Jul 20

Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday: Tim Lincecum vs. Clayton Kershaw


Icon SMITim Lincecum (2.94 ERA, 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings)
Clayton Kershaw (3.16 ERA, 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings)

Forget about everything else. Tonight, we’ve got a pure baseball matchup that you don’t want to miss.

Tim Lincecum for the Giants.

Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers.

First time ever.

The current Dodger roster has a .239 slugging percentage against Lincecum. Andre Ethier has done the best, while Casey Blake and Russell Martin are a combined 0 for 23.

Kershaw had been having a statistically better 2010 than Lincecum through the All-Star break, but that changed when Kershaw stunk and Lincecum shined last week.

Also of note, Kershaw has allowed 11 runs and 30 baserunners in 19 first innings this season. By comparison, Kershaw has appeared in 18 fifth innings and allowed one run.

The momentum is on Lincecum and San Francisco’s side. But that didn’t matter when Kershaw faced Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies in May. We’ll see if it matters tonight.

Jul 18

July 18 game chat

It continues.

But you think it’s been all bad news this weekend? In consecutive days, Juan Castro and Nick Green have become available. It’s like Christmas in July.

Claudio Vargas and Ramon Troncoso combined on a shutout for Albuquerque on Saturday. John Ely starts for the Isotopes today.

I like this Jon SooHoo photo of Fernando Valenzuela, linked by Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven.

Jul 15

Kershaw LXX: Kershawt Tub Time Machine

What a matchup we have for you tonight, sports fans. Clayton Kershaw and Chris Carpenter in caliente conditions. Lots of good hard-c sounds there.

To make room for Manny Ramirez’s return from the disabled list, Reed Johnson was placed on the disabled list with back trouble, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Johnson last played on July 8, so he would presumably be eligible to come off the disabled list July 24. Xavier Paul and Garret Anderson get to co-exist for a little while longer.

If the Dodgers make it through tonight’s game without any injuries, it will be the second day all season that they have had a healthy top-eight starting position players, top-four starting pitchers and top-two relievers (Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo) at the same time all season. The only other time was June 28 in San Francisco, the day Chad Billingsley was activated from the DL and the day before Ramirez hurt himself in the first inning.

* * *

  • James McDonald is the scheduled starter for Albuquerque on Friday, so if he’s scratched from that start or only works for a couple innings, we should have our biggest hint yet about whether he’ll be called up to start for the Dodgers on Monday.
  • The U.S. Postal service is releasing a Negro Leagues baseball series of stamps.

* * *

Update: George Sherrill talked to David Lassen of the Press-Enterprise. Sherrill confirmed that he was placed on waivers and said he wasn’t sure what would happen next.

… ” If I go down and I’m doing OK, then I’m just kind of stuck. If I go down and look like I’ve figured it out, I could still be stuck, because you go down, and say the club rattles off like eight in a row. George who, you know?

“So you’ve got to make sure every T is crossed, I guess, and make sure everything is right for the club but also everything is right for me and and my family.”

If he clears waivers, Sherrill will have the choice of accepting a minor-league assignment, refusing it, or declaring himself a free agent. Only in the last scenario would he forfeit the remainder of this year’s $4.5 million salary.

“I’ve got to talk to my agent and just make sure what’s what and see what options we do have,” Sherrill said. “… I don’t really fully understand it. That’s kind of why you sort of have an agent, to protect us on stuff that we have no idea what’s happening. So it’s just a matter of talking to him and ironing everything out and having him talk to them and see what’s what.” …

Jul 11

Looking at Lack-of-Longball Loney

The question of whether James Loney will ever develop home run power gets a long look from Brian Kamenetzky of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The swing has always been there.

The bat control and the ability to hit to all fields, too.

But into the fifth year of his major league career, we’re still waiting for James Loney to display consistent home run power. After hitting 15 in only 344 at-bats as a 23-year-old in 2007, Loney put only 26 balls over the wall in 1,302 plate appearances over his next two seasons. This year he’s fallen behind that already modest pace, with only five homers in 361 trips to the plate.

James Loney has just five home runs in more than 325 at-bats this season.

Not that the Blue have abandoned hope. “As he continues to mature as a hitter and continues to learn his swing I think he’ll start to hit 20 to 25 home runs,” says Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti. “Once he starts to pull. Because he has great pull power, it’s just that his approach is typically [to hit] the other way.”

Colletti’s hope isn’t without historical precedent. Over his first 2,031 at-bats, Rafael Palmeiro had 47 homers. Jeff Bagwell had 53 in 1,675, Steve Garvey 46 in 1,606. Loney has 50 in 1,943. Power can develop later in a player’s career.

But what if it doesn’t? …

Bagwell was named the Astros’ hitting coach today, by the way.

Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone would have parted with Loney if it meant acquiring Cliff Lee.

Jul 09

Yawn – Cliff Lee traded again

Cliff Lee’s baseball uniform fashion show now features the clothing stylings of the Texas Rangers.

Seattle traded Lee, Mark Lowe and $2.25 million to Texas for first baseman Justin Smoak and minor leaguers Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matthew Lawson. The Rangers have been waiting a long time to get back in the playoffs, but the online consensus seem to be that Seattle did well with the deal.

The New York Yankees will wait another few months before making Lee theirs.

* * *

Strasburg Watch, from The Associated Press: “Rookie Stephen Strasburg will start the Washington Nationals’ first game after the All-Star break, on July 16 at the Florida Marlins, and then stick to a regular turn in the rotation until exhausting his 160-innings limit for the season. … Strasburg will pitch regularly on four days’ rest — or five, if there happens to be a day off that falls between his turns.”

According to the Nationals’ schedule, that would mean after starts on July 21, July 27 and August 1, Strasburg would be on tap to start at Dodger Stadium on August 6.

Strasburg is facing the Giants today in Washington.

By the way, Clayton Kershaw has also been chosen by Joe Torre to start the Dodgers’ first game after the All-Star break, but right now it doesn’t appear he’ll end up matching up with Strasburg. That could change, of course. Hiroki Kuroda, Chad Billingsley, Vicente Padilla and John Ely will follow Kershaw.

Jul 08

Kershaw LXIX: Kershallow Grave

Joe Torre told reporters today …

  • He had no news on Ronald Belisario.
  • Manny Ramirez is scheduled for a rehab game with Inland Empire on Saturday and remains on target for a July 15 return to the Dodgers.
  • AA reliever Kenley Jansen has entered the Dodgers’ major-league conversation, and it won’t be a surprise to see him in Los Angeles this year, though perhaps not until rosters expand in September.

In other news …

  • Scott Elbert is back in Arizona, “playing catch,” according to Dodger coach Ken Howell. No date set for his return to action.
  • Brad Ausmus began his minor-league rehab assignment Wednesday with Inland Empire. Expect to see his back back in a Dodger uniform by August.
  • Roy Oswalt bumped up the trade-valueometer today with a one-hitter against Pittsburgh. Oswalt, who walked two and struck out eight, needs to get one victory to tie Joe Niekro and two to pass him for Houston’s all-time lead in pitching victories.
  • Former Angel (and perhaps surprisingly, not current Dodger) Darin Erstad has returned to his Nebraska alma mater, as a hitting coach, according to The Associated Press.
  • The notion of taking a flyer on injured former star pitchers with upside has taken a beating this year, writes Dave Cameron at Fangraphs.
  • Matt Stairs on Wednesday tied the all-time record for pinch-hit home runs, writes Greg Rosenstein of MLB.com (via Aaron Gleeman at Hardball Talk). Not counting the postseason, in case you were wondering.
  • Yes, Mike Stanton’s killer three-run homer Thursday really was caught by a Dodger glove, as David Brown of Big League Stew points out. And yes, you need to watch Garret Anderson’s reaction on the clip linked from there.
  • My favorite piece of trivia today: The all-time leader in Emmy nominations is now camera operator Hector Ramirez. I talked to Ramirez this morning for the Variety On the Air TV blog.
  • I hated Shallow Grave, by the way …
Jul 07

July 7 game chat

As of 6 p.m., here’s all we know about the Ronald Belisario situation. From The Associated Press:

“Let’s put it this way, I’m surprised by this,” said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, adding that he had no indication of how long Belisario will be away from the club. “Ned [general manager Ned Colletti] told me last night after the game and gave me a heads-up that there would be something going on with him. That was the extent of it. That’s all I know.

“He’s one of my players, and I’d like to feel that I’m close with all my players. But I had no hint of this and had no conversation about this with him,” Torre said. “Obviously, it takes a big chunk out of the bullpen and who we rely on — especially because of the fact that he’s a seventh-, eighth-, ninth-inning guy.”

Belisario, who had a 2.04 ERA in 70 2/3 innings as a rookie last season, was arrested in Pasadena, Calif., last June 27 on suspicion of DUI and pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor drunken driving a month later without appearing in court. The case was resolved in March when he was fined $1,000 on a reduced charge of reckless driving.

But it reportedly created visa problems in his native Venezuela, and Belisario didn’t report to spring training until late March — prompting the Dodgers to put him on the restricted list without pay instead of suspending him. He was activated April 21 and has appeared in 35 games this season with a 1-1 record and 3.79 ERA.

“He hasn’t been an issue. There’s no disciplinary stuff that’s gone on. He’s been here for us every day,” Torre said. “I haven’t had a problem with him — aside from a high slider here and there.” …

Jul 06

Cultivating a new generation of Dodger fans isn’t easy …

… when the Dodgers lose the last 10 games I have taken my children to. Seven Webkinz games last year, and now three games this year with Monday’s Fireworks Night flail. And that doesn’t count the Freeway Series loss to the Angels.

Anyway, we’re all staying home tonight, so things should be looking up for the home team …

Update: Via Sports by Brooks, “The Greatest American Hero” at Dodger Stadium. And it only gets better …

William Katt: “I’m gonna be on ‘The Mike Douglas Show?’”
Markie Post: “Can you take a bit of advice from a girl who lived in Mandeville Canyon and used to grow organic vegetables?”

Jul 04

Xavier Paul should stay for remainder of season


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesXavier Paul slides home in the fifth inning Saturday.

This is not a news flash. But when Manny Ramirez returns from the disabled list, the Dodgers should bid farewell to Garret Anderson.

It’s not just that in 133 plate appearances, Anderson has an on-base percentage of .205 and slugging percentage of .291. It’s not just his negative value defensively, on a team that could use defense from its backup outfielder.

It’s that even being optimistic about Anderson, what he’s capable of is not what Xavier Paul is capable of. Or, for that matter, Paul’s recent Albuquerque teammate Jay Gibbons.

Anderson has walked three times all season. Three times. So even if he gets luckier with some balls in play dropping in, there’s little hope for a dramatic rise in his poor OBP. And his slugging percentage has maxed out at about .400 since 2009. That’s not enough value for a guy who can’t field.

No doubt Joe Torre is expecting all this non-production will be worth it when Anderson has a key RBI single in the postseason. The problem with that theory is that 1) Anderson might, in his own small way, keep the Dodgers from reaching the postseason, and 2) it’s a canard that you need a veteran to come through off the bench in the playoffs.

As I pointed out before the season, older is not necessarily better for bench players. By far, the majority of over-35 bench players for the Dodgers have hit poorly. And Anderson has hit worse than almost all of them.

Mark Loretta’s hit in Game 2 of last year’s National League Division Series was memorable, but that didn’t mean Loretta was a good player for the Dodgers to have. If the Dodgers can do better, they should. And Paul is an example of better. Paul already has more walks than Anderson and nearly as many hits and extra-base hits despite playing half the time, plus better speed and defense. And he, unlike Anderson, has real potential to improve.

If it’s leadership you want from Anderson, make him a coach, or make use of the countless other former major-leaguers that are already on staff with the Dodgers.

The common argument against keeping Paul is that, as a potential 2011 starter for the Dodgers, he should be playing regularly this year. But Paul really has spent enough time playing at AAA, racking up more than 800 plate appearances there since 2008 and showing improvement each of the past three seasons. His injuries put up a roadblock last season, but he has recovered impressively. His OPS is over 1.000 with the Isotopes, outstanding even by their standards.

As far as his future development goes, I’m struggling to see how copying Blake DeWitt’s frequent-flyer service between Albuquerque and Los Angeles from last year is a better use of Paul’s time than letting him steadily grow comfortable in a major-league clubhouse, learning about the game’s top pitchers and becoming tested in key situations.

It’s not as if Paul will never play. Given the rest the Dodgers want to give Ramirez even when he’s healthy, Paul could easily amass another 150 plate appearances if he stays with the big club through the end of the season. That would give him more than 400 for the season. That’s plenty for a player who has mastered AAA pitching.

Put it this way: If there’s going to be a Dodger backup outfielder with a .500 OPS, I’d rather it be someone having a learning experience. Better that than the slow, painful fadeout of a once-great player.

* * *

The Dodgers said today that they expect to activate Carlos Monasterios from the disabled list in the middle of this week. Monasterios is done pitching rehab outings for Albuquerque.

The Isotopes released Jesus Colome from their roster, according to the team press notes. The former major-leaguer had a scoreless inning, then gave up five runs to his next six batters.

* * *

For the second time this season, a team has designated Dontrelle Willis for assignment shortly after he got hit hard by the Dodgers. Los Angeles scored seven runs off him in 6 1/3 innings while he pitched for Detroit and Arizona.

* * *

Clayton Kershaw is … ‘Lost’.

Jul 03

Manny Ramirez to DL, Ramon Troncoso to Albuquerque

The Dodgers not only placed Manny Ramirez on the disabled list and called up Xavier Paul, they also optioned Ramon Troncoso to Albuquerque and called up Travis Schlichting.

The first move was expected, and the second move isn’t too much of a surprise considering that Troncoso has seemed in need of a breather for a while now. Troncoso pitched two shutout innings Friday (32 pitches) and has not been scored upon in his past three appearances, so his being optioned might have more to do with providing a fresh arm to the bullpen following Hiroki Kuroda’s early exit.

George Sherrill and Justin Miller, who have performed worse, remain on the team for now, because Troncoso has options and they don’t.

* * *

  • Claudio Vargas pitched six shutout innings for Albuquerque against Pacific Coast League South Division leader Oklahoma City on Friday, allowing two baserunners and striking out seven batters in a row at one point.
  • Blake Smith, a 22-year-old right fielder, went 4 for 6 with six RBI and one of the Loons’ four homers in Great Lakes’ 13-3 victory. Smith has an .858 OPS on the season. Catcher J.T. Wise, 24, had four hits and a walk. Josh Wall struck out 10 in seven innings.
  • Minor-league reliever Hyang-Nam Choi, 39, was released from the Albuquerque roster last weekend, according to the Isotope press notes.
  • Pinch-hitter in the making? Josh Lindblom is 6 for 14 at the plate this season for Albuquerque and 10 for 25 over the past two seasons with a walk and five strikeouts.