Dodgers 2, Giants 3: Baseball Is Dumb

BrandonLeagueSad

Baseball is a dumb, dumb sport.

Kenley Jansen blew a save on two hits that went 10 feet in the air and now his BABIP is .556. He is the worst and grab the pitchforks or something. Whatever, no energy to deal with dumbasses.

The Dodgers kept Brandon League over Paco Rodriguez because … who cares? So of course it comes back to matter in the end and League loses.

I didn’t know I had the game recap today, so this is what happens.

Baseball. I slept two hours last night. What is life?

Dodgers @ Giants April 15, 2014: Jackie Robinson Day

attpark

First, the good news: Brian Wilson is back! That really shouldn’t be understated. When he first came up complaining of elbow soreness two weeks ago after looking terrible in blowing a game against San Diego, I think we all thought the worst for the two-time Tommy John survivor. Had you told me on that day that we wouldn’t see him again for the remainder of the season, I wouldn’t have found it all that surprising. Now, after only two rehab games and the minimum time needed on the disabled list, he’s back. Assuming he’s healthy, that’s very, very good.

But of course, nothing good comes without a price, and that price is being paid by Paco Rodriguez, who was optioned back to Triple-A to make room for Wilson. Though disappointing, it’s not all that surprising, since the team wasn’t going to jettison Brandon League — sorry — and Chris Withrow has been so good that it would have been extremely difficult to let him go. Since only Withrow and Rodriguez have options, it had to be one or the other.

Dodgers
Giants
10:15 pm PT
San Francisco, CA
2B
Gordon
CF
Pagan
LF
Crawford
1B
Belt
SS
Ramirez
3B
Sandoval
1B
Gonzalez
C
Posey
RF
Puig
RF
Pence
LF
Ethier
LF
Morse
3B
Uribe
SS
Crawford
C
Federowicz
2B
Hicks
P
Beckett (R)
P
Lincecum (R)

Rodriguez has actually never pitched in Triple-A, having gone straight from Double-A to the Dodgers in 2012 and spending all season with the big club in 2013. He had, however, pitched in eight of the team’s first 13 games, and while he was fine, he wasn’t dominant. (Eight baserunners allowed in 5.2 innings.) Since he’ll so obviously be back as soon as another reliever is injured, which should be, oh, any second now, being without him for a few days or weeks isn’t really as concerning to me as I imagine it may be to many.

Of course, this does leave the Dodgers with just one lefty in the pen, J.P. Howell. I can’t say I love that. But that’s how it’s going to be for now.

***

In other news: Carl Crawford is back, having missed the final two games of the Arizona series with minor right side tightness and “facing a lefty-itis.” That gives Matt Kemp the honor of being the extra man tonight against Tim Lincecum, and I don’t exactly hate the idea of having one of these four guys on the bench in the late innings every night.

***

In news that’s less good: Chad Billingsley didn’t make it through his scheduled bullpen appearance, and is headed back to Los Angeles for an MRI after “tightness and discomfort.” We once thought his rehab was going so well that we might have seen him by early May. Now, I don’t think there’s any realistic ETA for his return. Discouraging, to say the least.

***

But to end on a good note: Joc Pederson hit another homer tonight! That’s his fourth of the season, coming off Keyvius Sampson in the third inning. As I type, the Isotopes are in the middle of putting up a six-spot in the third against El Paso — they’re still batting — with Matt Magill on the mound.

Dee Gordon Making It Interesting As Alex Guerrero Shows Power

gordon_dirt_arizona

Dee Gordon, it must be said, has been outstanding over the first two weeks of the season, hitting .400/.457/.525. He hit a homer off of Max Scherzer. He has four walks. He stole four bases on Sunday alone, leading the big leagues, and also leading to Jeff Sullivan dedicating a post to his speed at FanGraphs. He’s just a hair behind Jason Heyward for being the most valuable baserunner in baseball to date. At the plate and on the base paths, Gordon has been the entire package, and considering just how messy the second base situation looked all winter, this is more than we could have possibly hoped for, especially if you were worried about weeks of Chone Figgins and Justin Turner.

You know why I used that otherwise not-that-appealing picture above as the main image? Because Vin Scully said on the air that the Diamondbacks were so worried about Gordon bunting, they added sand to the dirt (the lighter area above) to try to deaden any bunt attempt. I have absolutely no idea if that’s true, it should be noted. But it could be true, and the fact that we even believe it to be a possibility says a lot about what he’s done.

So Gordon has been great over the first two weeks, and no one can take that away from him. I’m impressed, and I want to see more, and that says a lot. For a very long time, “wanting to see more Dee Gordon” was at about the same level as “wanting to see more Brandon League,” and I’m pleasantly surprised.

Of course, we can appreciate what Gordon has done while still remaining in the realm of reality. It’s been 46 plate appearances. Luis Cruz once hit .429/.455/.667 over 44 plate appearances. Charlie Blackmon is hitting .478/.490/.696 in 49 plate appearances. Chase Utley is hitting .489/.549/.844 in 51 plate appearances. Allen Craig is hitting .133/.184/.133 in 49 plate appearances. Literally anything can happen over a handful of times to the plate, and since Gordon’s BABIP is .441, he is going to decline. That’s not me being a buzzkill. That’s just the facts of the game we love. No one can keep up a .441 BABIP all season long. It cannot be done.

There’s also this: his defensive transition to second base has been… okay. And okay is okay, because it’s a new position and he was an awful shortstop and no one expected him to be a standout defender by April 15. If we can expect that his offense will regress, because it will, then we can probably hope that his defense will improve as he gains experience. He won’t be among the best hitters in baseball all year long; one would hope that he won’t be among the worst-ranked defensive second baseman either, as his -2 Defensive Runs Saved rating would indicate.

Down in Albuquerque, Alex Guerrero has made his debut after missing a few weeks thanks to an oblique strain. In eight plate appearances over two games, he has two homers, and a walk, and a double, and three singles. Thanks to the magic of the internet, we can see them both.

On Sunday, against Clay Rapada:

On Monday, against Jonathan Arias:

That’s after a better spring training than you remember — again, spring stats mean little, but a .300/.400/.500 almost seems surprising after all the negative press he got — though, like Gordon, defense remains a question.

Again, it’s April 15, so none of this means a lot. All we know so far is this: Gordon’s excellent start has contributed to winning ballgames, and it will likely allow the Dodgers to prevent rushing Guerrero up to the big leagues. At some point, Guerrero will be in Los Angeles. By then, either Gordon will have collapsed, or he’ll have turned himself into valuable trade bait, or a speedy and useful utility man. Two of those three things will be happy outcomes for the Dodgers. That’s two more than I think most of us thought there would be six months or a year ago, and for that alone, he deserves our applause.

With righty Tim Lincecum on the mound tonight in San Francisco, I imagine Gordon will be leading off and playing second. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do. This is progress. Great progress.

This Is What A 100MPH Cutter Looks Like

Kenley Jansen did something very notable last night. The accomplishment occurred on this cutter, which struck out Mark Trumbo:


GIF Link

Per Brooks Baseball, the cutter was thrown at 100.1MPH, the fastest pitch of Jansen’s career. He threw a 99.6MPH cutter to Miguel Cabrera last week, but as Grant Brisbee noted, the pitch was actually the most hit-able of the at-bat.

Per a different source, Daren Willman’s excellent searchable Pitch FX database, this cutter was the second fastest ever thrown in front of a Pitch FX system. The database registered the pitch at 99.3MPH. The velocity on Willman’s site is slightly lower than Brooks’ because Brooks’ measurement point is slightly closer to where the pitcher releases the ball (55 feet from the plate, Willman’s data is 50 feet) and the two sites apply slightly different offsets to account for “hot systems.”

In Willman’s database, Jansen has thrown three of the six cutters which have been clocked above 99MPH. All three of Jansen’s pitches at that velocity have occurred in the last week. The only faster cutter on record is a Daniel Webb pitch which registered at 99.5MPH last season.

In contrast to the cutter against Cabrera, the pitch to Trumbo had him badly fooled (despite missing the target by a fairly wide margin). Overall, it had about 2.5″ of horizontal movement (compared to an average of 3.3″ last season):
Kenley_Brooks_HorizMovement041314

The pitch had about 10″ of vertical movement (just about matching last season’s average):
Kenley_Brooks_VertMovement041314

Horizontal movement is what visually defines the cutter, and the fact that the pitch broke a bit less than usual might be something to keep an eye on. Even so, Kenley is averaging more horizontal movement this season than last, despite the increase in velocity. During last night’s outing, Jansen missed a few spots pretty badly, but so far he’s inducing his highest whiffs/swing percentage since 2011 and he’s struck out nearly 40% of the batters he’s faced.

As Dustin found last week, we still don’t really know what the increase in velocity actually means. But at the very least, it gives us something fun to talk about on an off day.

Dodgers 8, Diamondbacks 6: Dee Gordon Is Fast, Dodgers Sweep Diamondbacks

Cahill_McCarthy_0413

In yet another marathon game, the Dodgers clinched their three-game series with the Diamondbacks with an 8 to 6 victory, despite striking out sixteen times in the process.

The scoring opened on this laser by Matt Kemp on a Trevor Cahill sinker that didn’t sink:

GIF Link

It’s probably a bad idea to miss there to him. Kemp went on to strike out three times, but let’s just remember this plate appearance instead.

Beyond Kemp, the offense was led by Dee Gordon, who had one of the best games of his career. Dee went 1-for-3, but walked twice (doubling his season total). More importantly, he stole four bases, including one that occurred without a pitch (GIF via Chad):


GIF Link

Gordon is just the sixth player in franchise history to steal four bases in one game (though stolen base numbers are a bit iffy beyond the 50s). The last Dodgers to accomplish the feat was Rafael Furcal on September 15th, 2007. Davey Lopes did it five times.

The Dodgers appeared to put the game away in the third inning. The inning started in a frustrating fashion, with Dan Haren grounding out to right fielder Gerardo Parra. After that, the Dodgers tacked on four runs, started by Dee Gordon’s walk and two steals. Yasiel Puig walked and (hilariously) stole second. Hanley Ramirez drove in Gordon with the highest Baltimore Chop you’ll ever see, then Adrian Gonzalez drove them home with a home run, his fourth in the last four games. Gonzalez went 7-for-13 with three homers during the series, and was one of the main reasons why the Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks. After all was said and done, Cahill made 43 pitches and the Dodgers batted around.

Despite the early scoring, the game didn’t ever feel out of reach for the Diamondbacks. Haren looked very shaky today, throwing 110 pitches in 5-2/3 innings. He struck out five batters and walked just one, but he allowed a lot of hard contact, which led to ten hits, six of which went for extra bases. He was constantly pitching from behind in the count (starting the start with five straight three-ball counts), but with a bit of luck he only allowed three runs.

Even after the Dodgers re-expanded their lead to five runs, Jamey Wright made the game interesting yet again again. After allowing a three-run homer to Mark Trumbo, he allowed the next two batters to reach base before finally recording the final out in the seventh inning. J.P. Howell, Chris Perez, and Kenley Jansen (who was again throwing in the upper 90s) put an end to the scoring, securing the sweep.

After completing the sweep, the Dodgers have yet another day off. Mercifully, this is the last off-day in a while. Starting Tuesday, the team will play thirteen games in thirteen days, followed by a stretch of sixteen games without a break.

Carl Crawford missed today’s game due to “right side tightness.” The Dodgers say that it is “nothing serious,” which probably means that he’ll be on the disabled list soon enough. Too many outfielders, etc.

Dodgers @ Diamondbacks April 13, 2014: Haren returns to Arizona in Dodger Blue

haren_dan_4.2.14

Dan Haren starts for the Dodgers today against his former team with which he spent 2008-10. He was a two-time All-Star and put up a 3.56 ERA with the D-Backs until he was traded to the Angels at the deadline along with Tyler Skaggs for Patrick Corbin, Rafael Rodriguez, and Joe Saunders.

Haren faces off against Trevor Cahill, who has followed up an atrocious spring (6.95 ERA) with a worse start (7.90 ERA) to the 2014 season. The Dodgers also previously beat Corbin down in Australia, chasing him after four innings. Additionally, the D-Backs are the worst team in baseball by both record and run differential so far this year. All of that means Cahill probably throws a complete game shutout or something. Cause baseball.

=====

Dodgers
Diamondbacks
1:10 pm PT
Phoenix, AZ
2B
Gordon
RF
Parra
RF
Puig
2B
Hill
SS
Ramirez
1B
Goldschmidt
1B
Gonzalez
3B
Chavez
CF
Kemp
LF
Trumbo
LF
Ethier
CF
Pollock
3B
Uribe
SS
Owings
C
Federowicz
C
Gosewisch
P
Haren (R)
P
Cahill (R)

Clayton Kershaw took a step forward to returning on Saturday, as he threw off the bullpen mound. However, there is still no timetable.

Kershaw, disabled with a strained teres major muscle in his back after winning his Opening Night start in Australia, was not throwing full speed, but wasn’t lobbing either.

Manager Don Mattingly said Kershaw remains under orders to hold back on velocity and is monitored by trainers using an app that calculates pitch speed.

“They only allow him to throw so hard,” said Mattingly. “Stan [Conte, trainer] has been educating me about the velocity injury. He has to keep it below that so he won’t injure it.”

Given the location of the muscle and that it affects velocity, the team should take as much time as necessary. That should go without saying, but a lot of fans and even media can get very restless when they’re constantly told “no timetable” for a guy that just signed a gigantic contract.

=====

-Brian Wilson is eligible to be activated Tuesday and he’s having no troubles in the minors thus far. Chris Withrow has options, but he basically shares setup duties with Chris Perez at this point, so sending him down to keep Brandon League to “retain depth” seems more like a move to “retain crappy pitchers for no reason” to me.

-Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena are alive. Guerrero has recovered from an oblique injury and will be in AAA, as the team released Brendan Harris to clear room. Arruebarrena was assigned to AA.

-Scott Elbert threw a bullpen session on Saturday and wants to be ready for a rehab stint in June. Couldn’t hurt to have a third capable lefty in the wings, especially since he thrived in the pen when he has been healthy.

Dodgers 8, D’Backs 5: Arizona Is Bad And They Should Feel Bad

greinke_2014-04-12

I’d like to say that a win is a win is a win, that as long as the Dodgers get the W, none of the rest of it matters. In some sense, that’s true, I guess. That is the most important thing. But I can’t really pretend that’s all I’m taking from tonight’s 8-5 victory. The Diamondbacks, who were the only team in baseball with nine losses, are now the only team in baseball with 10 losses. They’re 4-10. They’re already five games out. They have the worst run differential in baseball.

They’re not the worst team in baseball, of course, (I… think?) and when all is said and done, I don’t think they’re even the worst team in the NL West. But with Patrick Corbin injured in spring, they entered the year in a hole, and now they’re in an even bigger hole. I’d like to say that doesn’t give me a small jolt of extra joy after the reaction to the pool thing, and Kevin Towers basically saying that he wished his pitchers had thrown at Dodgers, and all their talk about “grit,” and Kirk Gibson dumping on A.J. Ellis being sent to Australia on the goodwill tour, but you know what? It does. That probably makes me a bad person. Or maybe just a baseball fan who inexplicably supports one team over another team. Either way.

Anyway, enough about them. Zack Greinke was outstanding again, striking out eight without a walk for the second game in a row. On the season, Greinke’s K/BB is 21/2, which is of course outstanding. But, as he’s done in each of his starts — and twice in his second — Greinke made one mistake, allowing A.J. Pollock to take him deep in the fifth inning. But Pollock’s dinger was a solo shot, and — although he scattered eight hits — that’s what happens when you never walk anyone, ever. Solo homers aren’t the worst thing in the world. In Greinke’s three starts, he’s gone on a tour of most of the division, beating the Giants, Padres, and Diamondbacks. It’s really only because of the presence of Clayton Kershaw that Greinke doesn’t get talked about in the same way as the elite pitchers in the game. That’s unfortunate: he’s elite.

Also looking great: Adrian Gonzalez! Gonzalez hit his fourth homer of the year, a two-run shot in the third off of Wade Miley, and added a walk and a single. Yasiel Puig also got on three times (two hits and a walk), as did Drew Butera (!!) on the same combination, while Juan Uribe added three hits of his own, including a ninth-inning ball off the top of the wall that just barely missed going out. Matt Kemp went 0-4, but we’re only going to talk about the good things tonight.

But really, for all the good that happened: this game dragged. After the Dodgers went up 5-0 in the top of the fourth, it was never in doubt, but the teams combined to use 12 pitchers. Even a good thing like Chris Withrow striking out the side in his lone inning of work seemed to take forever, because it took 24 pitches. Overall, this one went well over three-and-a-half hours — no thanks, it should be added, to Brandon League, who came in with a six-run lead in the ninth and managed to mess things up so badly, giving up two hits, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch, that Kenley Jansen actually had to come in and clean things up for the final out. When you wonder, if you ever do, if anything is wrong with Jansen, note that this was his MLB-leading eighth game of the season already. Thanks, Brandon!

Anyway, a win. And there’s one more tomorrow: Dan Haren faces Trevor Cahill, who has been awful.

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.

Dodgers 6, Diamondbacks 0: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Adrian Gonzalez lead the way

ryu_2014-03-30-standsThat went about as well as could be expected. The Dodgers had a comfortable 6-0 victory on Friday night in Arizona behind great performances from Hyun-Jin Ryu and Adrian Gonzalez.

Ryu, starting for the first time in a week, threw seven scoreless innings, allowed two hits, walked one and struck out eight Diamondback hitters. He threw 99 pitches (70 strikes) in his seven innings. He showed no ill effects from his toenail injury. His velocity was on-par with his season average to date (90.9 MPH tonight, 90.7 MPH on the season), and he topped out at 93.1 MPH. He mixed his pitches well, throwing just 56 fastballs, 19 sliders, 16 changeups and eight curveballs. He had all his pitches working on this evening.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dodger game without some kind of injury — even though it’s minor.

Sounds like he’ll be OK. Jamey Wright threw two scoreless innings of relief to close out the game.

Gonzalez got things going right away in the first inning, turning on a Brandon McCarthy fastball and hitting a no-doubter to right field. He followed that up with a 2-run single and an RBI single. In fact, the only at-bat in which he didn’t get a hit was when Paul Goldschmidt (whom the Dodgers, somehow, kept off base) made a diving stop on a liner down the line. It was Gonzalez’s best game of the season, logging three hits and five RBIs.

Hanley Ramirez chipped in three hits of his own, scoring three runs and driving in Yasiel Puig (who went 1-for-4 with a double in his return to the lineup) in the eighth inning.

Dee Gordon continued his hot hitting, chipping in two singles and a stolen base out of the No. 8 spot in the lineup. Juan Uribe had a rough night at the plate, grounding into two double plays. But he made a great play in the field and is the early leader in defensive runs saved for the Dodgers (+4).

The Dodgers send Zack Greinke to the hill on Saturday to face Wade Miley. Expect a different lineup than the one that was out there on Friday. First pitch is at 5:10 p.m. AHT. The Dodgers are now 7-4, while the Diamondbacks fall to 4-9.

Dodgers @ Diamondbacks April 11, 2014: The Return of the Puig

puig_yasiel_st 3.13.14

Puig will start for the first time since April 2. (By: Dustin Nosler)

After splitting a 2-game series with the Tigers, the Dodgers (6-4) travel to Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks (4–8). We all know what happened last time these two teams met in Arizona — the Dodgers clinched the National League West title for the first time since 2009.

Yes, the Dodgers, behind a strong bullpen performance and home runs from Hanley Ramirez (two) and A.J. Ellis helped to clinch. The Dodgers then celebrated in the Chase Field swimming pool — something that pissed off seemingly everyone in Arizona. Oh, then they allegedly peed in said pool.

Chase Field - Flickr Ryan Leighty

Hope that pool is clean. (via)

Much was made about this situation (which I refuse to call “poolg–e,” mostly because the term is idiotic), but the fact of the matter is: if the D-Backs didn’t want the Dodgers celebrating in their pool, they should have played better baseball. For everyone’s sake, I hope there’s no retaliation tonight for the Dodgers, because the Dodgers will likely have to retaliate, leading to a surefire brawl — something neither team needs right now.

The two clubs met in Sydney in the last couple weeks of March to play the opening series. The Dodgers won both games, but lost Clayton Kershaw for at least a few weeks, but more likely a month or two. There’s no definitive proof the trip played into his injury, but it’s hard to deny it had an adverse affect on him.

Dodgers
Diamondbacks
6:40 pm PT
Phoenix, AZ
LF
Crawford
CF
Pollock
RF
Puig
2B
Hill
SS
Ramirez
1B
Goldschmidt
1B
Gonzalez
3B
Prado
CF
Ethier
C
Montero
3B
Uribe
LF
Trumbo
C
Federowicz
SS
Owings
2B
Gordon
RF
Parra
P
Ryu (L)
P
McCarthy (R)

Hyun-Jin Ryu is making his first start in a week after getting shelled against the Giants in the Dodgers’ home opener on April 4. Yasiel Puig returns from a strained/sprained thumb he suffered by foolishly sliding head-first into first base. He pinch hit on Wednesday night (and struck out), but this is his first start since the injury. Ken Gurnick reported Puig might actually have more issues fielding rather than hitting. We’ll see if it’s a factor tonight.

With Puig back in the lineup and the Dodgers facing a right-hander, Matt Kemp is getting his first night off since returning from injury. He hit two home runs on Sunday night, but he’s 0-for-7 with two walks and five strikeouts. His swing looks like it once did, but he didn’t have much of a spring training, so some ups and downs are to be expected from him early on.

Oh, then there’s this:

Awesome.