Dec 10

Should Jamey Carroll start for the ’11 Dodgers?


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireIn 2010, Jamey Carroll had an OBP of .375 against lefties and .380 against righties.

Last season, the Dodgers had seven players with an on-base percentage of at least .330 and a minimum of 100 plate appearances. Three of those players (Manny Ramirez, Russell Martin, Blake DeWitt) are gone, a fourth is the oft-injured Rafael Furcal, and a fifth (A.J. Ellis) will be at best a part-timer trying to prove that he wasn’t a one-month wonder.

That leaves Andre Ethier and Jamey Carroll. This short post is about Carroll.

Carroll, arguably the Dodgers’ third-string second-baseman when 2010 began, ended up becoming an almost shockingly pivotal player for the team, posting a career-high .379 OBP at age 36. Career highs at age 36 scream fluke, but the late-blooming Carroll does have a career OBP of .355 and has reached that level four of the past five years.

That .355 is still better than almost anyone else on the roster can offer. There’s Ethier and, depending how much they play, Furcal and Ellis. James Loney’s career OBP is in the ballpark at .348. Casey Blake was at .363 in 2009, before falling to .320 last year. Matt Kemp hasn’t been at that level since 2007, and Juan Uribe has never come close.

Blake and Uribe, who play Carroll’s two primary positions, offer power that Carroll can’t touch, but in terms of overall offensive value, Carroll actually had the better 2010, whether you look at Baseball Prospectus’ total average (Carroll .283, Blake .267, Uribe .266) or Fangraph’s wOBA (Carroll .329, Uribe .322, Blake .317). And then there’s this idle thought: He’s probably not a worse outfielder than Jay Gibbons would be, though I tend to doubt a playoff team starts a Carroll in left.

What this means for 2011, I don’t know. Carroll turns 37 in February. Assuming no other major acquisitions for the Dodger infield, Carroll will probably start the season on the bench, serving as a pinch-hitter, defensive replacement and spot starter until someone gets hurt. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Carroll actually was deserving of a starting spot somewhere in that 2011 Dodger lineup, depending at least in part on whether Blake is in a faster decline. In particular, Carroll might be a good No. 2 hitter behind Furcal, helping him set up Ethier, Kemp, Loney, Uribe and the rest.

We’ll see how things look in March …

* * *

  • Savvy post over at True Blue L.A. this morning, in which that site’s denizens decipher clues about the Dodger roster from a picture of Juan Uribe with a whiteboard listing the Dodger roster in the background. Included in the sleuthing: 1) George Sherrill (headed for Atlanta on a $1.2 million contract) was long gone from the Dodgers minds before Russell Martin and Trent Oeltjen, 2) J.D. Closser and Jon Huber look like they’re getting non-roster invitations to Spring Training, 3) as Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness noticed, John Lindsey, sadly, might be the next player to come off the team.
  • Madison Square Garden is going to buy the Fabulous Great Western L.A. Forum, according to Billboard.biz (via L.A. Observed).
  • Bill Plaschke of the Times uses Carl Crawford signing with Boston to argue that no one wants to play baseball in Los Angeles anymore, ignoring the mountain of evidence to the contrary. At first, it appears Plaschke is talking only about $100 million players, but then he brings up names like Todd Zeile and you have to ask, did Plaschke not see (for example) Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda basically skip free agency to sign at less competitive rates with the Dodgers just in the past six weeks?
  • Charley Steiner is getting an honorary doctorate from his alma mater at Bradley, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Not to overload on Clayton Kershaw’s wedding, but Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has wedding dance video. The kid’s got some moves!
Dec 09

The possible dream


My 6-year-old son got a small air hockey game for Hanukkah.  Before bedtime tonight, he was playing with his 8-year-old sister. It started off uneventfully, but then things got more heated.

At one point, the puck went into a corner and my son moved it with his hand.

Daughter: “You can’t do that.”

Son: “I had to.”

Daughter: “It’s not allowed!”

Son: “I had to! It was impossible.”

Daughter: “Nothing’s impossible.”

Son: “Some things are impossible.”

Daughter: “Like what?”

Son: “Like … seeing God.”

Daughter: “Seeing God’s possible.”

To be clear, anything’s possible when there’s a game on the line.

Dec 09

Love for sale?

Love of the Dodgers, that is.

  • Steve Garvey is trying to gather investors to help him buy the Dodgers, Bill Shaikin of the Times reported. Something tells me that lots of folks are going to have this notion, but whether they can follow through is another matter. The Dodgers, of course, are not for sale at this point.
  • After succeeding with Carlos Monasterios last year, the Dodgers didn’t draft or trade for anyone in this year’s Rule 5 draft party. (Ain’t no party like a Rule 5 party). Baseball America has the full draft list. The Dodgers did lose minor leaguers Jaime Ortiz, Jessie Mier (aka Fausto Mier or Fausto Meyer, depending on what website you visit) and Matthew Sartor.
  • Former Dodger scout Jerry Stephenson was honored posthumously with the Directors Award at this year’s Scout of the Year honors, reports Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.
  • The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. Enough said.
Dec 08

Dioner no longer a goner: Navarro to return

Well, I was a year early with this prediction. According to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, it appears Dioner Navarro will return to the Dodgers to help replace Russell Martin, 4 1/2 years after he was traded away with Jae Seo and Justin Ruggiano for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson. (Here’s my rather unflattering review of that deal.)

Navarro was a 22-year-old with a .759 OPS when he was traded amid 1) concerns about his defense and 2) enthusiasm for Martin, and some have always wondered whether, by keeping Navarro, the Dodgers might have saved Martin from overuse.

In any event, Navarro rehabilitated his made the 2008 American League All-Star team but has been pretty dreadful since. Though some might pencil Navarro in to make the major-league roster and share time with Rod Barajas, I’m not going to rule out A.J. Ellis beating him out.

* * *

From Mark Simon of ESPN Stats and Information:

Tony Gwynn Jr. rates high regardless of what defensive metric you use. The last two seasons, he rated second and fourth among centerfielders in +/-, which measures the ability to turn batted balls into outs. He also rated highest in Ultimate Zone Rating for outfielders, pro-rated to 150 games (also known as UZR/150) in 2010, as tallied on Fangraphs.com.

Baseball Info Solutions also tracks approximately 30 categories of Good Fielding Plays and more than 50 categories of Defensive Misplays, based on specific criteria outlined by Bill James. Gwynn was tied for the major league lead in Net Rating (Good Fielding Plays minus Defensive Misplays and Errors) among centerfielders at the All-Star Break. Injuries limited his playing time after the break, so he finished the season fourth in that metric, behind Marlon Byrd, Michael Bourn and Peter Bourjos.

Gwynn’s signature defensive play was a gamesaver on June 6, with the Padres hanging on to a one-run lead in the bottom of the 10th inning, when he threw out Placido Polanco trying to go first-to-third on a single with one out in an eventual San Diego win. That’s the kind of play the Dodgers could use. Their assist total from centerfielders dropped from 14 in 2009 to three in 2010, tied for fewest in the majors.

* * *

The Dodgers have been named Organization of the Year by Topps. I’m going to pass along Topps’ rationale, and then you can get to making jokes about the award.

The Organization of the Year award dates back to 1966 and highlights the Major League team that has shown outstanding performance, depth and talent throughout their Major and Minor League teams. The award is presented annually based on the number of players in the organization that have received Topps awards during the season.Points are awarded in four different minor league categories including: All-Star players, Players of the Month, Trautman Award recipients, awarded to each league’s Minor League Player of the Year, and The J.G Taylor Spink Award recipient, awarded to the overall Minor League Player of the Year. Points are also awarded for those players selected for Topps’ Major League Rookie All-Star team.

The Dodgers’ individual winners included: Nick Akins (Player of the Month – Arizona Lg.); Brian Cavazos-Galvez (Player of the Month – Midwest Lg.); Leon Landry (Player of the Month – Pioneer Lg.); Jake Lemmerman (Class A All-Star/Trautman Award – Pioneer Lg.); John Lindsey (Class AAA All-Star/Player of the Month – Pacific Coast Lg.); Russell Mitchell (Class AAA All-Star); Elisaul Pimentel (Player of the Month – Midwest Lg.); Kyle Russell (Player of the Month – California Lg.); Jerry Sands (Player of the Month – Midwest Lg.) …

Dec 08

Ten bullet points

Fire when ready, Gridley …

  • The Dodgers re-signed Trent Oeltjen to a minor-league contract, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com (among other notes).
  • Former Dodger manager Jim Tracy, now with Colorado, is recovering from a mild arrhythmia that caused him to collapse shortly after midnight Tuesday. The Associated Press has details.
  • Clayton Kershaw is married! Check out the pictures at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • More great news: Longtime friend of Dodger Thoughts Jay Jaffe has been voted into the Baseball Writers Association of America.
  • This book, A Brief History of American Sports, was co-authored by Elliott J. Gorn, whom I took “Sport in American Life” from at Stanford when he was a visiting professor 21 years ago.
  • I like these Dodgers-Fritos collectibles featuring Larry Sherry and Charley Neal, showcased by Blue Heaven.
  • Who are the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame? Baseball Past & Present offers a list, based on the vote of 63 people including Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods.
  • King Kaufman argues for the value of being average.
  • Alex Belth of Bronx Banter has the best piece I’ve seen on Derek Jeter this offseason.
  • Longtime Dodger Thoughts readers might recall how big a fan of Spalding Gray I’ve been. Stephen Soderbergh has a new documentary about the monologist/actor, writes David Ng at Culture Monster. LACMA will screen it Monday.
Dec 07

Dodgers to sign Chris Gwynn’s nephew

Tony Gwynn, Jr., is probably few people’s idea of an answer to the Dodgers’ outfield concerns, but now that the Dodgers are about to sign him, let’s talk about what they will do with him.

In his best year (2009), Gwynn reached the .350 mark in on-base percentage, but other than that and a good year on the basepaths last season (17 steals in 21 attempts), Gwynn has zero — or less than zero — offensive value.

Defensively, Gwynn’s another story, as he was arguably the best center fielder in the National League last season.

So if the Dodgers plan on using Gwynn as more than a fifth outfielder, should they not play him in center field, either moving Matt Kemp to left field or Kemp to right and Andre Ethier to left?

Just as you shouldn’t bat a great offensive player eighth, shouldn’t you avoid minimizing the impact of a fine defensive player?

The Dodgers’ 2011 lineup may be the most OBP-challenged we’ve seen in Los Angeles in some time. If the plan is to win with pitching and defense, while hoping that Kemp, Ethier and others hit a few home runs along the way, the Dodgers should seriously consider using Gwynn in center.

Of course, if the Dodgers want to find more offense for that third outfield slot, fine by me.

Update: R.J. Anderson of Fangraphs has more on Gwynn.

* * *

According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, in addition to his $2 million base salary, Vicente Padilla could earn as much as $8 million in incentives as a starter or $6 million in incentives as a reliever.

Dec 07

Frank and Jamie: Who’ll stop the rain?


Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation

It’s hard not to want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head.

The ownership dispute between Frank and Jamie McCourt, the ultimate guest-that-wouldn’t-leave in Dodger history, has extended its stay in Los Angeles for months, maybe years, with today’s ruling in favor of Jamie, reinstating her as co-owner of the franchise, pending appeal.

Pending appeal …

Forget about Tinker to Evers to Chance — these are the saddest of possible words.  Pending appeal.  Oh, Frank and Jamie.  Talk about cloudy with a chance of meatballs. This is the cloud, and they are the meatballs.

How will this affect the Dodgers on the field? That’s unpredictable. Chaos doesn’t prohibit spending; spending doesn’t guarantee victory. And so Dodger fans have a choice. Press on in their fandom, like a wagon train crossing the country, heedless of whether the next ridge might be the one with the storm hiding behind it. Or set up camp, cowering in fear. Or abandon the trip altogether. Who’s up for college baseball?

I’m a wagon train guy, mainly because of my belief that if it’s not one thing, it’s another. There’s always something. But I have to tell you, this is not my kind of trip. I don’t think it’s wrong or immature to sit back and call to the heavens, “Great Dodger in the Sky, we want our team’s stability back.”

But that plea will fall on deaf ears. The courtroom battles and jockeying for ownership will continue, becoming part of the Dodger way of life — not an everyday part, but something that comes around during holidays and other inopportune moments, like a bad visit from the divorced in-laws.

Dodger fans, the ones that stick around, will soldier on, despite … yeah, there’s another saddest of possible words. Despite …

Dec 07

Breaking news: Jamie McCourt wins ownership trial

Judge Scott Gordon of the Los Angeles Superior Court has ruled in favor of Jamie McCourt in her dispute with Frank McCourt over ownership of the Dodgers, throwing out the couple’s marital property agreement. This grants shared custody of the team to both parties, though Frank McCourt will no doubt appeal.

From Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine:

The judge presiding over the bitter battle for the Los Angeles Dodgers has granted Jamie McCourt’s request to throw out the marital property agreement that gives her ex-husband sole ownership of the team. In a 100-page decision given to attorneys for both parties, Judge Scott Gordon found that the contract at the heart of the fight over the team was not valid or enforceable and that it must be set aside. …

Dec 07

Getting the gang back together: Vicente Padilla returns for $2 million

When I first heard last week that the Dodgers were still interested in signing Vicente Padilla, I was surprised … then not. And then I thought it was a shaky idea … and then not.

And now comes the news that he has signed for a mere $2 million (plus incentives), pending a physical. That’s just a good idea.

Padilla can be used as a spot starter (on a team that reason to worry that it might need one), as a middle reliever, and even as a set-up man and occasional closer (ideally, to provide rest for the full-time closer that is already pitching so, so well). It’s a role that can be very valuable, and one that has been filled on the Dodgers at times with authority using someone like Wilson Alvarez, and less so at other times using someone like Carlos Monasterios or Jeff Weaver.

Padilla’s recent health history has lowered expectations for him, and in turn his salary, but it’s a good deal. He’s close to the same guy who earned more than twice as much last season. He never should have been an Opening Day starter, but as an Opening Day jack-of-all-pitching trades, I’m all for it.

With Padilla and Hiroki Kuroda signing contracts below what one would think would be their market value, one might get the impression that some people find Los Angeles to be a nice place to pitch.

Coming up next … another outfielder?

Dec 06

Hall of Fame passes on Garvey, John

It’s no surprise, but former Dodgers Steve Garvey and Tommy John missed on their latest (and perhaps best) chance of making the Hall of Fame.  The expansion committee vote also left out the most deserving candidate, Marvin Miller – by one vote – while choosing to elect longtime executive Pat Gillick.

Garvey and John each needed 75% of the 16 votes, but did not cross the 50% barrier.

Dec 05

Amid the flurry on the mound, quiet times in left field (for now)


Jeff Roberson/APAre the Dodgers sincere when they say Xavier Paul is a contender to start next season?

Overall, I’m satisfied – even impressed – with how Ned Colletti has pulled together the 2011 Dodger starting rotation over the past month.

I was worried about how the Dodgers would fill their three offseason vacancies in the rotation. Then, thanks in part to Hiroki Kuroda’s agreeability, the Dodgers got their front four. As in the past, I would have been prepared for the team to enter Spring Training with a combination of youngsters and journeymen battling for the No. 5 spot. But the Dodgers didn’t even make us wait until December before filling that spot with a solid (though not spectacular) starter in Jon Garland.

There was another shoe to drop: Garland admitted to AM 710 that there are concerns about his health. Whether this means shades of Jason Schmidt remains to be seen, but it’s hard to get too worked up when the salary commitment to Garland is about 90% less than what the Dodgers paid Schmidt (are still paying, in fact). Garland figures to give the Dodgers something, and perhaps more than something.

There have been rumors that the Dodgers aren’t done with the pitching, that they are contemplating also bringing back adding Vicente Padilla as a swingman, a super-utility pitcher. The addition would further increase the Dodgers’ chances of presenting a smothering pitching staff next season, led by Clayton Kershaw in the role of Tim Lincecum, only wholesomer.  Yes, my friends, the Dodgers have their ace – or rather, their king and his court.

All that being said …

The left-field situation resembles what we expected the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation to look like. Journeymen, kids and babies. Jay Gibbons is Jeff Weaver, Xavier Paul is John Ely, Jamie Hoffmann is Carlos Monasterios, Trayvon Robinson and Jerry Sands are Chris Withrow and Rubby de la Rosa. I’m not losing sleep over it – certainly not in December. Should it remain this way until April, I’ll admit I’ll be surprised.  But also fascinated.

If the Dodgers don’t make any big additions in the outfield – and it could be months before we know – they will be doing exactly what they did when they handed four April starts to Charlie Haeger.  That they did so once means they could do it again, but I have trouble believing the Dodgers have invested all this money in catcher, second base and the starting rotation, just to let left field twist in the wind.

On the other hand, they might sign Scott Podsednik and think they’ve done something useful, and simply be wrong.

* * *

Following the news that former Dodger outfielder Jayson Werth had signed a remarkable seven-year, $126 million contract with Washington, I tweeted the following:

At Matt Kemp’s current age (26), Jayson Werth hit .235/.338/.374 before sitting out his age-27 season because of injury.

Through 2009: Matt Kemp career 116 OPS+, Jayson Werth career 115 OPS+. Kemp is 5 1/2 years younger.

The point, I hope is clear, is not to say that Matt Kemp is better than Jayson Werth (though he might be, sooner than people think). Rather, it’s to remind people that it’s a wee bit early to be giving up on Kemp because he had a disappointing season at age 25.

If we stipulate that Kemp has some issues to address going forward, let’s remember that they are not insurmountable.

* * *

I was very satisfied with the season finale of “Boardwalk Empire,” both in how it wrapped up this season’s threads and set up Season 2. We haven’t had any formal TV chat here in a while, so if anyone wants to share their thoughts, please feel free.

Dec 04

How would you have spent that money?

So far this offseason, the Dodgers have committed a minimum of $27.9 million in 2011 salary and $74.9 million in overall 2011-and-beyond salary (thanks to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. for the quick snapshot). This much we know.

So, how would you have spent that money?

* * *

The Padres are about to roll the dice, trading Adrian Gonzalez – their best player, and perhaps the NL West’s best as well – for a package of Red Sox minor leaguers, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.

For some historical context of the trade, read Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.

Dec 03

Dodgers sign Rod Barajas for $3.25 million

Groupon might have turned down $6 billion from Google, but Rod Barajas knows a great deal when he sees one.

As we suspected after enjoying a similar late-season hot streak,  Barajas will join the likes of Jay Gibbons and Ted Lilly in in a Dodger uniform next season, having signed a one-year contract to return to the team. What we didn’t suspect was how much he would get paid.

A year ago, Barajas went unsigned until February, before getting a $500,000 base salary from the Mets and another $400,000 for making the Opening Day roster, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. The potential of $1 million in performance bonuses gave him a maximum 2010 income of $1.9 million.

He then went onto have a .263 on-base percentage and .414 slugging percentage before being designated for assignment in August. The Dodgers picked him up, and he had a hot streak. Barajas, who turned 35 in September, ripped a .939 OPS for the Dodgers, though only over 72 plate appearances.

Somehow, he has parlayed that into a $3.25 million guarantee for 2011. Incredible. That’s at least double my estimate of his market value — I had thought Barajas and Gibbons could be had for $2 million combined. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. was in a similar neighborhood — $1.5 million for Barajas.

After his peak season of 2005, when he was only 30, Barajas only drew a $3.2 million salary. Somehow, he has managed to top it.

Looking at the totality of his career (.284 OBP, .696 OPS), it seems more likely that he’ll be next year’s version of Ronnie Belliard at the plate (if not Marlon Anderson 2007). For someone who contribute as much (or as little) as Barajas, it’s a shocking amount of money.

Dec 03

Dodgers, Martin appear to have split over $800,000

For me and, I would venture to say, most of my readers, $800,000 is a whole lot of green. But for the people of Major League Baseball, it’s not exactly a lot of money — for example, it’s roughly one month of Jose Uribe’s salary over the next three seasons.

But $800,000 appears to be the amount that sent the Dodgers and Russell Martin their separate ways.

Dodger general manager Ned Colletti told reporters Thursday that as the deadline approached, Martin’s agent, Matt Colleran, lowered his pitch to $5 million in base salary  (plus incentives). According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the Dodgers were offering a base of $4.2 million.

We can debate all day what salary Martin actually deserved, but given that the two sides were this close, I’m a bit surprised the deal didn’t get done. If you think Martin has the potential of helping at all in 2011, I don’t know why you’d let less than a million bucks stand in your way.  And if you are that skeptical, I’m not sure why you’d be offering even $4.2 million.

But what do I know? Not much. Each side had its magic number, and sometimes, you can’t fool with magic.

* * *

  • Here’s a fun take on the main Hall of Fame ballot from Wezen-Ball.
  • From The Onion: “Baseball Players Hold Annual Meeting To Discuss Benefit Of Wearing Index Finger On Outside Of Mitt.”
  • Here’s an attempt to project Ted Lilly’s 2011 performance from Jeffrey Gross at the Hardball Times.
  • Brian, I hope George Costanza brought you some nice sandwiches.
  • Finally, Dodger Thoughts favorite Buddy Carlyle has signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees, after a stint in Japan. Welcome back, Buddy!