Tigers @ Dodgers April 9, 2014: Beckett is Back

dodger_stadium_openingday2013As the Dodgers go for the two-game sweep against the Tigers, the biggest story is tonight’s starting pitcher. After a long road back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery (and temporary setbacks after shutting his thumb in a door and turning his ankle), Josh Beckett returns to action tonight. Even though I’ve written about him multiple times, I honestly have no idea what to expect.

The team has been cautiously optimistic about Beckett’s recovery, but his surgery was a difficult one and players who have had the same surgery have reached the majors only to falter after their returns. Given the research I have done, the things to look for (other than velocity) are Beckett’s release point and his posture during delivery. If Beckett is more upright, that will be a good sign.

Tigers
Dodgers 
7:10pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
LF
Davis
2B
Gordon
2B
Kinsler
LF
Crawford
1B
Cabrera
SS
Ramirez
C
Martinez
1B
Gonzalez
CF
Jackson
RF
Ethier
3B
Castellanos
CF
Kemp
RF
Collins
3B
Uribe
SS
Gonzalez
C
Federowicz
P
Sanchez (R)
P
Beckett (R)

The Detroit rotation is just relentless, so following last year’s Cy Young award winner is Anibal Sanchez, who led the American League in FIP- last season. FIP- is FIP compared to a pitcher’s league average and adjusted for park. A 100 FIP- is league average, and a lower value is better. Last season, Clayton Kershaw‘s FIP- was 66, or 34% better than a league average pitcher. Sanchez’ FIP- was 59. That value was boosted by a potentially lucky 5.8% HR/FB ratio, but even if that is adjusted to league average Sanchez is a difficult pitcher to face.

In Sanchez’ first start of the season, he lasted just four innings, forced out of the game by a rain delay. He struck out three batters, walked three batters, and gave up two runs. He struggled in the first inning, but was much better until the rain started.

In order to make room for Beckett, Jose Dominguez was optioned to Albuquerque. That’s not surprising, given where he is on the depth chart, and since the team was carrying eight relief pitchers. Yasiel Puig is missing from the lineup again, though he is available to pinch hit after taking batting practice before the game. Batting practice went well, but the team hasn’t indicated when Puig will be ready to return full-time. Brian Wilson threw a simulated game at Dodger Stadium tonight, but he’s still at least a week away from returning, if not longer.

Looking ahead to the weekend, the Dodgers announced that Hyun-jin Ryu will start on Friday and Zack Greinke will start on Saturday against the Diamondbacks. Though they haven’t announced Sunday’s starter, it will likely be Dan Haren. Since Paul Maholm is getting skipped this time through the rotation, he is available out of the bullpen tonight.

Reminder: Sliding Head First Is Still The Worst

puig-points_2014-04-01

Somewhat lost in the midst of A.J. Ellisknee surgery, Matt Kemp‘s two homers, Tuesday night’s exciting extra innings victory over Detroit, minor trades for minor leaguers, and the recent uncertainty over whether Josh Beckett would be able to make tonight’s start is the fact that Yasiel Puig has played exactly once since last Wednesday. That’s partially his own doing (his deserved benching for being late), partially due to the schedule (something like 78 days off this month), but mostly because he did this on Saturday:

It’s the Nick Punto special: sliding into head first for any other reason than to avoid the tag. It lessens your chances of being safe, and it increases your chances of being injured. It didn’t look quite as bad as this train wreck from Puig’s first week in the bigs last year…

…but it appears to have had more of an effect, because Puig didn’t appear on Sunday or Tuesday — even as a replacement — and, I would imagine, probably isn’t starting tonight, either. (Detroit has Anibal Sanchez on the mound, a righty, so having lefties Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier around Matt Kemp makes sense.)

We know that he’s wearing a splint, similar to what Hanley Ramirez had last year. But we also know that when Ramirez hurt his thumb last year, he was out for over a month. When Dee Gordon hurt his thumb, also on a head first slide, back in 2012, he was out for over two months. Obviously, every injury is unique — Gordon’s included a dislocation, and I think we’d have heard about anything that serious with Puig by now if it were the case — and so just because his teammates had bad thumb injuries doesn’t mean that he does as well.

Still, after a day off tomorrow (ugh), the team heads off on a six-game road trip to Arizona and San Francisco (with yet another day off, double ugh). If Puig doesn’t show some improvement soon, at least proving he can take batting practice tonight, you wonder how long this can linger before it turns into a disabled list stint. And if it does, you hope that it’s just rest that’s required, nothing more serious. Speculation, of course. For now, that’s all we have.

In the meantime, there’s still no such thing as “too many outfielders” until there are. And remember, kids: never, ever slide head first.

Dodgers 3, Tigers 2: Let This Be The World Series, Please

If there was ever a time for me to do a post that was literally just a GIF and nothing else, it would be this. Dee Gordon hit a homer. In the big leagues. Off Max Scherzer! In a game the Dodgers won by one run. And it wasn’t cheap:


GIF Link

I know. I know! As I said on Twitter, Gordon has more homers than the entire Kansas City Royals. I said that barely an hour ago. It has over 140 combined retweets & favorites. I say that not to inflate my own ego — okay, mostly — but to point out just how insane and wonderful and terrible and fantastic baseball can be.

But let’s pause for just a second. Between Gordon and extra innings, everyone is going to forget about Dan Haren. No one should forget about Dan Haren, especially not when he kept Miguel Cabrera hitless in three at-bats, allowed just one mistake — Austin Jackson‘s solo homer — and in 12 innings this year, has allowed only that one run while striking out 10 and walking one. It’s only two starts, but with Clayton Kershaw hurt, Josh Beckett hurt, and Paul Maholm not great in his one start, it’s been more than we could have hoped for.

After Chris Withrow easily got through the seventh — that’s 14 in a row for him, and Justin Turner‘s sacrifice fly made it 2-1, and Chris Perez got through the eighth, and Vin Scully told stories about crack pipes, it was time for the ninth. Good lord, the ninth.

Kenley Jansen let Ian Kinsler lead off with a double, then got Don Kelly to ground out. That was just table setting for the main event: Jansen. Cabrera. Arguably the best closer in baseball — quiet, Braves fans — against arguably the best hitter in baseball — quiet, Angels fans — and Cabrera got nothing but heat. 98. 99. Again. Whiff. Regardless of what came next, this was the kind of matchup you pay to see. This was the matchup you die to see in October. On April 8, it was a treat.

But of course, striking out Cabrera doesn’t get you two outs, even though it should. (Stupid “rules” of “baseball”.) Victor Martinez came up and dropped a bloop into center, and even though Matt Kemp looked awful fielding it, it didn’t matter. Kinsler was off with two outs, and he scored easily. Tie game. “Blown save,” as though what Jansen had just done to Cabrera didn’t matter.

So after three Dodgers struck out against Joba Chamberlain (!) in the bottom of the ninth, it was off to extra innings, where J.P. Howell easily got through the top of the tenth. In the bottom, Chone Figgins led off — look, I know. You wanted Scott Van Slyke. I  get it. Against a righty, leading off, Don Mattingly was never going to do it. Anyway, Figgins walked, and Dee Gordon bunted (ARRRGHHH) into a pop out. Then Carl Crawford took one to left, and uh, well… let’s thank Chad for the visual aids:


GIF Link

Oh, poor poor Rajai Davis.

It’s a fun game because the Dodgers won, but it’s a fun game because it was a fun game. I would not at all mind seeing a rematch of this one in October. We’ll just need to make due with Josh Beckett and Anibal Sanchez on Wednesday, I suppose.

Tigers @ Dodgers April 8, 2014: Interleague Play Already?

dodger_stadium_openingday2013Tonight is the first interleague game for the Dodgers in 2014. Given how the Dodgers typically perform in interleague play, it’s only natural that they have to start off against the red-hot Tigers, who have won four of their first five games. On top of that, the Dodgers begin the two-game series against reigning American League Cy Young winner (and potential future Dodger) Max Scherzer. This is Scherzer’s second start of the year, and in his first start he showed why he won the award last season. Against the Royals, he threw eight innings, allowed no runs, while striking out seven batters and walking one.

Tigers
Dodgers 
7:10pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
LF
Davis
2B
Gordon
2B
Kinsler
LF
Crawford
RF
Hunter
SS
Ramirez
3B
Cabrera
1B
Gonzalez
1B
Martinez
RF
Ethier
CF
Jackson
CF
Kemp
C
Avila
3B
Uribe
SS
Romine
C
Federowicz
P
Scherzer (R)
P
Haren (R)

Oddly enough, the Dodgers faced the reigning American League Cy Young award winner last season as well. David Price pitched well against the Dodgers last August, throwing seven innings, giving up one un-earned run while striking out four and walking one. That game is better known as the game which ended with Fernando Rodney throwing the ball into center.

The lineup facing Scherzer has a few notable changes. Tim Federowicz, called up from Albuquerque to replace the injured A.J. Ellis, gets the start at catcher. This isn’t unexpected, since the only reason Drew Butera was in the majors instead of Federowicz was to maintain some semblance of catching depth.

Apparently since Ellis is no longer in the lineup, it’s okay to lead off with Dee Gordon (who also led off on Sunday with Butera catching). Gordon has been fine so far this year, but 27 plate appearances doesn’t come anywhere close to convincing me that his problems are solved. Since Miguel Cabrera is starting at third base for the first time this season, maybe Dee will just bunt at him repeatedly. Putting Gordon next to Crawford also allows for a lefty to get two easy outs later in the game. Lineup construction doesn’t matter very much, but simple gaffes like this one are annoying and avoidable.

The other notable thing about the lineup is who isn’t in it. Yasiel Puig is sitting out tonight’s game due to his thumb injury. Given how the Dodgers usually report injuries, seeing “day-to-day” and “getting fitted for a splint” at the same time is a bit worrisome. Since Matt Kemp is 0-for-16 against Scherzer, it might have been a good time to give him the day off (even if match-up stats aren’t very predictive), but it seems that the curse of “too many outfielders” strikes again.

In unrelated news, the Dodgers now have an unofficially official mascot (dubbed a “unique performance character”):

The look on the baby’s face says it all, doesn’t it? If you want to terrify your children at their birthday parties, all proceeds will go to the Dodgers Foundation.

Here’s How A.J. Ellis Got Injured

When we learned yesterday that A.J. Ellis had injured his left knee, requiring surgery today, the question was inevitably: How? Ellis played a full game on Saturday, and taking a seat on Sunday didn’t seem out of the ordinary, since he’d played every inning of the season to that point.

Now, Ellis was involved in a close play at the plate on Saturday, getting called out (and remaining that way after a replay challenge), but there was very little contact made with catcher Buster Posey:

ellis_slides_2014-04-08

Well, know we know, thanks to Dylan Hernandez: Ellis did hurt his knee on that play. Just not on that part of the play. Ellis had been on second, with Scott Van Slyke ahead of him at third and Dee Gordon behind at first, when pinch-hitter Andre Ethier singled to right. Van Slyke scored easily, and Hunter Pence‘ strong throw to the plate nailed Ellis.

But according to Hernandez, the injury came “when he planted his left leg rounding third base.” And unfortunately, neither of the two broadcasts managed to show Ellis rounding third base. So, we can’t see exactly how this happened. But — and sure, maybe I’m looking too hard to see something that isn’t there — does it not look like Ellis limps away from the plate a bit?


GIF Link

Either way, Ellis is expected to be out for four to six weeks at the least, and that puts this team down their starting catcher until well into May, and perhaps June. (As multiple people have joked, that both he and Clayton Kershaw are sidelined may give them more time to do another Between Two Palm Trees.) This is, of course, bad, and while Ellis hasn’t officially been put on the disabled list yet, you can bet that he will be shortly and that Tim Federowicz will be in town for tonight’s game against Detroit.

Again, this is why Drew Butera was kept over Federowicz. It’s not because Butera is a better player, but because the difference between the two isn’t so much that it was worth thinning out depth for, since Butera was out of options. I’d rather have had Federowicz too, but the difference would have given the Dodgers precisely no more wins. And if Butera was gone and something had happened — say, your starting catcher injuring his knee — then you’re looking at Miguel Olivo, or J.C. Boscan, or something else equally unappealing. (You can argue for either of them over Butera, by the way. It still won’t matter.)

And no, there isn’t likely to be a trade. The number of teams with more catching than they know what to do with is about, well, zero. Even if there were, the number of teams willing to give up a starting catcher on April 8 would be less than zero. On the free agent market, the names are Chris Gimenez, Ramon Hernandez, Kelly Shoppach, and Yorvit Torrealba. Maybe one of them will pop up to add Triple-A depth now that Federowicz won’t be there. Maybe not. But the point is, the team has to get by with what they have until Ellis returns.

It’s not a great day. But at least there’s baseball tonight to take our minds off of it, and with the ridiculous amount of early days off, that hasn’t been as much of a given as you’d think it would be.

Down On The Farm Update: Games Of 4/3 – 4/7

(Dustin Nosler)

(Dustin Nosler)

What’s the point of all the pre-season prospect coverage if you aren’t up to date on what they’re actually doing in the games, right?

Well that’s what this regular (semi-regular :o) Down On The Farm update will be for. And right off the bat, we got five days worth of stuff to get to.

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April 3

Hitter Of The Day: Justin Chigbogu (A) is already stuck playing first base, but he showed the pop necessary for the position today, going 2-for-5 with a double and a homer. Dustin has him ranked at #23.

Pitcher Of The Day: Jonathan Martinez (A) went six outstanding innings, striking out 11 while walking none and surrendering no runs. He managed to limit the opposition to just two hits on the day. Martinez was not impressive at all last year, but he’s young enough where a strong performance while repeating the league could raise his prospect status to ‘noteworthy’.

Notables

Darnell Sweeney (AA) went 2-for-5 with a strikeout, walk, and stolen base. The walk and stolen base parts will be a key aspect of his successful development, but so will limiting the swings and misses. Worth noting that he’s playing second base and not shortstop.

Scott Schebler (AA) went 2-for-6 and bombed a homer to get his season off on the right foot. He’ll need to hit in AA to continue his climb up the system.

Pedro Baez (AA) pitched a scoreless inning, striking out one and sitting 92-96 mph with his fastball. Baez’s ascension will likely depend on the progress of his slider.

Corey Seager (A+) had a rough go of it, finishing 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Chris Anderson (A+) couldn’t make it through the first inning, only recording two outs while giving up three hits, two walks, three runs, a wild pitch, and hitting a batter. Not … a great day.

Alex Santana (A) went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. Just one of them days. A bit concerned that he’s playing in the outfield now, as I think that cuts into his value, and it’s not like Paul Hoenecke is a better prospect that’s blocking him from playing the position.

Jesmuel Valentin (A) is already playing second base, but he should be able to play it well given his defensive tools. The question has always been on his bat, and he got off to a solid start, going 2-for-4 with a double.

April 4

Hitter Of The Day: Joc Pederson (AAA) only went 1-for-6 in the doubleheader, but that one hit was a homer. He also walked once and stole two bases.

Pitcher Of The Day: Duke von Schamann (AA) was recently traded, but not before he turned in a scoreless seven-inning start in which he two-hit the opposition.

Notables

Matt Magill (AAA) went four innings, gave up four hits and a run, and stuck out three batters. Yes, he walked two guys, but that actually marks improvement from last year.

Corey Seager (A+) went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Patience … patience.

Josh Beckett (A+) left his rehab start with an ankle injury, but he wasn’t exactly excelling prior to that. In four innings, he gave up five hits, three walks, two homers, and three runs while striking out five.

Julio Urias (A+) pitched in relief to close out the game Beckett started, and he was uncharacteristically wild, walking four in four innings of scoreless, one-hit ball while striking out five. Urias’ stuff certainly wasn’t the issue though, and he flashed his ability to work out of trouble.

Zachary Bird (A) didn’t begin to put the results together to match his stuff, giving up four runs in four innings of work. He allowed six hits and two walks while striking out three. I have my hopes, but he’s going to have to show something this year besides stuff.

Victor Arano (A) finished Bird’s game in impressive fashion, striking out three and allowing just a hit in two scoreless innings.

April 5

Hitter Of The Day: Jesmuel Valentin (A) is supposed to be a glove-first prospect, but he had another multi-hit game, going 2-for-5, this time with a homer.

Pitcher Of The Day: Brian Wilson (A+) went one scoreless inning and struck out one in his rehab start. No update on his beard’s status.

Notables

O’Koyea Dickson (AA) needs a big season against advanced pitching to prove he still has big league potential, and a 3-for-4 showing with two doubles certainly doesn’t hurt.

Chris Reed (AA) went 5.2 innings, giving up three runs (unearned but still) via four hits and four walks. He struck out four, but personally I’m just waiting for him to convert to relief.

Corey Seager (A+) is alive! He went 2-for-4 with a double and didn’t strike out! See, it’s possible.

Jacob Scavuzzo (A) had two hits in five trips to the plate, including a double. Looking forward to big things from him in full-season ball, even if he ends up with a lot of swings and misses.

Joey Curletta (A) smoked three doubles in five at-bats, flashing the pop that everybody’s expecting to see.

April 6

Hitter Of The Day: Carlos Triunfel (AAA) went 2-for-4 with two doubles. He’s a blast from the past, but is somehow still in his age-24 season. If you’re not familiar, Triunfel was twice ranked in the top 100 prospects by Baseball America, but he simply couldn’t hit.

Pitcher Of The Day: Tom Windle (A+) got lost in the Chad Billingsley injury rehab stuff, but he looked great in relief of him. Windle went five innings, striking out six, walking none, and allowing just one run via six hits.

Notables

Joc Pederson (AAA) collected three hits in five trips. Nothing he can do at this point except rake at AAA and be ready.

Zach Lee (AAA) pitched a solid five innings, allowing two hits, two runs, and a walk while striking out three.

Chad Billingsley (A+) went only 1.1 innings, being removed for precautionary reasons after elbow discomfort. He was examined and they said he was fine, so I’m hoping for the best, but this can’t be looked at any other way than as a setback.

Jacob Rhame (A) pitched a scoreless inning, surrendering just a hit. Of course, that’s not noteworthy, but he’s worth following as a relief prospect. He sits 92-93, touches 95, and he could still add a tick or two in the future. A former starter, he has a two usable off-speed pitches in a change and curve.

April 7

Hitter Of The Day: Joc Pederson (AAA) went 2-for-3 with two walks and a homer. His OPS is now 1.387 on the year, and while it’s early, I feel like he’s gonna enjoy Albuquerque.

Pitcher Of The Day: Brian Wilson (A+) pitched a scoreless inning, striking out one and allowing a hit. The results don’t matter as much as his rehab does, and no news is good news at this point.

Notables

Corey Seager (A+) collected three hits in five trips to the plate and is starting to heat up (.300 BA) a bit after a slow start to the week.

A.J. Ellis to have surgery on left knee for meniscus tear, what now?

aj_ellis_catching_2013-04-09

In a reveal that seemingly came out of nowhere, the Dodgers official Twitter broke news that A.J. Ellis would be undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee for a meniscus tear. He also underwent in operation for a meniscus tear in the same knee back in October of 2012.

There’s no information on his recovery timetable yet, but it depends a great deal what type of meniscus tear we’re looking at. For Ellis’ previous tear, he was given a timetable of six weeks and was ready to begin 2013. And while Derrick Rose famously was ruled out for the 2013-14 season with the tear, Russell Westbrook was on a typical timetable of 4-6 weeks.

So we’re not quite sure yet how much time we’re looking at without A.J. until they release more information or until the surgery actually happens. According to Dylan Hernandez though, we may be looking at the optimistic side of 4-6 weeks:

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Now about that move the Dodgers are talking about: This will inevitably be Tim Federowicz. I can’t imagine them bringing up Miguel Olivo when he was shown to be a clear fourth in the pecking order (and isn’t even on the 40-man roster).

Through 193 MLB plate appearances, T-Fed’s line checks in at .227/.283/.341/.624. Steamer doesn’t project much better, predicting a line of .224/.290/.343/.633. But the hope is that he’ll put up better numbers with consistent playing time. By comparison, Steamer projected Ellis to be a .235/.331/.340/.672 hitter and a 3.0 WAR player.

Defensively, A.J. was one of the better catchers in the league at controlling the run game in 2013, but was a mediocre pitcher framer, something he himself admitted to working on. The problem is that in limited time, T-Fed graded out even worse as a pitch framer and wasn’t as effective at throwing guys out. Drew Butera, expected to remain as the backup, is renowned as a plus defensive catcher. Of course, that comes with the downside of being one of the worst hitters in baseball history. No, really.

So while there doesn’t appear to be a massive drop-off in store at the position — it’s not like Ellis was hitting — it could get uglier if Federowicz doesn’t hit better than expected. Everything else at the moment points to a clear downgrade at the position going forward, and that doesn’t even factor in the potential effect this has on the pitching staff. Unfortunately, there’s just nothing available as far as catchers on other teams, so Butera/Fed is what we’ll have to make due with. Come back soon, A.J.

Mailbag #3: Outfield scenarios, platoon splits, a future manager?

YasielPuigManBearPuig

An off-day mailbag! Because we’ve (I’ve) been slacking on mailbags.

Let’s get started with an optimistic question!

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Michael: “Let us contemplate the worst, and perhaps that will keep it from ever happening (excuse the magical thinking, but we baseball fans do get superstitious). Matt Kemp finally gets the go-ahead to play, and two weeks later in a bang-bang play at second base his ankle snaps and that “career-threatening” injury happens before our eyes. What is the likely future of the Dodger outfield?”

CM: This is entirely possible, which is the worrying part for me.

The immediate future will still be Carl Crawford in left, Andre Ethier in center, and Yasiel Puig in right. Hopefully with Scott Van Slyke platooning with Crawford against lefties (prefer Ethier but somebody has to play center). So hardly any change there from last year, but the team would lose the All-Star upside in Matt Kemp. Eventually though, I do think they would try to get Joc Pederson playing time to figure out: 1) if he can hit in the MLB 2) if he can play center. Depending on how he answers that, they would look to trade Crawford or Ethier within a couple years.

That’s not a horrible outfield the Dodgers would be left with, but it would cost like $70 million and have only one outfielder with All-Star potential in Puig — the lowest paid of the bunch. So being stuck with that potential mediocre future is certainly a reason to root for a successful Kemp comeback, as he’s the only other outfielder with the potential to still be a star.

The Pin: “Are platoon splits (of the type exhibited by Ethier, Crawford, and Pederson) necessarily irreversible/unchangeable? Or are they something that may fluctuate depending on different factors (like experience Pederson’s case). Depending on the answer, do you think Pederson’s splits will get worse with his transition to the majors, or will they stay consistent or improve?”

CM: For hitters like Ethier and Crawford, their future splits are basically what they currently are in terms of skill. There’s no sample size issue and there’s no real reason to hope every year that they might’ve magically learned something. They’ve played enough where platoon splits generally stabilize, and going by the eye test, I certainly haven’t seen any difference.

With guys like Pederson though, there’s hope. Besides the statistical argument, I don’t think he’s that far off mechanically. While he doesn’t get as consistently good cuts against lefties yet, he’ll stay closed and take a rip, which is different from guys like Ethier who look lost on every breaking ball down from a lefty.

So yes, there’s hope, but whether he improves or not with be a matter of seeing more lefties and making the correct adjustments, which is hard to predict. As it stands, a .969 OPS against righties and a .711 OPS against lefties is reason to be concerned, and it’s worth monitoring his progress going forward.

Brian: “If the Dodgers do not extend Hanley Ramirez, what are their options at third and short?”

CM: Somewhat ugly in the immediate future. That would leave an aging Juan Uribe to start at third, and looking internally, the team could plug in either Miguel Rojas or Erisbel Arruebarruena at short. Yikes. On the free agent market, though, they could pursue J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, or Asdrubal Cabrera. I suppose Hardy wouldn’t be a bad option, assuming he puts up a solid 2014, but there’s probably still going to be at least a one or two win drop-off from Hanley if they both perform as expected.

In the future, the Dodgers have Corey Seager to move to third, assuming nothing goes wrong with his development. At short, it’s basically Arruebarruena or bust. I have to assume they would sign somebody (like Hardy) long-term or make a trade if they don’t have confidence in Erisbel, because there’s nobody behind him at the moment.

So you can see why I was advocating to just extend Hanley already. Any future without Hanley is not going to look as good as it could potentially be with him in the fold.

DINGERS!: “Is there a heir to Adrian Gonzalez in the farm system? I’m a fan of Justin Chigbogu and Jacob Scavuzzo.”

CM: Not really, no. Every first base prospect with the potential to be a regular has extreme risk attached to them, including Chigbogu. Scavuzzo doesn’t project at first, because at worst he’ll play left field. Plenty athletic for that position.

I would say Cody Bellinger fits the mold best though. He plays the same slick defense and projects to rate as plus (maybe plus-plus) at first. He also has a sweet stroke, but whether the power will come down the road or not is still up in the air.

Kirk Davenport: “Small sample size obviously, but Rojas has been one of the hitting stars of spring training yet made the most errors — despite a reputation earlier as all-glove no-hit. Does he rate as a prospect, organizational depth, or future infield defensive replacement at the MLB level? What is your expert opinion on him?”

CM: I don’t like his swing at all and I don’t think he’ll be able to hit. Even if his swing gets more efficient I just don’t think the bat speed is there, much like I feel about Drew Butera. Rojas hasn’t proven anybody wrong yet in his minor-league career, though maybe he could become a utility guy because his defense is legit even if he fumbled a few in Spring Training. I mean, if Butera can get an MLB job with the state of his bat, I suppose anything is possible.

Would be surprised if he manages to carve out a utility role in the MLB, but I think he serves his purpose as organizational depth because of his defense.

Jonathan B.: “From the pool of 2014 Dodgers, whom do you think have the best odds of becoming a major-league manager? And by what year?”

CM: Has to be A.J. Ellis, right? Seems like the obvious choice to me. By like 2020? The Brad Ausmus career path?

Two guys who I would LIKE to see be a manager: Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke. Puig … for obvious reasons. What amazing, elite upside for a complete mess that would be. Then again, Raul Mondesi is a mayor now, so truly anything is possible with age. Greinke because the media sessions would be comedy gold every single day.

Drew: “Any chance Mattingly calls for a fastball in Allen Craig‘s ribs from somebody like Brandon League? Josh Beckett? Dodgers need to show an edge in attitude to go all the way this year.”

CM: I’ve gotten at least like a half dozen of questions along these lines, and I really don’t get it.

I think beanball wars are inherently pointless, but I’m not delusional, and I get WHY the Dodgers felt the need to retaliate at times last year. Simply letting stuff go doesn’t fly in dugouts/clubhouses, as it’s not how they “play the game”. So the stupidity of all the fronting aside, I understand it has to happen.

That said, connecting the ability to throw a ball at another player to winning or toughness or anything of the sort is absurd. How did playing the tough guy work out for the Padres or the D-Backs last year? Hell, even the Cardinals?

What they need to do is stay healthy and and catch a bit of luck in the playoffs. Like Butera hitting seven homers in the postseason or something.

Bot Fot: “Is there a stat for the sabermetric dickweasel standing in the box with a bat on his shoulder and a high and tight one greases his forehead and he stains his pants? Is there a saber-stat for that? Or is his pencil just not sharp enough? Just wondering…”

CM: Without any sarcasm whatsoever, I truly thank you for allowing me the chance to use this GIF in a mailbag. I love you.

Dodgers 6, Giants 2: MATT KEMP OMG MATTY MATT KEMP YES

kemp_swing-homer_2014-04-06If not for the fact that this post is already going to have GIFs, this post would start with nothing but GIFs. (Like this! Or this!) But still, if you’re bouncing off the walls jusssssst a little bit about Matt Kemp right now, no one would blame you.

First, wonderful glorious GIFs, thanks to Chad — here’s Kemp taking Matt Cain deep in the second inning:


GIF Link

And then again in the fourth:


GIF Link

Since Kemp’s final homer of last season also came off of Cain, that’s three homers in a row for our Matt against their Matt. And since Kemp somehow managed to get through the entirety of 2013 without a single homer at home, this was his first homer at Dodger Stadium since he took out Jorge De La Rosa on Sept. 30, 2012. That was his third homer in two days, and we bring that up because tonight was the sixth time in his career that he’s hit multiple homers in a game; the last time was Sept. 29, 2012, when he hit one off Tyler Chatwood and another off Josh Roenicke.

But those are just the pure dry facts, and as great as they are, they don’t really capture what this means. I’ll be the first to tell you that placing too much importance on a single game is setting yourself up for failure, but it’s difficult not to look at those clips — and particularly the image leading this post — and not get excited. Somewhat lost in all the focus on Kemp’s destroyed ankle over the winter was that his shoulder was what was causing him so much trouble last year, and even that needed a cleanup procedure. Just look at the homers. Look at the extension. Look at the lack of concern about the shoulder. It’s been a long time since we saw that.

Again, let’s see him do it over a few weeks, or stay healthy for a few months. Let’s try to be realistic. But if you wanted to fall asleep tonight dreaming about 2011 vintage Kemp, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s been way too long.

***

greinke_2014-04-06

All I want to talk about is Kemp, and that’s all you want to talk about too. But we should probably remember that Hanley Ramirez also hit his first two homers of the year, and we should definitely remember that before Kemp went off, this post was absolutely going to be about Zack Greinke, who looked absolutely phenomenal tonight, hitting his spots and ripping through the San Francisco lineup. Greinke struck out six of the first 10 Giants he saw, and eight overall without a walk. In the first five innings, only one Giant even reached second. In the sixth, he ran into trouble by allowing solo homers to Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence, ending his day after he got the third out. But while homers aren’t great, you can really, really make them not hurt as much when they come without anyone on base.

That’s what Greinke managed to do, and he just looked outstanding — pitching in on the offensive side with a fifth-inning double, as well. That was one of three doubles the Dodgers hit tonight, along with one from Ramirez and one from Adrian Gonzalez; the total offensive output was three doubles and four homers. Zero walks, zero singles. Weird, weird night, and I mean that: the Dodgers have never done that before. Actually, just about no one has ever done that before, with the 1923 St. Louis Browns pulling off the 7 XBH / 0 BB / 0 1B trick in an April game against Detroit. And even then, they mixed in triples, so congratulations, you’ve just seen an all-time baseball first in the sense of this specific combination. This is the best sport ever.

Chris Withrow then came out for the seventh and struck out Brandon CrawfordEhire Adrianza, and Gregor Blanco. Withrow has now struck out eight of the 17 hitters he’s faced this year. Really looking forward to the riots when he inevitably ends up back in Triple-A, you guys. After J.P. Howell retired two of the three he faced in the eighth, Chris Perez came and struck out Buster Posey on a steady diet of sliders. Or so I assume. I think I blacked out just watching him jog to the mound. Kenley Jansen then came in to make Pence look silly, allow a Mike Morse single, whiff Brandon Crawford, and blow away pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez. All told, the Dodgers struck out 16 and go into tomorrow’s day off at 5-3, a half-game behind the Giants.

But hey, guys: Matt Kemp.

Giants @ Dodgers April 6, 2014: Don’t Get Swept, Please

dodger_stadium_openingday2013Yasiel Puig is out of the lineup for the second time in three days. I assume he’s serving five-to-eight years in a federal penitentiary and that we’ll see him sometime next decade.

Or, maybe, he’s still nursing a swollen left thumb suffered after a foolish Punto-esque headfirst slide into first base yesterday. Puig’s X-rays came back clean, but he left the clubhouse this afternoon to get an MRI done. At the moment, we don’t yet know whether he’ll be available later in the game tonight, though there’s no indication that this will be anything serious — and the Dodgers do have a day off tomorrow.

Giants
Dodgers 
8:05pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
CF
Pagan
2B
Gordon
1B
Belt
LF
Crawford
3B
Sandoval
SS
Ramirez
C
Posey
1B
Gonzalez
RF
Pence
RF
Ethier
LF
Morse
CF
Kemp
SS
Crawford
3B
Uribe
2B
Adrianza
C
Butera
P
Cain (R)
P
Greinke (R)

And so we avoid “too many outfielders” for yet another day, with Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier making up the starting outfield. Wondering why Ethier is above Kemp in the lineup? I’m guessing that Don Mattingly saw Ethier’s career line of .441/.467/.574 in 75 plate appearances against Matt Cain against Matt Kemp’s .222/.276/.444 in 58 plate appearances. While pitcher-vs-hitter stats are overrated, there’s so little difference between fifth and sixth that it’s hard to argue. On the other hand, there’s now four lefties in the first five hitters. Look for that to make for some interesting late game matchup issues.)

Drew Butera gets his first start, and while he is indeed one of the worst hitters in the game, I suppose A.J. Ellis can’t play every single night. Without Puig, Dee Gordon hits leadoff.

We’re also still waiting to hear what’s going on with Chad Billingsley, who made it through his first inning of a rehab stint with Rancho just fine, then left abruptly in the second after attempting to avoid a ball back up the middle from catcher Ben Turner. We don’t yet know exactly what the issue is, but let me say that I absolutely love this quote:

“It wasn’t planned, just something didn’t feel right, so instead of pitching through it and maybe hurting something,” Billingsley said.

FINALLY. Thank you. And, in other pitcher injury news, Josh Beckett was able to throw a bullpen session today, leaving him as a possibility to start on Wednesday against the Tigers.

Remember, thanks to women’s college basketball on ESPN tonight, this game will air on ESPN2. I think it’d be nice if this team could go into a day off without having been swept, don’t you think?