Sunday, May 31, 2015

Punchless Dodgers fail another road test against the NL's elite

By my count, the Dodgers have played in three major series on the road: April 21-23 in San Francisco, May 19-21 in San Francisco again, and these last three days in St. Louis.

The result?  A pitiful 1-8 record, and getting outscored 29-12 in the process.

Sure, the Dodgers can talk about wanting to be the elite of the National League, but until they learn to play better, MUCH better, on the road, they are not in the same class as the Giants and Cardinals.  And that's just the truth.

At home, the Dodgers are a terrific team, as they swept the Mariners in three and took two of three from the Giants back in April.  They get a rematch against these same Cardinals for four games coming up later this week.

But after going through another painful 3-1 loss in which Jhonny Peralta's two-run homer in the first inning held up, it's obvious there's a whole lot of work to be done before anyone should pencil in the Dodgers as a serious contender to come out of the NL.  They're not there yet.

Coming into the Cardinals' series, the focus was on Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke sitting these games out, as they're about to take their turns in the rotation starting Monday in Colorado.  The trio of Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, and Brett Anderson responded by allowing a mere five runs, four of which were earned.  Basically, they pitched well enough as if they were the stars in the first place.

The biggest culprit, again, was the offense, which continues to just sputter along.  Saturday night saw Yasmani Grandal lead the way with a big three-run shot.  Other than Joc Pederson's solo homer in the eighth, it was more of the same today - a whole lot of nothing.  It's pretty amazing just how ice cold this team has become at the plate.

Before the season started, I pointed out how I firmly believed the Dodgers have a deeper lineup, yet there would still be times when they missed the home run power of Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp.  Over the past couple of weeks, those two have been missed many times.  After hitting eight homers in April, Adrian Gonzalez has two in May.  Howie Kendrick had three homers and 17 RBIs in April, and then sank to one and five this month.

Maybe the best example of a player going cold has been Alex Guerrero.  It would have been impossible to keep up his torrid rate from the start of the season, so we shouldn't expect that.  However, with increased playing time lately, he's hitting only .250 with a .294 OBP in May.  He has homered in three of the last six games, but it's getting to the point where he's home run or nothing.

Simply put, the offense is continually letting the rest of the team down.  When that happens, as good as the pitching might be, the Dodgers are still very beatable.  They're also pretty damn boring to watch.  How boring, you ask?  Over the last 12 games (a 5-7 clip), they've scored three or more runs only four times.  That's just terrible.

Maybe a little Coors Field action will help shake them awake, as they will be there for four games the next three days, with a double-header on Tuesday.  Just imagine if they STILL can't hit even there.

That would be a new low.

Grandal's big bop comes not a moment too soon

It might only be temporary, but for one glorious day, the Dodgers can finally say they got the better of the Cardinals on the road.

And Yasmani Grandal is the major reason why.

Not only was Grandal instrumental in getting Carlos Frias back on the right track, but his three-run homer in the sixth broke a 1-1 tie and lifted the Dodgers to a 5-1 victory.  After 42 innings of scoreless baseball on the road, and many more frustrations against the Cardinals in recent history, one of the offseason additions helped put an end to that.

Like I said, it might only be for a day, but it sure felt good.

Grandal was the surprise arrival in the deal with the Padres for Matt Kemp, and he didn't get as much press as the Jimmy Rollins trade.  But a week after watching A.J. Ellis do a whole lot of nothing at the plate, it should make us appreciate what Grandal can do even more.  In 34 games, he's hitting .292 with five homers and 20 RBIs.

Plus, as Mark Saxon on points out, Grandal put in lots of time coming up with a gameplan for Frias, and it obviously worked.  One game after he was rocked for 10 runs on 12 hits in four innings, Frias settled down big time in giving up only one unearned run in seven innings.  The reason?  Grandal got Frias to focus on throwing a couple of pitches early on, then mixing in other stuff later.

At the plate, Grandal helped propel the Dodgers back into first place of the NL West, with an assist from the Braves taking down the Giants 8-0.  I tweeted during the game that the Dodgers don't do anything halfway at the plate - they either all hit, or none of them do.

For five innings against Michael Wacha, they did nothing.  Literally nothing, as they were being no-hit.  That changed in the sixth, as new #2 hitter Justin Turner doubled to right.  Adrian Gonzalez fouled off one outside pitch after another before Wacha beaned him trying to sneak one inside.  An RBI single later by Howie Kendrick (breaking the scoreless streak), it was 1-1.

This is where Grandal went to work, as after Andre Ethier flied out to make it two down, he crushed a 422-foot no-doubter to center for the 4-1 lead.  Take that swing away, and you get the feeling these two teams would've been playing deep into the night considering they already had a rain delay of over two hours.

From there, the offense picked up, even though they only tacked on one more run.  They got six more hits the rest of the way, including an RBI single by newcomer Alberto Callaspo.  It was just obvious that the team was more relaxed and started swinging like they knew they were good again.  Thanks, Yasmani.

After looking so pitiful in Friday night's 3-0 loss, this can suddenly be a great weekend if Brett Anderson leads the Dodgers to a Sunday victory.  Let's just hope that Grandal got some good rest after the game and is ready to go.  The Dodgers need him.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Grandal is back, and Rollins is dropped to 8th

A couple of items to discuss before the Dodgers once again try to solve the puzzle this is the St. Louis Cardinals...

* Yasmani Grandal is being activated from the 7-day concussion DL, needing the minimum amount of days to do so.  He got knocked around, literally, in the noggin against the Padres a week ago, so precaution was understandably taken.  Chris Heisey will be sent down to Triple-A Oklahoma City, just four days shy of five full years of service time, meaning he could've refused the assignment.  I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that why he was the chosen one.

For now, the Dodgers plan on keeping three catchers on the active roster, meaning young Austin Barnes will be the emergency catcher.  I can't imagine that will last long; maybe only as long as Grandal shows he's fully healthy and there's no reason to worry about him.

The Dodgers definitely needed this bit of good news, as Ellis has given them next to nothing at the plate.  No one will ever question his heart and preparation with the pitching staff, but at the plate, he's about as lousy as one can get.  There is nothing about him with the lumber that scares anyone.

* The other bit of news is that after starting all 41 games he's played in the #2 hole, Don Mattingly has decided to slide Jimmy Rollins down to #8.  In his place will be Justin Turner making another start at third.

This is a move many people, myself included, have been clamoring for for many weeks.  Rollins is only hitting .210 with a .278 OBP.  But, if you look a little closer at the stats, you'll see that he's on a six-game hitting streak, raising his average from .194.  He also had the Dodgers' only extra-base hit on Friday, a double.

So why the switch?  I have to think it's because Donnie is trying all he can to wake up a deadbeat offense on the road.  They've gone an absurd 37 straight innings away from home without scoring one damn run.  That really is embarrassing.  So while Rollins has improved, it's not like he's killing the ball, it's been mostly singles.

I like the move because it gets some new blood at the top, as Turner is hitting .298 with a .383 OBP, five homers, and 19 RBIs.  He's one of those guys who consistently leaves a mark when he's in the starting lineup, so why not move him to a more important spot in the order?

The next domino falling in the order could be Joc Pederson.  He's had an exciting season, but is striking out way too much at 57, and has only taken two walks in his last nine games.  That's not exactly a good combination for the leadoff hitter.  He'll still have his games where he's tearing the cover off the ball, but when he's not, it's a whole lot of swings and misses.

Maybe Rollins continues to hit well from the #8 spot.  I can then see him becoming the leadoff hitter, moving Pederson down to #5 or #6 to drive in more runs with that wicked swing of his.  We shall see.

Dodgers flat and frustrated in St. Louis

It's never a good sign when your team has more ejections than runs scored.

And so it goes for the Dodgers in St. Louis, a place that once again has proven to be nearly impossible for them to conquer.

On Friday night it was more of the same, as John Lackey was dominant, the Dodgers' offense extended their scoreless road streak to a pathetic 37 innings, Don Mattingly and A.J. Ellis were tossed, and the Dodgers dropped the first of a three game-set 3-0.

Something else that dropped was the Dodgers' position of first place in the NL West.  That now belongs to the Giants, who took care of the Braves at home.

Oh ya, home plate umpire Mike Winters was just terrible.  He's certainly not the only reason the Dodgers lost (more on that below), but his strike zone and quick trigger were all over the place.  And shockingly, the calls went the Cards' way at home.

Let's start with the Dodgers' offense.  There's really not a whole lot to say other than "They sucked."  They mustered six hits (two apiece by Jimmy Rollins and Justin Turner), only one extra-base hit on a double by Rollins, went 0-for-5 with RISP, and had Howie Kendrick ground into a double play.

But hey, at least they struck out 11 times!  Yuck.

Look, playing in St. Louis is tough.  Really, really tough.  As in, visiting teams have won 5 of 24 games there.  But the Dodgers just look like they have no life and have to scratch and claw for every little run.  And that's something they couldn't even do once Friday night.

To their defense, Winters didn't help this any.  All umpires have slightly different (sometimes very different) strike zones, so I swear I'm not one to point them out for a loss.  And when I do, I feel it's warranted.  In this game, it was definitely warranted.

The biggest gripe of Mattingly and Ellis was that nobody knew exactly what to expect as far as what is and isn't a strike.  There was no "adjusting to the umpire" because the umpire looked like he was adjusting his own calls on the fly.  And without saying this too loudly, the other complaint was that Yadier Molina got more calls based on his reputation.  I believe it.

If you think this is a loyal Dodger fan showing sour grapes, then I counter with this scenario: in the seventh, the Dodgers finally got something going when Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner singled with no outs.  Andre Ethier then took a very, VERY questionable strike three call on a pitch below the knees (which goes back to the "Molina gets the call" narrative).  Ethier was shocked, pissed off, and said his piece.

So of course Winters had to then stare into the dugout and toss Mattingly from there.  Instead of just looking the other way on an obvious missed call, Winters had to make it worse by running Mattingly.  And then Ellis got his two cents in during the bottom of the inning and was also ejected.  It was just a mess all over, and completely ridiculous.

OK, umpire rant over.

All of that aside, like I wrote about before the game yesterday, the Dodgers need to step up this weekend.  It's not "must-win" because it's still early in the season, but the last thing they need is another poor showing on the road.  Friday night was indeed just that.

It won't be easy with Carlos Frias on the mound, a guy who looks solid one start, then absolutely horrendous the next.  It's time for guys like A-Gon, Kendrick, or Ethier to deliver a huge home run, or at least drive in a few runs.  Even with Yasiel Puig out, this offense has too much talent to look this pitiful on the road.

Friday, May 29, 2015

It's not quite the same, but the Cardinals' series is a big one for the Dodgers

This weekend in St. Louis, the top two teams in the National League will do battle when the Dodgers take on the Cardinals.

You know, the same Cardinals team that has unceremoniously knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs the last two seasons.

Some of the faces have changed, but the bottom line remains: this is a nice test early in the season for the boys from LA.

Gone are Adam Wainwright, Matt Adams, Shelby Miller, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Hanley Ramirez.  They're either all hurt or on different teams.  So while the names this year don't quite match up to the last couple of years, anytime the Dodgers get a chance to take on the Cards, it's a good test to see just how they measure up against one of the best the NL has to offer year after year.

The Dodgers are coming into this series on a bit of a roller coaster ride.  They got swept three straight in San Francisco without scoring a single run.  They followed that up with by taking two of three from the Padres and the Braves at home.  Their offense finally woke up after a long hibernation, and Clayton Kershaw had his best start of the season in shutting down the Braves.

The Cardinals dropped three straight to the Mets (for one) and the Royals before winning the next four over the Royals (for one) and sweeping the Diamondbacks.  They just got dealt a huge blow by losing Adams for a few months, if not the whole season.  But these are the Cardinals, and they always find a way.

Want another reason why the Cardinals are the measuring stick?  They're 18-5 at home.  The Dodgers are quite dominant themselves at home at 21-7, but that obviously doesn't matter now.  Their 7-11 road record does, which is something Don Mattingly has openly talked about needing to improve upon.

For these three games, the Dodgers will roll out Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, and Brett Anderson to the mound.  That's right - Kershaw and Zack Greinke will merely be bystanders as they wait their turn in Coors Field.  I can imagine those two are just thrilled about that.  The Cardinals counter with John Lackey, Michael Wacha (undefeated at 7-0), and Carlos Martinez.  Wainwright is gone, but that hasn't stopped them from leading all of baseball with a 3.08 starter's ERA.

In other words, the faces change, but the Cardinals' success stays the same.

It's way too early in the year to label this as "must-win," especially when the Dodgers have their former Cy Young winners watching from the dugout.  They can get swept and still be seven games over .500 heading into June.  So it's not like it'll be all doom and gloom.

But make no mistake about it, the Dodgers want to prove that they are the class of the NL after failing so miserably a week ago against the Giants.  Another pounding on the road against a contender would make them look more like pretenders.

Let's see if the Dodgers can squeeze out a couple of wins with the back end of their rotation going, minus names like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy.  Instead it'll be a couple of rookies and a veteran with a long injury history.  And oh ya... no Kershaw or Greinke.  Have I mentioned that before?

If the Dodgers can string together some hits, drive in runs in scoring position, and not suffer any bullpen meltdowns from their young arms, then this can be a great weekend for them.

If not, then it'll look like more of the same from the playoffs.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Early Dodgers' All-Star candidates

As June is about to approach, the All-Star Game chatter will start to pick up.  Here's an early look at who I believe has a realistic chance of representing the Dodgers in the Midsummer Classic for the National League.


Adrian Gonzalez, 1B.  He still has some work to do in holding off big sluggers like Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, and Lucas Duda.  But for now, there's no denying that at .344 with 17 doubles, 10 homers, and 35 RBIs, A-Gon is more than deserving of the start.  He's been the rock in the heart of the Dodgers' order.

Zack Greinke, SP.  It's been Greinke, and not Clayton Kershaw, who's been the Dodgers' go-to guy on the mound.  At 5-1 with a 1.48 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, he's just behind A.J. Burnett for tops in the NL.  He has a massive contract, and is pitching like a guy who wants to opt out and get an even more bloated one.  Good for him.


Howie Kendrick, 2B.  He's been everything the Dodgers hoped he would be: a solid hitter right next to A-Gon, and terrific with the glove.  It won't be easy to make the squad, as there are three guys ahead of him with higher averages: Dee Gordon, DJ LeMahieu, and Kolten Wong.  Plus, Joe Panik, Brandon Phillips, and Daniel Murphy are lurking right behind.  It's actually a pretty deep position when you break it down.

Yasmani Grandal, C.  The numbers are certainly there: .291 AVG, .403 OBP, 4 HR, 17 RBI.  What's working against him is that in the NL, you'll always have to beat out Buster Posey and Yadier Molina.  Good luck with that!  So maybe he slides in as the third catcher, which is possible. 

Joc Pederson, CF.  It's been quite the start to the season for Mr. All or Nothing, as he is tied for third in NL outfielders with 12 home runs, and has third to himself with 54 strikeouts.  He's been a fun player to watch between the moonshots and the great glove in center, so he definitely has people's attention.  There's just so much talent in the outfield already, it's going to be difficult to find a spot.  But if he keeps putting up numbers and making highlight reels, he has a chance.

Kenley Jansen, RP.  This one won't be easy, only because he missed so much time with the foot injury.  But so far, he's been flawless with four saves, and is still striking out everyone left and right.  He'll need a huge month of June to get consideration, but if his ERA is still miniscule, he might slip in.

Uribe's time in Dodger blue is done

It was official, and then it wasn't.  And now it looks to "officially" be official.  Got that?

Juan Uribe sure does, and after a day of going back and forth, the trade that sends Alberto Callaspo and others to the Dodgers for Uribe is done.  Apparently Callaspo had a change of heart about playing for the first place Dodgers.  Or maybe he was told he would be DFA'd if he didn't accept the trade anyway.  Who knows.

What we do know is that after a day of going back and forth with the Braves, the two-time champion Uribe is going across the coast to Atlanta.  Actually, he's going across the field to the visiting clubhouse, as the Braves are still in LA.  Go figure.

Before looking back at what Uribe brought to the Dodgers, it's important to note why exactly this deal was executed, especially after all of the praise of Uribe being such a great "clubhouse guy" on a team that was dysfunctional in the past.  It's true - he is very well-liked, and I'm sure was invaluable in helping Yasiel Puig get adjusted to the Majors.

But, this year has brought a whole lot of change to the Dodgers, and keeping an older, declining guy in the fold over younger, better options just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  Justin Turner can play many positions and hit well, and Alex Guerrero has already brought enough power to warrant more playing time.

So Uribe is the odd man out.

In reflecting back on Uribe's tenure with the Dodgers, let's remember that he was a Gold Glove finalist at third base the last two seasons.  I thought he got robbed in not winning one of them, but it is what it is.  Even when the hitting wasn't there, he really could flash some serious leather at a very hard position.  His Defensive WAR the last two seasons are 1.8 and 2.0, respectively.

That's the good side, but the not-so-good-side has been his inconsistency in both staying on the field and at the plate.  He's battled leg injuries the last couple of years, limiting him to 103 games last season.  For a guy who's 36 and in his 15th season, that's some understandable wear and tear.

When Uribe was first signed before the 2011 season, he was coming off a World Series championship with the Giants.  Ned Colletti, formally of the Giants' front office, liked his championship experience (he won another one with the White Sox in 2005), and wanted his leadership to rub off on the Dodgers.

Well, things didn't quite work out initially to say the least.  His 2011 and 2012 campaigns featured some of the worst baseball any "big" free agent signing has ever played.  He hit .204 with four homers and 28 RBIs in 77 games in '11, and followed that up with a .191/2/17 line in 66 games.  To sum it all up, he was really, REALLY pathetic.

Somehow, some way he was able to survive being cut, and wouldn't you know it, in 2013 he actually looked like a real player again, going .278/12/50 in 132 games.  Not huge, overpowering numbers, but much-improved and complimented his slick play at third very well.

Last year was when injuries limited him to 103 games, though he was effective at the plate by going .311/9/54 in 103 games.  And he again failed to win a Gold Glove, even if he deserved to win.

The offseason signing of Hector Olivera to a six-year, $62.5 million contract (which only recently became official) along with the emergence of Guerrero had only further clouded Uribe's future in LA.  Now, he's an ex-Dodger after 4+ years of service.

It was an interesting ride for Uribe, at times bumpy, and at times smooth.  He was described as being very emotional about the trade, which one can only imagine what that must feel like.  His teammates will definitely miss him, no doubt.  The fans have grown to appreciate his hard work, too.

But in the end, the Dodgers made the correct call in freeing up some of the logjam (think Matt Kemp's trade helping the outfield), and will give more swings to Guerrero and soon Olivera.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Callaspo doesn't hesitate to block deal to Dodgers

Juan Uribe was THIS close to becoming an ex-Dodger today.

The only problem was that Alberto Callaspo didn't want to become a current one.

After the Dodgers and Braves agreed to a deal centered around swapping the third basemen and a few minor league players, Callaspo quickly put an end to it, as he rejected the trade.  It's not because he has a no-trade clause (far from it), it's because he had until June 15 to refuse any deal since he signed as a free agent this past offseason.

And you know what?  I don't blame Callaspo at all.

Think about it - For a guy who wants more playing time, isn't the Dodgers one of the last places to go?  Considering there's Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero already battling for at-bats, and Hector Olivera readying himself for the call-up, Callaspo would be nothing more than a pinch-hitting option late in the game.

It wasn't too long ago when Callaspo was a solid hand for the Angels, hitting .288 in 2011, then following that up with 10 homers and 53 RBIs the next season.  Last season with the A's his numbers went way down to .223/4/39, and this season with the Braves is even worse at .208/1/8.

Nonetheless, Callaspo appears to be fixated on getting more playing time somewhere else, and that's well within his rights.  Andrew Friedman liked him off the bench because he keeps his strikeouts low and has a career .328 OBP.  But, it wasn't meant to be.

Now the focus turns to Uribe, and what the Dodgers now do with him.  He's had one of the most bizarre careers in Dodgers' history, going from absolutely pathetic in 2011 and 2012, to reinvigorating himself at the plate and nearly winning a Gold Glove twice the last two seasons.  This season, though, he's down to .247 and a .287 OBP in 29 games, and is clearly getting passed over for Turner and Guerrero.

So, it should come as no surprise that Friedman is ready to let him go.  His glove is excellent, but at 36, in his 15th season, and with a recent history of leg injuries, it's not looking like he'll be the everyday third baseman again.

I wouldn't expect this to be the last of trying to move Uribe, as the younger, better options are making it necessary.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Press Release - Kershaw's Challenge, "Strikeout to Serve"

Los Angeles, May 14th, 2015 | Kershaw’s Challenge, the nonprofit charity established by Ellen and Clayton Kershaw, announced today its continued partnership with Together, Kershaw’s Challenge and are renewing its “Strikeout to Serve” fundraising initiative for the 2015 season with Clayton making a donation to Kershaw’s Challenge with each strikeout he throws. For the second consecutive year, fans can do likewise by visiting and donating to Kershaw’s Challenge whenever Clayton strikes out an opposing batter. By joining this challenge, anyone can help Kershaw’s Challenge continue to serve at-risk children and neighborhoods throughout the world.
“We are so grateful for everyone’s efforts in 2014 and making Kershaw’s Challenge such a success,” said Clayton Kershaw, c0-founder of Kershaw’s Challenge. “Along with our partnership with, we look forward to another successful year in 2015 and making a difference not only here locally but around the world.”
In 2015, Kershaw’s Challenge is honored to support four amazing organizations. First, funds from the “Strikeout to Serve” campaign will help 100 children at CURE International’s hospital in the Dominican Republic receive life-altering surgeries and also fund two necessary staffing additions for the hospital. Second, Mercy Street in Dallas will move closer to its goal of creating a “bigger vision” sporting complex in West Dallas. Third, funds will help Arise Africa construct another children’s home in Lusaka, Zambia for orphaned boys and girls. Lastly in Los Angeles, our raised funds will support a Foster Care Intervention program with the Dream Center.
“We are honored to again be working with Clayton and Ellen and their incredible organization,” said Adam Bagarella, GiveStep CEO and co-founder. “We admire their devotion to maximizing the impact of Clayton’s status as the premier pitcher in Major League Baseball for important causes around the world. We are proud that our platform is able to assist Kershaw’s Challenge in their tireless efforts.”
For those interested in joining the Strikeout to Serve team, please visit the profile page for Kershaw’s Challenge on the GiveStep Web site by clicking Once there, you can complete the sign-up process and make your pledge by hitting the “Give Now” button, which is located inside a light blue box near the middle of the page. Signing up is quick and secure. You can pledge any amount—every dollar is a tremendous blessing to our efforts.
Ellen and Clayton Kershaw founded Kershaw’s Challenge ( with a simple goal: To challenge and encourage people to use whatever passion, purpose or talent that they have been given to make an impact in the lives of at-risk children and communities in need. In addition to fostering strong connections in the Los Angeles and Dallas communities, the Kershaws also maintain a strong partnership in Zambia, where they have helped to construct and support an orphanage and currently are working to build another. In 2015, Kershaw’s will support work in the Dominican Republic for the first time. Clayton has received the Roberto Clemente Award and the Branch Rickey Award from Major League Baseball in honor of his philanthropic work and overall commitment to his community.
ABOUT GIVESTEP.COM is a crowdfunding platform powered by sports and the passion of fans that provides a new way to support charitable causes. Using GiveStep's "event-based giving" system, fans can make donations to causes of their choosing whenever their favorite sports teams or athletes win, score, or make a play (think fantasy sports meets charitable giving).
For more information, please contact:
Anna Staples – Kershaw’s Challenge

Frias rocked, so who are the possible trade options?

One day after Carlos Frias was unmercifully rocked 11-3 by the Padres (he only lasted four painful innings), it's safe to say Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers have ramped up their efforts to acquire starting pitching.

With that in mind, and based on the suggestions by the great writer Mark Saxon from, let's take a look at the seven starting pitchers he mentioned, with stats from this year and over their careers:

Scott Kazmir - Oakland
2015: 9 starts, 2-3, 3.09 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 53 K, 55 1/3 IP
Career: 249 starts (250 games), 93-82, 4.03 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 1372 K, 1425 2/3 IP

Jesse Chavez - Oakland
2015: 6 starts (10 games), 1-4, 2.89 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 41 K, 43 2/3 IP
Career: 29 starts (233 games), 18-27, 4.52 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 378 K, 424 1/3 IP

Kyle Lohse - Milwaukee
2015: 9 starts, 3-4, 5.53 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 42 K, 53 2/3 IP
Career: 403 starts (427 games), 145-132, 4.31 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 1546 K, 2423 2/3 IP

Matt Garza - Milwaukee
2015: 9 starts, 2-6, 5.71 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 38 K, 52 IP
Career: 227 starts (230 games), 77-81, 3.88 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 1165 K, 1397 2/3 IP

Johnny Cueto - Cincinnati
2015: 9 starts: 3-4, 3.03 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 60 K, 65 1/3 IP
Career: 203 starts, 88-61, 3.26 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 1055 K, 1273 2/3 IP

Mike Leake - Cincinnati
2015: 9 starts, 2-3, 4.14 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 30 K, 58 2/3 IP
Career: 151 starts (156 games), 55-45, 3.93 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 641 K, 950 1/3 IP

Yovani Gallardo - Texas
2015: 10 starts, 4-6, 4.13 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 40 K, 56 2/3 IP
Career: 221 starts (224 games), 93-70, 3.71 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 1266 K, 1346 IP

My Thoughts:
Obviously, Cueto will be the big chip every contender is gunning for.  It doesn't matter if the Dodgers' starting staff puts together a long run of quality starts, there's no denying just how big of an impact Cueto can make if he comes into the fold.  To be as dominant as he's been in the Reds' ballpark is even more impressive.  He's actually pitched much better at home (1.55 ERA) than on the road (4.21 ERA) this year.

Getting Cueto will not be easy or cheap, so perhaps the Dodgers shy away from trading some of their prospects and go in a different direction.  Of the names listed above, I'd lean more towards the American League guys than the National League ones.

Kazmir will also not come cheap, though I can't imagine his price will be as high as Cueto's.  Perhaps the Dodgers will look to replace their original #3 lefty starter Hyun-Jin Ryu with another lefty.  Kazmir's last couple of starts haven't been pretty, and his walks are starting to pile up, so that's something to keep an eye on.

I'd put Chavez and Gallardo on the next level, as either one of them can be pretty good.  Gallardo is the more experienced one if that makes a difference.  I'm just not sure the Rangers will be sellers because in the AL West, it's unlikely the Astros continue to play so well.  The Rangers can quietly make their move, and with Yu Darvish done for the season, Gallardo is arguably their best starter.

Chavez has only been a consistent starter since last season, as he was mostly a reliever since breaking in with the Pirates in 2008.  I only know him from being on one of my fantasy teams, but in looking at this numbers, he's only given up a couple of home runs and 13 walks in nearly 44 innings.  So, he doesn't let many people on base, or to circle the bases.  I can see him coming in and becoming a solid starter towards the back end of the rotation.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dodgers keep trudging through offensive struggles

Friday night was the latest in a line of poor offensive outputs, as the Dodgers managed only two runs at home against Andrew Cashner and the Padres.

Fortunately for them, Zack Greinke, Chris Hatcher, and Kenley Jansen were even better, as they pitched the Dodgers to a 2-1 victory.

It was a much-needed win, as the Dodgers have had one hell of a time getting anything going lately.  This game was no different, as they managed only six hits, going 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.  That "one" was a fifth inning RBI double down the right field line for Andre Ethier, snapping the Dodgers 35-inning scoreless streak.

35 painful innings, mercifully down the drain.

Greinke had it going until the seventh when Derek Norris hit a ground rule double to left, and scored on Will Venable's soft single into center.  Joc Pederson did a great job trying to nail Norris at home, but he was called safe, and held up on replay.  It was a very close call, and even though Norris's lead leg did not make contact with the plate, I thought it was still the right call.

At 1-1 in the eighth, the Dodgers were looking for a spark... ANY sort of spark.  Leave it to Mr. "Swing Hard or Don't Swing at All" Pederson to do just that.  He absolutely creamed an 0-2 fastball from Joaquin Benoit that caught way too much of the plate into center for a 430-foot solo homer.

Kenley Jansen didn't need many pitches, 12 in total, to set down the side in order for his second save.

It's not like the Dodgers busted out the big sticks and put all of their frustrations behind them, as they were a lot more bad than good on Friday.  But, the positive way of looking at this game is that Pederson stepped up when his team needed him the most, and that can hopefully be the baby step that gets them going.

Speaking of Pederson, I did like the small adjustments he seemed to be making, as he went the other way in his first couple of at-bats.  That's smart hitting, especially for a slumping guy hitting leadoff on a slumping team.  When his team needed a big fly, that's when he went back to his all-or-nothing approach.  It worked.

Now his team needs to get more guys in on the act, but it won't be easy.  Yasmani Grandal had to exit after the fourth with concussion-like symptoms.  He took the back end of a swing a couple of innings before, and though he tried to stick it out, was soon sent home.  A.J. Ellis took over from there, and needless to say, that's not exactly an offensive upgrade.

Maybe this weekend will see guys like Adrian Gonzalez or Howie Kendrick go 5-for-5 with two homers.  Or maybe they just add a couple of RBIs here or there.  Whatever it takes to get different guys in the order going, I'm all for it. 

And maybe that will lead to a sweep of the Padres, taking some of the sting away from getting crushed by the Giants.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dodgers need Puig back. NOW.

If you're looking for any sort of good news after the Dodgers were embarrassingly swept and shut out for three games in San Francisco, it's this: Yasiel Puig is apparently feeling much better and nearing a return.


I'd also like to personally thank Jon Heyman of CBS Sports for putting somewhat of a smile on my face after these last few days.

Every team goes through slumps, but the Dodgers' offense looks just plain pathetic right now.  They haven't scored a run in 31 straight innings, and haven't won a game since a 1-0 squeaker over the Rockies on Sunday.  They've dropped six of their last eight, and have a grand total of two runs in the last five games.

So yes, Puig's return cannot possibly come any quicker.

Before this recent slide, Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke, and Alex Guerrero have done a great job in splitting some time in the outfield.  It's been Ethier exclusively filling Puig's spot in right, and he's responded by hitting .314 with five homers and 14 RBIs.  Guerrero (.307) and Van Slyke (.306) have each provided big hits as well.

That is, before these past few games.  Now none of them can get anything going, which isn't a whole lot different than the rest of the team.  This has just reinforced the fact that Puig is very missed, and taking his bat out of the lineup over the long haul is hard to overcome.

One thing I'd like to see Don Mattingly do, at least when Puig first comes back, is to insert him as the leadoff hitter.  Both Joc Pederson and Jimmy Rollins are hitting .192 in that role, which is obviously really low.  Pederson has been there for the last 19 games, and has 25 strikeouts.  No matter how electric he looks, that's just way too many swings and misses, and it's stalling the offense as a whole.  When he's hitting home runs that somewhat makes up for it, but that hasn't happened the last seven games.

Puig certainly has his fair share of strikeouts as well, but it's worth a shot.  We all need to remember that Pederson is still a rookie who's adjusting to big league pitching.  I liked it when Donny put him at the leadoff spot a few weeks ago, but now it's time to slip him back down the lineup.  Puig leading off the game is a scary thought for the opposing pitcher, so it can definitely work.

But before all of that happens, Puig just needs to make sure he's completely healed up so there's not another setback.  It looks like he's doing just that, which is good news for a team that really needs it right now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

With Ryu out, Beachy's signing is that much more important

Remember when the Dodgers signed Brandon Beachy to a one-year, $2.75 million contract back in February?


Well, take my word for it, because they did.  And it's a good thing, too, considering the news from today concerning another one of their starters.

Hyun-Jin Ryu has opted for shoulder surgery on Thursday, all but ending any chance he pitches in 2015.  Never say never, but I haven't read a thing yet that makes me even somewhat optimistic that he'll be toeing the rubber come this postseason.  It ain't gonna happen, folks.

So, this is where the Dodgers start to scramble with Ryu and Brandon McCarthy already KO'd for the year.  They've gotten good starts out of rookies Carlos Frias (3-1, 2.55 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) and Mike Bolsinger (2-0, 1.04, 1.10).  In fact, those are very good numbers, so it's hard to expect them to stay that way.  That's not to say they can't pitch well, but numbers that low can't be counted on over and over.

That leads us back to Beachy, who's showing signs of fighting back from his second Tommy John surgery in three years.  He hasn't pitched since August of 2013, so you can understand just how long a road he's been on in pitching again.  His most recent step came a few days ago when he tossed two innings of a simulated game pain free.

At the time, I don't think anyone could've expected Beachy to be so important this early in the season, but he is.  In 46 career starts with the Braves, he's 14-11 with a 3.23 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 275 K's in 267 2/3 IP.  Those numbers are very promising, and you can see why the Dodgers were willing to take a chance on him.

What's next in the recovery process for Beachy?  According to Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles,com, he's expected to go on a rehab assignment soon.  Assuming that all goes well, then it's very possible we'll see him with the big club in June.

That's a best case scenario, and considering how fragile his arm has been in the past, we'll have just wait and see how he responds after increasing his workload each start.

But let's stay positive here and say that all does go well.  Beachy can then slot himself right into the back end of the rotation over the summer and give a nice boost.  It'll be hard to match Ryu's consistency, but as long as he can keep his WHIP low, the much-improved Dodgers' defense can help him in a big way.

The bottom line is to keep your eye on Beachy over the next few weeks.  If he's feeling good and getting hitters out, he can be just what the Dodgers need in June.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

We may not see Ryu this year for awhile... if at all

Tough news for the Dodgers today, as the LA Times is passing along a report from South Korea that says Hyun-Jin Ryu may need season-ending shoulder surgery.  That would end his 2015 campaign before it even started.

After making a couple of starts in Spring Training, Ryu was shut down due to "shoulder inflammation," which is basically saying that they hoped whatever was bugging him in his shoulder would go away with rest.  Obviously, it hasn't.

Now the Dodgers are faced with one of two options: cut open the shoulder, see what's wrong, and perform the surgery; or keep resting him and hope for the best.

You get the feeling that the "rest" option is being thrown out the window, as he's been doing so since March, and it doesn't seem to be making any difference.  As Dodgers' reporter Dylan Hernandez points out in the article linked above, shoulder operations are historically much riskier than elbow surgeries, so Ryu is reluctant to go under the knife.

The Dodgers are in first place by 4 1/2 games over the Giants in the NL West, but the concerns remain.  Brandon McCarthy is already out for the season with Tommy John surgery, Brett Anderson hasn't gotten hurt yet like he usually does, and Clayton Kershaw has actually appeared human.  They were hoping Ryu would come back and be that stud #3 starter, but that's looking increasingly unlikely.

In two MLB seasons, Ryu is 28-15 with a 3.17 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 293 K's in 344 IP.  Those are some great numbers, but considering the workload he brought with him from Korea, perhaps it's not a surprise that his body is starting to fail him.  That's a lot of pitches over the last few seasons.

We'll see if Ryu really does opt for surgery over time.  Let's hope it doesn't come to that, and he is back in the rotation over the summer.

I'm just not counting on it.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

For the bullpen: a bad week, or sign of things to come?

For the fourth straight game, the Dodgers' bullpen, which started off the year a house of fire and drew appropriate praise, was knocked around.  This time it was Sergio Santos looking lost, as the Rockies took a 1-0 lead in the seventh and quickly turned it into a 7-1 victory.

There wasn't a whole lot he did right, other than giving the Dodgers two innings of work, which I guess rested some guys.  Notice I'm really digging for the silver lining.  The Dodgers stood at 22-10 after a Tuesday shellacking of the Marlins, but have dropped three of four since. 

Here's how some of the shoddy performances in the 'pen looked in those four games:

* Wednesday vs. Marlins: Adam Liberatore (0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, couldn't hold the lead)
* Thursday vs. Rockies: Yimi Garcia (1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, Blown Save)
* Friday vs. Rockies: Paco Rodriguez (0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, couldn't strand Clayton Kershaw's runners)
* Saturday vs. Rockies: Sergio Santos (2 IP, 3 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, turned a 1-0 deficit into a 7-0 hole), Rodriguez (1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER)

Probably most frustrating is that in four games, four different guys were responsible for giving up runs.  It wasn't like it was just one guy, it was a collection of bad pitching.  And that list doesn't even include Chris Hatcher, who has a 6.00 ERA in 16 appearances.

Look, there's no way to expect a bullpen to continually be perfect game after game.  There's a couple of things working against them to go along with that: most arms are young and unproven, and the starters are banged up and not pitching deep into games.  Even Kershaw and Zack Greinke were at the 100-pitch mark after six innings, which is way too many for them.

So, it's understandable for those of you saying that the 'pen is overworked, and therefore regression is expected.  I somewhat buy into that, but not totally.  All of the guys listed above gave up runs right off the bat when they were fresh.  Santos surrendered two and then three runs, so he was all over the map.  The bottom line is that they were bad, no matter how you slice it.

The good news is that Kenley Jansen is back, and boy was he in his prime form on Friday.  Four strikeouts in one inning, and a cutter that was thrown right down the middle, but still unhittable.  Imagine if he starts hitting corners with that thing!  Maybe he almost did too good, so we should keep in mind that he's just getting it going again, as it's like early April to him.  But he needs to close, and nobody else.

Let's also hope that Joel Peralta and even Brandon League can come back soon, as at this point, they look like much better options than guys like Santos and Hatcher.  Pedro Baez just went on the DL with a straight pectoral muscle, so keep him in mind down the line a bit.

The Sunday finale in Dodger Stadium will see Mike Bolsinger get his third start.  In his previous two starts, he's had identical lines of 5 2/3 innings, five hits, and one run, good for a 1.59 ERA.  Great stuff, but don't expect him to go seven or eight innings unless a lot is going right.  The bullpen will be needed again, so let's see who steps up and delivers.

Because if they don't, then to answer the question in the title, it might be a sign of things to come.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kershaw and Jansen show the Dodgers at their best

For six innings of Clayton Kershaw, and one inning of Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers showed just how tough they can be when their big dogs are delivering on the mound.

For one of those innings in between, nearly everything slipped away, but we'll stay positive for now.

Kershaw was able to gather 10 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings, and Jansen got the rare four-strikeout inning in the eighth, as the Dodgers held off the Rockies in Dodger Stadium 6-4.  After two straight games of blowing leads, the Dodgers were able to get back up to a five-game lead in the NL West thanks to the Padres getting blown out by the Nationals.

Kershaw had been waiting a few starts for win #100, and it finally came on Friday.  It was smooth sailing through six, as his pitches looked sharper than his last few starts, and the offense built a 6-0 lead.  His slider, which sometimes goes MIA, was back and getting lots of swings and misses.

The only problem was that his pitch count was getting way up there, as his location was better, but not where he normally is.  That caused him to unravel a bit in the seventh, as he got a couple of outs, but was yanked with two on.  Paco Rodriguez gave up a bases clearing double to Daniel Descalso, so Kershaw's final line looked a little worse than he probably deserved with three earned runs.

Earlier in the day, the Dodgers activated Jansen, who was not expected to be in any big situations right off the bat.  Well, that's all well and good in theory, but with a struggling bullpen this week, those plans were thrown out the window as he entered a two-run game in the eighth.

The results?  Absolute perfection.  He struck out CarGo, who went to first when Yasmani Grandal couldn't catch the damn ball.  No worries, as Jansen struck out the next three hitters swinging as well, emphatically ending the inning.

You can't possibly have a better return at a better time than Jansen did, as their young arms have taken a step back the last few games, and injuries to Joel Peralta and Pedro Baez have only made it worse.  Don Mattingly may say he wants to ease Jansen back in, but give me a break.  Give the guy the ball in the ninth and let him go!  His cutter looked really good, so unleash him.

With an offense that is as deep as Andrew Friedman was hoping it would be, Kershaw and Jansen pitching at the top of their games show how good the Dodgers can be on any given night.  These two are the best at what they do (starting pitcher and closer, of course), so when they pitch like that, it's all good.

There's a couple of important things for them to do from here on out: keep building on this success, and stay on the field!  Heck, that's what every player wants to do, but with the D(L)odgers, it means even more.  When they take the ball, the club expects big things from them, just like Friday night.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

If I'm Carl Crawford, I'm very nervous right now

Carl Crawford hasn't played in a game since an April 27th victory over the Giants.  In that game, he tripled, then had to leave after the third with a sore right side.  That turned out to be a torn oblique, and other than placing him on the 15-day DL, not much has been said about him since.

With the way Scott Van Slyke, Andre Ethier, and Alex Guerrero have performed in his absence, I'm not sure we'll see much of Crawford from here on out.

So, like the title says, if I'm Crawford, I'm very nervous that this is the injury that KO's me from the lineup completely.

At this point, there's really no reason at all to rush Crawford back, or even to make it seem like he's needed at all.  That's how well those other three players have performed.  Add in the impending return of Yasiel Puig to play right field, and that makes Crawford needed even less.

Van Slyke got the start in left on Monday night, and it's a good thing he did.  After Yimi Garcia blew the save in the top of the ninth, Van Slyke launched a walk-off, three-run homer to dead center to defeat the Marlins 5-3.  He's played in 20 games, and is hitting .340 with five doubles, two homers, and 12 RBIs.  He's strong as a freakin' ox, and his bat brings instant impact.

Guerrero started off the season red hot in any role, cooled off a bit in May, but is still hitting .326 with three doubles, six homers, and 14 RBIs in 21 games.  Simply put, Don Mattingly was forced into giving him more time because of his bat.

Ethier has gotten the most playing time of anyone at 28 games, and he's responded very well.  Last year was practically a giant waste for him, but so far, he's hitting .286 with three doubles, two triples, four homers, and 10 RBIs.  He can put his glove on and play any of the three outfield positions, so he's invaluable in that aspect.  It's great to see him contributing again and looking like he's healthy.

You know Joc Pederson and Puig are locked into their positions, and rightfully so.  They can do it big on both sides of the field, and considering all of the pitching injuries the Dodgers have suffered, they need to play the best defense they can night in and night out.  Barring huge slumps, those two will be etched in stone in the daily lineup card.

That leaves three other guys Donny will mix and match with for left field.  Ethier has a documented history of poor results against left-handed pitchers, so he'll be looked at against righties only.  Van Slyke and Guerrero can get looks when lefties are on the mound for the most part.  However, I would hope Donny would play the hot hand no matter who's on the mound.

And that leaves Crawford on the outside looking in.  At this point, he just needs to get his legs fully healthy, then contribute as a pinch-runner in late innings.  That's not to say he'll never see left field again, but it's hard to imagine him getting much time there.  The other guys have leapfrogged him.

Who knows what the future will hold, but considering how well Van Slyke, Guerrero, and Ethier have played, I doubt it will include Crawford regaining his starting role in left.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Kershaw still scuffling, but the bats pick him up

Clayton Kershaw very badly wants a couple of things: his 100th win, and the pinpoint accuracy that earned him three Cy Young Awards at such a young age.

He didn't get either one today, but thanks to a big offensive display, the Dodgers still got the victory over the Rockies 9-5.  With 30 games already being played, the Dodgers are 20-10 and in first place of the NL West.  Considering all of their injuries and that Kershaw has a 4.26 ERA, I think they'll gladly take that.

There was plenty of good about the Dodgers fighting back from a 5-2 hole to cruise to a victory, but let's focus on Kershaw first.  This was his seventh start of the season on Sunday, which came with an extra day of rest thanks to Saturday's rain out/snow out.  Things started off normally, as he got through three innings with ease, allowing no runs on one hit.

Then the fourth inning came, and the combination of some bad luck and bad location really did him in.  It all started on a walk to DJ LeMahieu, and things fell apart from there.  A Tulo single soon led to RBI singles from Wilin Rosario and Nick Hundley, making it 2-2.  The unlucky part came when Drew Stubbs hit a nubber in front of the plate in which A.J. Ellis could do nothing with, loading the bases.

Another bit of unlucky came next, as Rafael Ynoa slowly grounded out to first, allowing the run to score.  Then the icing on the cake came when Jorge De La Rosa stepped to the plate.  As if the inning wasn't already frustrating enough, he hit a 2-2 pitch to center to score two, and just like that, Kershaw was down 5-2.

Granted, Kershaw wasn't hit all over the place, which is still easy to do in Coors Field.  But he also was his own worst enemy too many times with four walks, and generally having very poor location with his fastball.  It's what's been killing him all this season - not having control with the hard stuff.  He got through 5 2/3, but needed 110 pitches to do it.  Hardly the effective guy we're used to.

Look, Kershaw has built such a high standard for himself, anytime he gives up multiple runs in a game, it's alarming.  But what cannot be argued is the problem he's having with surrendering leads.  It happened on Opening Day against the Padres.  It happened last start in Milwaukee.  And it happened again today.

And I doubt I have to remind everyone how it happened against the Cardinals last October.

Maybe this will end up being a good thing for him, as for the first time in his career, he's not delivering with the consistency we're so used to seeing.  People will start to think the Cardinals really messed him up, and maybe even think he's hurt.  Just when all the doubters are being loud and proud, he can start to dominate again.  At least we hope.

Kershaw's next start is scheduled to be Friday night at home against these same Rockies.  If he can get into a groove and get win #100, then maybe he'll start cruising from there.  We shall see.

(On a side note, be careful referring to Kershaw on Twitter as having a "poor outing."  Even though it was true, there was some pure venom being spewed my way.  Some even threatened to unfollow me!  I appreciate people defending Kershaw, but.... Good Lord, lighten up!)

Other thoughts from the game:

* An early MVP candidate has to be Adrian Gonzalez, who delivered once again in a huge way.  Right after Kershaw lost control, A-Gon smacked a bases clearing double, finishing with two doubles and four RBIs.  He ranks in the top three in the NL in the following categories: average, home runs, RBIs, runs, slugging %, and OPS.  Simply put, he's been THE MAN this year.

* Justin Turner had the winning hit, lifting a two-run homer to center in the eighth to go up 7-5.  That was as a pinch-hitter, proving his versatility.  He even threw in a nice putout when he stayed in at third.  Who would've thought he'd mean so much to this team when he signed before last season?

* The bullpen?  Terrific, as usual.  Pedro Baez bailed Kershaw out of the sixth by striking out Tulo with the bases loaded and two down.  He then pitched another scoreless inning.  Lefty Adam Liberatore got the next four outs, and Yimi Garcia the final two, both on strikeouts.  They all throw very hard and locate really well.  I can't wait to see them paired up with Kenley Jansen soon.  The bullpen will be even deadlier.

The Dodgers will gladly get out of cold and snowy Colorado for LA, as they begin a three-game set with the Marlins on Monday.  Zack Greinke will put his perfect 5-0 record on the line in the first game.

The Rollins experiment isn't really working

Of the many offseason moves made by the Dodgers, one of the biggest ones was plucking Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies after spending 15 years there.  Hanley Ramirez wasn't offered a contract extension, and Corey Seager wasn't quite ready yet to assume full-time shortstop duties with the big club.

The thinking was that Rollins could set the table at the top of the order with some power, provide a good glove at short, and give his veteran leadership in a clubhouse that wasn't exactly harmonious last season.

The results thus far?  EH... just OK.

That's my nice way of saying that Rollins hasn't exactly set the Dodgers on fire.  At 36, he looks more like the guy on his last legs of life, rather than getting a career resurgence across the country in LA.

In the field, he's had pretty good results in comparison with the rest of the shortstops in the National League.  Right now he has a 0.3 Defensive WAR, which ranks him fifth.  His fielding %, however, is .951, putting him in the lower half at 12th.  The one thing he definitely does have going for him is that he's a clear upgrade from Hanley, who was probably the worst defensive shortstop in all of baseball last year.

At the plate, it's been a completely different story.  He enters Sunday's game against the Rockies, the team's 30th, hitting .167 with a .248 OBP, four doubles, one triple, three homers, and 11 RBIs.  He's also struck out 24 times, and been 3-6 in stolen base attempts.  Simply put, those numbers are pretty awful for hitting in the upper half of the lineup.

Yet, there's his name constantly being written in the #2 hole, and that was only because Don Mattingly finally yanked him from the leadoff spot for a much more exciting Joc Pederson.  Young Joc has responded with six home runs and a .366 OBP.  Rollins in the #2 hole?  A .103 AVG, .122 OBP, and two homers.  Those are some really pathetic numbers.

That leads us to this simple question - What should the Dodgers do now?  It seems like a simple answer, but because of how much the Dodgers talked him up in the offseason, it's not quite as easy as it looks.

The simple way would be to move him lower in the order at the very least.  There is no reason at all he should be hitting in the top half.  He's absolutely stunk it up by striking out way too much, and not getting on base nearly enough.  Hopefully Yasiel Puig comes back soon and can take that spot, but that shouldn't matter.  Rollins needs to be dropped.

In the field, there's no clear cut replacement.  Justin Turner could get some time there, but he's better off at other positions.  Darwin Barney is in Triple-A, and Kike Hernandez is only a temporary replacement until guys like Puig get healthy again.

If you're a big follower of the Dodgers, you know that someone else is lurking in the Minor Leagues.  That someone is Seager, who was just promoted to Triple-A after tearing up Double-A ball.  In 20 games at Tulsa, he hit .375 with five homers and 15 RBIs.  Oklahoma City has proven to be a little tougher so far, as he's 7-for-30 (.233) with no homers and four RBIs in eight games.  It's a very small sample size, so you know he'll get adjusted soon.

And if Seager does get adjusted, then like Pederson last September, I have to wonder how much longer the Dodgers will let the #5 ranked prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America linger in Triple-A.  Say Rollins continues to do... well, a big pile of nothing.  And say Seager gets his power stroke going.  I can definitely see the future getting in some action with the big club before this season is all said and done.

The bottom line is that, as great a career as Rollins had in Philadelphia, it's time for him to start putting up the numbers in LA.  If he doesn't, then no matter how much "veteran leadership" he brings to the clubhouse, the Dodgers have to look to Plan B.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

With depleted rotation, will the Dodgers' bullpen eventually wear out?

One of the biggest, and best, surprises of the season has been the effective Dodgers' bullpen.  Paco Rodriguez, Juan Nicasio, Joel Peralta, J.P. Howell, Yimi Garcia, and Adam Liberatore all have ERA's at 1.29 or below.  Pedro Baez is at 2.08, and Sergio Santos 3.00.

That's a lot of great stuff, and to think that Kenley Jansen hasn't even pitched this year, makes it even better.

The only problem?  The rotation is beat up, their ace has been human, and one has to wonder how long the 'pen can keep putting up these great numbers.

Clayton Kershaw isn't getting chased early, but has only gotten into the eighth inning once, and that was when he blew a two-run lead against the Brewers on Monday.  He's 1-2 with a 3.72 ERA.  He's certainly getting strikeouts with 51, good for second in the National League. 

What's causing him headaches is when he misses location, he's getting seriously pounded.  His fastball usually tops out at 94 mph with little movement, and that's what caused him to surrender five home runs already.  Clearly, he's not feeling his slider yet, and has been hoping his fastball gets his through the game.  It hasn't quite worked out that way.

With Kershaw scuffling, the bullpen has had to rev it up even more in his games than they've had to in the past.  Normally those are "rest days," meaning only a couple of arms would be required at most.  It's not exactly fair to continually put all that pressure on Kershaw to put up blanks over and over, but he'll be the first to tell you that he needs to pitch better and be the stopper.

Fortunately, Zack Greinke has been a stopper at 5-0 with a 1.56 ERA.  He's won his last five straight starts, and is pitching like a guy who wants to opt out of his deal for more cash... which is exactly what will happen at the end of this season at this rate.  That doesn't mean he won't be a Dodger next year, it just means he's keeping his options open.  Who can blame him?  Not this guy.

Brett Anderson received a gift complete game victory on Friday, picking up the win on a rain shortened, 5 1/2 inning, 2-1 victory over the Rockies.  He's been scoreless in his last two starts, covering 11 innings, and lowering his ERA from 5.49 to 3.52.  We all know the story with him - if he stays healthy, he can be really good.  So far, he's been healthy, and he's settling into his role of #3 starter very well.  Let's hope it stays that way.

The rest of the rotation has been a complete patchwork job, as Brandon McCarthy is done for one calendar year thanks to Tommy John surgery, and Hyun-Jin Ryu has suffered a setback on his comeback from a shoulder injury.  I don't like the sounds of that at all, as I have to seriously question if Ryu will be back anytime soon, if at all.  The Dodgers are being very quiet about it, which doesn't seem good.

All of that leads us back to the bullpen.  Right now, they've tossed 89 innings, which is ninth highest in the NL.  That's not bad at all, and with a 1.92 ERA and .186 BAA, both good for second, they've obviously stepped up and delivered.  I just worry that the innings will go up, and the other numbers will suffer because of it.  That's what rotation injuries can do to a team.

There's a couple of reasons for optimism.  For one, Jansen is rehabbing and on his way back soon.  As good as the bullpen has been, Jansen is clearly the best option to close games.  Maybe Don Mattingly eases him back into that role, but I hope not.  Jansen needs to close right away if he's healthy.  That bumps guys like Garcia and Rodriguez into setup roles, which can be really good.

The other reason is that these are the Dodgers, and you know a trade or two could be only a few days away.  Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir are two names that come to mind whenever "trade" and "starting pitching" are being tossed around.  Don't be surprised at all if one of those big arms are in Dodger blue before the end of the season.

Andrew Friedman has done a great job in getting fresh arms called up to give Mattingly some new options.  That's been more out of necessity, but it's still worked.  Santos and Liberatore both did not start the year in LA, but when their number got called, have been really good.

The bottom line is that for the bullpen to keep producing at a high level, a couple of things have to happen: Kershaw needs to get deeper into games, and the rotation will need to be bolstered with an addition or two.  I really worry that at this current rate, with Kershaw giving up runs in bunches and the rotation featuring one spot start after another, the arms in the 'pen will start to wear down.  It's only natural if that were to occur.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Grandal is slowly starting to show his value

It may have taken a few weeks, but Yasmani Grandal is finally getting locked in.

And the Dodgers are starting to reap the benefits of the Matt Kemp trade.

Grandal had his "Welcome to the Dodgers" moment on Sunday, smashing a 424-foot walk-off home run, lifting the Dodgers to a 1-0 victory over the Diamondbacks in 13 innings.  It was a well-pitched, albeit largely boring affair between two teams that were desperate to score.  Thankfully, Grandal gave the Dodgers a much-needed jolt.

The final result gave the Dodgers a three-game weekend sweep.  At 16-8, they have a three-game lead over the Padres for tops in the NL West.  It's much too early to worry about that, but hey, first place at any point is still pretty sweet.

For Grandal, he became the unlikely hero after not even being in the starting lineup.  On Saturday night, he broke out of a five-game hitless slump to go 3-for-4 with a double and run scored.  That game alone raised his average from .179 to .217, and today's 1-for-1 with a walk raised it again to .230.  Not at all where he wants to be, but with a .356 OBP, he's clearly getting there.

Back in the middle of December, after the Dodgers completed a flurry of moves in the Winter Meetings, they finally pulled the trigger on trading Kemp.  It was done for a couple of reasons: they weren't sold on Kemp being the long-term answer after his many injuries, and they needed to free up the outfield logjam.  They still have too many outfielders, but not finding the need to cater to Kemp's demands is a relief.

The biggest name coming to the Dodgers was Grandal, who in the past had torn both is ACL and MCL, and had been busted 50 games for PED use.  Not exactly the type of guy most Dodger fans thought they'd get for the former MVP candidate in Kemp.

Grandal, though, was a big piece in the Dodgers' makeover towards a more complete lineup.  A.J. Ellis would no longer be relied upon as the everyday catcher, and considering he hit an atrocious .191 in 93 games in 2014, that was a good thing.  Grandal gave a lot more pop with 15 homers in '14, and the reputation of being a great pitch-framer behind the plate.

After a couple of big weekend games, the switch-hitter looks ready to consistently start driving in more runs in the lower half of the lineup.  More importantly, he can keep Ellis on the bench for only occasional spot starts, such as day games after a night one.  No one will ever question Ellis's heart, but with all due respect to him, he's a backup at this point, and needs to stay that way.

Now Grandal and the Dodgers invade the hitter-friendly Miller Park in Milwaukee for four games starting Monday.  With Clayton Kershaw on the mound, you can bet the bats are looking to add to their NL-leading 37 home runs.  They're in the perfect place to make it happen.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Young Joc, Big Production

How much fun is it watching Joc Pederson right now?

The answer is: A LOT.  After watching him hit a grand slam and make a terrific catch on Friday night in the Dodgers' easy 8-0 win over the Diamondbacks, it's obvious LA has a future star on its hands.

And the "future" looks like it'll happen now.

As Mark Saxon of pointed out, Pederson is doing to the Dodgers what Yasiel Puig did in 2013.  The only difference is that Pederson is doing it a couple of months sooner, as Puig was called up in June, while Pederson started the season in center.

So far, it looks like the Dodgers' brass has handled his arrival to LA perfectly.  They didn't rush him through the system, even when it was obvious that his skills were way above the minor league level.  He got his feet wet last September, and even endured some good-natured rookie hazing when he had to get his teammates coffee dressed in full uniform.  He's still getting the business, as he entered each at-bat on Friday to a different boy band like Hanson.  Wow!

During his appearance last September, he got 28 at-bats... and collected a measly four hits (all singles).  He did take nine walks, so he at least showed an ability to get on base with a good eye.  But he learned that the transition to the Big Leagues wasn't going to be all fine and dandy for the Pacific Coast League MVP.

And you know what?  That small blip on the radar turned out to be a great thing.  It gave Pederson plenty of motivation to improve his game for 2015, as there was no way he wanted to accept starting the season in Triple-A again, especially with Matt Kemp now out of the picture.  Say what you want about Spring Training, but it was very important for him, and he responded by hitting .338 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 26 games.  Point proven.

Now Pederson is on the same level as Puig as "guys who should never come out of the starting lineup" (save for an occasional day off to rest).  He's hitting .300 with five doubles, five homers, 14 RBIs, and one stolen base.  He's right up there with the big boys of Adrian Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick for team leader in many offensive categories. 

He's also the new leadoff hitter, and that's worked out beautifully through two games.  Ideally, someone else will take over that role at some point, allowing him to drop down in the order to drive in more runs.  But as long as he has a .463 OBP, there's no need to switch it now.

We could be watching this season's Rookie of the Year in action, getting huge hits and tracking down every ball in center along the way.  Let's enjoy the ride.