Feb 23

With Padilla out, who is the Dodgers’ No. 6 starter?


Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireJohn Ely

Vicente Padilla was ticketed for the bullpen, but everyone expected him to be the first guy Los Angeles turned to if anyone in the Dodgers’ starting rotation had to miss a start. In fact, Padilla was going to be on a starters’ program in the early days of Spring Training before shifting to a relievers’ routine.

Dodger fans can still hope that Padilla will be back in uniform before a sixth starter is needed, but in case he isn’t, who’s next in line?

  • Blake Hawksworth started some last year for St. Louis, but Don Mattingly seemed pretty keen on keeping him in the bullpen. “As a starter he was throwing 90 (mph), 91 and out of the bullpen 94, 95,” Dodger manager Don Mattingly told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com earlier this month. “Sometimes a guy thinks when he’s starting he has to pace himself. Out of the ‘pen he’s more aggressive and attacking. We feel that’s where he fits best.”
  • Carlos Monasterios started 13 games for the Dodgers last year, but also performed much better in relief. The question is how the Dodgers view him going forward: He was ticketed for Albuquerque to start this season, but if he’s going to be in the rotation, he might be someone they turn to.
  • The Dodgers have toyed with Scott Elbert and even Ramon Troncoso as starting pitchers in their minor-league careers, but they are firmly relievers now.
  • Jon Link has gotten some brief starting work in his pro career, but he seems an unlikely option.
  • Minor-League Pitcher of the Year Rubby De La Rosa? Maybe later, but too soon for now.
  • Tim Redding is the player in camp with the most starting experience: 144 starts in the 33-year-old’s major-league career. But none of those have come since 2009, when he had a 5.10 ERA for the Mets.

That brings us back to last spring’s rotation savior, John Ely. Ely had a 2.54 ERA through June 1, an 8.00 ERA after. If there’s any chance that Part II was the fluke and not Part I, Ely might get the first opportunity to prove it. Elymania II?

Feb 04

Feel-good Friday

Health is this morning’s lead topic …

  • Injury prevention continues to offer potential as the next Moneyball (i.e., exploiting the undervalued) frontier. Will Carroll writes about the topic for SI.com (link via new SB Nation national baseball editor Rob Neyer, who has his own comment).
  • Neyer also links to Corey Hawkins’ new Baseball Injury Tool, a website that I suspect a lot of us will soon find indispensable.
  • Jim McLennan of AZ Snakepit studies the importance of starting pitching depth, noting among other things that even the most stable rotation in the National League, San Francisco’s, needed 19 starts outside of its main five pitchers.
  • Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News has completed his massive project, “The Tao of Vin Scully”: 21 sportscasters discussing what makes the Dodger legend great.
  • Before we leave the Daily News, I have to pass along Kevin Modesti’s “Where Are They Now” story on “Family Affair” boy Johnny Whitaker.
  • The ups and downs of James Loney’s professional career, dating back to draft day in 2002 (goodness), are reviewed by John Sickels at Minor League Ball.
  • David Young and I have had All-Something fever lately.  His latest at True Blue L.A.: The Los Angeles Dodgers All-Short Stuff Team.
  • Here’s a retrospective of the Dodgers’ Burt Shotton era, courtesy of Steven Booth and the Hardball Times.
  • The inimitable player/author/speaker Dirk Hayhurst offers his “Ten Commandments of Social Networking as a professional athlete” (via David Pinto’s Baseball Musings).
  • Baseball co-blogger David Newhan is lacin’ ‘em up again, signing a minor-league deal with the San Diego Padres.
  • If I could have had just half of Dee Gordon’s Thursday, I’d have been happy: “I swear I just had the best nap ever! My body is feeling it from these intense workouts!”
  • Update: Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com looks at the Dodger infield heading into the coming season.
Feb 02

Postseason pitching punishment

Most teams that reach the World Series suffer a falloff in team ERA the following year, writes Tim Kurkjian of ESPN.com. Whether the defending champion San Francisco Giants will succumb to the trend, however, remains to be seen.

… We looked at the World Series participants in the past 10 years, and the effect on the pitching staffs the following seasons to those 20 teams. Fourteen of the 20 — 70 percent — had an ERA increase the next season. Eight of the 20 — 40 percent — had an increase of least a half run, which is substantial. The 10 teams that won the World Series averaged an increase in ERA of .281. The 10 losing teams averaged an increase of .213. The Detroit Tigers went to the World Series in 2006 and compiled a 3.84 ERA, but had a 4.57 ERA the next year, a .73 increase. The St. Louis Cardinals won the 2006 World Series and had a 3.57 ERA, but it increased by 1.08 to 4.65 in 2007. The Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005; their team ERA the next year went from 3.61 to 4.61. …

There could be a number of reasons for an ERA increase the year after making it to the World Series. A bigger workload would represent only one of them. Some staffs are damaged by a loss in free agency (Cliff Lee?), or a trade. The ERA for the 2007 Cardinals increased dramatically in part because ace Chris Carpenter missed the season due to an arm injury.

“I believe our ERA went up in 2009 [by .53] because of an ineffective bullpen,” Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said. “When the phone rang down there that year, no one knew who it was for. [Workload] is an issue, but I’d be interested to see about the teams that have been there [the World Series] over and over again, what that does to the ERA the next year. When we made it in 2008, it was the first time for most guys. If the Rays had made it in 2010, we would have been better off because we had been through it once.” …

The Giants and Rangers will need to recover. The Giants played 15 postseason games, a total of 135 innings. Ace Tim Lincecum threw 37 innings in the postseason, raising his season total to 249 1/3, a career high and 22 1/3 more innings than he had ever thrown in a season. Matt Cain pitched 21 1/3 innings in the playoffs, raising his total to 244 2/3, 27 more than he had ever thrown. Jonathan Sanchez threw 20 innings in the postseason, raising his total for the season to 213 1/3, 50 more than he had ever thrown. Madison Bumgarner pitched 20 2/3 innings in the playoffs, raising his total (major and minor leagues) to 214 1/3, 72 more than he had ever thrown in a season. And closer Brian Wilson appeared in 10 games in the postseason, totaling 80 for the season, 12 more than his career high. …

ERA changes for the Dodgers after their most recent World Series appearances:

1988: 2.96 ERA, 114 ERA+
1989: 2.95 ERA, 117 ERA+

1981: 3.01 ERA, 112 ERA+
1982: 3.26 ERA, 107 ERA+

Jan 26

Garland has starting role over Padilla, but why?


US Presswire/Icon SMIJon Garland had a 2.72 ERA in six late-season starts with the Dodgers in 2009, but Vicente Padilla took his spot in the postseason.

Ever since Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla signed/re-signed with the Dodgers, nothing has been said to indicate that Garland’s spot in the Dodger starting rotation is anything but guaranteed, or that Padilla will have a shot at the starting rotation unless there’s an injury.

I know why this is – I just wonder why this is.

The first “why” is a combination of theories that Padilla is a) better suited for relief work  – in fact, might even excel in the role, b) has health issues that would benefit from being in the bullpen and c) simply isn’t as good as Garland.

But the second “why” offers this: Padilla was one of the best Dodger starting pitchers of 2010 when healthy, and his health issues aren’t as career-threatening as, say, Hong-Chih Kuo’s, but rather closer to those of someone like Hiroki Kuroda. Padilla might simply be a better starting pitcher than Garland – certainly, the Dodgers came to think so in 2009, when Padilla ousted Garland from the Los Angeles starting rotation and then shined for most of the playoffs.

Ultimately, this question might be moot – sadly, odds are at some point in the season that an injury to another Dodger starting pitcher will put Garland and Padilla in the Dodger rotation at the same time. And the Dodgers seem to be pretty clear about the pecking order for when all the starting pitchers are healthy. But I still think it’s interesting that Garland is considered an automatic. They tried these guys together once before, and Garland was the one who was pushed aside.

Nov 28

In starting rotation, sometimes questions beat answers


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesFor 4 1/2 seasons, the Dodgers never knew what they were going to get in Odalis Perez.

In the wake of the Jon Garland signing, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. looked at the most commonly used starting pitchers by the Dodgers since 2000, and in the process found that the Dodgers “have had five pitchers each start 30 games in a season just twice in their 127-year franchise history (1977 and 1993), and they have only had four pitchers start 30 games eight other times.”

Good stuff, but I was interested in something else, too. Given my surprise to find our starting rotation settled on paper before the end of November, I was curious how often in recent years the Dodgers had appeared to enter the season in better shape in their starting five than they’re in right now – and how they fared in those seasons.

Looking back at the 2000s (playoff teams in bold):

  • 2010: Charlie Haeger won a beleaguered fifth starter competition. The current 2011 rotation, with Garland as the fifth starter behind Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly, looks better.
  • 2009: Rookies Kershaw and James McDonald looked promising on paper, but most people would probably take the 2011 quintet, with Kershaw two years older.
  • 2008: Brad Penny was coming off a 3.03 ERA in 2007, Chad Billingsley was rising and Derek Lowe in the final year of his contract, while Kuroda was untested in the U.S. and Kershaw hadn’t arrived. In fact, it was the rotating arms in the No. 5 spot (a shaky Esteban Loaiza, a green Hong-Chih Kuo) that helped hasten Kershaw’s debut.  The Dodger rotation heading into 2008 was probably better than the 2011 group – until Friday.
  • 2007: This was the year newcomers Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf (the first time around) were supposed to anchor the Dodger staff, joining Lowe, Penny and Billingsley. This was an exciting group – until Schmidt and Wolf combined for 24 starts and a 5.05 ERA.
  • 2006: Lowe, Penny … Odalis Perez (coming off a poor 2005) … Brett Tomko and Jae Seo.  A little bit of wishful thinking, here.
  • 2005: New free agent Lowe, Perez (coming off a strong 2004) and Jeff Weaver for the front three. The Dodgers knew they’d be dealing with filler at the No. 5 spot, and with Penny coming back late from his 2004 injury, they were duct-taping No. 4 as well, ultimately starting April with the likes of Elmer Dessens and Scott Erickson.
  • 2004: The Dodgers’ first playoff trip of the century began with Hideo Nomo, Perez, Weaver and Kaz Ishii – not a bad front four if you thought the 25-year-old Perez would regain his 2002 form. The other three had ERAs below 4.00 the year before. The fifth starter left in TBD status until the job was seized by Jose Lima, who had a memorable year through and into the playoffs (after having thrown 503 2/3 innings with a 6.18 ERA since 2000), while Ishii ended up struggling and Nomo fell apart.
  • 2003: Kevin Brown was coming off an injury-plagued 2002, but there was still hope for him (rightfully so) to lead a staff that also included a resurgent Nomo, Ishii and Perez (3.00 ERA in 2002). Darren Dreifort, attempting a comeback after going more than 20 months between games, got the first chance at the No. 5 start, but the Dodgers also had Andy Ashby (3.91 ERA in ’02) as a No. 6 starter. So there was depth, but also an understanding that the depth could be needed immediately.
  • 2002: Lots of new blood to join Brown and Ashby: Nomo (returning as a free agent from Boston), Perez (acquired with Brian Jordan in January’s Gary Sheffield trade) and Ishii (signing his first U.S. contract on February 28) – not to mention Omar Daal, another returning former Dodger who came in an offseason trade from Philadelphia but began the year in the bullpen. By the time Spring Training started, the staff was deep – one of the reasons second-year manager Jim Tracy experimented with converting a guy who had made 24 starts in 2001 into a reliever: Eric Gagne.
  • 2001: In his last year before becoming a free agent, Chan Ho Park was the Opening Day starter for the Dodgers, followed by Gagne, Dreifort, Ashby and – in place of Brown, who was limited by injuries – Luke Prokopec. Either Gagne or Prokopec were to be the No. 5 starters on paper, after making some waves in 2000. You might laugh now, but there was reason to think this could be a pretty decent starting rotation.
  • 2000: You had Brown, Park and Dreifort, all coming off solid 2000 seasons. Then you had Carlos Perez, who had a 7.43 ERA in 1999. And rounding out the fivesome, you had the last gasp of Orel Hershiser, who had a 4.58 ERA with the Mets at age 40 the year before. It did not go well for this rotation.

In terms of Dodger starting rotations that had proven talent in all five slots since 2000, you’d have to look at 2007 and 2002 as the leading lights, with honorable mention to 2003. Neither of these teams, of course, reached the playoffs (though the ’02 team won 92 games), while the Dodgers’ past four playoff teams all had question marks in at least one spot in the starting rotation entering the season.

Sep 26

Ely’s issues more complicated than ‘just throw strikes’

Matt York/AP
John Ely has allowed 11 home runs and 29 walks in his past 49 1/3 major-league innings.

It’s getting harder and harder to remember the John Ely we all want to remember.

Though Ely never trailed Saturday until allowing a sixth-inning home run, he surely did struggle, using 101 pitches (nearly half of them balls) in 5 1/3 innings and walking five unintentionally. He had six consecutive outstanding starts from May 6 to June 1; since then, he has had three quality starts out of 10 in the majors, with an ERA of 7.48 and 5.3 walks/2.0 home runs per nine innings. Opponents are OPS-ing 1.002 against him in that time.

During Elymania, everyone marveled at his ability to pound the plate, and the value of that is borne out on first glance at his splits: Ely has allowed a .567 OPS after getting a first strike on a batter, .983 after ball one. However, it’s not quite that simple, because Ely is also allowing a .929 OPS when batters swing at his first pitch.

According to MLB Gameday, Cole Gillespie’s pivotal three-run homer Saturday came on a 80-mph floating changeup over the meat of the plate that followed an 87-mph fastball for a strike. Ely had the count to his advantage, but the pitch just wasn’t good enough.

None of this is enough to make me give up on Ely, but he is going to need to find a way to raise his game. The walks contribute to his trouble, but simply throwing strikes isn’t enough. He somehow has to get back to fooling people.

* * *

Josh Fisher at Dodger Divorce goes beyond the legal realities of the McCourt case to offer his take on what really happened with the disputed post-nup agreement.

* * *

To my amusement, in the Dodger press notes, Dodgers communications vice president Josh Rawitch has been tracking Chin-Lung Hu’s rise up the chart of all-time Dodger leaders in games played by a shortstop. Friday, Hu passed Rafael Bournigal to move into a tie for 29th place, and Saturday, Hu left Oscar Robles in the dust. Hu’s next game at short takes him past Kevin Elster.

According to Rawitch, the Dodgers will finish the season with 593 player games lost to the disabled list, the team’s lowest total since 2002. The Dodgers crossed the 1,000-game mark in 2008 and 2009.

Aug 20

The NL West leaders filled out their rotation from within, after all

Carlos Monasterios takes the hill tonight, a reminder of how much people lamented the Dodgers’ lack of a reliable No. 5 starter earlier this year.

This came up in the Dodger Thoughts comments on Thursday, and I think it’s worth pointing out that while the Dodgers had mixed success finishing off their starting rotation from inside the organization, it wasn’t as if the strategy itself was a failure. It worked quite well down south for the National League West-leading San Diego Padres.

In fact, the Padres’ rotation was even more of a longshot. Back in March, Mat Latos was a guy with 10 career starts and a 4.62 ERA, Wade LeBlanc had 13 career games with 5.05 ERA and Clayton Richard 51 games with 4.80 ERA. Yet all three of these guys came through huge, joining Kevin Correia and free agent signee Jon Garland in making 118 of the Padres’ 120 starts so far this season.

Some will argue that the Dodgers should have done things differently, or that the Padres had more reason to believe that their guys would do better than Monasterios, John Ely, James McDonald, Scott Elbert and ex-Padre Charlie Haeger. But the fact remains that very few teams enter a season with five established starting pitchers. By necessity, the Padres cobbled together a rotation largely from within, with a mixed bag of resumes, and it paid off handsomely.

Basically, things have just gone very right for San Diego this year.

* * *

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has this update on the man in the crosshairs, Matt Kemp:

Slumping center fielder Matt Kemp took about a half-hour of early batting practice on the field just before the rest of the team came out for pregame stretching. The only coach on hand to watch Kemp was the one who was pitching to him, hitting coach Don Mattingly, who offered occasional batting tips between pitches.

“For the most part, we were just working to get his posture back,” Mattingly said. “His butt was jutting out, so he was reaching for a lot of balls. I was trying to get him to keep his butt underneath him, in layman’s terms, to give him more of a direct path to the ball.”

And, in theory, prevent him from chasing so many low, outside breaking balls, a habit that had contributed greatly to Kemp’s recent struggles. He entered the day hitting .218 for August, with 16 strikeouts in 61 plate appearances, and he had struck out 128 times in 510 plate appearances (once every four trips to the plate) for the season.

After his one-on-one session with Mattingly, Kemp went 0-for-4 in the game. But that wasn’t as important as the fact that he didn’t strike out, and two of his three outs (he reached on an error in the eighth) came on balls that were squared up.

“He was a lot better,” Mattingly said. “I was really happy with him tonight. Hopefully, he felt better. He didn’t get any results, and that [stinks], but his swing was much better.”

* * *

  • From the Dodger press notes: Los Angeles has won 12 straight home games against Cincinnati since losing July 28, 2005.
  • Albuquerque has eight players with at least 10 home runs this year, according to the team press notes: John Lindsey (21), Jay Gibbons (19), Russ Mitchell (19), Xavier Paul (12), Lucas May (11), Prentice Redman (10), Michael Restovich (10), and Justin Sellers (10).
  • Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine still can’t quite believe that the McCourts aren’t settling.
  • The possibilities and hurdles of trading Manny Ramirez are broken down (from the perspective of whether the Texas Rangers might get him) by Jamey Newberg of MLB.com. Ignore the part about the Dodgers offering Ramirez arbitration — that won’t happen.
  • These Bat Slicers remind me of the round All-Star Baseball cards I played with in the 1970s.
Jun 21

Yankee standout Phil Hughes held out of Dodger series

Chris McGrath/Getty Images
The Yankees have won 11 of Phil Hughes’ 13 starts this season.

This one’s interesting on two levels. As Ben Shpigel of the New York Times reports, Phil Hughes won’t make his scheduled start Friday at Dodger Stadium.

Level one: The Dodgers avoid facing Hughes, who has a 3.17 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings (against 93 baserunners). Opponents have a .610 OPS against Hughes this year.

Level two: Hughes isn’t hurt. New York is resting the righthander, who turns 24 Thursday, in order to limit his innings this season. Hughes has averaged 6 1/3 innings (and 105 pitches) per start, and he’s on pace to throw 193 innings this year. Last year, pitching more in relief, Hughes only threw 86 innings in the majors along with 19 1/3 in the minors.

Hughes grew up in Southern California and, after missing the Yankees’ April series in Anaheim by the luck of the rotation draw, will miss another opportunity to pitch in front of family and friends.

The Yankees might be the best team in baseball but don’t have a playoff spot locked up by any means, so it’s interesting to see them exercise this caution.

Update: Oh, almost forgot to mention whom the Dodgers will face this weekend. According to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com, three nobodies: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and A.E. Pettitte.

“It’s definitely a disappointment,” Hughes told Matthews. “And there’s really not talking them out of it. It’s an organizational decision and that’s that. I knew it was coming. It was just a matter of when they were going to do it.”

* * *

Yet another reason for San Diego’s success this year: The Padres bullpen has allowed only 10 inherited runners to score all season, according to Stat of the Day. By comparison, George Sherrill by himself has allowed 15, and Ramon Troncoso 13.

Jun 20

Dodgers juggle starting rotation again

The Dodgers will do the emergency starter thing on Thursday instead of Saturday, Joe Torre told reporters today. Vicente Padilla’s Thursday start has been pushed to Friday, Hiroki Kuroda’s Friday start to Saturday.

On the surface it’s a strange move, because the Dodgers have an off day July 1, five days after Saturday. So by starting someone – either Charlie Haeger or Claudio Vargas, Torre hinted – on Thursday, they’d have to use that person two times instead of once.

What this hopefully means is that the Dodgers are confident that Chad Billingsley will come off the disabled list in time to start June 29 at San Francisco. Nevertheless, it pushes Hiroki Kuroda out of the San Francisco series, which seems a downer to me.

Here’s how things now shape up. Of course, this remains subject to change.

Monday: off day
Tuesday: Clayton Kershaw
Wednesday: John Ely
Thursday: Charlie Haeger or Claudio Vargas
Friday: Vicente Padilla
Saturday: Hiroki Kuroda
Sunday, June 27: Clayton Kershaw
Monday, June 28: John Ely
Tuesday, June 29: Chad Billingsley
Wednesday, June 30: Vicente Padilla
Thursday, July 1: off

Jun 20

Just make Saturday’s game a bullpen game


Chris Williams/Icon SMI
Opponents have a .282 on-base percentage and .321 slugging percentage against Jeff Weaver this season. Since returning to the Dodgers in 2009, his home ERA is 2.68.

The Dodger rotation after today’s game in Boston:

Monday: off
Tuesday: Clayton Kershaw
Wednesday: John Ely
Thursday: Vicente Padilla
Friday: Hiroki Kuroda
Saturday: ???

Those question marks shouldn’t be filled by a pitcher who isn’t major-league ready, just because he’s a “starting pitcher.”

Right now, the best solution for the Dodgers might just be to start Jeff Weaver even if he can only go for two or three innings, and then follow him with a bevy of relievers. And then make a roster move the following day to help rebuild the bullpen if necessary.

Jun 15

Rain on the parade: Did Kuroda make a risky return?


Al Behrman/AP
It was a long night, but Hiroki Kuroda struck out eight in five shutout innings with no walks.

After a rain delay of more than two hours, Hiroki Kuroda came back out to pitch the fifth inning for the Dodgers tonight in Cincinnati.

I have no expertise to be able to discuss if this was a risk or not. All I know is that in my roughly 35 years of following baseball, this kind of thing is almost never done because of the fear it will bring injury to the pitcher. But on the day they announced Chad Billingsley was going on the disabled list, the Dodgers did it.

Here’s what the Dodgers stood to gain:

1) The 23rd win in the United States for Kuroda, who had thrown four one-hit shutout innings while striking out seven.
2) Possibly a better chance of winning tonight’s game, because Kuroda is better than the Dodgers’ middle relievers.
3) A little more rest for the bullpen, which figures to be taxed between now and Sunday.
4) Status as pioneers in the You Can Bring Back Starting Pitchers After Rain Delays Movement.

Here’s what the Dodgers stood to lose:

1) The game, if Kuroda couldn’t regain his effectiveness after the break. He loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth before getting the final out.
2) The sanity of Dodger fans.
3) Shine off Torre’s reputation.
4) Kuroda.

The Dodgers might have made the right decision. I don’t know. I do know that most people would say it was a bad bet, and I’m curious why they made it.

Jun 10

Dodger Cogs and Dogs: Edition 6


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Clayton Kershaw, whose May 8 excellence marked a turning point in the Dodger season, leads the major leagues in strikeouts per nine innings.

In this edition of Dodger Cogs and Dogs, we’re giving it over to the pitchers, who have taken things over. The hitting has remained timely enough, but the pitching has been just shy of dominating – and not just in the recent homestand. In the 30 games since May 8, the day Clayton Kershaw shut out Ubaldo Jimenez and Colorado – we’re talking half the season now – the Dodger team ERA is 2.88.

No Cogs and Dogs on Monday’s off day – that’s too soon. The next C&D will be June 21.

6/10 . 5/24 . 5/13 . 5/3 . 4/19 . 4/12 . Player Comment
1 1 1 1 2 11 Andre Ethier Only OPSing .736 since return from DL, but we’ll let him slide.
2 3 5 6 10 20 Clayton Kershaw Out of 13 starts this year, 12 allowing three earned runs or less.
3 2 2 2 3 1 Hiroki Kuroda Brief decline reversed in a big way Tuesday, lowering ERA to 3.30.
4 11 10 5 6 13 Jonathan Broxton When the ERA goes down to 0.95, you get extra credit.
5 7 8 26 NR NR John Ely If Sunday’s counts as a bad Ely start, I’ll take it.
6 8 11 12 12 10 Chad Billingsley With 230 pitches in past two starts, extra day off might help.
7 18 14 16 18 21 Carlos Monasterios Forget where he came from: He’s fifth on the team in innings and ERA.
8 16 18 NR NR NR Hong-Chih Kuo Lefty batters: 0 for 20 with a walk and a sac fly. Righties only OPSing .520.
9 4 4 3 1 5 Matt Kemp Less spectacular than before but still solid, reaching base in 24 of past 25 games.
10 14 9 7 8 4 Rafael Furcal Looking better almost every day.
11 9 16 11 7 6 Casey Blake Blake was on verge of passing Ramirez in offensive value (let alone defensive) before Wednesday.
12 5 3 4 4 9 Manny Ramirez With days off and DHing, might only play four games in LF through June 24.
13 10 6 8 9 24 James Loney Would just love to see him have one of those red-hot months before September.
14 12 12 15 14 14 Blake DeWitt Hitting and fielding are improving gradually.
15 6 7 10 5 2 Russell Martin I was propping him up for too long. Hang in there, Russell.
16 13 17 18 21 18 Jamey Carroll Best walk rate on the team.
17 25 24 NR NR NR Ronald Belisario Bumped up by popular demand and belief that despite ERA, he has been key.
18 21 22 21 17 15 Jeff Weaver Has faced eight batters in past 11 days.
19 17 15 9 11 12 Ramon Troncoso A phantom DL trip wouldn’t be the worst idea and would be easy to sell.
20 20 20 17 20 8 Reed Johnson .852 OPS vs. lefties, .642 vs. righties. Would help more if reversed.
21 19 13 14 13 7 Ronnie Belliard Numbers are holding up, but just doesn’t play a lot.
22 15 19 19 NR NR Xavier Paul Still happy with what he did, but he was ranked too high last time.
23 NR NR NR NR NR Justin Miller Six strikeouts, 1.23 ERA in 7 1/3 innings.
24 NR NR NR NR NR Travis Schlichting Just one game for the Dodgers, but what a game.
25 22 23 20 15 25 Vicente Padilla His return could come at just the right time. But he won’t be as fun as Carlos.
26 23 25 22 19 19 A.J. Ellis He should be able to stay in the majors as backup for some time to come.
27 29 29 28 25 NR Jon Link Reestablished himself as viable emergency reliever with two shutout innings.
28 24 26 24 23 23 Brad Ausmus His .750 OPS is third-highest of his career (minimum four plate appearances).
29 26 21 23 24 17 Ramon Ortiz Still sixth on team with 30 innings, 1 2/3 more than Broxton. That gets a “Yikes!”
30 27 27 NR NR NR Nick Green Biggest achievement of ’10: reminding Ned Colletti that some players do clear waivers.
31 28 28 27 26 26 George Sherrill I think he can, I think he can, I think he can …
32 30 30 29 27 22 Russ Ortiz This is it, Russ. Next time, I’m bumping Anderson up for intangibles.
33 32 32 30 22 16 Garret Anderson Two RBI in his past seven games … and his average is still tumbling
34 31 31 25 16 3 Charlie Haeger I think he actually is hurt; I also think he’d clear waivers.
35 NR NR NR NR NR Scott Elbert Don’t call up a struggling pitcher for a game at Colorado, okay?
May 26

Monasterios to start Friday

Carlos Monasterios will start Friday for the Dodgers in Colorado, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The team is expected to go back to a 12-man staff by then, and Jackson thinks Scott Elbert might get the call despite his control problems. Elbert has allowed four earned runs in his past 16 1/3 innings, though he has 11 walks in that time.

If the Dodgers are looking for a lefty specialist for the time being, Elbert might be the guy. According to Minor League Splits, Elbert has walked three of 40 left-handed batters he has faced (8 percent) and 26 of 139 right-handed batters (19 percent). Lefties are batting .229 against Elbert (.304 batting average on balls in play); righties .301 (.383).

But if they just want a long man in the bullpen – and someone who might take the next start instead of Monasterios – perhaps James McDonald is the better choice.

* * *

Rafael Furcal wasn’t the only one who goofed Tuesday. I managed to miss another start Ryan Dempster made against the Dodgers last year – August 23. Thanks to commenter DodgerKramer for alerting me. Dempster allowed no earned runs in seven innings that outing, meaning that his streak of innings without allowing an earned run against the Dodgers is actually 22.

May 25

Kershaw LXI: Kershawrms and the Man


Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire
Clayton Kershaw is averaging 105 pitches per game in nine starts this season. Chad Billingsley averaged 110 in his first nine starts of 2009.

Clayton Kershaw, 22, threw 3,020 pitches last season and, with 942 under his belt in 2010, is on pace for approximately 3,600 this season. In fact, he has an extremely viable chance of throwing the most pitches of anyone in the majors age 23 or under since 2000.

The top 10 names on the list are Felix Hernandez, Scott Kazmir, Matt Cain, Ryan Dempster (tonight’s Cubs starter), Dontrelle Willis, Barry Zito, Randy Wolf, Ben Sheets, Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. Mark Prior is 13th on the list, and Chad Billingsley’s 2008 season is 17th.

It doesn’t necessarily mean anything, because trouble comes to pitchers with all kinds of histories. But FYI …

Name Pitches Year Trouble?
Hernandez 3633 2009  
Kazmir 3608 2007 2009
Cain 3606 2008  
Dempster 3606 2000 2001
Willis 3555 2005 2007
Zito 3538 2001 2004 or 2007?
Wolf 3528 2000 mid-2004
Sheets 3510 2002 mid-2003
Buehrle 3510 2002  
Zambrano 3471 2004 2010

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Watch what happens when Dempster throws a changeup tonight. Opponents are 1 for 27 against his changeup this season, but the Dodgers are batting .305 against them, according to John Fisher of ESPN Stats and Information.

Including his 2008 playoff grand slam, James Loney has hit five consecutive fly balls off Dempster. The other four were caught. Loney’s last regular-season hit off Dempster was in 2007.

* * *

Kyle Russell has been on a tear for Class A Inland Empire, with six homers in his past six games. For the season, the 6-foot-5 outfielder has an on-base percentage of .431 and slugging percentage of .652. Writes Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus: “Drafted as a college senior, he turns 24 in June so it’s time to move him up, and scouts still aren’t convinced that he can hit enough at the upper levels, as evidenced by his 53 whiffs in 164 at-bats. One way or another, it’s time to find out.” A move could be tied into a promotion for the endlessly hot Jerry Sands, who is at .457/.758 for Low A Great Lakes.

May 16

Demons be gone: Billingsley, Broxton bookend 1-0 victory


Lenny Ignelzi/AP
Chad Billingsley

It wasn’t just that San Diego was the site of Chad Billingsley’s last foray into the latter third of a baseball game. It’s that the last time it happened, on July 5, Jonathan Broxton had the ignominy of helping Billingsley’s 6-1 ninth-inning lead get away.

But on a day – just like a week ago against Colorado – when the Dodgers needed their pitching staff to keep runs off the board, Billingsley, Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo came through, shutting out San Diego, 1-0.

Padres starter Wade LeBlanc (1.54 ERA) held Los Angeles hitless for 5 1/3 innings before Russell Martin singled home Jamey Carroll (who had walked for the second time) with the only run of the two-hour, 18-minute game. Despite only one other hit from a Dodger lineup that was missing Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, Blake DeWitt and Rafael Furcal, the pitching made it stand up.

Billingsley was replaced with no runners on base after 7 1/3 innings in which he allowed four hits, one walk and one hit batter while striking out six – all in 95 pitches. Kuo and Broxton retired all five batters they faced, as Dodgers pitchers faced the minimum number of Padres over the final five innings (thanks in part to two double plays in back of Billingsley).

In his past five starts, Billingsley has now gone 30 1/3 innings with a 2.67 ERA and 25 strikeouts, while allowing 38 baserunners (one home run).

After his first inning homer off Ramon Ortiz on Friday, Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez was retired in 12 straight at-bats by Los Angeles.

The Dodgers have won seven straight games and 12 of their past 15 to move within two games of first place in the National League West. Four of the five NL West teams are now over .500.