Thursday, July 31, 2014

It's tough to envision Kemp being traded now

Say what you want about Matt Kemp, but I'll give him this - he's left a hell of an impression on the Dodgers at the perfect time.

The last five games have been fantastic for Kemp, as pretty much any chatter about moving him at the Trade Deadline has all but disappeared.  Never say never, but what he has done is remind everyone just how impactful his bat can be when he's clicking.

Here's a look at his last five games:

7/25 @ SF: 3-for-5, 3B, 2 RBI
7/26 @ SF: 1-for-3, BB
7/27 vs. ATL: 2-for-3, BB
7/28 vs. ATL: 3-for-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI
7/29 vs. ATL: 3-for-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB

And just for good measure, his walk-off single in the 10th inning on Wednesday night gave the Dodgers a season-high five-game winning streak.  It also keeps them three up on the Giants in the NL West.

What exactly has caused this sudden power surge?  Who knows for sure, but I would think comfort being in right field combined with knowing he's etched in the starting lineup everyday can only help.  Don Mattingly has settled in on Yasiel Puig in center and Kemp in right, and I wouldn't expect that to change now.

The book on Kemp for most of this season was that his bat was slow in the zone.  In other words, if you throw him the hard stuff, he won't catch up to it.  Well, three homers in two days will only start to quiet those reports.

I remember last season when the Dodgers were cruising towards a playoff berth, I commented many times how they can really use Kemp's bat to put them over the top.  Unfortunately, that never happened thanks to his ankle injury he sustained in late July that eventually led to surgery.  Who knows if he would have been good enough to lift the Dodgers over the Cardinals, but they definitely could have used him at least.

As I said before, never say never when it comes to a trade.  Considering the fact that Kemp has raised his average 20 points the last five games, and that the Dodgers are winning and playing some inspired baseball of late, I think he can comfortably settle in without worry.

Now let's see if this is an aberration, or if Kemp really has turned things around and is ready to mash again.  Because if he is, that will be a lot of fun to watch.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Beckett's start on Tuesday could be a big one

With the Trade Deadline on Thursday and major names like David Price, Cole Hamels, and Jon Lester being linked to the Dodgers, I have to wonder if Josh Beckett is the key in all of this.

Think about it - if Beckett goes out on Tuesday night and lays an egg, are the Dodgers going to be confident that he's healthy and will turn things around?  Or will they look at their rotation as only three deep (granted a VERY deep three in Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu) and want to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade?

I think the timing is perfect for Ned Colletti, as he's probably watching Beckett more closely than ever tonight.  Don't forget that Beckett went on the DL around the All-Star break with a sore hip, which at the time was explained as more of a procedural move to get him a little extra rest.

Maybe that's true, but the flip side is that he came back in Pittsburgh on July 22 and was all over the place, giving up four runs, including three homers, in only 3 2/3 innings.  Not the most encouraging sign for the homestretch.

I'm not going so far to say that Beckett's start tonight is as cut and dry as if he does bad, they make a trade; if he does well, they don't.  Maybe Colletti already has something lined up for a guy like Lester, and Beckett's health is just a bonus.  Nobody knows right now, but we all will within the next couple of days.

We all know that the Dodgers are as active as any team every year at the end of July, so it will be very interesting to see what's in store.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Major rotation question marks with Beckett and Haren

The Dodgers lead the National League with a 3.22 ERA from the starting rotation, second only to the A's 3.18 for tops in baseball.  Yet it's the their back end of the rotation that is causing Ned Colletti to ponder his next move.

Josh Beckett wasn't very good in his return from the DL on Tuesday, getting hit around by the Pirates.  Despite that, Don Mattingly announced that Beckett will still be kept in the rotation for now, taking Beckett's word for it that he really is OK. 

Dan Haren is pitching like he's hurt, as he suffered yet another horrific outing on Wednesday.  He gave up four runs in the first to the Pirates as the Dodgers got smacked around 6-1.  If Haren was looking to instill some confidence in Mattingly, he certainly did not, as Mattingly refused to say after the game if he'd even make his next start.

Haren entered July with a 3.57 ERA and an 8-4 record.  Well, he's now at 8-8, and here's how his ERA has shot up by the game: 4.06, 4.23, 4.30, and 4.49.  Basically, he's not coming anywhere close to hitting his spots, and hitters are just sitting back and waiting for some fat pitches over the middle.  Haren, the great guy that he is, has more than obliged.

Today (Thursday) is an off day, then the Dodgers go to San Francisco for three.  After another off day the following Monday, they'll then play 20 consecutive days against the Braves, Cubs, Angels, Brewers, Braves again, and Brewers again.  Take away the Cubs, and there's not a break in that stretch.  They'll have to bring their "A" game just to survive.

One week from today is the official trade deadline, and you can bet Colletti is looking at his options.  The big dog remains David Price, but it will literally take a huge price just to get him.  Last year they brought in Ricky Nolasco and Edinson Volquez when they faced similar issues on the back end of the rotation, so a lesser-known player like those two could be the target.

You know what you're going to get from Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and that's a whole lot of innings with zero scoring.  At this point, what can they expect from a banged up Beckett and ineffective Haren?  That's the scary part.

I believe that Beckett's health will be the key in all of this.  His recent history is loaded with one injury after another, but when he's been healthy, he's been really good.  If he can get back into a groove and avoid anymore DL stints, then the rotation is legit four-deep in arms.  If not, then it accelerates the team's need for another starter.

Haren's days of starting, regardless of what Beckett does, appear to be numbered, and rightfully so.  He's just been awful, plain and simple.  There's no doubt he'll be the odd man out if another starter is brought in.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bullpen flaws front and center in Pittsburgh

Normally if the Dodgers score seven runs, they're going to win.  They have excellent starting pitching, and a closer with 29 saves.

The downside, however, is the back end of the bullpen.  And on Tuesday night, they showed just how shaky they are.

Josh Beckett didn't do much in his return from injury, but the trio of Paul Maholm, Jamey Wright, and Chris Perez did even worse in a 12-7 loss.  Heck, even Brandon League was bad giving up two hits in 2/3 an inning, but escaped from getting charged with a run.

The Dodgers actually had the deficit at only 8-7 entering the bottom of the eighth... and then Perez got the call.  That was already a mistake considering he entered the game with a 4.37 ERA.  He got the first out on a popup to short.

Then he walked Gregory Polanco.  And he walked Travis Snider.  And he walked Andrew McCutchen.  And to top it all off, he walked Neil Walker to force in a run.  The floodgates opened after that, as League gave up three runs that were all charged to Perez, and just like that it was 12-7.

It was an absolutely embarrassing, pathetic performance by Perez.  His ERA shot up nearly one full run to 5.35, and his WHIP is 1.42.  The guy literally walked four straight batters.  You would think he was imitating Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn early in the movie Major League, only this wasn't nearly as funny.  It was frustrating and sad.

As I tweeted out during the game, if I'm Ned Colletti, I'm releasing his sorry ass and recalling someone like Paco Rodriguez or Jose Dominguez.  Why not?  Those guys can't possibly be any worse.  The idea to bring the former closer Perez in was a good one, but it's clearly not working out.  Get rid of him!

The two long relievers, Maholm and Wright, didn't exactly do much to encourage confidence in their abilities either.  Maholm started off OK, getting four straight outs.  But with the game tied 4-4 in the sixth, he gave up consecutive leadoff singles to Russell Martin and Ike Davis.  Wright was brought in to clean up the mess, but instead made it was worse by giving up a two-run single to Polanco, an RBI single to Snider, and uncorking a wild pitch to score another, making it 8-4.

I've already stated plenty of times in the past how bad I think Maholm is, but Wright has certainly taken a turn for the worse as well.  After pitching a scoreless inning on June 29 against the Cardinals, his ERA was 2.11.  In his six appearances since then, he's given up 10 runs to raise it to 3.74.  I don't know if he's tired or what, but he's obviously not the same pitcher as he was early in the year.

Right now, the Dodgers have a good closer in Jansen who's improved his numbers over the course of the season.  J.P. Howell has been fantastic with a 1.30 ERA and 20 holds.  League still has a 2.01 ERA, even if he still doesn't pitch big innings.

After that... UGH.  That's about all I can say about some of these numbers.  Brian Wilson, Pedro Baez, and Perez all have ERA's above five.  The two long relievers aren't getting people out.  It's not like Don Mattingly can call on Jansen and Howell every night, and when he doesn't, the results aren't pretty.

Let's see what, if anything, Colletti and the Dodgers do about this.  Do they start to rev up the trade machine for bullpen help?  Do they call up some arms from the minors?  I would hope he does SOMETHING.  If he doesn't, then don't expect to see these numbers change much.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Show some fire, get a win

Good news on and off the field for the Dodgers on Monday.  Hyun-Jin Ryu went seven strong innings, the offense got some clutch hits, and Kenley Jansen earned his 29th save in a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh.  The win keeps them on pace with the Giants, who hit around the returning Cliff Lee for a victory in Philly.

Off the field, there was definitely good news on Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez.  Both X-rays came back negative on their hands, so they should be good to go any day now.  Knowing the injury history of this team, it's a huge relief.

Back to the on field action, and it was two straight games where the Dodgers showed more grit than anytime in recent memory.  They have pretty much been lifeless in the few games before and after the All-Star break, so any sign of waking up is a welcomed sight.

It all started with the guys at the top of the order, as both Dee Gordon and Justin Turner shared two hits apiece.  Gordon scored a run and stole a base, his league-leading 45th.  Turner hasn't started in awhile, but with Hanley sitting out, he got the nod at short and stroked a two-run double in the fourth to make it 4-0.  He also scored twice.

Just as important as these two setting the table all game long was their defense up the middle.  Gordon nearly had a fantastic diving catch off of Andrew McCutchen's bat, but still ended up combining with Turner for some big outs.  Turner should definitely get more looks at short, as he not only showed the glove, but can hit much better than Miguel Rojas.

Even when Hanley is back in the lineup, Don Mattingly shouldn't be afraid to sit him when his bat isn't going.  Turner plays MUCH better defense, and is hitting .301 with a .359 OBP in 63 games.  Give him more playing time!

Maybe watching his teammates getting beaned in St. Louis is just the thing that Adrian Gonzalez needed, as he followed up his game-winning RBI Sunday night by reaching base all five times on Monday.  He went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a run, and two walks.  When's the last time we've seen a game like this from him?  Wow, it's been awhile.  But you have to start somewhere, so maybe Pittsburgh is the place.

The final piece of the puzzle was Ryu.  As I pointed out before, he was very solid in keeping the Pirates grounded.  This was good for his phyche, as his last road start was getting obliterated in Detroit.  Since then, he's won both his starts, giving up only two runs in 13 innings against the Padres and Pirates.  He's now 11-3 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.

I caught some of Baseball Tonight after the game, and Ozzie Guillen made a good observation that the Dodgers have played with much more energy the last couple of games.  He's right.  And what do you know - they won.  They've made some diving stops, got some good starting pitching, excellent work from the bullpen, and finally had some clutch hits.  It all adds up to wins.

Before the Sunday night game, I was also watching Baseball Tonight (I guess I really like that show), and it was Barry Larkin correctly saying how the Dodgers certainly have the big names on paper, but at some point, you've got to do it on the field.  For two days anyway, they've carried it over to the game and gotten wins.

We'll see if this is fool's gold, or if it's the start of leaving it all on the field and not making excuses.  Josh Beckett is lined up to come off the DL and start on Tuesday.  All reports on him are very positive, so hopefully that's true.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Will the Cardinals' beanings ignite the Dodgers like the DBacks' brawl of '13?

If you're the Dodgers, you have to hope so.

One year ago, the Dodgers were 27-36 after Brandon League blew a save against the Diamondbacks at home.  Generally, they looked like crap, played like crap, and were pretty much just that: crap.

The next night is when the "crap" hit the fan.  Then-Diamondback Ian Kennedy beaned Yasiel Puig in the face, then soon followed that up by hitting Zack Greinke, and the brawl was on in the seventh inning.  In all, two players, two coaches, and manager Kirk Gibson were ejected.  The Dodgers went on to win 5-4.

By the end of the season, the Dodgers ran away with the NL West, clinching in Arizona, then celebrating in their pool.  The Diamondbacks were not happy.  Remember that?

Now it's 2014, and while the Dodgers have a better record at 55-45 and are tied with the Giants for first place, they're still looking for something to get them going.

Sunday night may have just been that something.

One day after Puig was plunked in the hand, holding him out of this game, Hanley Ramirez got hit twice.  The last one came in the ninth inning against flamethrowing closer Trevor Rosenthal, which soon led to Adrian Gonzalez's game-winning RBI single for the 3-2 victory.  Clayton Kershaw hit Matt Holliday in the side in the fourth, prompting a warning for both benches.  Rosenthal, however, was still not ejected.

After A-Gon's hit, and Kenley Jansen's perfect ninth for his 28th save, the only thing I kept thinking about was how this is just like last year's DBacks brawl.  You could tell at the time that was a wakeup call for the Dodgers, and maybe this is, too.

One thing that cannot be compared is the intent.  Kennedy was clearly throwing at Puig and Greinke, but it didn't appear that Carlos Martinez and Rosenthal were doing the same.  However, I think A-Gon said it perfectly with the following quote:
"One thing is pitching inside and another thing is pitching inside carelessly. They're obviously showing that they don't care if they hit him. They're not on purpose, but they don't care if they hit him. They hit Hanley last year, they hit [Yasiel] Puig yesterday, they hit Hanley twice today. It's almost like, 'Hey, we're going to throw it inside. If we hit you, we hit you. If we don't, we don't.'"
At this point, the Dodgers are looking for any sorts of signs to shake them out of their mediocrity.  Before the ninth inning came, they got two hits and an RBI from Matt Kemp, a triple and RBI from Andre Ethier, and three hits from Juan Uribe.  Kemp even threw in a diving catch charging towards the infield for good measure.

Then Rosenthal beaned Hanley, and A-Gon responded with a clutch two-out RBI.  In fact, all four runs were driven in with two outs.  When's the last time we've seen that happen?

Only time will tell if this game will truly motivate the Dodgers to, as I put it yesterday, put up or shut up.  On ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, they put up on a night where Kershaw finally gave up more than one run (7 IP, 3 ER, 8 K).  They got some big hits, got some big outs from the bullpen, and got a big win to avoid the sweep.

Let's see the Dodgers use this game as a springboard to bigger things.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

It's time for the outfielders to put up or shut up

The Dodgers are in a tailspin entering Sunday night's game in St. Louis.  They've dropped two straight, their offense is a disaster, and their outfielders aren't doing much to help.

Take away Yasiel Puig, and there's a whole lot of nothing left.  Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford combined to go 0-for-5 on Saturday with a big strikeout in the eighth (Kemp) and a game ending double play (Ethier).  Those guys are making about $57 million combined this season.

And to that, I say this: Boys, it's time to start performing on the field.  Or get out of the way and let others do it for you.

How many times are we going to go through this?  There's a whole lot of talk about what they've done in the past, but not a whole lot about what they're doing this season.  Probably because they're doing a big pile of nothing for the most part.

I'll give Ethier and Crawford this - they at least appear to play hard.  They're not getting the results that justify their contracts, but they aren't dogging it.  I'm doubt that makes anyone feel better, but it's something.

I'm not sure I can say the same about Kemp.  Saying you want to be the everyday center fielder is commendable, but not taking ownership for just how awful you've been is not.  As I pointed out the other day, it would be great if he said something along the lines of, "My bad, I've been terrible.  I've got to play better."  But have we?  Nope.

Instead, we've seen a lot of swings and misses, a lot of hanging his head, and defense that is so bad, it's gotten to the point where analysts are ripping apart how he chases after the ball.  Seriously.  I'm not sure I've ever heard an outfielder being criticized so harshly for how he simply runs after the ball.  That's pretty pathetic.

Ethier should be very thankful that Kemp is getting so much attention, because his offense has gone MIA.  Right now he's hitting .249 with four home runs and 34 RBIs.  He's slugging .374, by far the lowest in his career (.421 in '11 is his second lowest).  There's absolutely no reason to fear him at the plate.

True, he is ridiculously better in center than Kemp, but playing him so much there is at the expense of the offense.  He has no power left, doesn't get on base well (.313 OBP), and strikes out way too much.  There's just no magic left in that bat.

The odd man out was supposedly going to be Crawford when he came off the DL right before the All-Star break.  Kemp can be thanked again, this time for being so atrocious that plans changed.  But is he an upgrade?  It's hard to make that case.  In 49 games, he's hitting .255 with four home runs, 19 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases.  Not exactly numbers that get a manager excited to pencil his name in the lineup.

At this point, the Dodgers are stuck with these guys, at least for this season.  Every other team in baseball looks at their contracts and just starts laughing.  And after they get done laughing, they say, "Thanks, but no thanks" when it comes to talking trade.  Unless the Dodgers take on a BUNCH of cash remaining on their deals, you can forget about them going anywhere.

If these guys want to play as much as they think they deserve, then show it on the field.  If you're not in the lineup, then stay ready for when you eventually will be.  Because taking away Puig in right, there's two positions remaining in the outfield that have yet to be fully claimed, and we're at game #100 tonight. 

Show why you deserve to play.  Get a hit.  Take a walk.  Move a runner over.  Cut down the strikeouts.  Just do SOMETHING.

Or, accept the fact that your best days are behind you, and let someone else (Scott Van Slyke?  Joc Pederson?) come in and play that spot.

As the headline says, it's time to put up or shut up.  Make a choice.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

All-Star break does nothing to wake up putrid offense

So much for being fresh and rejuvenated after taking four days off.

The Dodgers brought more of the same on offense to the table Friday night... which is basically saying, they did a big pile of NOTHING.  A two-run homer by Matt Holliday in the fifth proved to be the difference, as the Dodgers fell to the Cardinals 3-2.

The formula remained the same from a handful of games before the break against the Tigers and Padres: good-excellent starting pitching, horrible hitting.

How bad has the offense been?  Here's a look at the last six games:

7/9 at Tigers: 4-for-30 (.133), 1 R, 0-for-5 w/ RISP, 4 LOB
7/10 vs. Padres: 9-for-31 (.290), 2 R, 2-for-13 w/ RISP, 7 LOB
7/11 vs. Padres: 6-for-31 (.194), 3 R, 2-for-9 w/ RISP, 9 LOB
7/12 vs. Padres: 4-for-26 (.154), 1 R, 0-for-5 w/ RISP, 7 LOB
7/13 vs. Padres: 7-for-29 (.241), 1 R, 2-for-12 w/ RISP, 7 LOB
7/18 at Cardinals: 5-for-32 (.156), 2 R, 1-for-8 w/ RISP, 8 LOB

Totals: 35-for-179 (.196), 10 R, 7-for-52 w/ RISP (.135), 42 LOB

Wow, that's bad.  Really bad.  What's even worse is that Dodger pitching has given up only 13 runs during that six-game span, which is a mere 2.2 runs/game.  Doesn't matter, though.  When you can't hit, you can only survive for so long, and that's why they're 3-3 in these games.

The "controversy" coming into last night's game was all about the recent comments from Matt Kemp and his willingness to be traded if he's not going to play everyday in center.  Well, Matt, I can tell you that after watching how did you last night, you have absolutely NOTHING to complain about.

Kemp went 0-for-3 at the plate with a strikeout and walk, including a big fat K to end the third with the bases loaded.  It was typical - talk a big game, but when they chance came to prove how good you think you are, you go down miserably.

Then there's his defense, which continues to be a bigger and bigger joke each game.  I watched the game on MLB Network with Bob Costas and Tom Verducci (who did a very good job, by the way).  During one of the breaks between innings, they cut back to the studio where I believe Darryl Hamilton gave a demonstration of just how bad Kemp has been taking angles to fly balls.  Twice he was burned by the awkward routes he takes to the ball.

Ya, and he wants to play center again.  Give me a freakin' break.

Kemp wasn't the only problem.  Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Andre Ethier all had big strikeouts in key situations.  It's almost as if you expect the worst in big spots, and then it happens. 

A.J. Ellis was about the only one who showed up, as his RBI double and then hustle from third to score on a wild pitch in the seventh cut the deficit to 3-2.  That's as close as it would get.  I'm glad he did something, because I can't recall the last time he made any noise at the plate considering he's hitting .215.

Other thoughts from the game:

* Dan Haren didn't look so hot in the first, rebounded a bit, but couldn't overcome Holliday's homer.  He only lasted 4 2/3 innings for eight hits, three runs, two walks, and four strikeouts.  He's clearly the odd man out at this point if Ned Colletti brings in another starter.  I don't see any hitters being fearful of him.

* Good to see Paco Rodriguez make his return, as he pitched a scoreless seventh.  He certainly couldn't do any worse than he did to start the season, so maybe some time down on the farm got him refocused.  J.P Howell is the only other lefty in the 'pen (I don't even count Paul Maholm, who's terrible), so Paco will definitely be used if they keep him with the big club.

* A-Gon actually went opposite field for a hit, something that a graphic on the MLB Network broadcast showed he's been doing a lot less of.  I just don't understand why?  Maybe it's something physical with his swing?  I don't know, but it was great to see him go the other way.  Considering how often he strikes out now, it's something he should try to keep doing, especially against those damn shifts.

* On a final note, if you ever want a good laugh during a frustrating Dodger performance, just go to Twitter.  I had some good conversations with a couple of fellow fans, and let me tell you, I was laughing so hard at some of their comments!  We could definitely feel each other's pain.

Two of the All-Star Game standouts in Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw take the hill this weekend.  You know they'll do their thing.  Will the offense contine to do theirs?  If so, look for more 2-1, 1-0 games.  Gee, I can just imagine the excitement...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Historically, Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu better after the break

If you're looking for some good news concerning the Dodgers' chances of winning the NL West again, it's this: the top three in the rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu have better numbers after the All-Star break compared to before.  Here's a look at those numbers:

Pre-break: 2.72 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .208 BAA
Post-break: 2.28 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .212 BAA

Pre-break: 3.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .261 BAA
Post-break: 3.40 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, .250 BAA

Pre-break: 3.25 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .254 BAA
Post-break: 2.87 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .261 BAA

(I didn't bother with wins/loses, strikeouts, and walks because they obviously have pitched a lot more innings in pre-break compared to post.  I just stuck with the important numbers.)

Those are some very encouraging numbers, especially since the Dodgers' offense has been known to go into hibernation a little too much.  If you want a perfect example of this, look no further than the Saturday and Sunday before the break in which the Dodgers won 1-0 two straight times over the Padres.  Excellent pitching, and very mediocre hitting.  And that might be generous.

There's no shortage of trade talk with this team as the deadline approaches in two weeks.  Already you've seen names like David Price and Jonathan Papelbon linked to being LA bound.  Then there's the tale of Matt Kemp, who could be on his way out.  Andre Ethier has been in trade talks for years.  You just never know what's going to happen.

Through all of that, it's great to know that the Dodgers have three studs at the top of the rotation who not only get the job done, but continue to do it better and better as the season wears on.  And that's why Dodger fans should feel good about the second half.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dodgers could be a match for Papelbon

A week ago, Phillies' closer Jonathan Papelbon expressed an interest in being traded to a contender.  He's still owed some mega-bucks in his current deal, most likely limiting the amount of teams that would make a serious run at him.

But these are the Dodgers, they are contenders, and have the payroll flexibility to add more.

Jonathan, meet Los Angeles.

This is all just talk at this point, but with the trade deadline a couple of weeks away, Mark Saxson has tweeted that a baseball source expects the Dodgers to make a run at him.

And why not?  The Dodgers will no doubt look to add to their bullpen, as former closers like Brian Wilson and Chris Perez have underperformed this season.  Brandon League has a 2.09 ERA, but after being hit so hard last season, still does not appear to have Don Mattingly's full confidence in pitching more meaningful innings.

Papelbon would be an expensive setup man, as he's owed $13 million this year and next, and a vesting option for the same amount in 2016 for finishing a certain number of games (55 next year, or 100 total between this year and next).  But again, these are the Dodgers, and they show no care in the world about throwing big money at closers to pitch in middle relief.

I think this would be a great move for the Dodgers.  Papelbon has been a bright light in a dark Phillies' season, converting 22 of 24 save opportunities with a 1.21 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 33 K's in 37 1/3 innings.  He did blow seven saves last year, but still managed a 2.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, so it's not like he was atrocious like League.

Papelbon has championship experience with the Red Sox, so he knows what it's like to pitch in big games and succeed.  The price tag is high, but I'm guessing the Dodgers don't really care.

What's not to like about a Papelbon-Kenley Jansen combination to close out games?  That would be a huge advantage in the playoffs with their already strong starting rotation.  For that reason alone, I can see Ned Colletti aggressively pursuing a deal.

Will the Dodgers look to trade Matt Kemp?

If it's up to Kemp, it might just happen.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Wednesday that Kemp's agent Dave Stewart, the former All-Star pitcher, acknowledged that if Kemp doesn't get a chance to play everyday in center field again, he'd be open to a trade.

That's not exactly the same as flat out saying he wants out, but it's not exactly a ringing endorsement of staying with the Dodgers long-term either.

Now let's ask the question - Should the Dodgers be willing to trade him?  I think so.

If you've read my recent posts, then you've seen that I haven't exactly been thrilled with the amount of strikeouts and bad clutch hitting Kemp has shown lately.  He did hit well in June at .317 with three homers and 16 RBIs, but in July it's .231 with no homers and four RBIs.  He's striking out once every three at-bats this month (13/39), and generally looks like he's lost.

That's not to mention his horrific play in center, which sent him packing to left in late May.  Don Mattingly hasn't appeared to entertain the thought of moving him back to his original position yet.

This is a bit of a tough call, because we've all seen how good he can be when he's on.  We'll never forget just how awesome he was in 2011, hitting .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBIs, while stealing 40 bases.  There was no better player in baseball that year, even though the soon-to-be busted Ryan Braun claimed the NL MVP award.

Since then, it's been a series of injuries, which has caused him to lose a step.  Or even two steps.  Basically, he looks like a shell of his former self.

Right now, the Dodgers have a couple of examples of guys who have turned things around after playing some atrocious baseball: Juan Uribe and Brandon League.  Uribe is one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball, and is hitting .297; League had a 5.30 ERA last year, and now it's 2.09.  So, it's very possible Kemp can start playing better.

Here's why I would be in favor of seeking out a trade: I have yet to hear Kemp say anything along the lines of "my bad."  I've heard him say he'll go to left for now, I've heard him say he would like to play everyday, and now I've heard him say he'd be open to being traded.  But when have you ever seen Kemp come out and admit he's been awful and needs to pick things up?

If he has, then I certainly missed it.  It would be nice if he just acknowledged how poorly he's looked rather than acting like he's owed what he wants.  Not on a team contending for a championship, and not on a team with four other legit starting outfield options.  No way.

Rosenthal pointed out that last year the Red Sox and Mariners expressed interest in Kemp, and the Sox were known to have scouted the Dodgers this year as well.  Were they looking at Kemp?  I wouldn't be surprised, as the Sox' offense has been horrible.

This is definitely a story to keep an eye on, as the trade deadline is a couple of weeks away.  Maybe the Dodgers aren't even considering this, but maybe they've been thinking about this for quite awhile.  I tend to lean towards the latter.  We'll all soon find out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

3 of the 4 Dodgers' all-stars strut their stuff

The American League used an early 3-0 lead against a pitcher from the St. Louis Cardinals to help lead them to a 5-3 win in the All-Star Game.  That's two straight for the AL, and also two straight times the National League manager chose to ignore Clayton Kershaw's eye-popping stats and go with someone else to start the game.

I could go on and on, but I'll just focus on the four Dodgers' representatives and break down their performances.  Which, by the way, were much better than Adam Wainwright's.  OK, that's it, I swear.

Clayton Kershaw - Down 3-2 in the second, Mike Matheny called on Kershaw to face the bottom three of the AL order.  He immediately got Adam Jones to pop to Aramis Ramirez in foul territory at third on two pitches.  Josh Donaldson was a little more of a battle, but an inside fastball was good for a swinging strike three.  Salvador Perez rolled a soft one to Ramirez at third, who made a great barehanded play for the quick throw and final out.

All in all, it was another scoreless inning for Kershaw, who is flawless in four ASG performances, all for an inning apiece.  It would have been cool to watch him pitch to Derek Jeter, who was on deck.  Maybe in the World Series?  Who knows.

Zack Greinke - Someone who actually outperformed Kershaw was Greinke, who had a couple of strikeouts in a scoreless fourth, keeping the game tied at three.  Jose Bautista led off and grounded easily to third on a slider.  A couple of power hitting Orioles came up next in Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones, and they both went down swinging on inside fastballs.

Greinke tied four other pitchers with a couple of K's, as no one worked more than an inning.  Craig Kimbrel shined the brightest by striking out the side in the seventh.

Dee Gordon - It was an early entry into the game for Gordon, as he pinch-ran for Chase Utley in the fourth after Utley was beaned on the arm from a Chris Sale fastball.  He didn't waste any time in leaving his mark, flying home to score from first on a Jonathan Lucroy double.  That temporarily tied the game at three.

He did get one at-bat, and nearly beat out a grounder to Jose Altuve in the sixth.  Altuve ranged to his right and made a great play on it, though.  Gordon showed his leather as well, robbing Michael Brantley of a base hit in the bottom half.  All in all, it was a good night.

Yasiel Puig - Then there's Puig, who definitely did not have a good night.  Or a good couple of nights for that matter.  After failing to hit a single home run in the Home Run Derby on Monday, Puig had three at-bats against Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, and Max Scherzer.  Guess how that went?  Strike three, strike three, strike three.  Ouch.  In the field, he did come close to robbing Mike Trout at the wall, but it was just out of his range as Trout went to third for a triple. 

I was glad to see him play five innings, as he appeared to be having a great time.  I just wish he could've had at least ONE moment from the two days.  There were people predicting him to be the MVP after his big fat zero in the Derby.  That obviously didn't happen.  It's not like he went in the box just hacking away, as he went to a full count twice and 2-2 in his first at-bat.  It just wasn't meant to be.

Bottom Line - The Dodgers have to be proud for how they played, even with Puig's hat trick at the plate.  Kershaw and Greinke were just awesome, as they combined for two perfect innings with three strikeouts.  No ball even reached the outfield, and they faced some power hitters like Bautista and Cruz.  I knew Kershaw would pitch, but wasn't so sure if Greinke would be on the list of pitchers being saved for extra innings.  Thankfully he wasn't, and he looked really good.

Someone else who should be proud is Gordon, who put on a wicked display of speed, then turned around a couple innings later and made a great play with his glove.  It's hard to imagine a more unlikely all-star selection coming into this season, but he showed he more than belonged.

And Puig?  Well, he'll be back.  He can only go up from here, right?  Right!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Puig in the Home Run Derby? Not so good...

Move over, Mike Piazza.  You have new company in the infamous Home Run Derby Donut Hole Club.

Just like the great Piazza did in 1993 and 1994, Yasiel Puig went homerless in the Derby.  He had a monster shot to left in his final swing that went foul.  That's about it for "highlights."

Seriously, it wasn't pretty.  I had a bad feeling that Puig would either get hurt or barely hit any out by overswinging.  Well, there aren't any reports of him getting hurt thankfully, but a lack of experience and most likely some nerves led to a goose egg.

Puig still brings a lot of eyeballs to the tube, so I wouldn't be surprised if he appeared in this again soon.  Teammate Matt Kemp participated in 2011 during his monster season, and only hit two.  He came back the next year and tried his luck again, and only hit one.  That was kind of strange because at the time, he was recovering from injury and didn't appear in the All-Star Game.  Guess he was healthy enough to hack away in the Derby, though.

Tonight is the All-Star Game, and Puig is hitting second for the National League.  You know he has redemption in mind, so he'll be swinging away full force against Felix Hernandez.  I predict either a home run or a bad looking strikeout.  Tune in and see for yourselves.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wainwright edges out Kershaw as All-Star starter

About the only remaining question for tomorrow's All-Star Game was who NL manager Mike Matheny would choose to start the game - Adam Wainwright or Clayton Kershaw?

Well, he just chose.  And he stayed with familiarity in Wainwright.

So Wainwright will toe the rubber in the first inning against the American League, as "King" Felix Hernandez will go against the NL. 

I have to admit I was disappointed, but certainly not surprised.  Buster Olney tweeted out this morning that all signs were pointing to Wainwright getting the honor.  Plus you throw in the fact that Matheny just happens to manage him, and it's understandable.

For fun, let's take a look at just how close of a race this has been in the first half:

Kershaw: 14 GS, 96 1/3 IP, 11-2, 1.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 126 K, 3 CB, 1 SHO
Wainwright: 19 GS, 138 IP, 12-3, 1.83 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 115 K, 3 CG, 2 SHO

What can we take away from all of that?  Both are really, REALLY good.  That's it.

Seriously, if you're a Dodger fan like me, you want to see your boy Kershaw get the honor of starting.  But since he's not, you certainly can't complain about it being Wainwright instead.  He's a guy who's won a world championship as a closer, and finished in the top three in the Cy Young voting three times.  I'd say he's more than proved his worth.

And like it not, the few starts Kershaw had to miss when he was on the DL probably cost him.  Say for instance he never missed a start and still put up those sick numbers?  Then we'd all have a big reason to complain.

Look for Kershaw to get the ball anywhere between innings 2-4, I would think.  He'll still play a big role in the game at least.

2014 Mid-Season Report Card

Here we are at the All-Star break, and the Dodgers find themselves with the best record in the National League, and holding off the Giants by a game in the NL West.

It hasn't always been an easy ride, so let's take a look at who has done what and assign grades, report card style.  Here goes:


Clayton Kershaw - This is about the easiest pick I'll have to make.  It wasn't looking that way at the start of the season, as he was out six weeks with a pulled back muscle, then got shelled in Arizona in May.  Since then, he's thrown a no-hitter and 41 straight scoreless innings.  At 11-2 with a 1.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 126 K's in 96 1/3 IP, he's right at the front of the Cy Young race again.

Zack Greinke - The guy who had to carry the load in Kershaw's early absence was Greinke, and he's an All-Star because of it.  He's 11-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.  Not bad for a #2 guy.

Yasiel Puig - Don Mattingly thinks he's the best right fielder in baseball, and it might be true.  His power numbers have dipped since the end of May, but he's still hitting .309 with 12 homers, 52 RBIs, and seven steals.  Plus, the cannon in right field stops runners from advancing a lot.

Dee Gordon - Who would have guessed this?  After adding some muscle this offseason, he's responded by leading all of baseball in stolen bases with 43, and is hitting .292 with nine triples as well.  His defense at second looks smoother every game.  I'd say he's found a home there.

J.P. Howell - Forget the 1-3 record, his 19 holds show the value he's brought.  Both righties and lefties are hitting under .200 against him, making him a big weapon late in games.

Josh Beckett - From being out of baseball with finger numbness last year to throwing a no-hitter this year, he's been everything the Dodgers could hope for and more.  His record is only 6-5 thanks to his shoddy offense, but has a 2.26 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.  Seems to have perfected the curveball, which has given him new life.

Brandon League - Why not?  Had zero expectations coming into the season, and owns a 2.09 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.  Still isn't closer material, but the bottom line is that when he's been in there, he's gotten outs.  Good for him.


Hyun-Jin Ryu - His pitching performance in the last game before the break was an A+.  A couple of rocky starts (home opener, at Detroit) have been the only rough spots, but still has a 3.44 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.

Juan Uribe - Continues to provide a great glove at third, and is hitting .297 with five homers and 26 RBIs.  Did miss about a month with a hamstring injury, which bumps him down a bit.

Adrian Gonzalez - His 60 RBIs are tied with Justin Morneau for fourth in the NL.  Also has a .997 fielding %.  But, despite the high RBI total, his bat has been hibernating since April, as he's hitting .223 since then.  He just seems like he's slowing down a little more each game.

Kenley Jansen - Has figured things out of late, as he's now on a string of nine straight scoreless appearances.  Is 27-30 in save opportunities, but a few rough spots has his ERA at 3.49.  Still a dominant strikeout pitcher with a 14.43 K/9.  That's awesome.

Jamey Wright - His role has been a bit hard to figure out, as he was signed to be a long reliever, but hasn't always been used that way.  Through it all, he had a 2.11 ERA entering July before he hit a rough patch to raise his ERA to 3.50.

Andre Ethier - This is more for his defense than his bat, as he's hitting only .253 with little to no power to speak of.  Because Matt Kemp was so abysmal in center, he got switched there in late May and hasn't committed an error all season.

Scott Van Slyke - Still doesn't get as much playing time as he should, thanks to the big $$$ of the other players.  In 60 games, is hitting .268 with eight homers and 16 RBIs.  For such a big guy, is agile enough to play all outfield positions and first base.

Justin Turner - Currently on the DL with a hamstring injury, but before that was really playing well.  Found himself playing plenty of third base, and is hitting .302 with 21 RBIs.  He provides good value at different positions.

Chris Withrow - Is lost for the season, and then some, with Tommy John surgery.  Had good numbers in the 20 games he did appear in, striking out 28 with a 2.95 ERA.  Look for his name in the second half of 2015.


Hanley Ramirez - It's hard to see him getting his big money contract in the winter since he's so injury-prone.  His defense at short is ranked as among the worst, or perhaps THE worst, in baseball.  At the plate, he's hitting .275 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs.  You just keep waiting to see more from him, and who knows if we will.

Dan Haren - Through April, had fantastic numbers with a 2.03 ERA.  Hasn't been awful since, but not that great either, as his numbers have gone up each month since then.  Right now is 8-6 with a 4.23 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, and looks like the clear odd man out if the Dodgers trade for a starter.

Carl Crawford - An unfortunate turned ankle chasing after the ball cost him a month and a half of time.  Was hitting very well in May at .333 with four homers, 14 RBI, and five steals.  I'm not sure you can count on him being on the field without getting hurt, though.

Miguel Rojas - This certainly isn't for his hitting (.208, one homer), but for his great arm in the field.  Has filled in very well defensively for Uribe at third and Ramirez at short with only two errors.

Drew Butera - For a backup catcher, has a very good 3.08 catcher's ERA, along with 11 RBIs.  Not much else can be said about him at the plate with a .207 AVG, though.


Matt Kemp - My how his star has fallen.  Strikes out way too much with 87 in 86 games, isn't nearly the power threat he once was, and had to be taken out of center field because he was so bad there.  Maybe he can only go up from here, but he looks like damaged goods at this point.

Brian Wilson - Was fantastic last year, and couldn't have possibly started off this year any worse.  Right now has a 5.64 ERA and 1.88 WHIP, and those numbers are actually an improvement since the end of May.  So much for being the top setup man in baseball.

Paul Maholm - Finally had a good start against the Padres before the break, going scoreless for six innings.  Prior to that did a big pile of nothing, as he's not really a reliever, but certainly isn't good enough to be a starter either.  I can see him getting chopped at the trade deadline for some new blood.

Chris Perez - The thought was to bring the ex-Indians closer in and let him work innings with less pressure.  So far, not so good.  Has a 4.54 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, and just lets way too many hitters reach base.  A pretty big disappointment early on.

A.J. Ellis - His 3.38 catcher's ERA is good, but that's about where it ends.  Missed some time on the DL with an ankle injury, is hitting a paltry .214 with seven RBIs, and is letting people run wild on him.  Pretty disappointing lack of production on both ends.

Chone Figgins - Was a surprise member of the roster coming out of Spring Training, but was kept because of his versatility.  That's all well and good, but when you hit .217, there's not much reason to play you at any position.


Paco Rodriguez - Poor Paco.  He went from being a key member of last year's run to demoted this year.  Appeared in 10 games this year for a 6.43 ERA and 1.86 WHIP.  His arm ran out of steam at the end of last year, and doesn't look like it's regained much juice.

Miguel Olivo - Found himself promoted to the big club in May because of his power in Triple-A.  Then thought it would be a good idea to get into a fight with Alex Guerrero when he was sent back down, bite part of his ear off, then get released.  What a complete moron.  Good riddance.

Carlos Triunfel - Maybe a bit unfair since he clearly wasn't ready for the Majors when he was called up.  But, because of many injuries, was put into action and hit .143 with an .889 fielding %.  Um, not good.

Tim Federowicz - Hitting .131 in yet another chance to prove his worth should signal the end for him.  Simply cannot hit Major League pitching.

Jamie Romak - Played a few different positions, but was 1-for-21 at the plate.  That's .048.  Ouch.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

1-0, again? Sure, the Dodgers will take it

For as bad as the offense has been this week for the Dodgers, there were some good things to come out of Sunday's game: they won, they took three of four from the Padres, they have the best record in the National League, and Hyun-Jin Ryu more than shook off getting creamed in Detroit.

So, despite one run for the second straight night, it's another win for the Dodgers over the Padres.

Hey, at least they did better than one run on four hits on Saturday, right?

If you want to read about how poorly the Dodgers have been performing at the plate, then take a look at my article on yesterday's game.  I could have written the same exact thing today, because Yasiel Puig's RBI single in the sixth was the lone highlight of the game for either team.  Tyson Ross, Ryu, and a few relievers completely shut these teams down.

What I will focus on is just that, the pitching.  The start of the Dodgers' offensive ineptitude began on Tuesday against the Tigers.  After taking a 5-0 lead in the first inning off of Justin Verlander, Ryu got pounded for 10 hits and seven runs in 2 1/3 innings as the Dodgers got destroyed 14-5.  Today Ryu went six innings for two hits, no runs, no walks, and 10 strikeouts.  His off speed stuff was awesome.

From there, Brandon League, J.P. Howell, and Kenley Jansen combined to shut the door.  League was a little shaky, walking Yasmani Grandal and giving up a single to Cameron Maybin.  Howell put out that fire when Brooks Conrad lined to Carl Crawford in left.

Howell stayed on in the eighth, still with only the one-run lead.  Even though Adrian Gonzalez dropped a throw to first for an error, Howell had no issues.  At the break, he has a 1.32 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 19 holds.  Lefties are 8-for-56 (.143) and righties are 9-for-54 (.167) against him.  Very quietly, he's turned into one of the best middle relievers in baseball.

Jansen had to toughen up today for the save, as he walked Carlos Quentin on a very close full count pitch, then watched Grandal bounce a single into right with an out.  Two strikeouts later, the game was over for his 27th save.

Back on June 20, Jansen blew his third save in San Diego, giving up three runs in the ninth and being hit all over the place.  His nine appearances since then?  All perfect, collecting seven saves and a win while lowering his ERA from 4.55 to 3.49.  He also has more K's (13) than walks (1) and hits (5) combined.  He's finally mixing up his pitches and figuring things out.

Other thoughts from the game:

* OK, so here's a bit more talk about the offense.  Matt Kemp didn't start (good move), but pinch-hit in the eighth with Puig on second and two outs (bad move).  Predictably, he struck out.  Man, he really stinks now.  That's all I've got to say about that.

* I don't think I've ever seen A.J. Ellis yell and get visibly upset at himself during a game before, but that's exactly what happened after he K'd with two on and none out in the second.  He's had a rough year between injuries and a big lack of production at the plate and in not throwing out stealers.  Let's hope the All-Star break does him some good.

* It was good to see Crawford get the start in left, as he singled and walked in four at-bats.  Like I wrote about recently, there's no way Kemp should be handed every start in left.  Give me a break.  Let's see what Crawford can do with more time.  Better than watching Matt "Swing and a Miss" Kemp.

* Can you tell I'm down on Kemp?

* Ross is a very good young pitcher.  His slider is practically untouchable.  I initially wasn't so sure about him making the All-Star team, but he showed he deserves it today.  Too bad for him his team sucks behind him.

Every team in baseball will take the next four days off, then return to action Friday.  The Dodgers will be in St. Louis, and Dan Haren will get the ball.  Gee, if that doesn't get you pumped for Friday, then I don't know what will!

Dodgers lacking a true Big Bopper

If you're looking strictly at box scores and standings, then you saw that the Dodgers beat the Padres 1-0 on A.J. Ellis's sac-fly RBI in the ninth inning on Saturday, putting them back in first place of the NL West.  You also saw that with the win, the Dodgers have the best record in the National League.

If you're someone who watches the game closely like I do, then you know the truth - the Dodgers are very fortunate to be in this position because their offense is practically on life support.  Those guys better be buying the pitching staff a whole lot of gifts.

Right now, the Dodgers don't have that one guy who strikes a whole lot of fear in the opposing team.  Last year it was Hanley Ramirez and Yaisel Puig, and even Adrian Gonzalez at times.  Before that it was Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier at various points.  Even before that, it was all about Mannywood.

Outside of MAYBE Puig, the offense is really struggling to find that one guy to step up and lead the way.  And even though Puig is starting in the All-Star Game and is in the Home Run Derby, he's hit one home run since the end of May and has seen his average dip from .344 to .307.  So he's on the list of struggling players as well.

How about the other guys?  Well, let's take a look:

Kemp?  He continues to look like a shell of his former self more and more each game.  Two more strikeouts last night, including one in the ninth when Gonzalez led off with a double, making it nine K's in the last five games.  Before that, he walked leading off the seventh, but was quickly erased on a stolen base attempt.  There's no life in his bat, as he can't catch up to fastballs and is constantly tricked by breaking balls.  What a waste.

Gonzalez?  He was hitting .337 with eight homers and 24 RBIs through April, but that has dramatically changed.  In the three months since then, he's hit six homers with 36 RBIs.  So while you look at the bottom line and see that he's fourth in the NL with 60 RBIs, the truth is that he did most of that damage at the start of the season.  A .182 average against lefties has really hurt him.

Ramirez?  Last year he was able to perform at a MVP level when he was on the field for half the games.  This season he seems to be getting hurt every two minutes, and when he does play, it's a nothing special.  He's hitting .275 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs, which aren't bad numbers, but again, nothing great.  It's his contract year, so I'm sure that's weighing on him heavily.  But the bottom line is that his injury history and lack of production is not giving him a good outlook for that huge contract he's seeking this offseason.

Ethier?  Let's just say that the days of "Andre the Giant" are long gone.  Much to his credit, he plays hard each time he takes the field, which is why he's claimed the starting job in center field.  But at .252 with four homers and 34 RBIs, there's barely any magic left in that bat.  Plus, he's just as lousy against lefties as A-Gon is, hitting .190.  Wow.

With all of this talk about the Dodgers trading for guys like David Price or Cole Hamels, I think it's only a matter of time before we start hearing about upgrading the offense.  Why not?  The guys I just listed above are either hurt, past their prime, or both.  They're certainly not showing any signs of turning things around.  Maybe they can, but most likely it wouldn't be anything drastic.

At what point does Ned Colletti decide to bring up young studs like Joc Pederson or Alex Guerrero?  They'd clearly add some life to an offense that lacks punch and consistency.  I'm sure that would lead to hard feelings if some of the rich boys have to sit, but so be it.

I have all the confidence in the world the Dodgers will make the playoffs.  They have a starting rotation that can give them plenty of chances to win.  But do they have the offense?  That's the part that really concerns me.

Without the big threat on offense to get the job done, then it will be another year without a ring.

Friday, July 11, 2014

I don't think Crawford will be a bench guy for long

Before Clayton Kershaw's scoreless inning streak was snapped at 41, the news of the day for the Dodgers on Thursday was the return of Carl Crawford.  He was activated off the 15-day DL, and Clint Robinson was DFA'd to make room.

Don Mattingly has gone on record as stating that Crawford will strictly be a bench player for now, as he will leave Matt Kemp in left field.  The Dodgers' better play of late is the prime reason.

And to that, I say this: Carl, don't get too comfortable on the bench.  I see some starts in your near future my friend.

There's a couple of reasons for this.  The first, and biggest, has to do with Kemp.  While he did hit .317 in June, he's down to .242 this month and .271 overall.  His slugging % is a mere .435.  He has five stolen bases and has been nailed four times.  So not only is he pretty much a singles hitter at this point, it's not like he's going to run wild on the bases and make things happen.

Then there's his defense in left.  Right now his Defensive WAR is -2.4, by far the worst on the Dodgers to Hanley Ramirez and his -1.1.  It should be noted that he's still adjusting to left, so some mistakes are almost bound to happen.  However, the reason he was moved there in the first place was because he was so bad in center, Mattingly had no choice but to make a switch.  So before people complain that it's unfair to critique Kemp so harshly in left, just know that he was a disaster in center before that.

The second reason is strictly a money thing.  Crawford's contract runs through 2017, and he still is owed over $80 million.  Unless the Dodgers have dreams of a team like themselves coming in and swooping a big chunk of that contract away, he's not going anywhere.  We need to get used to that.

Do you really think someone who's getting paid as much as Crawford will just sit by and settle for pinch-hitting the rest of the year?  Especially since he's backing up a guy in Kemp who is shell of his former self?  I don't think so.

While I appreciate Mattingly's desire to keep a consistent lineup, I don't think it's an issue at all to split Kemp and Crawford in left.  The same can go for Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke in center.  Kemp and Ethier have been given plenty of playing time of late, and neither one of them has set the world on fire.  I'm not saying they've been bad - that's not the case at all.  But their days of All-Star caliber play are far behind.

If I'm Crawford, I'm carefully biding my time until I get back in the starting lineup.  Kemp and his slow bat can't possibly hog all the time in left field the rest of the season.  Crawford's time will come.  Just wait and see.

The streak is over, but the greatness of Kershaw remains

Buster Olney of ESPN said it right - the run Clayton Kershaw is on is right up there with Sandy Koufax and Pedro Martinez.

Consider these numbers:

Koufax ('63-66): 97-27, 1.86 ERA, 0.87 WHIP
Martinez ('99-02): 68-17, 2.07 ERA, 0.91 WHIP
Kershaw ('11-14): 62-25, 2.16 ERA, 0.95 WHIP (still active)

Then there's this little gem from the Elias Sports Bureau: Kershaw is the first pitcher EVER to win eight straight starts in the same season with an ERA under 1.00 and 80+ strikeouts.  His exact numbers during this run are 8-0, 0.74 ERA, 80 K's.


Forget just being Dodger fans, fans of baseball everywhere need to pause and appreciate just how good this guy is.  Every fifth day has turned into "Must See TV," to steal NBC's old slogan.  You know you're in store for something special when #22 takes the mound.

Even more impressive is that Kershaw has had to battle back from a couple of setbacks earlier this year, which seems like forever ago.  He missed the entire month of April with a strained back muscle as the Dodgers struggled to get going.  Then there was his start in Arizona on May 17 in which he only lasted 1 2/3 innings and gave up seven runs, ballooning his ERA to 4.43.

In his 10 starts since that infamous night, he's given up eight runs total.  Including a no-hitter.  Including 41 straight scoreless innings.  Including nine wins.

I'd say he's figured things out.

The only thing I wish could change is that most people probably haven't seen him pitch due to being on the West Coast.  Most of his starts take place too late at night for most of the country, so they only see highlights or read about him the next day.  If he pitched in New York or Boston, there'd be a lot more eyes on him to appreciate what he does.  There's not much you can do about it, that's just the way it is.

One place where lots of eyes will be on him is the All-Star Game.  Mark Saxon wrote a good article about how Kershaw definitely deserves to start, but also acknowledges how Mike Matheny will probably pick his own guy, Adam Wainwright.  While there's no doubt Wainwright is awesome, Kershaw is clearly the best pitcher in baseball right now.  He needs to get the ball in the first inning against the American League.

We will see what happens with that, as Matheny has previously stated that he'll wait until Monday to make his decision.  Kershaw will not make any more starts before the break, so he'll be plenty rested.  And I'm sure, whether he wants to admit it or not, chomping at the bit to get the honor of starting.

In the meantime, get ready for a big second half of the season, as Kershaw looks to lead his team to an NL West title for the second straight year.  He has some unfinished business in the postseason, so you know he'll be ready for that.  It's going to be fun to watch.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tigers flex their AL muscle all over the Dodgers

About the only thing the Dodgers can say about the last two days in Detroit is that they're glad it's over with.

Zack Greinke gave up a couple of runs in the first, and the offense continued to nothing with runners on in a 4-1 loss to the Tigers.  Take away a five-run first inning yesterday, and the Dodgers were absolutely pounded 18-1 in only two games.


The Dodgers had to like Greinke taking the hill, as he's been very good taking the ball whenever the Dodgers lose the previous game.  But, the tone was set right away that it was going to be a long day.  Yasiel Puig tripled with one out, but was then thrown out trying to get back to third on Hanley Ramirez's grounder to short.

Greinke then watched Austin Jackson hit a leadoff triple, score on Ian Kinsler's single, then get another run on a two-out RBI single from Don Kelly.  At 2-0, the game was virtually over already.

If you watched these games, then one thing that was very obvious to me was each team's approach at the plate with runners on base.  The Tigers exuded confidence, as they scored 18 runs without a single home run.  They knew what they wanted to do, stayed patient, and took good swings.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, went 0-for-5 with RISP and struck out 11 times today.  That was one day after failing to score following the first inning and gathering only three more hits the rest of the way.  It was hard to watch.

Take away the first career home run by Miguel Rojas in the sixth, and the Dodgers never really were in this.  That cut the deficit to 3-1, but Brandon League soon gave it back in the eighth.  Joe Nathan, for all of the trouble he's had this year, pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for the save.  He made Matt Kemp look absolutely silly in the last at-bat.

The Dodgers obviously have sky high expectations, and even though it was just two games and Clayton Kershaw did not appear, this was pretty disappointing.  Throw in the fact that Miguel Cabrera didn't play today and Victor Martinez missed both games, it's an opportunity lost.

Other thoughts from the game:

* All things considered, Greinke ended up having a solid day with seven innings, seven hits, three runs, no walks, and eight strikeouts.  It sure didn't look good at first, but his slider was fooling the Tigers enough to get a good start out of it.  He'll head into the All-Star break at 11-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.

* Adrian Gonzalez continues to tumble, as good at-bats for him are getting few and far between.  After hitting .222 in June, it's only .231 this month, with only nine extra-base hits since the end of May.  He also made a bad play on a ball hit to him where he tried to get Jackson at third and wasn't even close.  He really worries me because after starting the season off so hot, he's more than cooled down.  I'm hoping to see more of Scott Van Slyke at first after the break.

* Andre Ethier is another guy who isn't having a bad season, but not a good one either.  He's hitting .250, with a pathetic .190 against lefties.  At this point he is what he is, and that's a guy who plays a pretty good center field, but won't dazzle with the bat anymore.

* Max Scherzer is really, really good.  That boy might just make the $200 million he's looking for after the season.  It's hard to get anything to hit against him.

The final series before the break starts at home on Thursday against the Padres.  The Padres stink, but to show you just bad the rest of the NL West is (Rockies, DBacks), they're actually in third place.  It's Kershaw time, as he puts his 36 inning scoreless streak on the line.  That's the perfect way to forget about the last two days.

Not the greatest day for Dodger pitching

Josh Beckett.  Hyun-Jin Ryu.  Jamey Wright.  What do they all have in common?

They're either hurt, or pitching like they're hurt.

We already knew before Tuesday night's game in Detroit that Beckett's sore hip would land him on the 15-day DL.  Then the Dodgers went out and put up a five spot on Justin Verlander, with the big blows being a two-run double by Adrian Gonzalez, and two-run shot by Juan Uribe.

And then Ryu took the mound.  And boy was it ugly.

Ryu walked leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, but managed to get out of the first.  Then the second inning hit, and my oh my was Ryu just pounded into the ground.  A combination of a tough strike zone by home plate umpire Paul Schrieber, who was terrible, in addition to not putting hitters away with two strikes did him in.

All in all, the Tigers sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs.  Of course, I should point out that a questionable overturned replay on a great throw by Yasiel Puig to nail Torii Hunter leading off completely changed the momentum.  I only say "questionable" because I'm not at all convinced that there's "clear and convincing evidence" to overturn the call.

Then again, I'm also a Raiders' fan, and I'll never believe that damn Tuck Rule should've happened.  But I digress.

Ryu was chased in the third, and Wright had to come in to get the last two outs.

Still, the Dodgers were only down 7-5, and while they looked like they were dead, perhaps they could find some offense and put together a rally, and perhaps their bullpen could put up some zeroes.

Then again, perhaps not.

Wright was flat out atrocious, failing to get one damn out in the fourth as six straight hitters reached.  Chris Perez had to relieve the long reliever, which is kind of embarrassing.

Here's the final line for each pitcher:

Ryu: 2 1/3, 10 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
Wright: 2/3, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
Perez: 1 2/3, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Maholm: 2 1/3, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Baez: 1, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

Here are the inflated ERA's after this beatdown:

Ryu: 3.08 to 3.65
Wright: 2.41 to 3.24
Perez: 4.65 to 4.68
Maholm: 5.07 to 5.18
Baez: 18.00 to 9.00 (Hey, at least something went right!)

The final tally?  Detroit scored 14 straight runs to win 14-5.  I think the Dodgers should've at least double teamed Megatron and forced Matthew Stafford to throw somewhere else.

I also think days like Tuesday will only make Ned Colletti hungrier for pitching of any sort.  Beckett going down and Ryu getting shelled makes him want another starter for insurance.  Wright, Perez, and Maholm make him want bullpen help, which in my opinion is the bigger need. 

Any way you slice it, Tuesday was as ugly as can be.  Hopefully a big start by Zack Greinke on Wednesday afternoon will help the Dodgers get a split and move on.

Other thoughts from the game:

* Matt Kemp went 3-for-4 with an RBI to raise his average to .275.  The downside is that he's pretty much a singles hitter at this point.  All seven hits this month are singles, and his slugging % is .443.  In his near MVP season of 2011, it was .586.  The next year, which was full of one injury after another, it was still .538.  I'm guessing the Dodgers didn't give him eight years and $160 million to hit singles and lose his center field position.

* Going back to that replay in the second, I still hold firm that there's no conclusive evidence to overturn that call.  But, the bigger problem was Miguel Rojas not making the easy tag on Hunter's leg.  He went higher, which made the play a lot closer than it should've.  Bottom line is that Rojas absolutely has to make that play.  Puig made a PERFECT throw to second, and Rojas didn't do the easy part.  Wow.

* I wouldn't be surprised if Puig keeps swinging for the fences the next few games now that he's officially in the Home Run Derby.  And that's not a good thing.  He'll swing hard, hit a fly ball, then  stand there and react like he just missed it.  That's why his numbers have been tumbling - he just can't resist going for the long ball.

* About the only positive from the pitching staff was the work of Pedro Baez.  He threw really hard and had a sharp breaking ball.  Maybe he gets more looks.  Better than watching clowns like Perez and Maholm, who are awful.

As I said before, the Dodgers really need Greinke to step up and be an ace on Wednesday.  Getting a split after a horrific first game would be a good boost.  It won't be easy, as reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and wannabe billionaire Max Scherzer goes for the Tigers.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Needing some rest, Beckett goes to the DL

If you saw Josh Beckett run the bases on Sunday afternoon in Colorado... well then I'm sorry.  That was hard to watch.

But not quite as painful as it was for Beckett himself.

A sore hip was only made worse on a hard slide into third, and as a result, the Dodgers have placed Beckett on the 15-day DL.  In his place, reliever Pedro Baez has been recalled.

As Mark Saxon pointed out on Twitter, this might only cost him one start because of the All-Star break.  Since this isn't considered serious at all, I wouldn't expect him to miss more than the mandatory 15 days.

Of course, there's always the worry that an aging pitcher who's already had his fair share of injuries might be going through a tough stretch again.  From all I've read, I get the feeling that this is more of a timing thing with the All-Star Game coming up, so it's a good chance to sneak in a few extra days of rest.  It makes sense.

One thing his DL trip does take care of is any thought of adding him to the NL squad.  I was pretty disappointed that he was not only not picked, but that there hasn't been a whole lot of talk of adding him.  Considering he has the third best ERA in the NL, along with pitching a no-hitter in hitter friendly Philadelphia, it sure looked to me like he was robbed.

Robbed or not, the important thing is for him to get some time to rest his hip, then be ready for the stretch run.  In the end, missing the All-Star Game will probably be a blessing.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dodgers to send four to the All-Star Game

As the Dodgers were wrapping up a big 8-2 win in Colorado, keeping their lead in the NL West at a 1/2 game, the All-Stars were being unveiled on ESPN.

It turned out to be more good news, as the Dodgers will send four to Minnesota: Yasiel Puig will start in the outfield, Clayton Kershaw could start on the mound, Dee Gordon will back up Chase Utley at second, and Zack Greinke was picked by NL manager Mike Matheny.

Let's take a look at how each player got to represent the NL:

Yasiel Puig, OF: .307 AVG, .393 OBP, 23 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 7 SB
Puig was once the leading vote getter in the outfield, but then had to hold off a late surge by Giancarlo Stanton.  Nonetheless, with the game played in an AL park this year, Stanton will most likely get to start and hit DH anyway.  So hey, we're all happy.

Puig got robbed last year of an All-Star selection, so it was great to see him begin this season on such a tear that it carried all the way over to getting selected by the fans to start.  He's exciting enough to hit a homer, try to stretch a single into a double, or gun someone out at home.  You know he'll definitely be guns a' blazing, so stay tuned.

Let's just hope he doesn't pull every muscle in his body swinging for the fences in the Home Run Derby.  If he's chosen for that, of course.

Clayton Kershaw, SP: 10-2, 1.85 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 115 K's in 87 1/3 IP
Anyone who has a 36 inning scoreless streak (and counting, hopefully) deserves an All-Star nod.  An absolutely filthy month of June where he went 6-0 with an 0.82 ERA vaulted him right back to the top of the NL.

Now the question turns to whether or not Matheny will give the ball to Kershaw to start, or to his own Cardinal ace, Adam Wainwright.  You know how I feel - I'd go with Kershaw.  One, because he is  the best pitcher in the world, bar none.  The other reason is because he'll be on four days' rest, while Wainwright will be on two.  Granted, the starter won't go more than two innings most likely, so maybe the rest thing isn't that big of a deal.

But bottom line, I still think Kershaw should start.

Dee Gordon, 2B: .302 AVG, .356 OBP, 14 2B, 9 3B, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 42 SB
What a comeback story this has been for Gordon.  Who in the world would've ever thought he'd not only be the starting second baseman for the Dodgers, but then play well enough to earn an All-Star nod?  It's hard for anyone to have envisioned this.

What Gordon has done is run wild, leading all of baseball in steals with 42 and triples with 9.  His defense has also gotten better and better each game, as people probably forget all about his disastrous, error filled stint as a shortstop.  Those days are long gone, as an offseason spent adding some bulk to his skinny frame has clearly paid off. 

Look for him to be a key player late in the game, as he'll be taking off for a steal at some point.

Zack Greinke, SP: 11-4, 2.66 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 119 K's in 111 2/3 IP
Greinke earns his first All-Star nod as a Dodger, and his second one in his career ('09 with the Royals).  It's been a typical Greinke-like year, as he quietly goes about his business of mowing down hitters.

Through the first two months of the season, his ERA stood at 2.18, so he's actually regressed just a bit of late.  But, what most likely got Matheny's attention was his seven inning, one run, 10 strikeout performance against the Cardinals on June 28.  If Matheny needed any extra motivation in picking him, that was it.

Since the NL is loaded with great pitchers, I wouldn't be surprised if Greinke is held off until late in the game to be one of those "emergency" pitchers in case there's extra innings.  Maybe not, but perhaps Matheny leans towards the pitchers who were selected by the players first.

As Haren tumbles, Dodgers revving up interest in Price

Dan Haren could not do what Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw could in Colorado, as he was hit around for eight runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings on Saturday.  A late rally from an 8-2 hole nearly took him off the hook, but it wasn't enough as the Dodgers fell 8-7.  The Giants beat the Padres in extra innings, so the Dodgers' lead in the NL West falls to a 1/2 game.

Not surprisingly, with the Dodgers the ultimate "win now" team, the talk of going after Rays ace David Price is starting to heat up.

The reasons are twofold.  As I tweeted out during the game, Haren is easily the weak link of the rotation at this point.  True, he's in a tough spot when the highest ERA amongst Greinke, Kershaw, Josh Beckett, and Hyun-Jin Ryu is Ryu's 3.08.  But still, Haren's ERA has shot up to 4.06.  His ERA entering June was 3.28.

Unless the Dodgers want to hand the ball to Paul Maholm and his 5.17 ERA, or dip into their minor league system, Haren will remain the fifth starter.

That brings us to the renewed interest in Price.  Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has an interesting take on the situation.  To sum it up, he says the Dodgers want Price mostly to accelerate their ongoing TV discussions between Time Warner and Direct TV since another superstar is in the fold.  For those of you not in LA, roughly 70% of that market is blacked out from games.  Just imagine how great that made them feel when they couldn't even watch Kershaw's no-hitter.

The other side to it, of course, is that Price is just filthy good.  Right now he's 7-7 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.  Don't be fooled, though, because a 2.27 ERA in five June starts has reminded people why he's so good.  He regularly goes 7-8 innings, as it's been nine starts since he didn't reach at least the seventh.

Like many big trades, the Dodgers certainly have the money, so it comes down to the prospects.  The Dodgers have those as well in guys like Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Zach Lee.  Do the Dodgers move some of those guys (like the A's moved some of their prospects to pick up Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel), or do they draw the line there? 

That's where we come back to Haren.  If he continues to tumble, then there's no doubt in my mind the Dodgers will be willing to pull the trigger.  Putting Price with Kershaw and Greinke is just a ridiculous top of the rotation.  Then sprinkle in Beckett and Ryu for fourth and fifth games, and that's an unbelievable starting staff.

Let's hope that if the Dodgers do make an offer for Price, both teams can find some common ground so the top prospects don't end up in Tampa Bay.  Seeing Price in Dodger blue would be amazing, but is it worth trading away the future?  Do the Dodgers want to end up like the Yankees where they're constantly trading away prospects and leaving their minor league system bare?  I sure hope not.

I would love to see Price in LA, just as the people of LA would love to actually turn the TV on and watch their favorite team play.  Let's hope both the team and the fans get what they want.  Let's also hope that the minor league system isn't left with nothing when it's all said and done.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

At 36 scoreless, can Kershaw realistically catch Hershiser?

Clayton Kershaw's latest gem came on our nation's Independence Day, as he hurled eight scoreless innings in Colorado of all places, pacing the Dodgers to 9-0 victory.  I think it's fair to say the Rockies have seen enough of this guy, as they were no-hit last time, and got only two hits this time.  That's some unbelievable domination.

With that start, Kershaw has surpassed two of the all-time great Dodgers in Fernando Valenzuela and Don Sutton for consecutive scoreless innings (they each had 35).  Only Don Drysdale (58) and Orel Hershiser (59) remain.  Hershiser, of course, owns the MLB record from his magnificent 1988 Cy Young, world championship season.

Now the question is fair to ask - Can Kershaw catch, and surpass, Hershiser's record?  After last night's start, nothing is impossible.

Kershaw has one more start to go before the All-Star break, and that's home against the Padres next Thursday.  The same Padres who are 15-24 on the road, and are dead last in baseball in runs scored (113) and batting average (.209).  And it's really not even close, either.  Kershaw is 4-1 at home with a 1.80 ERA and .188 BAA.

Advantage, Kershaw.

Say he pitches 7-9 scoreless innings, then that puts him in the 43-45 range.  He needs to get to 60 innings to break the record, so it's anywhere between 15-17 more innings to go.

The All-Star break is coming up after next weekend's games, so it's tough to say right now when he'll make his next start.  The Dodgers could quite possibly send up to three starting pitchers to the Midsummer Classic in Kershaw, Josh Beckett, and Zack Greinke.  I would think at least two of the three would go.

So, that makes it a little tough to guess when Kershaw will make his next start.  Last year he was the only Dodger representative, and after he pitched one scoreless inning in New York, his next start was in the third game after the break.  But, again, it's hard to judge based on more of his teammates likely to be in Minnesota with him this time around.

The Dodgers have three pairs of three game series on the road starting on Friday, July 18: Cardinals, Pirates, and Giants.  If Kershaw pitches the first game, then his next start will be in Pittsburgh.  If he waits even a day, then it'll be in San Francisco.

Can you imagine if Kershaw has a chance to set the record in San Francisco?  Ohhhhhh.... that would be great!

The next two series after that are both at home, three against the Braves, and three against the Cubs.  So maybe that is when he'll set history.

Of course, this is all just speculative.  Maybe Carlos Quintin hits a solo homer in the first inning next Thursday.  Who knows?  I do know that even though the Padres are a weak hitting club, it's hard to predict a shutout against any team.  That's why Kershaw's current streak is all that more remarkable.

For now, let's enjoy 36 straight and the absolute dominance he's been on the last few weeks.  Let's also enjoy first place by 1 1/2 games, as the Giants continue to crumble.

Let's also enjoy the fact that we may be witnessing history in the making each time Kershaw takes the mound.  I'm sure Hershiser is enjoying it from the booth.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Dodgers buck the trend with a late, close win

Consider the following stats on the Dodgers blurted out by Charlie Steiner in the eighth inning of Thursday night's game:

12-13 in one-run games
3-8 in extra inning games
Outscored 83-58 from the eighth inning on

The good news?  Each of those stats just improved a little bit thanks to a 3-2 win over the Rockies.  And with the Cardinals waxing the Giants 7-2, first place in the NL West belongs to LA.

It's never easy to win in the dreaded Coors Field, but Zack Greinke definitely brought his "A" game with two runs (one earned) in eight innings, striking out eight.  His 11 wins ties him for tops in the NL with Adam Wainwright, and hopefully secures him a spot in the All-Star Game.

Of course, it wouldn't be a close Dodger game without some late drama.  Greinke took the hill in the bottom of the eighth up 2-1.  Sure enough, Charlie Blackmon's leadoff single soon led to an RBI triple from Justin Morneau, tying it all up.  Greinke did get Troy Tulowitzki to fly out, and struck out Nolan Arenado to end the inning.

All of the stats I listed at the top would suggest that the Rockies would soon get the comeback win.  Plus, throw in Wednesday afternoon's debacle against the Indians, and it's easy to see why there was some serious doubt.

If there's one thing the Dodgers could feel good about, though, was their road record.  Tonight's win improves them to 27-16, best in all of baseball.  So when Matt Kemp took a leadoff walk and Juan Uribe's scorching RBI single scored him an out later, the Dodgers were back in business and feeling good at 3-2.

Kenley Jansen survived a scare for the final out, as Ryan Wheeler's deep fly ball to right was gloved on the warning track by Yasiel Puig.

This was a good win for a couple of reasons.  One, it got the Dodgers back to first place, as they took advantage of another off day from the Giants.  Two, a late blown lead and loss would have been a carbon copy of the day before, and that's tough to swallow.  I'm glad they found a way to win anyway.

Other thoughts from the game:

* Puig didn't exactly have a day to remember.  He committed his first error of the season when he let a ball bounce by him near center.  Then he went 0-for-4 in the #2 hole, dropping his average to .309.  He's had a serious power outage, as he hasn't homered since May 28.  He had eight in May, and none last month.  Yet, the Dodgers are winning anyway, which shows they're not the one man team they were early in the season.

* Like I said before, Greinke was really good, and has clearly gotten over his rough start in Kansas City last week.  Since then, he's given up two runs in 15 innings, striking out 18, and lowering his ERA from 2.89 to 2.66.  Not to shabby for a #2 pitcher.

* It's good to see Hanley Ramirez did not have to go on the DL, as he hit third and started at short, walking a couple of times.  With that said, his defense is so far and away the worst at his position, it's a pretty big problem.  Any play that's even remotely difficult to make, he won't.  It's pretty hard to watch.

* Thankfully, Erisbel Arruebarrena has been recalled, and he's super smooth at short.  I'm double thankful that Carlos Triunfel has been sent back to Triple-A, as he was just horrific in Wednesday's game.

* Uribe had his best game since coming off of the DL in late June, going 3-for-4 with the game winning RBI single.  He's valuable enough with his glove at third, and now that he's hitting the ball hard again, he's even better.

Clayton Kershaw gets another start against the Rockies on July 4th.  Back on June 8, he won a rain shortened, six inning game 6-1.  Then 10 days later, I think something historic happened in Dodger Stadium.  I kind of forget, though.  Oh well, he'll just have to make more history on Friday.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dodgers of April and May reappear

Poor relief pitching.  Sloppy defense.  Bad baserunning.  Very little clutch hitting.

Those were the ingredients of a mediocre Dodger team through the first couple months of the season.  After dropping two straight to the Indians at home, falling back to second place in the NL West in the process, those bad habits made their return to Dodger Stadium.

Yes, the Dodgers were a couple of innings away from taking two of three, and coupled with Adam Wainwright completely shutting down the Giants at night, would've been back in first place.  But that's the thing with the Dodgers - the margin of error really isn't that big.  That's why a one-run lead in the eighth quickly turned into a two-run deficit.  A ninth inning solo shot by Scott Van Slyke wasn't enough in a 5-4 loss.

Here's a look at each of the four categories I covered above, and how they led to a bad couple of days for the Dodgers.

* Poor relief pitching.  Brian Wilson came into this game with a 4.66 ERA, but he was actually very good in June with a 0.87 ERA in 12 appearances.  It didn't matter in this one, though.  He walked Michael Brantley leading off (who then stole second), walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Yan Gomes. 

That momentum was short-lived, though, as David Murphy's RBI single to left tied it at three, and a botched throw into third (more on that in a second) advanced both runners.  After Lonnie Chisenhall was given the intentional pass, a two-run single by Mike Aviles made it 5-3.  That was all for Wilson, whose ERA ballooned up to 5.52.

Now, hopefully, Don Mattingly will stop making him the automatic setup guy.  Simply put, hitters aren't nearly as scared of him as they once were.  There's no reason to be, as his fastball velocity continues to drop.  Ned Colletti will definitely be active in the trade market after watching this performance.  Enough is enough.

* Sloppy defense.  Ugh.  Three errors, and all of them could've easily been avoided.  Miguel Rojas made a couple of great plays at third, but dropped a grounder.  He gets a pass, because his glove has actually been really good.

Someone who does not get a pass, however, is Carlos Triunfel.  Boy did this guys stink up the joint.  He dropped an easy grounder early in the game.  Then he couldn't handle a perfect throw by A.J. Ellis to nail a runner stealing second.  Then in the infamous eighth inning, as Murphy tied the game on his single, Matt Kemp threw to third so both runners wouldn't advance.  For reasons only known to Triunfel, he wasn't even looking, the ball bounced away, both runners advanced, and then scored on Aviles' ensuing single.  It was just pathetic.

Please, Donny, don't start this guy anymore!  Maybe his .154 AVG will also convince you not to play him.  I hope.

* Bad baserunning.  That wasn't so much a problem in this game, but it sure was the night before.  Let's not forget they ran themselves into a triple play when Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig got way too overaggressive.  Speed may kill, but it can also lead to bad decisions.  On Tuesday night, it the latter.

* Very little clutch hitting.  The Dodgers went 0-for-6 with five strikeouts with the bases loaded on Tuesday, leaving 10 men on base.  That's pretty hard to do.

Then on Wednesday, nine more men were left on base, as they went 1-for-5 with RISP.  In the ninth, they got a little rally going when Hanley Ramirez pinch-hit and walked, followed by a double from Andre Ethier (who played very well with two hits and two RBIs).  Kemp had a chance to be a hero, especially on a day where the lineup looked like it was fresh out of Triple-A with more regulars resting, but flew out meekly to center to end it.  It was another reminder that the Kemp of 2011 has long since disappeared.

So what's the good news?  The NL West is really, really bad.  The Giants are having a horrific time scoring runs, and there's talk of Bruce Bochy drastically changing the look of his lineup, which he should.  The Dodgers don't have much to worry about when it comes to the teams behind them catching up.

Coming up next is four games in Colorado.  The good news is that Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw are lined up to go the next two days.  The bad news is that, well... it's Coors Field.  Anything can happen in that damn place, including inflated ERA's.  The Giants finish up with a Thursday afternoon tilt against the Cards before heading to San Diego for three.