, yet in the first and last game, he was so big in leading his team to wins.  I'm still shaking my head.

Now the offseason is upon us, and with that, some question marks that come with it.  Will Don Mattingly be brought back?  Will Kershaw sign a massive extension?  Will the front office bring in another star like Robinson Cano?  Will recovering arms like Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett be ready to go for next year?  We will soon find out.


On a personal note, this has been my sixth year covering the action day in and day out on this blog.  This season has been the most fun, and craziest for that matter, and I've enjoyed every second of it.  Stay tuned for a season review, plus for all the news that comes in the Hot Stove season.  Thanks again!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hanley Ramirez out for Game 6

A tough blow for the Dodgers - Hanley Ramirez will not be in the starting lineup for Game 6 in St. Louis.  It'll be Nick Punto playing short instead and hitting eighth.


Nothing against Punto, but he obviously doesn't have nearly the impact bat that Ramirez has.  I don't think anyone does.  As we saw in the NLDS against the Braves, even a banged up Ramirez can carry a team, hitting .500.  After getting beaned in the ribs in Game 1, he's just not the same player, hitting only .167.  For once he's just not able to overcome all of the injuries.

Don Mattingly has set his lineup, and it'll feature Adrian Gonzalez hitting third, Yasiel Puig in the cleanup spot, and Andre Ethier hitting fifth.  I like this move because Puig should hit in front of Ethier, as I stated on a post yesterday.  If there's two outs in the ninth and the #4 spot up, I'd much rather see Puig than Ethier.

If you're Clayton Kershaw, you feel a lot more pressure to put up blanks now.  He's definitely up to the task, but hopefully he doesn't have to be perfect to win.  Tonight is a game where it would be great to see someone like Juan Uribe drive in runs to get to Saturday night.

One other factor that may help the Dodgers is the weather.  As of now, there's possible rain in the forecast around 9 p.m.  It'll also be in the 40s, so bundle up!  A rainout will only help get Ramirez back in the lineup, so maybe Mother Nature will assist them a bit.

To win in St. Louis, Dodgers can't mess with Beltran

As we near the finish line in the NLCS, the Dodgers face a tall task in winning two straight in St. Louis.  The first two games saw Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw pitch... and two straight loses.  So, it's obviously not an easy thing to do.

What the Dodgers did do right, however, was win two of three at home, so here we are back in Missouri for Game 6.  Kershaw takes the mound on Friday, and if all goes right, Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 7.

How can the Dodgers pull this thing off?  One thing if very clear: don't let Carlos Beltran do the damage.

Here's what people probably don't realize: Beltran is hitting only .200 this postseason, and a measly .176 against the Dodgers.  So, he's basically been held in check.

But, it's hard to forget the Dodgers stubbornly pitching to him with bases open in Game 1.  With two on and two out in third, he hit a two-run double off of Greinke.  In the 13th with two on and one down, Kenley Jansen pitched to him and watched the game end on a single.  Three RBIs for Beltran, 3-2 win for the Cardinals.  Not exactly the smartest night in Dodger organizational history.

Since then he's only had one hit, an RBI triple in Game 5.  What the Dodgers have smartly done is walk him instead of challenge him, with five in total.  I don't care how good of a pitching staff they have, this guy is one of the best hitters in postseason history, and shouldn't be messed with.

With that in mind, Kershaw would be wise tonight to pick and choose his battles.  If the bases are empty, go after him (at least somewhat).  If runners are on and a base is open, don't give him anything to hit.  There's no reason to risk leaving something over the plate to hammer, because he will.  He's that good.

When the NLCS is all over with, win or lose, the Dodgers need to make sure they had the best gameplan they could to win.  Pitching to a guy who's capable of carrying a team himself is not the way to get it done.  Making the other guys around him get the big hits is.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

For Game 6, Mattingly should swap Puig and Ethier

As the Dodgers get ready for Game 6 in St. Louis, Don Mattingly stated today that he fully expects Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez to be in the lineup.  There's more confidence in Ethier than there is in Ramirez, and understandably so considering everything hurts for Ramirez right now.  But, with a couple of days off between the last pitch of Game 5 and the first pitch of Game 6, hopefully he'll be in better shape.

With that said, if I was Mattingly, I would make one lineup adjustment: hit Yasiel Puig in the #5 spot, swapping spots with Ethier, who would move to #6.

There's a few reasons for this.  One, Ethier is 3-for-17 in this series (.176 AVG).  I don't care if the Cardinals have right-handed Michael Wacha as the starter, Mattingly can't keep overvaluing what side of the mound the pitcher delivers from.  Right now Ethier is a singles hitter and nothing more.  It doesn't matter if the pitcher is right of left-handed, he's still pretty bad.

The second reason ties into the first one, in that Puig is a much better option to drive in runs from the middle of the order.  He was as bad as they came in the first two games, but after putting up an 0-for-10 spot, he's since gone 5-for-9 with a triple and two RBIs.  Give him a chance to get an extra-base hit against a really good pitcher.

The last reason has to do with Ramirez.  The last two games he's had to leave early because of his fractured ribs, to go along with various other ailments.  He even missed all of Game 2.  Say he needs to leave early in Game 6 as well and Nick Punto has to take his spot in the #3 hole.  Then say the Dodgers are down by at least one in the ninth.  Whom would you rather have up with two outs: Puig or Ethier?  I don't care how many strikeouts Puig gets, one swing from him can make a heck of a lot more difference than Ethier.

Mattingly has used basically the same lineup during both rounds in the playoffs, with the only real difference where Puig has hit.  As the Tigers and Red Sox have shown, making some changes can be a positive thing.  Make the heart of the order Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Puig, and that strikes much more fear in the Cardinals than Ethier hitting behind A-Gon.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A-Gon powers Dodgers to deepest run since '88

The old mantra "One game at a time" never rang so true than for these Dodgers.  Needing to win three straight games to fight off elimination, they put their best foot forward on Wednesday afternoon.  The result was an offense that found a spark, and a trip back to the Midwest.

Powered by two homers from Adrian Gonzalez, plus solo shots from Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis, the Dodgers took down the Cardinals, 6-4.  The Cardinals are still in control of these series at 3-2, as the setting will shift back to Busch Stadium.

Both teams have been plagued by poor hitting throughout the series, but more so for the Dodgers, who seemed to make failing in the clutch a new hobby.  In Game 4, they hit into three double plays and had a guy picked off of second in the late innings.  Not exactly the recipe for how to win in the postseason.

What the Dodgers have been able to count on has been their pitching, but right away, Zack Greinke found himself in a whole lot of trouble.  Matt Carpenter led off with a single, Carlos Beltran walked, and Matt Holliday singled to load the bases with nobody out.

How did Greinke respond?  Beautifully.  He struck out Matt Adams swinging, then got Yadier Molina to ground to Juan Uribe at third, who turned the easy 5-3 double play.  As announcer Ron Darling correctly pointed out, sometimes pitchers provide a spark by striking out the side, but this time it was by wiggling out of a bases loaded, nobody out jam.

The offense went down in order in the first, but got going in the second.  It started on a single by Adrian Gonzalez, who was awesome on both sides of the field.  Andre Ethier flew out (no surprise there), but Yasiel Puig's single to right put two on.  Uribe's RBI single up the middle made it 1-0.

After A.J. Ellis fouled out, Greinke pulled the old "help himself out" thing by sneaking an RBI single to left, and it was 2-0.

If you found the score and situation to be eerily similar to Game 1, then you would be right, because it was.  Just like the first game, Greinke came right back to the mound with a 2-0 lead and faced Joe Kelly.  Unlike last time, Kelly grounded back to the mound, and Greinke was ready to put up a zero, right?

Wrong.  Four straight hits came next, and it started on another single by Carpenter.  Beltran smacked an RBI triple off the very top of the centerfield wall, making it 2-1.  Then came the second run on a double by Holliday, and it was a new game.  Thankfully Molina grounded into another double play to end the threat.

When this happened in Game 1, the Dodgers failed to score the entire rest of the night, which went 13 innings.  This time, Gonzalez made sure to erase the bad memory of a double play grounded into by Hanley Ramirez, as A-Gon's 450-foot monster shot to right made it 3-2.

From there, simply put, Greinke was fantastic.  He retired the side in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh.  Add it all up, and he put down the final 13 batters he faced for a final line of seven innings, six hits, two runs, one walk, and four strikeouts.  In three postseason starts, his ERA is a healthy 2.40.

The Dodgers kept adding to their lead with the longball.  Yes, really!  Crawford demolished one into right in the fifth to go up 4-2.  In the seventh, it was Ellis's turn, hitting one out to left to make it 5-2.  And just for fun, Gonzo hit one more in the seventh to give Kenley Jansen a 6-2 lead.

Jansen's ninth was interesting, to say the least.  I wouldn't say the Cardinals pounded him, but little hits here and there made the home crowd much more nervous than they thought it would.  And the guy typing this! 

It all started on a double by Holliday, who had a good day with three hits and two doubles.  Adams made it 6-3 on an RBI single.  As good as Holliday was, Molina was not, as he struck out for one down, putting him at two K's and two DP's on a dreadful day at the plate.  Jon Jay singled, but David Freese struck out on some high cheese.

When light hitting Peter Kozma came up, it looked like game over.  Only it wasn't.  He hit an RBI single, and it was 6-4.  At this point Jansen had already given up more hits in one inning than he did all season (four), but everyone exhaled when he struck out Adron Chambers to end the game.

Guess what?  Jansen still struck out the side, giving him 10 in 4 1/3 playoff innings.

So here the Dodgers find themselves on their longest run since that famous 1988 championship season.  They've made the NLCS a couple of other times, but lost in five games to the Phillies in both 2008 and 2009.  At least they got over the dreaded Game 5 hump.  You have to start somewhere.

What's working for the Dodgers is that they get a day off to rest Ramirez, who left again in the seventh for Nick Punto.  Actually, because of the day game on the West Coast, it'll end up being just over two full days off, which can only help him get back on track after injuries have slowed him down to .167 in the NLCS.

Oh ya, there's that Clayton Kershaw guy getting the ball in Game 6 as well.  It's hard not to be excited about their chances, even on the road.

The pressure is still on the Dodgers, as they're the ones in a do-or-die situation on Friday.  But suppose they get the win, then what?  Definitely, the pressure shifts to the home team, as the Cardinals would be looking at two straight years of blowing 3-1 series leads.  No team has ever done that in MLB history...

...or in the NBA or NHL as well.

Dodgers a step behind in falling to 3-1 hole

On a night where the Dodgers celebrated the 25-year anniversary of Kirk Gibson's dramatic home run in the 1988 World Series, and where they grabbed back momentum from a big 3-0 win the previous night, they were looking to even up the NLCS.

Then they went out and laid an egg.

One miscue after another was too much for the Dodgers to overcome, and a mammoth 423-foot two-run shot by Matt Holliday put the Cardinals in control for an eventual win, 4-2.  The Cardinals are up 3-1 in this series, with the Dodgers getting one last game at home on Wednesday afternoon with Game 1 starters Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly taking the hill.

If the Dodgers were looking for a positive sign from Ricky Nolasco, then they got it with a great first inning including two popups in foul territory and a grounder to first.  Then he got through the second with only a walk and a couple strikeouts.  Too bad this positivity didn't last.

The start of the frustration for the Dodgers began in the second, when they couldn't capitalize with the bases loaded.  Andre Ethier singled, Yasiel Puig walked (yes, walked), and A.J. Ellis walked with two outs.  The problem was that this meant Nolasco was up next, and Lance Lynn easily struck him out.

Sure enough, the Cardinals made the Dodgers pay in the third.  Daniel Descalsco singled leading off, and Lynn sacrificed him over to second on a great bunt.  The ice cold Matt Carpenter hit an RBI double to left center for the 1-0 lead.  Carlos Beltran grounded out for two down.

Had Nolasco kept the deficit at only one run, then things would've been fine.  But, Holliday took a flat inside fastball and just unloaded on a two-run bomb to left, going up 3-0.  You had a feeling that that could be a dagger.

The only time the Dodgers managed to get runners not only on but in was in the fourth.  It started when Adrian "Mickey Mouse" Gonzalez doubled to right.  Ethier then walked, which set up an RBI single up the middle from Puig to make it 3-1.  Juan Uribe flied out to deep right, which advanced Ethier to third, and Ellis's RBI single made it 3-2.

Don Mattingly then called upon Skip Schumaker to hit for Nolasco in the big spot, even this early in the game.  It didn't work.  Schumaker bounced into an easy double play to end the inning.  Looking back, having Nolasco lay down the sacrifice bunt would've been better, or maybe calling on Scott Van Slyke to swing for the fences and at least getting a sacrifice fly.

Chris Withrow pitched the fifth and sixth, and the bottom line is that he didn't give up a run.  It wasn't pretty, as he had three walks and a balk.  Even Ellis got nailed for catcher's interference.  A double play from David Freese ended the sixth.

The double play ball struck again in the sixth, as Uribe grounded into one to the end inning, wasting Puig's one-out single.

The most unlikely sight took place in the seventh, as the Cardinals added a solo home from Shane Robinson on a ball that bounced off the top of the wall in left and into the crowd.  How unlikely was it?  Robinson has five home runs in 342 career at-bats, and then this happened.  Unbelievable.

Nick Punto took over for a clearly hurting Hanley Ramirez to start the seventh, and in his first at-bat, doubled with an out in the bottom of the inning.  That was great, right?  Well, it was until he was picked off of second in a truly pitiful sight.  It wasn't even close.

Nothing happened for the Dodgers in the eighth, but Ethier greeted closer Trevor Rosenthal with a single in the ninth.  Puig came up next, already looking like a new man after a disastrous first two games.  Here, though, he hit into... you guessed it, a double freakin' play.  Uribe struck out to end it.

There are quite a few ways the Dodgers could've at least tied the game, but time and time again, they came up short.  Nolasco was a bit of a mixed bag, as he certainly wasn't awful, but not very good either.  He lasted four innings for three hits, three runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

The middle relief only gave up one run in five innings, even if it was a bumpy ride along the way.  J.P. Howell was the one who gave up the homer to the weak-hitting Robinson, not that it mattered in the end since the Cardinals had enough of a lead anyway.  Carlos Marmol saw his first playoff action by getting five outs and only allowing one walk, striking out three.

So while the pitching ranged from decent to good, the offense was terrible again.  They simply are not doing what it takes to win games at this level.  They gathered eight hits, which is actually two more than the Cardinals.  But, they grounded into three double plays, which were just killer.  Schumaker's and Uribe's both ended innings, and Puig's came in the ninth.

What's even more interesting is that the Cardinals are hitting .148 this series, yet are in full control.  The Dodgers aren't much better at .223, so it's safe to say both teams have been pretty bad at the plate.  Yet, when the big play has to be made, there's the Cardinals executing, and the Dodgers not.

All the Dodgers can now ask for is to win three straight games, which they're certainly capable of doing.  If Mattingly was given the choice of lining up his three best pitchers for a situation like this, he would definitely choose Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  That's who we'll see as they desperately try to stay alive.

A win on Wednesday would also start to put some doubt in the Cardinals' heads about blowing a 3-1 lead to the Giants last year.  But if that's ever going to happen, the offense has got to score more than the 1.8 runs they've averaged through four games.  If they can't support their pitchers, then the season will be over.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dodgers ride Ryu to Game 3 victory

The Dodgers got everything they could've hoped for out of Game 3 of the NLCS: a resurgent Hyun-Jin Ryu, a returning Hanley Ramirez, and an offense that finally got some clutch hits.

Add it all up, and it's a 3-0 victory for the Dodgers, who are now down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.  Game 4 will be Tuesday night in Dodger Stadium.

The odds were certainly stacked against the Dodgers for a variety of reasons, but none bigger than having to go through Cardinals' ace Adam Wainwright, who went the distance in finish off the Pirates in the do-or-die Game 5 of the NLDS.  Throw in an anemic offense that went 22 innings between scoring, and Ryu not even lasting into the fourth his last start, and winning would be tough.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, Ryu more than brought his stuff.  He walked Carlos Beltran on a full count in the first, then proceeded to retire the next 11 in a row.  His location and velocity were a complete 180 degree turn from a week ago against the Braves.

The Dodgers were also being held in check before mercifully breaking through in the fourth.  It started on a "double" to right center by Mark Ellis, though in fairness, it should've never happened if John Jay or Carlos Beltran even bothered to take control.  Nonetheless, it was a break the Dodgers happily took.

Ramirez, who hit a bloop single in his first at-bat, flew out to right, advancing Ellis to third.  Adrian Gonzalez then lined an RBI double to right, and it was 1-0.  A groundout by Andre Ethier advanced Gonzo to third with two outs.  The much maligned Yasiel Puig finally got a hit, and a big one at that, as his RBI triple made it 2-0.  He certainly thought it was a home run when he first made contact, raised his arms in triumph, realized it wasn't, and still got to third.  Unreal.

Ryu didn't give up a hit through four, but David Freese and Matt Adams greeted him with singles to start the fifth.  Freese then had to be lifted for a pinch-runner, as he strained his calf during the at-bat.  That runner turned out to be Daniel Descalso, who inexplicably ran way too far on a soft lineout to Crawford in left, causing him to be doubled up.  A fielder's choice by Peter Kozma ended what would be the final true threat of the night for the Cards.

Brian Wilson relieved Ryu in the eighth, and after a single up the middle by Jay, nothing else came of it.  That's now five scoreless postseason appearances for Wilson without allowing a run, as he also picked up his first hold.

The bottom of the eighth brought another insurance run thanks to some gutsy baserunning.  Crawford and Ellis both singled with an out.  Ramirez blooped another single into center, and Crawford aggressively ran home and just beat the tag of Yadier Molina on a close, but correct, call.

Kenley Jansen mowed through the heart of the Cardinals' order, getting Molina to ground to short to end it for his second postseason save.

The Cardinals are still the team in control of this series, but visions of last year's collapse could be dancing through their heads.  If you recall, they flat out blew a 3-1 series lead against the Giants, who ended up sweeping the Tigers in the World Series.  Maybe yes, maybe no, but it's natural to at least somewhat think about it.

Ryu was signed this past offseason for starts like this, as injuries to Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett meant he was the true #3 starter.  He lasted lasted seven innings for three hits, no runs, one walk, and four strikeouts.  Like I said before, his location was fantastic, and the Cardinals never could find any rhythm against him.

The story of the game for the Cardinals was all of their mental mistakes on both sides of the field.  As pointed out by the TBS guys on the postgame show, Mike Matheny looked seething angry in his press conference, and with good reason.  Two balls that landed in the outfield were costly, especially the one from Ellis that started the rally in the fourth.  Then Descalso getting doubled up in the fifth, which was pathetic, quite frankly.

With the win, Don Mattingly can give the ball to Ricky Nolasco with much more breathing room than being down 3-0.  Win or lose, he has to like his chances with Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Ryu slated to go in Game 5, 6, and 7, respectively.

Or, Mattingly can throw everything out of whack by pushing Greinke on short rest, just like Kershaw last round.  I doubt it will happen, but you never know...

For now, we'll say it's Nolasco starting Tuesday night against Lance Lynn, who pitched the final two innings of the Cardinals' 3-2 win in 13 innings in Game 1.  Nolasco hasn't pitched since tossing an inning of relief in the last regular season game on September 29, and hasn't started since getting pounded by the Giants on September 25.  If anything, he's well-rested.