Sunday, February 24, 2013

Kershaw gives up two, and should be cut

Kidding, of course.  Just wanted to see if y'all are paying attention to a Spring Training post.

Nonetheless, the Cactus League opener didn't exactly go as planned for the Dodgers, as they were whipped by their Camelback Ranch partners the White Sox, 9-0.  Both teams go at it again on Sunday.

Kershaw pitched the opening two innings, surrendering two runs on four hits, striking out three.  He was done in by RBI doubles from Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham in innings one and two, respectively.

Ronald Belisario followed that up by also giving up a couple, as he loaded the bases with nobody out in the third before Dayan Viciedo stroked a two-run single, making it 4-0.  The White Sox added more runs here and there, with Kelvin De La Cruz and Gregory Infante each giving up two as well.

On the flip side, the offensive fun was not shared by the Dodgers, as they gathered three hits the whole day.  Here's the kicker - Juan Freakin' Uribe got the first hit of the season with a single.  Oh, the irony!  Andre Ethier tripled later in the game.

Obviously these games mean a big pile of nothing, and with Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford still working their way back into shape, it'll be awhile before we see anything close to a regular lineup.  Here's to hoping it happens sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

2013 Dodgers fantasy rankings

Football is over, the NBA season is over (if you're a Lakers' fan like me), and pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training.  And with all of that, the return of fantasy baseball is on the horizon.

The following is a list of rankings from two major sites (ESPN and MLB) for players from the Dodgers, along with my thoughts.  Each ranking is based on the specific position, not overall.

AJ Ellis, Catcher
ESPN - 22
MLB - 17
Thoughts? Ellis was a solid hitter in the first half of last season, but clearly wore down after that.  With a season under his belt, perhaps he'll be a little stronger over the long haul to put up decent numbers.

Adrian Gonzalez, First Base
ESPN - 7
MLB - 6
Thoughts?  There's obvious concerns that he's slowing down, as he failed to put up much of any power numbers with the Dodgers after the trade from Boston.  But he's clearly the man in the heart of the order, so opportunities will be there.

Mark Ellis, Second Base
ESPN - 27
MLB - 32
Thougths?  A good player on the field, but that doesn't really translate into fantasyland. 

Hanley Ramirez, Shortstop
ESPN - 2
MLB - 2
Thoughts?  This could be more of a reflection of not much competition beside him.  Like Gonzalez, there's concerns that his best days are behind him.  If he can turn it around, he can hit for power and run, which is coveted in the fantasy world.  One big bonus is that he ranks highly at third base, too (5 and 4).

Luis Cruz, Third Base
ESPN - unranked
MLB - 33
Thoughts?  Has shown pop, now needs to show he's not a flash in the pan.  Will be given the opportunity to stay on the field, though.

Carl Crawford, Outfield
ESPN - 41 
MLB - 33
Thougths?  It all comes down to the elbow injury.  If healthy, he can run and score lots of runs.  If not, it could be a long season.

Matt Kemp, Outfield
ESPN - 4
MLB - 3
Thoughts?  The last time he stayed healthy for a full season, he was clearly the top player in baseball with unbelievable numbers.  Let's hope the shoulder is healed so he can show it again.

Andre Ethier, Outfield
ESPN - 42
MLB - 37
Thoughts?  A solid, but not spectacular hitter.  Can get hits, but not much in the line of consistent power.

Clayton Kershaw, Starting Pitcher
ESPN - 2
MLB - 2
Thoughts?  Damn you, Justin Verlander!  But seriously, to be ranked right behind that guy is no shame at all.

Zack Greinke, Starting Pitcher
ESPN - 10
MLB - 10
Thoughts?  Could be an adjustment period, but should settle in quite nicely in Dodger Stadium and the NL West as the season progresses.

Josh Beckett, Starting Pitcher
ESPN - 66
MLB - 46
Thoughts?  I think he can rank much higher than this, as he was undoubtedly a better pitcher once he came to LA.  I'm looking forward to a full season in Dodger blue from him.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Starting Pitcher
ESPN - unranked
MLB - 90
Thoughts?  He's understandably an unknown at this point.  I expect him to earn a spot in the rotation, and have success as well.

Chad Billingsley, Starting Pitcher
ESPN - 75
MLB - 83
Thoughts?  Like some others, it all comes down to health.  He's a concern when even slightly hurt, as he's as inconsistent from one inning to the next as they come.

Chris Capuano, Starting Pitcher
ESPN - 69
MLB - 47
Thoughts?  It's hard to know right now if he'll even be a starter, so drafting him is risky.  Wore down in the second half of last season, but with a fresh arm, was a very good starter.

Kenley Jansen, Relief Pitcher
ESPN - 25
MLB - 39
Thoughts?  Much like last year when he was right behind Javy Guerra, his ranking is based on the belief that he'll soon be closing again.  Can't argue with his numbers, but without the save opportunities, owners will either have to be very patient or shy away completely.

Brandon League, Relief Pitcher
ESPN - 32
MLB - 29
Thoughts?  He's being paid to close, and did very well in September of last year once he adjusted after the trade from Seattle.  Has the experience of closing, so it could work.  If he has a slump, however, it's Jansen time.

Monday, February 18, 2013

ESPN ranks Kershaw and Grienke as the top pitching duo

Using some very fancy advanced metrics (which I will freely admit can often times be way over my head), Paul Swydan of ESPN has ranked Clayton Kershaw and Zack Grienke as the top starting duo in all of baseball.  (Note: link is for Insiders' members only).

Coming in right behind them are certainly some studs themselves: Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels of the Phillies, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer of the Tigers, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals, and Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson of the Angels.

There's no doubt that's an impressive list to top.  It's also a bit of a guess, as obviously we have yet to see Greinke pitch in LA.  He's pitched for that OTHER LA team, if you consider them as being from LA to begin with.  You get the point.

There's a chart at the bottom of the page that shows the projected WAR of each pair, as Kershaw and Greinke check in at 10.4.  To try to explain WAR for those of you not in the know, it stands for Wins Above Replacement, and basically shows how many more games a player would win for his team as opposed to a lesser player in the same spot.

We will soon find out how accurate such a list will be, but Dodger fans have to like their strong chances of winning every time these two guys toe the rubber.  ESPN apparently likes them as well.

The shock of shocks: Kershaw will go on Opening Day

Don Mattingly has already made his first "big" decision of the 2013 season.  And by "big," I mean incredibly easy. 

Clayton Kershaw will get his third consecutive start on Opening Day, going up against the world champion Giants at home April 1.  He becomes the first Dodger to do so since Derek Lowe pulled the trick from 2005-2007.  I don't recall those games going very well, and after some research, I'm right.  He went 0-3 with loses to the Giants, Braves, and Brewers.  Kershaw blanked the Giants 1-0 two years ago, and only lasted three innings of an eventual Dodgers' win over the Padres last year because of the flu.

Even with the acquisition of Zack Greinke, a former Cy Young Award winner with the Royals, there really was never any doubt that this is still Kersahw's team.  He's the guy who wants the ball in the big spots, and busts his butt to be the best in the world every fifth day.  Even Greinke can agree with that.

On a lesser note, Kershaw will also make the first start of the spring, as he takes on the White Sox on February 23.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Bills has that good feeling

Hopefully this image won't happen again

While the Dodgers have certainly made plenty of noise with their offseason spending spree, and more recently by announcing the launch of their own network, the injury bug remains a big question.  In addition to the health of Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, Chad Billingsley's tender elbow is an issue.

An issue that, according to the man himself, isn't one anymore.

In what should be considered good news (we hope), Billingsley recently was quoted as saying that he feels "absolutely great," as he was about to throw off the mound for the eighth time in the offseason on Friday night without any setbacks.

Considering that a partially torn elbow ligament usually requires the dreaded Tommy John surgery, this is great news... and equally scary as well.

For those of you who closely follow the Dodgers (and if you're not, what are you waiting for?), you should know that Bills hasn't exactly been honest about his health in the past.  Last season, he went through a tough stretch in the summer before admitting to Don Mattingly that his elbow wasn't right.  Some rest and relaxation did the trick, as he ran off six straight wins.

Of course, that was right before he was KO'd in August for good because of his creaky elbow.  So the optimism for him going into the offseason wasn't exactly sky-high.

Rather than going under the knife, Bills chose to rest and receive patelet-rich plasma injections (don't ask me what that means because it's way too high-tech for me).  It's encouraging that it seems to have been working, as he's been clocked as high as 94 mph back in October throwing simulated games.

The Dodgers already have plenty of starting pitching options.  Clayton Kershaw is the ace, with Zack Greinke right behind.  Then there's Josh Beckett and Hyun-jin Ryu, who are clearly established in the middle of the rotation.  After that it's Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang, and Chris Capuano.  There's been no movement on any of them yet, but it's hard to imagine all three staying with the Dodgers when the season starts.

The health of Billingsley will no doubt play a key role in the fate of the bottom three.  Lilly is coming off of shoulder surgery, as his 2012 was practically non-existent, so who knows how ready he'll even be.  Capuano has already undergone two TJ surgeries in the past, which means his left arm is always under some amount of pressure.  Harang has shown the ability to start or go in long relief.

Pitchers and catchers are less than 10 days away from reporting to Spring Training, and all eyes will be on Billingsley.  How he performs early in camp will go a long way in shaping the future of the pitching staff.