Sep 16

The Big Blue Wrecked Crew: 2010-11 Dodger offseason primer


Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin: Just one of the many questions the Dodgers face this winter.

The Dodger roster heading into the 2010-11 offseason, and I don’t say this lightly, is a mess.

It’s not a hopeless mess. But it is a mess, and it’s going to take some skill from the crew in charge to clean up. It’s a goop of oil and water, an unsightly combination of having to fill holes while also figuring out which rising salaries to jettison and which to risk holding onto.

Oh, and when the 2010 season ends, the No. 5 starter on the 40-man roster, at least by major-league experience, will be someone who hasn’t pitched in a professional game in four months: Scott Elbert.

The Dodgers have one absolute jewel on the team: Clayton Kershaw. The team’s top player won’t be arbitration eligible for one more year and only figures to earn approximately $500,000 in 2011.

Then, there are a few players whose higher salaries the Dodgers won’t mind paying. Chad Billingsley, who will command somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million, knocked down many of the questions others had about him with a resurgent 2010 season. Hong-Chih Kuo will draw low seven figures, and after the way he has persevered and performed, no one should begrudge him. Kenley Jansen will make people swoon, and only receive the major-league minimum pay and meal money in return.

So much for the good news. Now, the concerns:

  • Rafael Furcal surely remains talented, but the Dodgers have $12 million going to a player who has averaged fewer than 100 games per year since 2008.
  • Slumping reliever Jonathan Broxton’s final season before free agency is tagged with a $7 million salary.
  • Coming off an injury that ended his second straight disappointing year, arbitration-eligible Russell Martin would also get as much as $7 million if the Dodgers don’t non-tender him.
  • Andre Ethier looked like an MVP at the start of the year; by the end, his $9.25 million 2011 salary for an outfielder who struggles against lefties didn’t seem like quite as much of a bargain.
  • Lightning Rod Award-winning outfielder Matt Kemp has $6.95 million coming next year.
  • Casey Blake, game but aging, gets $5.25 million in the final chapter of his three-year deal.
  • By now, James Loney should have developed enough that the $4.5 million he is projected to earn next year should have seemed closer to a bargain than a burden, but his second-half disappearance hasn’t helped matters.
  • Incumbent second baseman Ryan Theriot and his sub-.700 OPS will bring home about $3.5 million if the Dodgers hang onto him.

In sum, that’s about $55 million committed to a series of question marks, some small, some large. In addition, Los Angeles owes approximately $17 million of its 2011 budget to (swallow hard) Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt — the price for turning past mistakes into the playoff teams of the previous two years.

Overall, the Dodgers on paper have close to $100 million – a figure that might well be at or above their budget limit – committed before they make a single offseason move.

Now, all is not lost. The Dodgers can and probably will gain roughly $12 million in breathing room if and when they bid farewell to George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Scott Podsednik and Brad Ausmus (who has said he will retire). Meanwhile, free agents Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas should start to help shore up the bench for under $2 million combined. And it should be noted that not all of the above question marks will have negative answers.

Nevertheless, that still leaves the Dodgers at about $90 million in payroll, with John Ely as their No. 3 starter and serious questions about most of their offense. As shaky as their lineup now looks, and however aggressive the Dodgers might want to be with the latest crop of prospects, the Dodgers absolutely have to add at least two more starters, whether through free agency or trade, whether Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or outsiders.

It’s for this reason that unless the team salary budget goes up, the Dodgers almost certainly will trade or non-tender a 2011 contract to at least one from the group of Broxton, Kemp, Ethier, Loney and Martin. Loney, because he has the lowest salary, might be most likely to stay – he’s finishing the year as a disappointment at first base, but he’s not finishing the year alone as a disappointment. In any case, all of them have something to offer other teams that might be, as hard as it is for some to digest, more willing to spend than the Dodgers are.

An Ethier trade would be a shock, for example, much more than a Kemp trade, but who can say it’s out of the question now?

However this plays out, the Dodgers may well bring back many of the same players next year who boosted them to National League Championship Series appearances in 2008-09 and sunk them in 2010. In one respect, nothing will have changed: You’re always hoping players move forward, like Kershaw and Billingsley, and not backward, like Kemp and Loney and Broxton and Martin and so on. Good does sometimes follow bad, after all. But still, it’s going to be a nervous offseason for a lot of us.

Sure, BP had it tougher. But as cleanup goes, this is as thick a goop as Chavez Ravine has seen in quite some time.

Aug 30

This is Clayton Kershaw’s team now

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about events of the past couple of days, and I’m having trouble juggling them amid the time constraints I’m facing this week. With tonight’s game about to start, let me get the quickest and most meaningless of them out of the way.

This is Clayton Kershaw’s team now. It’s his team in the way that the San Francisco Giants became Tim Lincecum’s team, partly through lack of other options and partly because of how precociously good he is (although with Lincecum’s recent struggles, that might no longer apply). Kershaw is the Dodgers’ pinnacle, in the present and the future, in a way that Matt Kemp and Russell Martin in their own ways haven’t been able to sustain, and that Rafael Furcal hasn’t been able to stay healthy for. And only people on the other side of the Mississippi would think this was Joe Torre’s team.

Maybe this might have been Andre Ethier’s team, especially with all the walkoff wonders, but it just hasn’t felt that way. He seems, for all his skills, like a guy lurking in the background. This is no criticism of the skills he has, but he is not the guy that I think opponents fear the most, that represents the best of what the Dodgers have to offer.

Clayton Kershaw, 22 years old, is that guy. It might not matter, but it’s pretty amazing that it’s come to him so quickly. How far will he go in that role?

Aug 18

Clayton at 18


Ben Platt/Los Angeles DodgersLogan White and Clayton Kershaw, June 2006
Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw’s first Dodger mugshot

As mentioned on Dodger Thoughts on Tuesday, first-round draft pick Zach Lee will make his first appearance at Dodger Stadium before tonight’s game. Here are some photos from the day 18-year-old Clayton Kershaw made his Dodger Stadium debut, in June 2006.

Also, here’s a linkto what Dodger Thoughts had to say about Kershaw the day he was drafted.

Aug 18

Dodgers get Zach Lee … will they lose Logan White?

Larry Goren/Icon SMI
Logan White has supervised Dodger drafts since 2002.

Pretty nice 28 hours that Logan White just had.

Monday evening, White 2003 draftee Chad Billingsley finished his sixth consecutive quality start, with an ERA of 1.33 in that span.

Tuesday evening, White 2006 draftee Clayton Kershaw threw seven shutout innings in the Dodgers’ 6-0 victory over Colorado and moved up to third in the National League in strikeouts.

And in between, White converted his bold first-round selection of Zach Lee into what might be the coup of the 2010 draft.

Lee’s reported $5.25 million deal was more than twice the size of Kershaw’s draft-year signing, in part because of the leverage that college football provided Lee, but it also reflects the belief that Lee could make the kind of remarkable impact for the Dodgers that Kershaw already has.

We might not get to see all three of these pitchers in the same Dodger rotation – Billingsley becomes eligible for free agency after the 2012 season, while it might be a rush to get the teenage Lee to the bigs by then – but there is that tantalizing possibility. And even if it doesn’t happen, you can be pretty sure the past two nights haven’t gone unnoticed inside baseball.

Put another way, even if there comes a weekend series in the September 2012 stretch run with Kershaw, Billingsley and Lee on the mound for the Dodgers, will White be around to see it?

White has long been an attractive candidate for other front offices in baseball, certainly from a scouting viewpoint but also in terms of general manager openings.  Getting Lee to the Dodgers – convincing both parties to get on board – when almost no one thought he could, adds a new layer of appeal.

The signing arguably turned around a year in which, aside from Kershaw and Billingsley, things went a little south for White’s other prodigies. There was Blake DeWitt’s and James Loney’s lack of home-run power, Russell Martin’s ongoing fade and Matt Kemp’s backward steps. There was James McDonald once more not seizing the day (though he seems to be thriving in Pittsburgh), and Scott Elbert’s disappearing act. And there was a mixed bag of results on the development front in the low minors – some remarkable advances like that of Jerry Sands, some retreats by others.

But Kershaw, Billingsley and Lee serve as a reminder that betting on White is about as safe a gamble as you can make in – this can’t be over-emphasized – an inherently risky field. I have no idea what specific interest other teams will show in White, but as the Dodgers make their lengthy to-do list for the 2010-11 offseason, one item that needs to be on it is “Keep Logan White happy.” Unless you subscribe to the philosophy of, “If you love someone, set him free.”

Aug 16

From the top to the middle

Since holding the best record in the National League on June 9 with a 36-24 record, the Dodgers are 24-34 and have lost 11 games in the standings to the Padres (35-23). Losses today and tomorrow would allow the Dodgers to bookend their two 60-game stretches, 36-24 and 24-36.

* * *

  • Ricky Romero (not Ricky Roma) just signed a five-year, $30 million deal with Toronto. What does that mean for Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers? Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness explores the topic. (Perhaps a propos to this, Rob Neyer of ESPN.com asks another question: Is Tim Lincecum’s slump permanent?)
  • Life Magazine has posted some previously unpublished photos of Babe Ruth at his final Yankee Stadium appearance in 1948. (Scroll down for the links to the different images.)
  • If you want a preview of the upcoming free-agent market in starting pitchers, Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk has it.
  • Linda McCoy-Murray and her work on behalf of the Jim Murray Foundation are profiled by Shelley Smith for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Jul 26

Clayton Kershaw to start serving suspension Tuesday

And more news … methinks John Ely is headed back to Los Angeles …

Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers have decided to have the lefty drop the appeal of his five-game suspension, which he will serve this week, postponing Kershaw’s next start until Sunday in San Francisco.

Kershaw was suspended for hitting Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand with the first pitch of the seventh inning July 20, after both teams had been issued warnings earlier in the game. Dodgers manager Joe Torre and coach Bob Schaefer served one-game suspensions related to the game last week.

The 22-year-old Kershaw pitched eight shutout innings against the Mets on Sunday, lowering his ERA for the season to 2.96, 10th in the National League. He is fifth in the NL in strikeouts, and after a history of control problems, has walked only 14 in his past nine starts.

After using Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla from Tuesday-Thursday against the NL West-leading Padres, the Dodgers will probably have their two most commonly used fifth starters, Carlos Monasterios and John Ely (now in Albuquerque), pitch Friday and Saturday in San Francisco, not necessarily in that order. Both will be on at least four days’ rest by Friday.

Unless he turns things around this week, James McDonald would be the most likely player to be sent to Albuquerque to make room for Ely. That’s assuming that Jack Taschner retires a batter in the interim.

Jul 25

Kershaw, Jansen shut down Mets, 1-0


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesKenley Jansen has struck out four of the first six hitters he has faced in the majors.

Old man Kenley Jansen, six months older than Clayton Kershaw but about a dozen or more pitching years younger, struck out two batters in the ninth to preserve a 1-0 victory for Kershaw and the Dodgers over the Mets today.

“It’s just crazy,” said Jansen, who made his pitching debut in the minors last July, on the Prime Ticket postgame interview. “It’s just a dream come true.”

After Kershaw threw eight shutout innings (eight baserunners, three strikeouts), the Dodgers pushed across the only run when a Russell Martin double scored a hustling Casey Blake all the way from first base in the bottom of the eighth. Blake, who had singled, also had a diving catch in the sixth inning to save a hit and likely a run with two out and a runner on second in the top of the sixth.

Allowing Jonathan Broxton to rest after the Dodger closer went two innings Saturday, Jansen needed 15 pitches for his second scoreless inning in as many days. Kershaw said after the game to Prime Ticket that Jansen was the first catcher he threw to in the minor leagues.

“It’s amazing how life changes,” Jansen said. “I’m just having fun and at the same time, focused.”

Jul 21

Suspensions come for Kershaw, Torre, Schaefer

Clayton Kershaw has been suspended for five games, and Dodger manager Joe Torre and coach Bob Schaefer for one game. Here are the details.

Kershaw is appealing his suspension, but Torre will serve his tonight and Schaefer on Thursday.

* * *

A Major League official told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that had the Dodgers protested the mistaken removal of Jonathan Broxton in Tuesday’s ninth inning, the protest might have been upheld. But the Dodgers didn’t protest.

Had Schaefer not been ejected from the game, I’m guessing he would have picked up on it.

Jul 20

Macho men fall down: Dodgers collapse, 7-5


Gus Ruelas/APUmpire Adrian Johnson walks alongside Matt Kemp after the Dodger outfielder was hit by a Tim Lincecum pitch in the fifth inning.

Where to begin?

Tim Lincecum getting hammered, allowing three runs in the first inning and two more in the third? Giving up a homer to Andre Ethier and 11 baserunners in 4 1/3 innings while striking out two?

Xavier Paul getting two runs, two doubles, a single and an RBI – and still nearly costing the Dodgers the game with a dropped fly ball?

Clayton Kershaw cruising, retiring 11 in a row at one point, in his first career matchup with Lincecum?

No, we can’t start there.

In the most memorable game of a season the Dodgers are desperately hoping won’t be forgettable, Lincecum-Kershaw I devolved into a B-grade beanball war and D-grade display of intelligence, one that showed the Dodgers’ fighting spirit but also highlighted their shortsightedness – and even stupidity.

If you thought the collapse against the Yankees was a nightmare, if Sunday’s meltdown at St. Louis brought you to your knees, those games have nothing on tonight’s 7-5 loss.

The unraveling took root in the fifth inning, with the Dodgers leading 5-1, when Lincecum, who had hit one batter with a pitch this year, threw consecutive knockdown pitches at Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, the second one hitting him. Kemp was angry, but there was no incident. Nevertheless, home plate umpire Adrian Johnson issued a warning to both benches that no other beanball shenanigans would be tolerated. This infuriated Dodger coach Bob Schaefer (the Dodger coach that Kemp reportedly clashed with last month), who had lots of words with Johnson.

Lincecum left the game one batter later. In top of the sixth, Kershaw gave up three hits and three runs, two of them unearned because Paul dropped a long fly ball by San Francisco’s Pat Burrell (one, admittedly, that looked at first like it might leave the park). In the bottom of the inning, Giants reliever Denny Bautista knocked Russell Martin down with a pitch, and Schaefer went ballistic, drawing an ejection from Johnson.

Gus Ruelas/AP
Joe Torre and Adrian Johnson go through the motions and emotions after Clayton Kershaw’s ejection.

Kershaw was the next batter, which was a bit surprising considering his rough top of the sixth and the fact that he had thrown 103 pitches. What was really bizarre, however, was that the fragile Hong-Chih Kuo was warming up in the bullpen while Kershaw was batting.

Soon, we found out why.

Kershaw came out in the top of the seventh and with his first pitch, drilled Aaron Rowand of the Giants. Johnson immediately ejected Kershaw, who might also draw a suspension. And while some might have thought it improbable that the Dodgers would intentionally put the tying run on base in a game they so wanted to win, it seems clear that they did.

Further explaining what happened, a Twitter user pointed out that pinch-hitter Garret Anderson was the on-deck hitter when Martin was knocked down. After Schaefer was ejected, Anderson sat down, and Kershaw remained in the game to do his dirty work.

Kershaw scored points with everyone who thinks that pride depends on revenge, who thinks that all of the Dodgers’ problems stem from Chad Billingsley not knocking down a Phillie two years ago, but in the meantime, the action risked putting the Dodgers in the very humbling position of losing a game that was very much worth winning. Rowand made it all the way to third base with two outs, before Kuo got Freddie Sanchez on a broken-bat liner to end the inning.

So the extra baserunner didn’t cost the Dodgers the game. But ultimately, we were still reminded that pride doesn’t mean victories.

Jonathan Broxton, forced into the game after Kuo threw two innings, allowed a 60-foot infield single to start the ninth, then issued an ill-advised walk to Edgar Renteria. Rowand sacrificed, and the Dodgers decided to have Broxton walk Aubrey Huff intentionally to load the bases with one out.

And then – and this is saying something – the most bizarre thing happened.

Joe Torre’s heir apparent, Don Mattingly, helming the Dodgers because Torre was automatically ejected once his pitcher hit a batter after the benches were warned, visited the mound to have a conference with Broxton and the infield. He finished, walked off the mound, and then James Loney called out a question to him. Mattingly turned and took three steps back toward Loney – a step that put both Mattingly’s feet onto the mound. Giants manager Bruce Bochy immediately came out to contend that this constituted two trips to the mound, and successfully got Broxton removed from the game.

And thus, we had trying to save the game, with almost no warmup, one George Friderich Sherrill.

Irony was not in supply. Sherrill did not defy expectations. His second pitch was hit for a two-run double, giving San Francisco its first lead of the game. Travis Schlichting came in, and one out later, allowed a single for another run.

Forced to rally for the first time tonight, the Dodgers came out in the bottom of the ninth against Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who no doubt entered the game with one eye on Ethier in the dugout, due up fourth in the inning. Jamey Carroll was thrown out by a hair at first base. The ever-lovin’ Rafael Furcal then lined one to left field, sliding into second base with a close double. Ronnie Belliard, pinch-hitting for Paul against the lefty, struck out feebly.

And for the second night in a row with the game on the line, Affeldt got Ethier, this time ending the contest with a strikeout.

And so yes, the Dodgers can pat themselves on the back, knowing that they were man enough to fight back against the Giants. But when they’re done with that, their next move will be to scratch their heads, wondering why that manliness feels so hollow.

It’s because it’s not about who’s mas macho. It’s about who has scored the most runs at the end of the day. Anyone who planned to point to this tough-guy act and say this was the key to the Dodgers’ season was just dreaming.

Update: Some postgame quotes from Torre …

“(Mattingly) didn’t really know where he was. He thought he was still on the mound when James called him back.

“They didn’t look upon (the brushback of Martin) as on purpose. It’s a very gray area that seems to have some flaws in it, and I don’t know how you fix it.

“I think it’s more just (Broxton) is out of sync right now, more so than anything physical to worry about. He’s pretty honest with Honeycutt as far as when he feels good.

“We’ve had some strange things happen. This is a test, and you have to bounce back and reestablish what kind of club you are.”

Update 2: Quotes from Mattingly …

“I turned to walk away, and James said something and I just kind of turned around. He asked me the depth that I wanted him, didn’t even realize that I was off the dirt, and obviously I was.

“I kind of had a little bit of a feeling, because Adrian (Johnson) was yelling, ‘No no no, you can’t go back!’ as I turned to talk to James, so I had a little bit of a feeling at that point.

“I’m aware of the rule, but again felt I had just kind of turned and turned back around, but obviously I guess I didn’t.

“That’s what I asked (crew chief) Tim McClelland. I said, ‘Can he warm up?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I won’t do that to him. I’m not gonna take a chance on letting a guy get hurt. So at that point (I’m) talking to (pitching coach Rick Honeycutt), not realizing how many throws he’s getting.

“I’m not quite sure of (why they cut Sherrill off at eight warmup tosses). Again, Honey and I talked, and pretty much turned around and George is ready to go, so I figure he’s ready to go. At that point I didn’t realize they cut him off at eight.”

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 15

Second half starts same as the first

A six-run loss to kick off the second half for the Dodgers tonight, 7-1, mimics the six-run loss that started the first half. And Clayton Kershaw, who failed to get out of the fifth inning in his first start of the first half, had the same problem in tonight’s second-half opener.

In fact, for the first time in his LXX-start career, Kershaw struck out only one batter.

Andre Ethier’s home run was all that saved the Dodgers from a shutout.

Pitcher-in-limbo George Sherrill faced three batters and retired two.

Jul 12

Dodger Cog and Dogs: All-Star Break Edition 9


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireClayton Kershaw leads the National League in strikeouts per nine innings. His 2.96 ERA is ninth in the NL.

He didn’t make the National League All-Star team, but Clayton Kershaw is the Dodger Thoughts top cog for the first half of the 2010 season.

Andre Ethier, Rafael Furcal and Hiroki Kuroda each had hot streaks, but Kershaw was consistently strong for almost the entire season to date. In 2010, he has thrown 12 quality starts in 18 tries (most of those better than the six-inning, three-run variety) and allowed a maximum of two runs over at least five innings in three others. In only two starts this season has he failed to keep the Dodgers in the game.

After walking 24 batters in his first 30 2/3 innings, Kershaw has even gone a long way toward solving his biggest weakness, walking 26 in his last 81 1/3 innings. It has just been a very impressive first half, and the Dodgers are lucky to have him.

                   
7/12 7/1 6/21 6/10 5/24 5/13 5/3 4/19 4/12 Player Comment
1 1 1 2 3 5 6 10 20 Clayton Kershaw In 18 starts this year, allowed more than three earned runs only twice.
2 3 4 10 14 9 7 8 4 Rafael Furcal Reminding me of Magic Johnson lately. He’s the playmaker.
3 4 3 1 1 1 1 2 11 Andre Ethier Back in the swing of it with OPS over 1.000 in July.
4 5 5 12 5 3 4 4 9 Manny Ramirez Team-high 155 adjusted OPS (.937 OPS).
5 2 2 3 2 2 2 3 1 Hiroki Kuroda Disappointing to see him struggle after such a strong first three months.
6 8 8 13 10 6 8 9 24 James Loney He can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan.
7 6 6 4 11 10 5 6 13 Jonathan Broxton Broxton in the St. Louis heat next weekend: Bring some towels.
8 7 7 8 16 18 NR NR NR Hong-Chih Kuo The All-Star stranded two runners Sunday to lower ERA to 0.99.
9 11 9 9 4 4 3 1 5 Matt Kemp Frequent newsmaker leads team in HR, R, SB, CS, SO.
10 10 10 6 8 11 12 12 10 Chad Billingsley Allowed three HR to first eight batters May 31, none in 37 1/3 IP since.
11 12 12 11 9 16 11 7 6 Casey Blake Keep wanting to drop him because he’s really not hitting, but this is where he goes.
12 9 11 5 7 8 26 NR NR John Ely No one has forgotten what he meant to this team when the chips were down.
13 14 13 14 12 12 15 14 14 Blake DeWitt So far, OPS has improved for four consecutive months: .856 in July.
14 13 15 16 13 17 18 21 18 Jamey Carroll Pitching is hard: Carroll has seven extra-base hits, 31 walks.
15 15 14 15 6 7 10 5 2 Russell Martin Offense is hard to watch, but seems like he’s throwing his best in a few years.
16 16 16 18 21 22 21 17 15 Jeff Weaver Fourth on the team in wins.
17 22 25 25 22 23 20 15 25 Vicente Padilla Well, isn’t this a pleasant development: 10 walks, 54 strikeouts in 2010.
18 17 17 17 25 24 NR NR NR Ronald Belisario Really seemed like he had been finding a groove.
19 19 20 20 20 20 17 20 8 Reed Johnson You’re no Jamey Carroll, Reed – it’s okay if you hit a homer this year.
20 18 19 21 19 13 14 13 7 Ronnie Belliard Since June 28, 0 for 17 with four walks.
21 20 18 7 18 14 16 18 21 Carlos Monasterios 45 more games to September 1, and he’s a Dodger for keeps.
22 24 23 24 NR NR NR NR NR Travis Schlichting Hershiser’s record safe for now.
23 21 21 22 15 19 19 NR NR Xavier Paul 57 plate appearances since his last extra-base hit
24 23 22 19 17 15 9 11 12 Ramon Troncoso Not expecting his demotion to last long.
25 25 24 23 NR NR NR NR NR Justin Miller Pitching with a lead: opponents 10 for 24. Otherwise, opponents 11 for 63.
26 26 26 26 23 25 22 19 19 A.J. Ellis So little power, so little time.
27 27 27 27 29 29 28 25 NR Jon Link Unscored upon in past 10 1/3 innings with Isotopes.
28 28 28 28 24 26 24 23 23 Brad Ausmus Has as many doubles as Ellis this year.
29 29 29 NR NR NR NR NR NR Chin-Lung Hu He will not be Taiwan’s first to play in MLB All-Star Game.
30 30 31 29 26 21 23 24 17 Ramon Ortiz Continues to struggle in Buffalo worse than he had been with Dodgers.
31 31 32 30 27 27 NR NR NR Nick Green Eighteen doubles last year, none this year.
32 32 33 35 NR NR NR NR NR Scott Elbert For arguably the team’s No. 1 pitching prospect to have this kind of year is something else.
33 34 36 34 31 31 25 16 3 Charlie Haeger Don’t think we’ll see him back this season.
34 33 30 33 32 32 30 22 16 Garret Anderson Jay Gibbons OPSed .621 in last major-league season three years ago.
35 36 35 32 30 30 29 27 22 Russ Ortiz Gave up one double and no homers this year.
36 35 34 31 28 28 27 26 26 George Sherrill Has recorded one out this month.
Jul 08

The magnificent heaven: Samurai Kershaw, Furcal shine in 3-2 victory


Mark J. Terrill/APClayton Kershaw has walked eight batters in his past 41 2/3 innings, two in his past 20 2/3.

Boo hoo! Dodger pitchers never pitch complete games!  Waaah!  Why can’t they ever go the distance?  When is Clayton Kershaw going to step up and be an ace!  Waaaaaaaaah!

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system …

Magnificent.

That’s the word to describe Clayton Kershaw tonight. Eight innings, two runs, 12 strikeouts, 97 pitches, no walks

And then, Dodger manager Joe Torre, who has had no trouble letting the precious 22-year-old phenom throw over 100 pitches in fewer innings, decided to pull Kershaw before potentially recording his first complete game in the majors. And it wasn’t necessarily the wrong decision – Jonathan Broxton is warming up no matter what, and no doubt fresher at this point of the game – but wow …

Anyway, Broxton came in, retired the first two batters in the ninth, got two strikes on the third before allowing a single, then made sure none of us would spontaneously combust by inducing a harmless fly out from Kosuke Fukudome to complete the Dodgers’ 3-2 victory over Chicago.

Remember this post, after Kershaw was charged with seven runs in 1 1/3 innings against Milwaukee?

The last time Clayton Kershaw started but failed to get past the third inning – June 10, 2009 – this is what happened the rest of the season: 107 innings, 122 baserunners, 123 strikeouts, 1.77 ERA.

Well, this is what Kershaw has done since failing to get past the second inning on May 4, 2010: 81 2/3 innings, 85 baserunners, 92 strikeouts, 2.20 ERA.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Rafael Furcal puts the Dodgers in the lead.

Magnificent.

And yet this could have been an incredibly frustrating 2-1 loss for the Dodgers, were it not for the heroics of Rafael Furcal. Two innings after Matt Kemp just missed hitting a three-run home run, Russell Martin led off the bottom of the seventh with a single. One out later, Kershaw sacrificed him to second base, and then Furcal curled a game-changing home run just inside the right-field foul pole. Furcal ended the night a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Kershaw, who now has a lower WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) and higher K/9 than Tim Lincecum wasn’t perfect. He forfeited the Dodgers’ 1-0 first-inning lead, allowing a long home run to Alfonso Soriano in the second and a pair of hits for a run in the fourth.

He wasn’t perfect. He was just … you know.

Jun 16

Dodgers win a close rout, 6-2


Al Behrman/AP
Dude – nice work.

Clayton Kershaw didn’t walk anyone in the first inning. Or the second, the third, the fourth or the fifth.

In the bottom of the sixth, the first moment he pitched when the game wasn’t close, he walked the leadoff batter.

Pitching is such a mystery, isn’t it? And so is baseball, for that matter.

For a game the Dodgers just about ran away with and eventually won, 6-2, there were more than a few tense moments. The Dodgers would get up, but never too far up. They’d be in peril, then escape like Bugs Bunny.

They’d break a 0-0 tie with two runs in the fifth inning on yet another James Loney double, but strand runners on second and third with one out. They’d give up a fourth-inning single with a runner on second, only for Manny Ramirez to throw the guy out at home. They’d enter that bottom of the sixth with a 5-0 lead, but would escape the none-out, bases-loaded inning only thanks to a controversial, two-ejection strikeout.

The bottom of the eighth might have been most vexing of all. With a 5-1 lead, Joe Torre had Clayton Kershaw bat for himself in the top of the inning despite being past the 100-pitch mark, then removed him from the game following a one-out error by Blake DeWitt. Two relievers and two baserunners later (including a Hong-Chih Kuo walk to load the bases), the Dodgers used a line-drive double play, Rafael Furcal unassisted, to amscray.

In the ninth, with the Dodgers up 6-1, Kuo gave up his first run since April 22 on the first homer he allowed since Game 5 of the 2009 National League Championship Series, before getting the final out on a lunging catch by Matt Kemp, but that was a pocket full of posies compared to what had preceded. And so on a night that Andre Ethier singled twice and hit a three-run homer, that Loney had two more hits to raise his OPS to .810, that Manny Ramirez homered for the third time in seven games, that Kershaw lowered his ERA to 2.96 with 7 1/3 innings of seven-hit, seven-strikeout, one-run and yes, one-mystery-walk pitching, the Dodgers ran away with the victory … and hid. So close to disappointment, instead it’s two straight victories over the NL Central leaders and, once again, the best record in the National League. They’ll take it.

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Happiness is a married bullpen catcher: A love story involving former Dodger Jason Phillips, culminating in a bullpen wedding ceremony, told by Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times (via Baseball Think Factory).

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?