Dodgers @ Giants April 16, 2014: The Problem With Juan Uribe’s Offense

attparkJuan Uribe has been getting a lot of praise for his offense so far this year. And rightfully so: Uribe currently leads the Dodgers’ batters in wRC+. However, he’s taken an unusual path to get there. So far this season, Uribe has not drawn a single walk. Including last year’s postseason (when he didn’t draw any walks either), Uribe has gone 101 plate appearances since his last free pass.

Walk rate takes about 120 plate appearances to stabilize, and so far this season Uribe has 58. It’s too early to declare this as a big problem; so far it’s a statistical curiosity. At this point last year, Uribe’s walk rate was 23.9% and he finished the season at 7.0%. When Uribe’s .476 BABIP inevitably regresses, he’ll need the walks to keep his offensive contribution at a respectable level. Luckily, he still has his defense, which will help maintain his value.

Dodgers
Giants
7:15 pm PT
San Francisco, CA
2B
Gordon
CF
Pagan
LF
Crawford
RF
Pence
SS
Ramirez
3B
Sandoval
1B
Gonzalez
C
Posey
CF
Kemp
LF
Morse
RF
Ethier
1B
Belt
3B
Uribe
2B
Hicks
C
Butera
SS
Arias
P
Maholm (L)
P
Vogelsong (R)

Paul Maholm gets his second start for the Dodgers tonight. His first start was, well, bad. He gave up five runs in 4-1/3 innings, striking out one and walking two. Given how hard the bullpen worked during yesterday’s marathon, Maholm will need to last longer than that tonight.

Maholm’s season has been rocky so far. He gave up a run in relief on Saturday, so his ERA is currently 8.10 (and his FIP is 7.78). He’s only struck out two batters as a Dodger. Despite the rough start, it’s too early to bury him. Maholm has been a league average starter for most of his career, and less than seven innings isn’t enough to outweigh that. If he’s as good as his career numbers, or even slightly worse, he’ll be good enough for a back of the rotation starter.

Since the Dodgers need Maholm to start right now, that means that without him they’d be relying on Stephen Fife or Matt Magill. So far this season, Fife has allowed 16 runs (15 earned) in 11-1/3 Albuquerque innings, so he isn’t doing much to shake off his late-season slide. Magill is doing a bit better, allowing 8 runs (6 earned) in 14 innings.

While Fife and Magill’s samples are small (and in Albuquerque), they don’t currently seem like pitchers who should be in the majors over Maholm, or at the very least it doesn’t make a very big difference. You could probably make a valid argument for Zach Lee, but the Dodgers don’t seem interested in starting his service time clock. With Clayton Kershaw on the mend, we might see Maholm out of the rotation sooner rather than later, anyhow.

In other starting pitcher news, the results of Chad Billingsley‘s MRI are back and aren’t as bad as they could have been. Elbow tendinitis isn’t great, but it’s better than “needs Tommy John surgery.” There’s still a chance that we’ll see him this year.

The lineup is more or less the standard one for right-handed pitching, though Puig is getting the day off because he has never faced Vogelsong. The reasoning isn’t the best, but at this point it probably doesn’t have to be.

Dodgers @ Diamondbacks April 12, 2014: Sorry for the delay

Admiring his PECOTA projection, probably. (via)

Adrian Gonzalez is in the middle of a hot streak, which bodes well for the Dodgers. (via)

Technology is a great thing, but sometimes it chooses the most inopportune time to fail. That’s why this Game Thread is just now being posted.

Dodgers
Diamondbacks
5:10 pm PT
Phoenix, AZ
RF
Puig
CF
Campana
CF
Kemp
2B
Hill
SS
Ramirez
1B
Goldschmidt
1B
Gonzalez
3B
Prado
LF
Van Slyke
C
Montero
3B
Uribe
LF
Trumbo
2B
Turner
RF
Parra
C
Butera
SS
Pennington
P
Greinke (R)
P
Miley (L)

It’s 4-0 Dodgers in the bottom of the third inning on the “strength” of a Juan Uribe flare single to right field in the second inning and the strength of an Adrian Gonzalez opposite-field home run — his second of the season and second since being traded to the Dodgers.

Zack Greinke struck out Paul Goldschmidt in the first inning on a beautiful 93 MPH fastball. For once it seemed Goldy had no chance at hitting a pitch thrown by a Dodger pitcher.

Greinke looks sharp thus far, and he’s mixing in all three of his off-speed pitches to go with a fastball that’s showing a little increased velocity. The offense is doing its job so far.

The Dodgers are back in first place after the Giants lost today, and can remain in first with a win tonight.

News That Isn’t As Bad As It Sounds: Clayton Kershaw Is On The Disabled List

kershaw_2014-02-26Earlier today, I ended a post about how good things were looking with this:

As we look forward to the final exhibition game tonight and the start of the regular season tomorrow, we’re being hit with nothing but good news on the eve of what should be a fantastic season. So like any good Dodger fan would ask, what could possibly happen to make us rue feeling so positive? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. For now, nothing but good news.

I was joking, mostly, but even I thought I’d get more than 6 hours of it before finding out that Clayton Kershaw was going to land on the disabled list, which he did after feeling something in his upper back earlier today.

That he felt something is certainly not good news, but then, this doesn’t feel like it’s really going to have as much of an impact as you would think when a team puts their ace on the DL barely more than 24 hours before the season starts.

Why’s that? Well, we already knew Kershaw wasn’t pitching against the Padres. Hyun-jin Ryu, Zack Greinke, and Dan Haren were going to start the three games before Kershaw went on the DL, and they’re still starting them now. We also know that this is the best possible time to put someone on the 15-day disabled list, because it’s already been a week since Kershaw pitched in Australia. That means that this is more of an eight-day list than a 15-day issue, since he would be able to return on April 8 (the 7th, really, but the Dodgers are off that day).

It’s much too soon to know if Kershaw will actually be ready to come off the DL that day, but the point is that he could, so we should probably cool it on the “15-day” stuff, even though that is the proper name of the list. There’s also this: with Jose Dominguez optioned to Triple-A, as expected, the roster is basically set without having to make that choice no one wanted to see between Brandon League and Chris Withrow. (“Choice,” he says, as though there was any chance that it was anything other than Withrow going down.) No, having Withrow in the pen is absolutely not worth not having Kershaw in your rotation. But for a few days, at least, it’s a decision you can avoid.

Also, as every Don Mattingly quote has indicated, this prevents Kershaw from trying to push through the pain. (And if you’ve read anything I’ve written at FanGraphs lately, the fact that Kershaw was honest about what he was feeling is such a great, great thing, that cannot be overstated.) Not having Kershaw right not is a huge bummer; not having him for weeks or months were he to aggravate it would be far worse.

Really, the main roster impact here is that game on Saturday, April 5, where everyone hoped Kershaw would be able to start. Now, it’s going to have to be Paul Maholm doing his best Chris Capuano impression, or Josh Beckett being activated off the disabled list. Neither option is ideal; then again, some teams have multiple pitchers of that skill level already in their rotation, and most teams don’t have a two-win head start headed into the season.

Again, putting the best pitcher in the game on the disabled list because he’s hurt is never going to be a good thing. But from all indications, this is a minor thing, one that has nothing to do with his arm, and one that doesn’t impact the team immediately as much as you might think it would. If Clayton Kershaw is ever going on the DL, that’s the way to do it.

Dodgers should consider pre-MLB deals with Joc Pederson and Julio Urias

pederson_joc ST 3.13.14

Joc Pederson stands to make a lot of money, but the only question is when it happens. (By: Dustin Nosler)

Free agents are becoming fewer and less talented because of the new trend of teams locking up their players a year or two before they accumulate six years of service time.
Before the 2012 season, the Reds locked up Joey Votto and the Giants locked up Matt Cain to massive deals. They were both set to become free agents following the 2012 season. The Dodgers, famously, locked up Clayton Kershaw this winter — before he entered potentially his last year in Los Angeles.

For teams with money, it’s easier to accomplish this. For teams pinching pennies, they have to be creative.

Ken Rosenthal reported last week the Astros offered outfield prospect George Springer a 7-year, $23 million deal. This is interesting for a couple reasons:

  1. It would buy out his six arbitration years and first year of free agency
  2. Springer has yet to make his Major League debut

The second one is more interesting to me. With the changing financial landscape of baseball, this could end up being the next new fad. I cannot remember a prospect, who was drafted and came up through a team’s minor-league system, being signed to a Major League deal before he had even made his first plate appearance.

The closest I can recall is the Rays locking up Evan Longoria to a 6-year, $17.5 million deal after logging just six games and 24 plate appearances in the majors in 2008. The Rays are still reaping the benefits of that decision, as Longoria is making a paltry (for his level of production) $30 million in the next three seasons. His new deal (six years, $100 million) doesn’t even begin until the 2017 season. Mike wrote about Longoria’s deal over at ESPN on Friday (Insider required).

Springer was the Astros’ minor-league player of the year after posting a .303/.411/.600 triple slash with 37 home runs and 45 stolen bases between Double- and Triple-A. He’s 24 years old and should have a spot on the talent-lacking Astros’ roster … right? Well, thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are more inclined to keep their players in the minors until June so said teams get an extra year of arbitration (avoiding Super Two status). That’s another issue for another day.

Twenty three million dollars over seven years is just less than $3.3 million per season — a minuscule sum to pay for a player after his first year or two of arbitration. Some say the Astros’ offer wasn’t good enough, which it really wasn’t (Negotiation 101), but they had the right idea. Signing players to deals in their arbitration years is a gamble — they’re trying to sign third baseman Matt Dominguez to a 5-year, $17 million deal with two options at $8 million and $10 million — but signing players to pre-MLB deals (for lack of a better term) is almost unprecedented. But it’s also something that could be more common (especially for smaller-market teams) as the years progress.

So, I’ve rambled for nine grafs almost exclusively about non-Dodger interests. What does this have to do with LA? May I present two names: Joc Pederson and Julio Urias.

The Dodgers aren’t strapped for cash (breaking news, I know), but I wonder if it would it make any bit of sense for them to lock up these two to pre-MLB debut deals.

Pederson

Pederson, 22, is the Dodgers’ best position prospect closest to the majors (he’s expected to play at Triple-A Albuquerque in 2014). He was their MiLB POY in 2012 and had arguably a better season in 2013 at Double-A Chattanooga. If there’s any prospect in the system worthy of a deal like this, it’d Pederson.

The only thing that gives me pause isn’t his “inability” to hit lefties (I don’t think it’s entirely accurate), it’s the roughly four outfielders in the majors signed through at least the next four years.

Yes, the Dodgers will probably trade Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier, but there’s no telling when that might happen. Pederson could use some seasoning in Triple-A, but if they came either midway through this season or shortly after the season with a 7-year, $35 million offer, I’m betting Pederson would take it. He could make more via the arbitration process and his first year of free agency — if he performs well. This way, he’s guaranteed $35 million before he hits free agency. I used Shin-Soo Choo‘s arbitration numbers for comparison’s sake. Choo made a little more than $17.5 million in his six years (hey, there’s that Longoria number). Choo is making $21 million in the first year of his 7-year deal in Texas. I’m not sure Pederson will ever be a $20-plus million per year player, but that’s $38.5 million for seven years. So, my 7-year, $35 million proposal isn’t that far out.

Urias

This is where it gets awfully interesting. It’s entirely possible my opinion is impacted by Urias’ spring training debut on March 15, but if the Dodgers are going to attempt one of these deals, it might be worth it get it done with him.

Urias will pitch the vast majority of the 2014 season as a 17-year-old (he turns 18 on Aug. 12). Some say he could make his MLB debut before he turns 18. It sounds crazy, but the only things that are seemingly holding him back are his lack of stamina and experience at the higher levels.

Now, Urias isn’t the next Kershaw. The Dodgers don’t have a guy like that. So, he probably won’t make nearly as much as Kershaw did in his first six years (almost $38 million), but perhaps the Dodgers can buy out more years of free agency because Urias is so young.

I’m thinking a 10-year, $50 million deal before he debuts. That would buy out four years of free agency (for argument’s sake, let’s say $15 million per season) and his six arbitration years (approximately $15-20 million), potentially saving the Dodgers $25-30 million in that 10-year span. Not many players who go through the arbitration process can say they made $50 million before reaching free agency.

There’s risk in either deal, but there’s especially more risk in the Urias deal. Pitchers are prone to more serious injuries than their position player counterparts — especially teenage pitchers who have all of 54 1/3 innings in professional ball.

If Urias agreed to such a deal, let’s say next year, he’d be a free agent in time for his age-28 season — prime time for players to hit the market.

=====

The Dodgers probably won’t continue to have a payroll north of $250 million every year. The luxury tax cost would be enough to afford two or three quality players (50 percent tax on the amount more than $187 million after the 2016 season). By that time, Crawford and Ethier should be playing elsewhere, a cheap Corey Seager will have replaced Juan Uribe, someone other than Alex Guerrero could be playing second base and the Dodger rotation could have cheap options in Urias and Zach Lee. The Dodgers will effectively get younger while saving money longer than a team normally would.

Signing players to pre-MLB deals could be the way for the Dodgers to reduce payroll while not only keeping their homegrown players, but their potentially superstar homegrown kids. These deals would require the youngsters to be on the 40-man roster soon after signing them, so if they’d be open to such deals, the Dodgers would have to make sure there’s room for them to play.

Also, it’s a two-way street. Players would need to be willing to sign such deals, and there’s no guarantee Pederson or Urias would be interesting in doing this.

I don’t expect either of these deals to happen, but it’s something the Dodgers should look into with their top-flight prospects (if they aren’t planning to trade them) to (hopefully) save some money in the long run.

Longtime Dodger doctor Frank Jobe dies at age 88

The Dodgers’ family lost one of its longest-tenured members on Thursday in Dr. Frank Jobe, who died in his Santa Monica home at the age of 88.

Jobe was a member of the Dodgers’ organization beginning in 1964, and he was also associated — early in his career — with the then Los Angeles Rams and Lakers.

Jobe’s greatest accomplishment came in 1974, when he performed the first ligament replacement surgery for players who blew out their elbows — otherwise known as Tommy John surgery. Sure, someone probably would have come up with this idea sooner or later, but Jobe pioneered this trailblazing procedure that has extended the careers of many a pitcher.

john_tommy_TJ

This man (Tommy John) would be far less famous if not for Dr. Frank Jobe. (via)

Tommy John was quoted in the Dodgers’ press release:

“‘Baseball lost a great man and Tommy John lost a great friend. There are a lot of pitchers in baseball who should celebrate his life and what he did for the game of baseball. My deepest condolences and prayers go out to Beverly (Jobe) and the entire family. He’s going to be missed.’”

From the Dodgers’ official press release:

“‘Frank Jobe is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word,’ said Dodger President Stan Kasten. ‘His dedication and professionalism in not only helping the Dodgers, but athletes around the world is unparalleled. He was a medical giant and pioneer and many athletes in the past and the future can always thank Frank for finding a way to continue their careers.’”

Damn right, Stan. I mean, how is the inventor of the TJ procedure not in the Hall of Fame? He’s done more for the game than plenty of the people — players and otherwise — who have been inducted.

Jobe is survived by his wife Beverly, his four sons and their spouses, and eight grandchildren. Rest in peace, Dr. Jobe. Baseball wouldn’t be what it is today without your brilliance and innovation.

Dodgers’ preseason All-Prospect ‘Name’ team

maynard_pratt

Pratt Maynard, 80 name. (By: Dustin Nosler)

Baseball seems to have some of the best names around. Everywhere you look, there’s an “80″ name. Every single team has these guys. The Dodgers have some of the best.

For this, I’ll grade the names of Dodger prospects at every position (with honorable mentions) and form a team of guys with some of the best baseball names you’ll see. Jared Massey did a similar list over at Dodgers Nation.

Of course, each of these prospects should thank their parents for this great honor I’m about to bestow upon them.

Catcher

Pratt Maynard
If I have a son one day, I’m going to name him “Pratt Maynard Nosler.” I mean, does it get any better than that? The first- and last name are strong — together, it’s a clear 80 for me.
Grade: 80/80 (present/future)
Honorable mention: Gersel Pitre

First base

O’Koyea Dickson
When you’re named after one of the best running backs in Tecmo Super Bowl (Christian Okoye), your spot on this team is secured. While it isn’t spelled the same, it has the same impact. If you didn’t think of Christian Okoye when you first heard O’Koyea Dickson‘s name, I don’t know what to tell ya.
Grade: 75/75 (present/future)
Honorable mention: Angelo Songco

Second base

Tyger Pederson
The last Dodger draftee to sign from the 2013 class, Pederson secures his spot on this squad with a unique spelling of his first name. The fact his brother, who may appear on this list later, has an awesome name himself doesn’t hurt.
Grade: 70/75 (present/future)
Honorable mention: Elevys Gonzalez

Third base

Michael Ahmed
Brother of Nick Ahmed, Michael was the Dodgers’ 20th-round pick in the 2013 draft. While Michael doesn’t stand out, Ahmed is a pretty awesome last name. But much like the Dodgers’ farm system — talent-wise — the options at third base were lacking.
Grade: 50/55 (present/future)
Honorable mention: Jimy Perez (because of the one “m.”)

Shortstop

(Barbaro) Erisbel Arruebarrena
This might be the deepest name position in the system, thanks to recent international signings. But no one in the system tops Arruebarrena’s name, even after dropping the second “u” from his last name.
Grade: 90/90 (present/future) — 90 because of “Barbaro.”
Honorable Mention: Faustino Oguisten

Left field

Ibandel Isabel
One of the Dodgers’ international signings in April, Isabel has the unique “Double-I” initials. That’s rare in life, let alone baseball.
Grade: 70/70 (present/future)
Honorable Mention: Jacob Scavuzzo

Center field

Casio Grider
It just flows, doesn’t it? “Casio Grider.” When I first heard his name, I immediately thought of a watch. The fact he has two elite names puts him in contention for best name in the system.
Grade: 80/80 (present/future)
Honorable Mention: Joc Pederson

Right field

Devin Shines
It’s an optimistic name, wouldn’t you say? Shines is my right fielder, but he isn’t even the best “Shines” in the system. That honor goes to his father, Razor Shines. That’s an 80-grade name. If Devin wants to go with “Razor” in the future, that’ll bump his grade. He also gets bonus points for being a rare “Bats: Right; Throws: Left” guy.
Grade: 65/70 (present/future)
Honorable Mention: Brian Cavazos-Galvez

Starting pitchers

Osiris Ramirez
When you’re named after the Egyptian God of Afterlife, you are a name ace on this team. Really hope he makes the majors one day.
Grade: 80/80 (present/future)
Honorable Mention: Abdiel Velasquez

Welington Serrano
If not for Osiris, this would have been the name ace of my team. Not only is he named after a classic British beef dish (kinda), he also has the same last name (kinda) as one of the all-time best baseball movie characters: Pedro Cerrano.
Grade: 75/80 (present/future)
Honorable Mention: Wascar Teodo

Jairo Pacheco
Not only is he a sleeper prospect in the system, he also has a couple of strong names. The only Jairo I remember is Jairo Garcia, who is now Santiago Casilla.
Grade: 70/75 (present/future)
Honorable Mention: Victor Araujo

Relief pitcher

Misja Harcksen
Harcksen was signed in January out of the Netherlands, and he’s the only European to appear on this team (not the HM team). I graded his name after he (and four others) signed last month. Admittedly, my grade was a bit low. I’m bumping it up.
Grade: 70/75 (present/future)
Honorable Mention: Sven Schuller

Player Position
Pratt Maynard C
O’Koyea Dickson 1B
Tyger Pederson 2B
Michael Ahmed 3B
Erisbel Arruebarrena SS
Ibandel Isabel LF
Casio Grider CF
Devin Shines RF
Osiris Ramirez SP 1
Welington Serrano SP 2
Jairo Pacheco SP 3
Misja Harcksen RP

Dodgers sign Kenley Jansen to $4.3 million deal, avoid arbitration

jansen_2013-05-25And just like that, all is right in Dodger camp. Word came down on Tuesday the Dodgers and Kenley Jansen agreed to a 1-year, $4.3 million deal that allows the two sides to avoid arbitration.

Jansen had asked for $5.05 million, while the Dodgers offered $3.5 million. The midpoint was $4.275 million, which is a “win” for Jansen.

Jansen’s arbitration hearing had been scheduled for Feb. 18, but it was widely believed the two sides would come to an agreement before that time. No one really likes going to arbitration to let an independent third party determine the value of a player (just watch for the fireworks from Cincinnati with Homer Bailey). It was obvious the Dodgers and Jansen wanted to get this done sooner rather than later.

Jansen gets a raise from the paltry (by baseball standards) $512,000 he made last season. He has established himself as one of the best closers in baseball and is worth every penny of his new deal. Considering what the Dodgers are paying Brandon League and Brian Wilson (at least he’s good), Jansen is an absolute steal.

It’s likely the team will continue to go year-to-year with Jansen, as relievers are the the most volatile baseball players. A long-term extension would be nice, but it might not be prudent at this point. That isn’t a knock on Jansen’s ability by any means. It’s a commentary on relievers in general. But don’t worry, Jansen is still three years away from free agency.

Provided Jansen stays healthy, the Dodgers figure to have one of the best bullpens in the majors and one of the franchise’s best since the days of Takashi Saito-Jonathan Broxton, or even Eric Gagne-Guillermo Mota.

With the deal, the Dodgers avoid going to their first arbitration case since 2007, and push their projected payroll north of $260 million.