Dodgers 5, Phillies 2: Zack Greinke Is Unspeakably Great

greinke_butera_2014-04-23

I’m almost completely and totally uncertain of what to say about Zack Greinke any longer. It almost feels like we take him for granted, which is completely unfair of us, because his brilliance is nearly unmatched. And yet here we are, after he just struck out 11 Phillies over seven innings, then doubled, walked, and scored a run at the plate, and the reaction is almost: well, yeah. Of course he did. It’s the 17th time in a row he’s thrown at least five innings and allowed two or fewer runs. He’s now got 40 whiffs and five walks on the season. It almost feels like he’s toying with the opposition.

I guess the highest credit I can give him is this: have you noticed the distinct lack of panic around the fact that Clayton Kershaw, the near-unquestioned best pitcher in baseball, has made zero starts in the Northern Hemisphere this season? Yeah, me too. That’s because of Greinke, and to a slightly lesser extent, Hyun-jin Ryu. Greinke was great tonight. Of course he was. He always is.

Oddly enough, the 5-2 score has little resemblance to the game Greinke pitched in. This was a 2-1 game into the seventh, when Yasiel Puig‘s triple — and more on that in a second — drove in Greinke to make it 3-1. In the eighth, things started to get a little wacky. Greinke came out to make one pitch, seeing his night end when Jayson Nix hit a leadoff homer. J.P. Howell sailed through the rest of the inning, then Hanley Ramirez crushed, and I do mean crushed, a homer off Mario Hollands in the bottom of the frame. That was one of two extra-base hits for Ramirez, and after how awful his last week has been, let’s hope that’s a sign of things to come. Matt Kemp had two doubles himself, and Scott Van Slyke, Puig, and Drew Butera (!) also had two hits apiece.

* * *

Kenley Jansen came in for the ninth, his fourth appearance in five days. The Dodgers have 13 pitchers. 13! If it had been a 6-2 lead, he would’t have come in. But it was 5-2, so it was a “save situation.” It was his 16th appearance, and no one else in baseball has more than 12. If you think that’s not going to come back and bite you at some point….

* * *

Back to Puig, this is the triple. SO BAT FLIP, VERY… not a homer (via Chad):

GIF Link

This is awesome. Everything about it is awesome. The flip, the slide, the hammer swing… love it. Now this, on the other hand…

…maybe not so much. Never, ever boring, though.

Phillies @ Dodgers, April 23, 2014: Enter Hamels

dodger_stadium_openingday2013As the Dodgers continue to try to figure out the Phillies, the biggest story of the series so far has been Carlos Ruiz (because of course). In two games, Ruiz has hit two doubles, a triple, and a home run and has walked twice. So far this series, he’s raised his 2014 OPS from  0.614 to 0.807. He’s raised his wRC+ from 80 to 125. Ruiz has had some decent seasons in the past, but to watch him constantly play at a hall-of-fame level against the Dodgers is frustrating.

Zack Greinke is being tasked with shutting down Ruiz (and the rest of the Phillies). Eno Sarris has written some terrific articles about Greinke for both Fox and Fangraphs in the last few days. The articles really show how much thought Greinke puts into pitching, which is one reason why he’s so much fun to watch.

Phillies
Dodgers
7:10pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
CF
Revere
RF
Puig
SS
Rollins
LF
Ethier
2B
Utley
SS
Ramirez
1B
Howard
CF
Kemp
RF
Byrd
1B
Van Slyke
LF
Brown
3B
Uribe
C
Ruiz
2B
Turner
3B
Galvis
C
Butera
P
Hamels (L)
P
Greinke (R)

There will be no rest for a weary offense tonight. Cole Hamels is on the mound for his first start of the season. Hamels missed spring training and the first few weeks of the season due to throwing shoulder tendinitis. Hamels’ 2013 season, his first after signing a six year $144 million contract extension, was largely viewed as a disappointment. This perception was due to his win-loss record (which I don’t even need to go into further depth on) and a 3.60 ERA. However, his FIP was almost exactly in line with his career numbers. His xFIP was a little higher, but his SIERA exactly matched what he had produced previously. At worst, his peripherals were very close to his career average, and he’s a tough assignment for the Dodgers’ hitters tonight. Greinke against Hamels should be a pretty good pitchers’ duel, and is also a duel of good pitcher name spoonerisms.

Tonight’s lineup is extremely confusing. Turner isn’t batting second, which is progress, but a slumping Andre Ethier is in his place. Against a lefty. Puig and Kemp fill out the other two outfield spots tonight. Scott Van Slyke is still in the lineup, giving Adrian Gonzalez a night off at first base.

Clayton Kershaw will throw his first rehab start in Rancho Cucamonga on Friday. According to Ken Gurnick, Kershaw will throw about 55 pitches during the outing and will need more than one rehab start to get ready. Julio Urias is also scheduled to pitch on Friday, so it should be an exciting game for Dodgers fans.

Thurs 4/17Fri 4/18Sat 4/19Sun 4/20Mon 4/21Tues 4/22Wed 4/23
RJ. Dominguez25
LJ.P. Howell171512
RK. Jansen3016111714
RB. League1727
RC. Perez2618
RB. Wilson282315
RC. Withrow2618
RJ. Wright1618

Where Did The Dodger Offense Go?

puig_kemp_2014-04-17

Much is being made of the lousy Dodger defense, thanks to last night’s Hanley Ramirez / Carl Crawford poptastrophe that helped lead to an extra-innings loss to the Phillies. That was ugly, and I can’t say I’ve been thrilled with the defense either at shortstop or in the outfield, but most numbers rank the Dodgers as being average to somewhat above overall, so I’m not going to fret about it too much. (Or at the least, I’ll just stare lovingly at Juan Uribe‘s throwing arm, which is a thing 2012 Mike would have died over had he known 2014 Mike would be writing it.)

While the defense is not an issue to be ignored, I think we’d all be noticing it a lot less if the offense was producing to the level it is capable off, because then we’d stop seeing what appears to be constantly tight extra inning games. And make no mistake, the offense is not where it should be. I mean, here’s how they currently rank in team wRC+:

1) Athletics, 115
2) Rockies, 115

MLB Avg) 99

18) Dodgers, 94

29) Mets, 75
30) Mariners, 74

Looking at the team stats, a few things pop out straight away:

Dodgers Offense, 2014
Name PA HR SB BB% BABIP AVG OBP SLG wRC+
Scott Van Slyke 27 2 0 18.5 % 0.333 0.273 0.407 0.682 204
Dee Gordon 71 1 12 5.6 % 0.418 0.369 0.408 0.492 158
Adrian Gonzalez 90 5 1 10.0 % 0.333 0.288 0.356 0.563 152
Juan Uribe 83 3 0 2.4 % 0.404 0.321 0.337 0.531 144
Yasiel Puig 73 2 1 11.0 % 0.304 0.254 0.347 0.429 124
Chone Figgins 9 0 0 33.3 % 0.250 0.167 0.444 0.167 113
Hanley Ramirez 88 2 3 11.4 % 0.276 0.234 0.330 0.403 112
Matt Kemp 58 3 2 12.1 % 0.233 0.196 0.293 0.431 107
Andre Ethier 65 2 1 7.7 % 0.250 0.220 0.277 0.322 72
A.J. Ellis 29 0 0 13.8 % 0.222 0.167 0.310 0.167 54
Carl Crawford 62 0 4 1.6 % 0.265 0.217 0.226 0.317 48
Justin Turner 36 0 1 5.6 % 0.261 0.182 0.222 0.242 30
Drew Butera 15 0 0 6.7 % 0.222 0.143 0.200 0.143 0
Tim Federowicz 39 0 0 2.6 % 0.154 0.108 0.132 0.162 -23
Mike Baxter 8 0 0 12.5 % 0 0 0.125 0 -54
Alex Guerrero 1 0 0 0.0 % 0 0 0 0 -100

So you can take a few things away from that:

** Van Slyke has been impressive in limited time, though no one should put undue importance on 27 plate appearances. Still, as we’ve seen all too well, there are exactly zero situations where he shouldn’t be allowed to face a lefty in a big situation while Crawford does. Ever.

** Gordon has been excellent, as I wrote recently, and there’s still no way that regression isn’t coming for him, so others are going to need to step up as he slows down.

** Gonzalez has been fantastic. Uribe probably isn’t getting enough credit, which is too bad, because there’s no way a high-BABIP, no-walk approach is going to last indefinitely.

** I don’t care how much Ramirez says his hand isn’t bothering him, he has two hits in 22 plate appearances since being hit.

** Kemp & Puig have been… weird. I can’t look at either and really say I’ve been all that impressed, especially with Kemp, but neither have really been the huge offensive problems on this team, either. Kemp’s BABIP simply has to rebound, and that will at least make his batting average look less than terrible. Puig’s thumb certainly didn’t help, and I would argue that with everything else that surrounds him he really needs to be productive to overcome it. Still, he was never, ever going to match his early splash from last year, and I’m not going to panic on a 124 wRC+.

** Ethier & Crawford have both been awful, and that’s probably the biggest problem on this team right now. As usual, neither should ever be allowed to face a lefty — in 25 plate appearances, they’ve combined for two walks and a single. But neither have really done much against righties, either. I’m inclined to believe that it’s a sample size issue, because they’ve each had long histories of success against righties, and both have lower-than-average BABIPs.

** The catching spot is still an absolute train wreck, and while Ellis is on his way back, I’m wondering how long they can let this go on. It’s been so bad that even though I’m still telling people that Miguel Olivo‘s .396/.448/.698 small-sample line in Albuquerque is a mirage — and it is — I can’t put a lot of heart into it. The Butera / Federowicz combo is that bad. I have no idea if the Dodgers are in on San Diego catcher Nick Hundley, who is reportedly on the market, but you understand why people want to know if they are. This is untenable.

** Down in the minors, Guerrero is hitting .467/.568/.900, and Joc Pederson is at .417/.523/.736. For the millionth time, small samples and Albuquerque offense still apply to the conversation, and in Guerrero’s case, the questions have always been more about his defense than his offense. With Gordon still producing, there’s no reason to rush him. Pederson is all but certainly ready now, there’s just nowhere to put him, is there?

So… what do you do? For the moment, nothing, unless you can upgrade at catcher, which seems unlikely. They are 12-9 despite all the issues and the lack of Clayton Kershaw, so there’s no need to panic. Presumably, Ramirez will improve as his hand heals. Presumably, at least one of Ethier & Crawford will start hitting to career norms. Presumably, at least one of Kemp & Puig will start performing like we know they’re capable of.

If none of that happens over the next few weeks, and if this team keeps striking out like crazy, then maybe you make some moves. Guerrero is probably coming up at some point in the near future anyway. For now, it’s more disappointing than it is truly crushing.

Jonathan Martinez off to strong start in Great Lakes

martinez_jonathan_st2013

Jonathan Martinez caught my eye in his solid 2012 season. There wasn’t a ton of information available, as he was signed out of Venezuela and pitched in the Arizona League, for the most part. I ranked him as my No. 49 prospect heading into the 2013 season.

He began the year with the Great Lakes Loons and got roughed up a bit, as a 19-year-old will in the Midwest League. He went back to Ogden and had some success — enough for me to rank him at No. 35 coming into this season. Now, it seems he’s finding his comfort zone.

The 20-year-old got the opening day start for the Loons in 2014 and responded with the best outing of his career: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K. He’s coming off his longest outing of the season on Monday, when he threw seven innings of 1-run ball. On the season, he owns a 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 2.39 FIP, 7.1 H/9, 0.4 HR/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 9.8 K/9.

The most encouraging number there is his strikeout rate, which is saying something when a pitcher has a 1.5 BB/9 rate. Martinez’s strikeout rate dipped dramatically to 4.8 per nine inning in 99 1/3 innings last season. In 2012, it was 9.0 in 68 innings. There isn’t really much to attribute it to, as Martinez’s stuff hasn’t taken a step back, as I speculated in my write-up of him for the Top 50. If anything, it’s getting better.

The right-hander has a low-90s fastball that he can sink and control. His command is among the best in the system. In fact, now that Duke von Schamann is in the Indians’ organization, Martinez and Lindsey Caughel are vying for that top spot. He also has a slider that has flashed solid-average potential and a changeup that is improving a bit.

He isn’t a physically imposing pitcher (6’1, 203 pounds), but he’s able to make his pitches do what he wants — and miss bats. And he’s having success against both lefties (.237 BAA, 13/0 K/BB) and righties (.207 BAA, 13/4 K/BB).

I’m not sure if it means much, but he’s making sure the left side of the field is getting plenty of work.

Martinez hitter heat map

martinez_jonathan_heatmap

Something else to consider: Martinez has been younger than the competition in every year of his professional career. This year, he’s almost two years younger than the league-average age. That trend should stay true if he keeps pitching the way he has so far early in the 2014 season.

If he continues this success, he could find himself in Rancho Cucamonga before season’s end — especially if any of the four Quakes’ starters (Chris Anderson, Caughel, Julio Urias, Tom Windle) see Double-A this season. He could also find himself in my midseason Top 25, and, perhaps knocking on the door of the Top 10-15 prospects in the system come next year.

Phillies 3, Dodgers 2: Inventing Ways To Lose

CarlCrawfordHanleyRamirezFail

Losing always sucks, but it’s especially terrible to lose like this. In extra innings. On a routine flyball.

Sure there were lots of other chances to win, the Dodgers finished 1-for-8 with RISP. But if that catch is made by Carl Crawford or Hanley Ramirez the game is at least still going with the Dodgers having the sudden death advantage.

But they didn’t, and that ginormous fail looked like this:

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Phillies @ Dodgers, April 22, 2014: At Least It’s Not Cliff Lee

dodger_stadium_openingday2013Say what you will about A.J. Burnett, who starts tonight for Philadelphia — and he’s had a long, outstanding career — but at least he’s not Cliff Lee, who made the Dodgers look foolish last night and pointed out, once again, why he’s one of the absolute best in the game. Burnett has been battling a hernia, which is partially responsible for the fact that he’s walked more than he’s struck out, but he’s managed to at least keep runs off the board.

Phillies
Dodgers
7:10pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
CF
Revere
LF
Crawford
SS
Rollins
RF
Puig
RF
Byrd
SS
Ramirez
1B
Howard
1B
Gonzalez
C
Ruiz
CF
Kemp
LF
Brown
3B
Uribe
3B
Nix
2B
Gordon
2B
Galvis
C
Federowicz
P
Burnett (R)
P
Ryu (L)

Also good news: No Chase Utley! The Phillies give Utley the night off against lefty Hyun-jin Ryu and start instead Freddie Galvis, who has a .225/.266/.365 line in parts of three seasons and is a charter member of the “fans only care about PED suspensions when it happens to good players” club, because remember kids, there’s no such thing as cognitive dissonance in simultaneously believing that PEDs made Ryan Braun and Mark McGwire stars while having little to no effect on lesser players like Galvis and hundreds of other guys you’ve never, ever heard of.

And more good news: Alex Guerrero had three more hits, including two triples, in today’s 6-4 Albuquerque win over Salt Lake City. That gives him 14 hits in 30 tries; when asked, via Eric Stephen, about Guerrero, Don Mattingly said that it’s really more about what he’s doing on defense, which was expected. And really, this is one of the great side effects of Dee Gordon‘s wonderful start: there’s no need to rush Guerrero. If Gordon had been struggling terribly, obviously Chone Figgins and Justin Turner aren’t really any kind of alternative. We’d have been deluged with “but .467 batting average!” demands. This way, you can let him play. You can see what he is. If nothing else, I’m appreciative to Gordon of that.

That said, something has to change soon. Not that I miss Figgins, but I don’t love the 13-man bullpen. You figure the short bench will come back to bite this team sooner than later. That may be especially true if Andre Ethier, out of the lineup tonight due to a cold, is unable to appear at all.

Thurs 4/17Fri 4/18Sat 4/19Sun 4/20Mon 4/21Tues 4/22Wed 4/23
RJ. Dominguez25
LJ.P. Howell171512
RK. Jansen3016111714
RB. League1727
RC. Perez2618
RB. Wilson282315
RC. Withrow2618
RJ. Wright1618

Down On The Farm Update: Games Of 4/15 – 4/21

pederson_joc ST 3.13.14

Joc Pederson continues to mash the baseballs. Corey Seager showed his power. Jacob Scavuzzo is red hot.

April 15

Hitter Of The Day: Joc Pederson (AAA) continues to crush the ball, going a perfect 4-for-4 with a walk. Those hits included two bombs and a double. Because of course.

Pitcher Of The Day: Matt Magill (AAA) pitched six innings and got the win. But most importantly, he struck out eight and walked only one. If he can get his command back, he’s ideal organizational depth. The type of pitcher that can give you solid but not great innings at the back of a rotation.

Notables

Brandon Dixon (A+) went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and his average dropped to .091. Many saw the 2013 third-rounder shooting up rankings this season despite already being in his age-22 year, but his start isn’t helping much.

Justin Chigbogu (A) homered and walked twice on his way to a 2-for-6 day.

Alex Santana (A) homered, stole a base, and walked three times while going 2-for-5.

Zachary Bird (A) finally put together a solid outing. Bird gave up two runs in seven innings of work while only surrendering five baserunners.

April 16

Hitter Of The Day: Jacob Scavuzzo (A) only went 1-for-3, but had a homer, three walks, and three stolen bases, which gives you a taste of why some (including me) like him as a lot as a prospect.

Pitcher Of The Day: Chris Reed (AA) is going through the level for the third time, but when he has his fastball command, he can be effective anywhere. This time he threw six no-hit innings and struck out nine.

Notables

Alex Guerrero (AAA) had another two-hit day with a double. Ho hum.

Zach Lee (AAA) is impressive so far, putting up the type of numbers we might expect in the majors. Today he went six scoreless innings, allowing five baserunners, while striking out only three.

Corey Seager (A+) is helping ease the worry of his 2013 Arizona Fall League and California League struggles so far, and he went 2-for-4 with a double, walk, and his fourth stolen base today.

Tom Windle (A+) gave up six runs on nine baserunners in 2.2 innings, which was a bit of a surprise after his dominating start to the year.

Alex Santana (A) is getting hot now. Santana put up a 3-for-5 day and added another homer.

April 17

Hitter Of The Day: O’Koyea Dickson (AA) is a long-shot to be a regular at this point, but he’s doing his best to stay relevant in the system with a 3-for-4 day and a double.

Pitcher Of The Day: Victor Arano (A) went five innings of one-run ball (zero earned) and gave up only two hits and two walks. Arano struck out eight to continue his great start to the year, and makes me think I underrated him even in my ambitious ranking.

Notables

Joc Pederson (AAA) went 2-for-4 with a walk, and at the rate he’s going, he’ll only make this list on days he DOESN’T get multiple hits.

April 18

Hitter Of The Day: Griff Erickson (AAA) had himself an amazing day, going 4-for-4 with a homer and three doubles from the catcher’s spot. Erickson once had a bunch of promise but stalled a bit and now sits behind Miguel Olivo on the AAA depth chart.

Pitcher Of The Day: Chris Anderson (A+) finally showed his stuff, going six scoreless, striking out seven and only allowing two hits. The four walks do tell a story in terms of what he’s struggling with right now.

Notables

Joc Pederson (AAA) went 3-for-5 with a double. Running out of things to say when he makes this list.

Corey Seager (A+) bombed his first homer in a 1-for-5 performance, and he had been hitting fine up until this point but hadn’t shown off his over-the-wall power.

Jacob Scavuzzo (A) continues to rake, going 3-for-4 with a double and a walk, upping his average to .316. But teammate Joey Curletta (A) is even hotter than Scavuzzo, going 3-for-5 and is now batting .404.

April 19

Hitter Of The Day: Jacob Scavuzzo (A) went 3-for-5. Please be real. Please be real. Please be real. If he continues to hit something close to this, I could vault him into the top five or so. I was literally just waiting to see how he would do in full-season ball and to prove he was not a toolsier Jon Garcia.

Pitcher Of The Day: Paco Rodriguez (AAA) pitched a scoreless inning. Must be great for opposing scouts to watch how their top prospects perform against him, a back-end quality MLB reliever that was demoted because he had options.

Notables

Joc Pederson (AAA) went 2-for-4 with two double and is now hitting .441. This is stupid.

James Baldwin (A+) went 2-for-3 with a homer, double, and walk, but is still batting .238 and most of his prospect luster is gone.

April 20

Hitter Of The Day: Erisbel Arruebarrena (AA) made his season debut and collected two hits, including a double. He also struck out twice, but looked smooth in the field.

Pitcher Of The Day: Yimi Garcia (AAA) struck out two in a perfect 1.1 innings. I think he’s close if Jose Dominguez falters and the Dodgers need a reliever.

Notables

Joc Pederson (AAA) went 1-for-5. Bro, what is wrong? Need to demote him to Rookie-ball.

Alex Guerrero (AAA) went 3-for-5 with a double and is now hitting .440. Give him another week or two, and if he’s still hitting, they have to call him up to make him the right-handed part of a second base platoon with Dee Gordon, right? Then Justin Turner can go back to a utility role permanently in place of Chone Figgins. I hope.

Matt Magill (AAA) gave up seven runs in 3.2 innings on eight hits. Remember that thing I said about how he could be a valuable asset if he regains his control? Well he walked four and was all over the place. Sigh.

O’Koyea Dickson (AA) flashed his over-the-wall power, bombing two homers in four trips to the plate, walking once.

April 21

Hitter Of The Day: Joc Pederson (AAA) went 2-for-4 with a double and a walk. He stole his sixth base in seven tries, which is in addition to having a 1.295 OPS. If I had to find a negative, again, it’s his performance against lefties. His OPS is just .611 against them on the season, and it’s something to watch going forward.

Pitcher Of The Day: Zach Lee gave up five runs but only two earned over six innings of work. He surrendered seven hits and two walks while striking out four, so it’s safe to say he wasn’t at his best, but that still brings his season ERA to 1.99.

Notables

Darnell Sweeney (AA) totaled four hits in seven trips during an extra-inning affair, doubling twice and walking once.

Erisbel Arruebarrena (AA) went 0-for-7 with strikeouts. Considering his age, he needs to be able to hit at least AA pitching, but his bat has always been the question mark.

Corey Seager (A+) hit his second homer on a day he went 2-for-5 and now has a .293/.341/.480/.821 slash. He’s flashing much better power now and is progressing pretty much as expected so far in 2014.

Dodgers Tickets For Series Vs Phillies Are 44% Below Season Average

kemp_running-catch_2014-04-17

A sponsored message from our friends at TiqIQ:

After taking the rubber game of a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Dodgers will host the Philadelphia Phillies for four games at Dodger Stadium this week. The Dodgers schedule keeps the team at home in Los Angeles until next Tuesday, when they head to Minnesota to take on the Twins starting April 29.

Ticket prices will be much lower than home average for the first three games against the Phillies. The average price of a Dodgers game at Dodgers Stadium this year is $69.59, but with tickets 44% below average, fans looking to get in cheaper should take advantage when the Phillies come to town this week.

Hyun-Jin Ryu will get the nod for the Dodgers and will face A.J. Burnett in Tuesday night’s 7:10pm game. Burnett was impressive in his last start, throwing seven shutout innings and leading the Phillies to a 1-0 victory against the Atlanta Braves last Thursday. The average price for Tuesday Dodgers tickets is $48 with a get-in price of $13.

Wednesday night’s 7:10 pm game will have Zack Greinke take the mound against probable Phillie favorite Cole Hamels, making his season debut. Greinke has shined for the Dodgers this year, starting four games and going 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA. Average Wednesday Dodgers tickets will go for $26 with a get-in price of just $2.

The final game of the series will be played Thursday night at 7:10pm, with Dan Haren going for the Dodgers against the Phillies’ Kyle Kendrick. Fans in attendance will receive a Clayton KershawCy Young” bobblehead in honor of the Dodgers ace’s remarkable season last year. Average Thursday night Dodgers tickets against the Phillies will go for $71 on the secondary market, the only game of the series above regular home ticket price average, with a get-in price of $23.

The Dodgers have started the season hot and Los Angeles fans hoping to see their team will see lower-than-average ticket prices at home this week. In addition to a Kershaw bobblehead Thursday night, fans can expect Yasiel Puig and company to continue their hot early-season streak against the Phillies.

Phillies 7, Dodgers 0: Future Dodger Cliff Lee Is The Best

I present to you a GIF:

If, because of the quality, you can’t tell what Paul Maholm is saying, he was pretty clearly saying “just throw the effin’ ball over there” to himself after his fifth inning throwing error went over the head of Adrian Gonzalez and allowed the fifth Philadelphia run to score, but he really could have been talking about any of the 107 pitches he threw tonight in a 7-0 loss to the Phillies. Maholm got into trouble straight away, walking Tony Gwynn — yes, old friend Tony Gwynn, the one who couldn’t get out of Triple-A Albuquerque last year — to start the game, then letting Jimmy Rollins single. After Chase Utley flew out, Carlos Ruiz doubled in both of the runners. To Maholm’s credit, he managed to get through the next three innings unscathed.

Less to his credit, the fifth inning! Maholm actually did get the first two, but then walked Ruiz and allowed Ryan Howard to take him deep to center. Maholm only struck out two — one was Cliff Lee — and somehow unbelievably, now has six strikeouts and eight walks in 17.2 innings. That feels unsustainable, by which I mean, either he’ll fix it or he’ll be unemployed. Either way, it will not be sustained over the full season. And with Clayton Kershaw on track to start a minor league rehab game on Friday, we may only have one or two more Maholm starts to look forward to.

However! Brandon League came on to pitch two scoreless innings, and I know how you all feel about praising League, but… this was his third straight scoreless outing. On April 12, he was atrocious against the Diamondbacks, giving up three runs and four baserunners in just 0.2 of an inning. In six other games? He’s thrown 9.1 innings, allowed just one earned run, given up seven hits, and put up a 7/2 K/BB. I’m not saying he’s “fixed” or anything like that; I am saying that he looks better and might not be the huge problem we all think of him as. (And also that as usual, ERA for relievers in short samples is terribly misleading.)

Oh, and none of this mattered tonight because Lee is a beautiful artist genius who shut down the Dodgers over eight innings on just four hits, all singles, walking none, whiffing 10, and retiring 244 in a row, probably. (20, really, until Tim Federowicz singled in the eighth.) It took 113 pitches. He high-fived kids before he hit. It’s the kind of thing where you can’t even be angry or upset. You just stand in awe of the masterpiece in front of you.

But how do you feel about all of this, Yasiel Puig?

But hey! At least we got to see Scott Van Slyke in center field for two innings. The Phillies didn’t hit him a single ball. I may never get over it.

In happier news: the Diamondbacks, Giants, and Padres all lost. Bronson Arroyo gave up a double and a homer to his pitching counterpart Travis Wood. Arizona is now 5-17. You probably should never say a season is over, but if you figure 90 wins as a minimum to win the division, they merely need to go 85-60 over the rest of the year. Gooood luck with that.

Phillies @ Dodgers April 21, 2014: Welcome Back, Dominguez

dodger_stadium_openingday2013Tonight, the Dodgers begin a four game series against the Phillies, and they didn’t wait for the game to start to start making news. Jose Dominguez was called up to give assistance to a weary relief staff. In a corresponding move, Chone Figgins was optioned to Albuquerque. Eric Stephen notes that Figgins had two options left but had to approve being sent to the minors. This type of approval is relatively rare for veterans on the 40-man roster, so I suppose that he’s happy in the Dodgers organization thus far.

The move brings the bullpen up to eight pitchers, which usually isn’t great. Even so, the Dodgers weren’t really using Figgins, who has nine plate appearance and has only played two thirds of an inning on defense. The Dodgers are in the middle of a stretch where they play 29 games in 30 days, so the bullpen could use the extra help. Dominguez will probably swapped with Paco Rodriguez (who can’t be called up until the 25th unless somebody gets injured) later in this stretch.

I didn’t think we’d need to talk about Miguel Olivo again until his opt-out date, but he’s currently hitting well in Albuquerque, which prompted this tweet:

It’s true that the Dodgers catchers have been really bad. But there’s issues with this beyond the number of hits being wrong. We should all know the danger of citing raw Albuquerque statistics by now, and even after adjusting for environment Olivo is putting up ridiculously unsustainable numbers. He currently has a .533 BABIP and a 50% HR/FB rate, both of which are crazy even for the PCL. Even if Olivo stays in Albuquerque, those numbers will regress in a big way.

Phillies
Dodgers
7:10pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
CF
Gwynn
RF
Puig
SS
Rollins
2B
Turner
2B
Utley
SS
Ramirez
C
Ruiz
1B
Gonzalez
1B
Howard
CF
Kemp
RF
Mayberry
LF
Van Slyke
LF
Brown
3B
Uribe
3B
Galvis
C
Federowicz
P
Lee (L)
P
Maholm (L)

The current catching tandem of Tim Federowicz and Drew Butera has been awful. But Olivo’s major league offense leaves a lot to be desired. He has a .241 OBP since the start of the 2012 season. He’s also a poor defender and pitch framer. Federowicz’ offense will regress (at least a little bit) in the positive direction with time. He is asolutely a better option than Olivo. Since Butera’s offense is so putrid, a case could probably be made that Olivo is on par with him (though I still would disagree with “better”), but the replacement isn’t worth it. Such a move would remove Butera from the organization, further thinning the catcher position, and would impact the catchers’ rapport with the pitching staff.

As the Dodgers start their series with the Phillies, it’s worth pointing out that they haven’t been as terrible as expected. Their success has been led mostly by Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Utley already has 1.5 fWAR (second in baseball behind Mike Trout, because of course) and is currently hitting .406/451/.672. Jimmy Rollins is also in the top ten in position player fWAR, but his offensive slash line is a more normal .292/.370/.492. Every position player on the Phillies not named Utley or Rollins has combined for a -1.2 fWAR.

Cliff Lee is pitching tonight for the Phillies and he’s had a really weird season so far. In his first start of the year, Lee allowed 8 runs in five innings while only striking out one batter. In last start, he threw a complete game and struck out 13 batters, but allowed 11 hits in the process. He has a big FIP-ERA gap, which will probably resolve itself into being the regular Cliff Lee once his BABIP drops below .432. Against Lee is Paul Maholm, who will be looking to improve upon his terrible 2.84 K/9. Despite the uneven pitching match-up, Fangraphs’ new pre-game odds feature thinks that this game is more or less a coin flip.

All signs remain positive for Clayton Kershaw. He plans to throw another bullpen session tomorrow, and if all goes well a rehab start will follow shortly thereafter.

Thurs 4/17Fri 4/18Sat 4/19Sun 4/20Mon 4/21Tues 4/22Wed 4/23
RJ. Dominguez25
LJ.P. Howell171512
RK. Jansen3016111714
RB. League1727
RC. Perez2618
RB. Wilson282315
RC. Withrow2618
RJ. Wright1618