Dodgers 8, D’Backs 6: Getting Late Early For Arizona

haren_2014-04-19

Depending on how you look at it, Dan Haren was great — he pitched into the eighth inning! He’s the first Dodger pitcher to do that this year, and struck out five without walking any — or lousy, because he fell behind 4-0 and gave up five runs, and only Hyun-jin Ryu gave up more in a start this year. I prefer to think of it as “good,” because only two of those runs were earned, thanks to a Hanley Ramirez error. Only twice did Haren even get to a three-ball count; outside of that messy third inning, only one Diamondback even reached second base against him. As we’ve been focusing on pretty much every other area of this team except for him, that probably says a lot: the less you talk about your supposed No. 4 starter, the better. The Dodgers have won each of his four starts. He’s been everything you could have hoped for so far.

It helped, of course, that the Dodgers actually managed to put up some run support for once, scoring three in the fourth when Andre Ethier‘s three-run shot brought home Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp, then five times in the fifth as rookie starter Michael Bolsinger fell apart, allowing three consecutive singles to start the inning. (Not that he was helped; Martin Prado made an error on Ramirez’ grounder, then Oliver Perez came in to allow two-run hits to Gonzalez (single) and Kemp (double).

All of this would have been smooth sailing if not for Brian Wilson, who threw only 11 of his 23 pitches for strikes, allowed two hits and a walk, brought the tying run to the plate, and refused to throw inside. Ever. Fortunately, he got through it and handed it off to Kenley Jansen, who quietly got through the ninth.

The Diamondbacks are 5-15. Six of those losses are to the Dodgers. They’re already seven games out. I cannot say this displeases me.

Dodgers 5, Padres 1: Dan Haren, offense good enough

haren_dan_4.2.14The Dodgers’ offense finally woke up a bit in a 5-1 win in San Diego on Wednesday night. They recorded the most hits (nine) in a game since March 23 in Australia (13).

Carl Crawford led off with a double, followed by a Yasiel Puig bunt up the first base line. The play was almost challenged by the Padres, but manager Bud Black thought better of it. Hanley Ramirez came through with a grounder down the left field line for a 2-run double. Ramirez came into the game in a 1-for-15 slump. Adrian Gonzalez followed it up with an RBI single off Padre starter Tyson Ross.

Haren retired the first nine batters he faced, just like Zack Greinke did the night before (was actually 10). Haren ran into a little trouble in the fourth inning, just like Greinke did. He allowed a run on two singles and a questionable catcher’s interference call. Haren came back to strike out Jedd Gyorko and Will Venable (favorable strike three call) to get out of the inning.

Haren’s line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

He threw 63 percent (58 of 92) of his pitches for strikes, but wasn’t sharp the entire night. However, it was good enough to help the Dodgers win their fourth game of the season.

Despite the offensive “outburst,” the Dodgers’ 3-4-5 hitters (Ramirez, Gonzalez and Andre Ethier) are a combined 8-for-55 (.145) through five games. That’s going to have to improve going forward — and it will. Also, the Dodgers should be getting Matt Kemp this weekend, so it will definitely change.

It was a pretty dull game otherwise. The Dodger bullpen threw three scoreless innings, with Chris Perez pitched the final frame without incident. I have a feeling it would have been him — not Kenley Jansen — regardless of the score. Jansen had a rough go of it last night and has pitched in three of the five Dodger games thus far.

Also, this was the 11th consecutive game in which the Dodgers have held the Padres to three or fewer runs in a game.

The Dodgers make the long trek back to Los Angeles and are rewarded with an off day on Thursday before starting their first series of the 2014 season against the Giants. Hyun-Jin Ryu takes the hill against Ryan Vogelsong.

2014 Spring Training preview: Starting pitchers

haren_2014-03-01

Dan Haren could be one of Ned Colletti’s best signings.

Age IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP xFIP WAR
Clayton Kershaw 26 2013 236 8.8 2.0 1.83 2.39 2.88 6.5
’14 ZiPS 227.1 9.2 2.1 2.26 2.55 N/A 5.7
’14 Steamer 192 9.2 2.4 3.11 2.98 N/A 3.6
Zack Greinke 30 2013 177.2 7.5 2.3 2.63 3.23 3.45 2.9
’14 ZiPS 192 8.2 2.1 2.95 3.00 N/A 3.7
’14 Steamer 192 7.8 2.3 3.48 3.25 N/A 3.0
Hyun-Jin Ryu 27 2013 192 7.2 2.3 3.00 3.24 3.46 3.1
’14 ZiPS 182.1 7.7 2.5 3.65 3.93 N/A 1.3
’14 Steamer 189 7.6 2.6 3.58 3.38 N/A 2.7
Dan Haren 33 2013 (Nationals) 169.2 8.0 1.6 4.67 4.09 3.67 1.5
’14 ZiPS 162.2 7.6 1.7 3.71 3.59 N/A 2.0
’14 Steamer 173 7.4 1.7 3.56 3.55 N/A 2.2
Josh Beckett 34 2013 43.1 8.5 3.1 5.19 4.66 3.81 -0.1
’14 ZiPS 103.2 7.8 2.7 3.73 3.83 N/A 0.8
’14 Steamer 77 7.5 2.7 3.81 3.73 N/A 0.7
Paul Maholm 32 2013 (Braves) 153.0 6.18 2.76 4.41 4.24 3.89 0.7
’14 ZiPS 147.1 6.11 2.51 3.97 4.12 N/A 2.0
’14 Steamer 77.0 6.22 2.74 4.01 3.76 N/A 0.6
Chad Billingsley 29 2013 (Dodgers) 12 4.5 3.7 3.00 4.38 4.66 0.0
’14 ZiPS 97 7.1 3.3 3.90 3.74 N/A 0.9
’14 Steamer 19 7.0 3.1 4.14 3.91 N/A 0.1
Stephen Fife 28 2013 (Dodgers) 58.1 6.9 3.1 3.70 4.35 3.89 0.1
’14 ZiPS 124 5.5 3.8 4.57 4.68 N/A -0.5
’14 Steamer 19 6.2 3.6 4.48 4.23 N/A 0.1
Matt Magill 24 2013 (Dodgers) 27.2 8.5 9.1 6.51 7.13 6.04 -0.8
’14 ZiPS 117.1 8.2 5.7 4.60 4.74 N/A -0.4
’14 Steamer 19 8.4 5.9 4.47 4.21 N/A 0.1
Zach Lee 22 2013 (AA) 142.2 8.3 2.2 3.22 33.7 N/A N/A

The Dodgers have always been known for their pitching — especially their starting pitching. With this potentially stellar group led by Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers figure to have one of the best rotations in the majors.

Kershaw is coming off his second Cy Young award in three years, and it easily could have been 3-for-3. He’s the first starting pitcher (who qualified for the ERA title) to post a sub-2 ERA since Pedro Martinez did it in his historic 2000 season. Greg Maddux last did it in the National League in 1995. Yes, ERA is becoming more and more like batting average, but if a guy hit .375, that’s going to open some eyes.

A’s
Dodgers 
1:05pm PT
Glendale, Ariz.
CF
Burns
2B
Gordon
SS
Punto
LF
Crawford
3B
Donaldson
SS
Ramirez
DH
Cespedes
CF
Ethier
1B
Callaspo
RF
Puig
RF
Taylor
3B
Uribe
CF
Gimenez
1B
Van Slyke
LF
Fuld
C
Federowicz
2B
Elmore
P
Ryu

The soon-to-be-26-year-old signed a monster contract extension in the offseason and will be a Dodger for at least the next five seasons. While he’s off to a slow start in spring training (10.00 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, .308 BAA), it’s nothing to be concerned about. He’s going to be one of the two pitchers to start the Dodgers’ opening series in Australia. While the last memory some folks have of Kershaw is his disastrous Game 6 performance in the NLCS, he’s primed to bounce back from that.

Zack Greinke is coming off a great first season in Los Angeles. Despite missing time with a broken collar bone, he was still able to be the unquestioned No. 2 starter on the staff. For a time last season, Greinke was the Dodgers’ best pitcher; he has that kind of ability. Entering his age-30 season, Greinke is showing no signs of slowing down. He might not be the 220-plus inning workhorse many would like him to be, but he’s going to give the Dodgers quality innings while he’s out there. He’s been hampered by a calf injury thus far, but he should be ready for stateside opening day.

Hyun-Jin Ryu’s debut season was fantastic. After a lot was made of his signing, and the uncertainty behind it, he went out and pitched about as well as anyone could have expected. He should take a step forward this season and be a 200-plus inning pitcher for the Dodgers. I’m predicting a big season from Ryu, i.e. better numbers than he posted in his rookie year (even if the projection systems disagree). He’ll join Kershaw pitching in Australia.

Dan Haren was a quick signing by Ned Colletti, and it could pay off big time for the Dodgers. Haren is a local kid and, despite a couple of down seasons, could be one of the best No. 4 starters in the game. Both ZiPS and Steamer expect him to be better than Ryu. I don’t think he’ll be that good, but he should be a quality pitcher for the Dodgers.

Those are the locks, barring injury. Now comes the fun part.

Josh Beckett has looked pretty good this spring, even if the Mariners roughed him up on Sunday. His velocity seems to be solid and his curveball (in his first start) was good. He’s recovering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery, so it’ll be interesting to watch his progress. He has the inside track for the No. 5 spot right now.

Paul Maholm was a nice value signing, and an insurance policy in case Beckett’s offseason surgery prevented him from pitching (well) in 2014. He won’t overpower hitters and he’s the definition of a crafty lefty. He said after he was signed that he’d be willing to pitch out of the bullpen, if needed As of right now, it looks like that might be the case.

Chad Billingsley won’t be ready until — depending who you believe, June or July. He’ll likely be brought back slowly, pitching out of the bullpen to build up his endurance. Remember, he won’t get a regular spring training. Sure, he’ll get a few rehab starts in the minors, but it isn’t the same. If he comes back and is a anywhere close to his former self, that would only be a good thing for the Dodgers.

Stephen Fife had a solid stretch in 2013 when he was an effective pitcher. Some poor late-season outings put a damper on an otherwise solid season. He should head the Albuquerque Isotopes’ pitching staff and be on the short list if the Dodgers need an emergency start.

Matt Magill had a fantastic debut against the Milwaukee Brewers only to see Matt Guerrier blow the game for him. There wasn’t much other good from Magill’s time in the majors in 2013. He completely forgot how to throw strikes and couldn’t be counted on. He had control issues in Triple-A, but he showed flashes that made him a Top-10 prospect last year.

Zach Lee had a solid spring debut on Friday, throwing two scoreless innings against the Rangers. He is the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect and the one closest to the majors after Ross Stripling was diagnosed with a torn UCL. He could make his debut in 2014, but it’d be in a capacity not dissimilar to Joc Pederson‘s — an extended period of time, not a spot-start.

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With that, we conclude the Dodgers Digest Spring Training Preview series. Baseball is almost here for real, folks.

Zack Greinke isn’t going to Australia, and that’s OK

greinke_2014-02-27

G’day, mate.

When I opined last week that Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke should skip the Dodgers’ trip to Australia, I had the scenario playing out differently. I certainly didn’t have Greinke suffering a calf injury on his fourth pitch of his first 2014 spring training appearance that would effectively force out of the game.

But here we are — five days later — and Greinke is only now beginning to play catch. Don Mattingly told reporters after Monday’s 7-3 loss to the A’s that Greinke was not an option to go down under. That’s great. Now, if we can just convince Mattingly to hold back Kershaw — who was roughed up for a second consecutive spring start (no, it isn’t time to panic) — we’ll be sittin’ pretty.

Greinke’s injury is minor enough that it shouldn’t have a bearing on his regular season performance or readiness, especially since he’s staying in the past.

Mattingly said whichever starting pitchers the Dodgers take to Australia, they will be on strict pitch counts (90-100). If the Dodgers take Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren to pitch against Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill, I like their chances. Yes, their chances would improve dramatically if Kershaw were to pitch, but I’m more than confident in Ryu and Haren being able to take at least one game from the Corbin/Cahill duo.

Because of the strict pitch counts, the Dodgers are going to have to bring a long man or two just in case Ryu and/or Haren falter. That man could be Seth Rosin (pronounced Ro-ZEEN, as some have wonder in the comments section), whom Mike wrote about earlier. How good has he been in his first five innings? Eight strikeouts and no runs allowed — doesn’t get much better than that. Eric Stephen at True Blue LA laid out just how Rosin could join the Dodgers in Australia.

“The Dodgers have to submit a 28-man opening day roster to MLB by 7 p.m. PT on Friday, March 21, six hours before their opening game against the Diamondbacks in Australia. Three of the 28 names, which must be designated simultaneously with the roster submission, are ineligible to play in those two games. These will people likely left behind in Arizona to continue to work in minor league games but not on the disabled list, with candidates like Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett, to name two.

This potentially opens up a spot for an extra relief pitcher or two, at least for those two games in Australia. The Dodgers do have to cut down to a normal 25-man roster by March 30, the date of their first game in the U.S., against the Padres in San Diego.”

If only Brandon League weren’t a thing…

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And just for shiggles, since EephusBlue brought it up on Twitter today, here’s a video I shot last year that “features” the Camelback Ranch Lemonade Man in the background of a Yasiel Puig at-bat.

Really hope this guy is still there selling tons of limonada.

A case for Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke skipping the Dodgers’ Australia trip

It’s assumed by everyone Clayton Kershaw will start the first game of the season. He’s the ace, he pitches the first game — not unlike the second baseman batting second in Don Mattingly‘s lineups.

But, it might actually make sense to hold Kershaw back from starting the first “official” game of the season in Australia.

It’s still February, and the Dodgers have already expressed concern about Kershaw’s 2014 workload — they want him to be as fresh as possible for the postseason. If Kershaw were to start three of the first six games of the season (the schedule allows for that), the Dodgers wouldn’t be doing that.

Teams should want their best pitcher throwing as much as possible, but there is something to be said for big workloads these days. Kershaw has averaged 225 innings in the last four years, including an career-most 236 in 2013 (259, if you count his 23 postseason innings). While he was nails against the Braves in the National League Division Series and in the first game against the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, Kershaw looked tired in Game 6, and the results showed as much.

Dodgers
D-backs
12:05pm PT
Scottsdale, Ariz.
SS
Figgins
CF
Pollock
LF
Crawford
2B
Hill
RF
Puig
1B
Goldschmidt
3B
Uribe
3B
Prado
CF
Pederson
LF
Trumbo
1B
Van Slyke
C
Montero
C
Federowicz
DH
Tuiasosopo
2B
Guerrero
SS
Pennington
DH
Turner
RF
Parra
P
Kershaw
 
P
McCarthy

I first heard David Vassegh mention this possibility on Dodger Talk last week. While I don’t agree with a lot of comments and opinions on the show, this one actually makes some sense.

Hitters are always ahead of pitchers in spring training. All these guys are used to a full month of games before breaking camp. The Dodgers (and Diamondbacks) have the shortest camps this year because of the opener down under. The Dodgers begin games today, and their final game in Glendale is March 16 (I’ll be there!). They come back after the trip and have the Freeway Series on March 27-29, with their first real stateside game March 30 against the Padres on Sunday Night Baseball.

Kershaw is entering his age-26 season and just signed a mega deal. The last thing the Dodgers need is have him pitch meaningful games before he’s ready. That could be said about all their pitchers, but with the investment they made in Kershaw, it’s much more magnified. Skipping the Australia trip is more about his being ready for 32-33 starts from April through September, and hopefully 5-6 starts in October.

If Kershaw does remain in Glendale, he can get plenty of work in on the back fields. While he wouldn’t be facing major leaguers (or future major leaguers), it’d be true game action, and would help him get his arm where it needs to be.

Pitchers are creatures of habit and routine. Kershaw has a specific routine, and throwing a regular season game in Australia in March probably isn’t part of it.

The more I think about it, the more I agree with Zack Greinke about there being “zero excitement” for the trip, seeing as he’d be probably be slated to start the game that was reserved for Kershaw.

Greinke caught some flak for that comment, but I see nothing wrong with it. Greinke is one of the most honest athletes in sports today, and that’s rather refreshing. It’s better than a standard or canned, “We look forward to playing in Australia to open the 2014 season.”

So, if Kershaw is out, who goes to Australia? Greinke — despite his comments — would have to go. I mean, the Dodgers couldn’t conceivably refuse to throw Kershaw and Greinke in the first two meaningful games of the season… right?

Hyun-Jin Ryu would be one of the starters for sure. He’s one of the international faces of the club, and what better way to promote the Dodgers by sending a Korean pitcher to Australia?

Since the Dodgers don’t need a fifth starter much in April, even if they don’t throw Kershaw as much as they can, perhaps Ryu and Dan Haren could get the first two starts, with Josh Beckett (the leader for the No. 5 rotation spot) ready to spell Haren for a start in April. Remember, Haren spent time on the disabled list last season because he was tired, not because he was hurt. Limiting Haren’s workload might be a little more important than limiting Kershaw’s at this point (but only a little).

If Greinke isn’t excited (at all) for the trip, then maybe it makes more sense to hold him back as well. He and Kershaw give the Dodgers the best 1-2 combination in baseball. If the team sends Ryu and Haren — and the team loses both games — is it really the end of the world? I know, I know, games in April (well, March, in this case) mean just as much as games in September. However, the Dodgers returning home 0-2 isn’t devastating. Sure, it’d suck, but there is far too much talent and veteran presents on this team to let an 0-2 rattle it.

Oh, and Ryu and Haren are good pitchers. There’s every chance the Dodgers come back 2-0, despite sending their No. 3 and 4 starters. Then, all the hand-wringing about not sending Kershaw and Greinke will have been for naught.

It’s almost like playing with house money. Send Ryu and Haren to face off against Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill or whomever the Diamondbacks are sending to Australia — I like the Dodgers’ chances in those match-ups.

There’s a real possibility Kershaw doesn’t go, and Greinke probably shouldn’t go. I don’t see the scenario playing out like this, but it’s something that should at least be considered by Mattingly and Co.

Pitcher Hitting – The Dodgers’ Secret Weapon?

The Dodgers’ current starting rotation is shaping up to be one of the strongest in the league. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, and Josh Beckett is a combination that most teams in the league envy for their pitching ability. The Dodgers’ projected rotation has a hidden talent, though: they can hit. I’m not talking about sacrifice bunting, either. That’s boring. When compared to other pitchers, they can do more than that.

The graph below shows each of the projected starting five in terms of wRC+ (minimum 35 plate appearances) by season. The average wRC+ for a position player is 100, and the average wRC+ for NL pitchers is the light blue line.   Pitcher_Hitting_Chart

The graph shows that all of the Dodgers’ starting five is consistently better than the average pitcher with the bat. Let’s break this down pitcher-by-pitcher:

Clayton Kershaw

Best season: 2013. 92 PA, .182/.241/.260, 42 wRC+, 0.6 oWAR

Career: 424 PA, .154/.192/.175, -3 wRC+, 0.8 oWAR

Best moment: 4-1-13 Opening Day HR


GIF Link

An easy choice. We’re not going to forget this moment for a long time.

Conclusion: Kershaw struggled with the bat during his first three years in the majors, hitting just .076/.103/.076 in his first 171 plate appearances. However, he’s improved his hitting line to .204/.247/.238 in his last 253 plate appearances. He’s been consistently competent with the bat over the last three seasons, and there is no reason to think that this won’t continue in 2014.

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