Mailbag #24: SVS’s future, Kershaw’s slider, Framing, Padres, Wussies

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Michael: Do you think Scott Van Slyke is the best bench player in baseball? What is his contract situation and future outlook with the team?

Scott Van Slyke has to be among the best bench players in baseball, if not the best. And like with anybody else on that list, the case for him to start is actually quite strong given that in his 476 career PA, he has a 136 OPS+, is a +8 run defender, and has accumulated 4.0 WAR. Better yet, his numbers have only improved with more playing time, and he’s entering the prime of his career now. But he’s a platoon guy, right? Not really, as his numbers were accumulated with an equal amount of plate appearances against righties and lefties. It’s not that Van Slyke can’t hit righties, it’s just that he destroys lefties.

Contract wise, he’ll probably be arbitration eligible after this season but will be under team control through 2019, so if the Dodgers want him on the roster, he’ll be here.

His future? SVS deserves a shot to be a regular, but if he won’t get the chance with the Dodgers, I imagine there are a lot of teams who would have interest in him as a trade piece.

Bob: I’m the eternal optimist and so far I am pretty happy with the starting rotation (except for Hyun Jin Ryu’s injury). Assuming Brett Anderson is 100% healthy and stays 100% healthy, how likely is it he can make 30 or so starts in 2015? He’s only had a handful of starts over the past few years, and a six-month season is a real marathon. Is anyone else concerned he may run out of gas in July/August? Is that where Brandon Beachy steps in?

A quality question that nobody knows the answer to because we aren’t exactly privy to that information in terms of Brett Anderson‘s program and what not.

What I would say is that the Dodgers have guarded against this to an extent with the Brandon Beachy and Mike Bolsinger moves, as well as Joe Wieland. Also, if Zach Lee rounds into form (and it appears he is), then they certainly have backup plans, especially with Julio Urias potentially lurking.

That said, anecdotally, guys who have missed a chunk of time due to injury have successfully bounced back to throw 200+ innings without many problems before. So as long as Anderson kept his arm in shape and built arm strength, there shouldn’t be an issue.

Honestly? I would be far more concerned with his dipping velocity and plummeting strikeout rate.

Brian: I recognize that three starts into the season is an incredibly small sample size, but Clayton Kershaw‘s slider isn’t passing the eye test for me so far in 2015. His location in general has been more sporadic than his usual Man-God self, but it also looks like his slider is lacking its usual bite. Is there any data out there on the movement, location, and usage of Kershaw’s slider so far in 2015?

Yes, there is!

Is there a problem? Not really.

Clayton Kershaw‘s slider was 88.1 mph last year and is 87.9 mph this year, it broke -2.0 inches horizontally last year and -2.7 inches this year, and it broke -25.8 inches vertically last year and -28.2 inches this year.

So if anything, his slider is breaking more down and across, while coming in at the same speed. So it’s either location (and he is missing location in the middle of the plate more frequently so far this year) or it’s a sample size thing or it’s both. Given that it’s April, I would opt for last option.

Sky: I see frequent reference to Justin Turner being best-suited to a part-time role. What data is behind this logic? I understand that he may be outperforming his peripherals, may not be sustainable, etc, but what exactly leads to the conclusion that he is better off as a part-timer? Is it simply that he doesn’t perform particularly well at a single position? Is there data demonstrating that he declines with increased playing time? Thanks!

Well, regression from 2014 is inevitable simply because Justin Turner‘s not the best contact hitter ever. This is not … like … sabermetrics or anything, it’s just common sense.

Besides concerns that he could be exposed with regular playing time, he may simply not be good enough to start for a team like the Dodgers. For example, the last time he got a full-time role he posted a 0.4 WAR, and if you revert his 2014 BABIP back to his career norms, he certainly looks like a part-timer on this roster. He’s also already 30, so he’s past his prime soon and there’s no lurking breakout coming, and while he should be a rock solid bench player at around .730-.770 OPS or so, I’m not sure a team like the Dodgers should be striving for a 1.5-2.5 WAR guy as a regular.

Still love him though, mainly BECAUSE he’s a fringe regular that the Dodgers can bring off the bench.


Anon: Is there any chance that pitch framing reputations could start to affect how umpires call a game? Say Hank Conger, a top pitch-framing catcher, tries to frame a borderline pitch: If pitch-framing reputations have permeated to the umpire level, will the umpire be less likely to give Conger the strike call because of a reputation for making balls look like strikes? Is there a rationale that would make the umpire more likely to give the borderline call to Conger?

That scenario crossed my mind when pitch framing initially became a quantifiable thing years ago, but I’m skeptical the more I hear about it. I think a lot of people are under the impression that umpires aren’t already aware or that the point of pitch framing is to trick the umpire. Catchers and umpires actually discuss these types of things, and it’s more about giving the umpire the best view of the pitch than anything else.

Pitch framing analysis has become so frequent nowadays that a counter movement is out there snarking about it and downplaying it, which is understandable given how annoying bloggers can be, but umpires admit framing matters to them and this is a skill emphasized to catchers since Little League (just now we can measure it), so it’s not exactly a stretch to say it’s always been important.

Also, if it weren’t a skill or if umpires were hedging, then pitch framing wouldn’t have such a high year-to-year correlation.


Jonathan: So with Craig Kimbrel on the Padres now, it looks like San Diego is trading for ALL of the players. Is there a silver lining here for Dodger fans? Have all these trades severely depleted their farm system? Are most of the acquisitions free agents this winter, making this a one-and-done type of team? Is the shoddy infield too much for all the other improvements to overcome? Or, is this a new force to be reckoned with?

Assuming they stay healthy, they’re certainly a force to be reckoned with. Assuming the Dodgers injuries don’t pile up, though, I still firmly believe the Dodgers are the better team.

I would say the upside for Dodgers fans is that their farm system is on the weak side now and they may be approaching their payroll limit while Justin Upton is a free agent after this season. So they’ve certainly become more of a win-now team, and are also more likely to have to go through a rebuilding period eventually than a team with the resources like the Dodgers.

The Padres traded 12 prospect-eligible players (plus catcher Yasmani Grandal and righthander Jesse Hahn) in less than two weeks. Eight of the traded prospects had ranked among San Diego’s top 20, including shortstop Trea Turner (No. 2), righthanders Joe Ross (No. 4), Zach Eflin (No. 9) and Alvarez (No. 11); lefthander Max Fried (No. 6), second baseman Jace Peterson (No. 10), first baseman Jake Bauers (No. 15) and outfielder Mallex Smith (No. 16).

Since then, the Padres also traded Matt Wisler (#1) in the deal for Craig Kimbrel. To put the current state of their farm in perspective, their third-best prospect at the moment is probably Cory Spangenberg, who may project best as a utility guy.

That aside, the Padres are setup better than any other team in the division to compete with the Dodgers for the next few years, Giants included. Should be fun.


Harvey: Alex Guerrero came into camp saying “I’m not going down”, had huge fight last year; dark, selfish personality? Darwin Barney in the mold of Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker needed for the push for the World Series?

This is old but, uh, everybody realizes we had Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker, and Michael Young on the same roster and they didn’t grit us to the World Series, right?

In fact, Young was one of the main reasons they blew games in the NLCS that year…

Greg: The Dodgers Digest crew has been pretty optimistic about the 2015 bullpen after all the moves made — a few of which seem to be addition by subtraction. But Steamer has them projected at 0.7 WAR — fifth-worst in MLB. One of the Baseball Tonight guys said on Buster Olney’s podcast that this year’s pen may even be worse than last year. Wassa deal?


1) The Dodgers pen is projected at 2.3 WAR, tied for seventh in the MLB.

2) Baseball Tonight‘s analysts are consistently atrocious morons, so that is only encouraging, really.

3) The Dodgers pen so far is 6th in ERA, 1st in FIP, 1st in xFIP, 2nd in SIERA, and 1st in WAR. So the people out there complaining about the bullpen performance to this point are baseball hypochondriacs because literally any other bullpen to this point would have them complaining. Oh yeah, the Kenley Jansen guy with the career FIP of 2.00 isn’t even pitching yet.

Anon: Maybe I’m wrong, but it sounds like you guys honestly believe the Dodgers offense in 2015 could easily be much better than it was in 2014. I disagree. Andrew Friedman’s relying on two contact-oriented hitters (Howie Kendrick/Jimmy Rollins) and two young studs who haven’t proven they can be consistent at a big-league level (Yasiel Puig/Joc Pederson) to pick up the slack for two of the NL’s best right-handed hitters last year (Matt Kemp/Hanley Ramirez). Because of that fact alone, I believe the Dodgers won’t be able to go any farther in the playoffs than they did in 2014. People seem to forget they teed off on the Cardinals in the NLDS but lost because of a tired Clayton Kershaw (which was more bad luck than anything) and a shaky bullpen (which doesn’t look that much better now than it did then). Yet Friedman’s most drastic changes were to the lineup, not the pitching staff. Since a lot of the offensive explosion this spring was generated by minor leaguers, that hasn’t changed my mind at all. I was wondering if you guys could, because I desperately want to believe in this team.

Given the start to the season and the fact that they are like first in the MLB in OPS by over 40 points so far, I assume you aren’t so pressed anymore, but:

1) Yasiel Puig is not inconsistent in terms of overall production. He’s a solid five-WAR player and should be an All-Star caliber player every year. Whether he can be consistent day-to-day is a different issue, and if he can, then he becomes a superstar instead of just a star.

2) Right, contact-oriented, like the stuff that has won in the playoffs over the past decade or so. Not unwelcome, honestly.

3) I don’t see the point about the staff. You admit that it was mainly Clayton Kershaw collapsing due to the lack of bullpen that did us in. Well, if Kershaw implodes again, the Dodgers aren’t winning. But the bullpen is improved, the offense should be at least as good if not better, and the Dodgers will have a lot more financial and roster flexibility after this season. Again, I don’t think the moves were just about making the 2015 team better, but rather making sure the team every year after this can be as good as well. It’s a $270 million payroll with like $90 million in dead money for 2015 that will come off sooner than later now

Anyway, you’re mainly blaming the lack of bullpen upgrades for your pitching staff criticism, but if anything, for me, the starters are the question mark since I didn’t like the Anderson signing and Brandon McCarthy is hurt now.


CraigMont69: Can’t wait for Julio Urias to take this guy’s (Ryu) place. Isn’t the (c)rap at the stadium bad enough?

This mailbag question was sent from the article about Hyun Jin Ryu rapping for a commercial.

This person dislikes rap a lot and now hates Ryu because he thinks Ryu actually has a rap career.

Brittson: Now I think I know what that Ryu, Hanley Ramirez, Puig, Juan Uribe grab-ass group in the dugout were talking about: How to earn millions while sitting on your can.

The subject line of this was like “lazy DL brigade” or something, and I gotta say…





About Chad Moriyama

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"A highly rational Internet troll." - Los Angeles Times