May 19

Mark Ellis returns, Federowicz sent down

Tim Federowicz has been sent down to Albuquerque to make room for the return from the disabled list of Mark Ellis.

The Dodgers are 6-13 since Ellis’ last start for the team.

Ted Lilly is expected to come off the disabled list this week. He will either take the spot in the starting rotation of today’s starter, Matt Magill, or will go to the bullpen. Javy Guerra is probably heading back to Albuquerque soon, if not to make room for Lilly then for Scott Elbert, whose return is also fairly imminent.

Things look bleak again for the Dodgers after a short respite, but Chris Capuano’s appearance Saturday was briefly encouraging, even if there’s a hint of health concern again for the lefty, according to The Associated Press.

… Capuano said he told Mattingly after his last at-bat in the eighth inning to be prepared to pull him out of the game because he had lingering problems with a strained calf.

“It wasn’t affecting pitch execution out there,” Capuano said. “It just feels a little tired. I’ve got an extra day before the next start. With treatment and stuff we should be able to get that ready.” …

Dodgers at Braves, 10:30 a.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Scott Van Slyke, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Nick Punto, SS
Matt Magill, P


Apr 24

Mark Ellis powers Dodgers, 7-2, after Kershaw struggles

What can baseball do?

Baseball can give you joy when you can imagine only sadness.

It can also give you the reverse, but enough about last week with the Dodgers. This is this week.

For two consecutive games, the Dodgers have won when you would have thought they would lose. They won when Chad Billingsley was unable to start Sunday, and they won in New York, 7-2, after an uncharacteristic disintegration by Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday.

Kershaw, to be fair, only allowed two runs, but it was shocking how it happened. Twelve pitches in into the third inning, 39 pitches into the game, Kershaw had retired all eight batters he had faced and had a 1-2 count on an emergency relief pitcher making his first career plate appearance. Moments later, he was trailing 2-1 and barely escaping a bases-loaded jam with a Marlon Byrd groundout, and after two more innings and 111 total pitches – matching the most he has ever thrown in the majors without reaching the sixth inning – his night was over. It was the second consecutive outing in which an opposing pitcher ended a perfect start by Kershaw.

Photos by Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Fortunately for the Dodgers, Mark Ellis has shown up like a combination of Florence Nightengale and the Tooth Fairy. Ellis, who Sunday drove in the Dodgers’ first three runs and also made a critical defensive play, all but singlehandedly put the Dodgers on his back Tuesday, with a game-tying home run in the fifth inning – the 100th of his career – and then a leap-from-your-seat three-run blast with two out in the seventh to put Los Angeles ahead to stay. (Not for nothing, Ellis also knocked out Mets starter Jonathon Niese in the third inning with a hard shot up the middle.)

Ellis’ second home run, as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. noted, made him only the third Dodger second baseman in a century and first in 39 years with four hits and two homers in a game. The 35-year-old (how can such a veteran’s veteran be 10 years younger than me) himself has now thrice homered twice in a game. I also dare say that you won’t find another night in history when Dodger and Angel second basemen each hit two home runs, including tiebreaking homers for both, but I leave you the research challenge.

Not to be lost amid Ellis’ glory is the day Justin Sellers had – three hits, including an RBI single in the second and another coming ahead of Ellis’ second homer. (Juan Uribe drew a walk to keep that inning alive.) After starting the season 0 for 13, Sellers is 11 for 37 with a homer and five walks in his past 12 games (.409 on-base percentage, .378 slugging) and hasn’t made an error since his unfortunate second game of 2013. As hot as Dee Gordon has been at the plate in Albuquerque, Sellers has allowed the Dodgers to remove the yellow caution tape around shortstop.

A.J. Ellis doubled in two insurance runs in the eighth and now leads all major-league catchers with a .446 on-base percentage and NL catchers with a 159 adjusted OPS, and not because the pitcher is batting behind him – he has batted no lower than seventh except for in the third game of the season. Matt Kemp had two more hits and is now 17 for his past 55 (.309) with four doubles, as MLB.com noted, while Andre Ethier doubled ahead of A.J. to slow a 2-for-25 slump.

In addition, the topsy-turvy Dodger bullpen of 2013 has gone back to topsy, pitching at least four innings of shutout ball for the second consecutive game, sparked by a comeback performance by struggling Ronald Belisario (three batters, three outs on 15 pitches, 12 for strikes).

Los Angeles is now 9-4 when it isn’t losing six games in a row. Joy and sadness, that’s our game. With Ted Lilly against Matt Harvey tonight, it figures to be more of the same.

Apr 21

Thanks – we needed that

I’m not going to say that Dodger fans needed this one, this 7-4 victory today over Baltimore, because for one thing, it seemed unlikely following Chad Billingsley’s latest health calamity that “this one” was going to come. Certainly, after replacement starter Stephen Fife gave up three runs in a 35-pitch first inning, “this one” seemed very unlikely to wander the Dodgers’ way.

Even I, after my funereal post Saturday, had my own set of Washington Generals jokes at the ready in the early innings. “You don’t see the Washington Generals’ fans having trouble holding it together, do you?” Such a great, great line. How I savored the thousands of retweets and acknowledgments of superiority it would engender. Yet I held off, because I didn’t want to have egg on my face if the Dodgers surrendered their three-run deficit as easily as they surrendered a three-run lead the previous morning.

And sure enough, it happened. Baltimore’s pitching fell apart in a four-run Dodger fifth, Los Angeles added insurance runs in the seventh and ninth, and Fife, J.P. Howell, Matt Guerrier, Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen and Brandon League combined to shut out the Orioles over the final six innings. Just like that, the zephyr (to use a Vin Scully favorite) was every so gently at our backs, and the Dodgers had won.

We might not have needed it, but if only for a day, it sure was a relief.

Special praise is due to Mark Ellis, who drove in the Dodgers’ first three runs with a sacrifice fly and a two-run single, and also made a superb defensive play ranging far to his right with the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the eighth. For a No. 2 hitter, Ellis has a disappointing two walks all season, but he is batting .311, including .435 (10 for 23) with runners on base, and playing his usual steady defense.

Matt Kemp struck out with the bases loaded and two out in the third, but followed that with hits in three consecutive at-bats, showing a ton of seventh-inning hustle in stealing second and then scoring on an A.J. Ellis single, capped by a nifty slide at home. Though still homerless, Kemp went 8 for 22 (.364) with a walk this past week.

Every little bit helps.

Jul 04

Mark Ellis activated as Andre Ethier heads to DL

Reds at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Luis Cruz, 3B
Bobby Abreu, LF
James Loney, 1B
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Scott Van Slyke, RF
Elian Herrera, CF
Matt Treanor, C
Aaron Harang, P

Though he is not in today’s starting lineup, Mark Ellis has been activated, completing a rather remarkable recovery from the leg injury he suffered May 18. Andre Ethier went on the disabled list and will be eligible to return after next week’s All-Star Game.

Todd Coffey has probably pitched his last game as a Dodger – he has a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will have Tommy John surgery that will sideline him for approximately a year. The Dodgers will no doubt pay $300,000 to buy out Coffey’s $2.5 million option for 2013.

Late Tuesday, the Dodgers signed second-round draft choice Steven Rodriguez, a left-handed reliever from Florida. Rodriguez has been pegged by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com as one of two 2012 major-league draft picks closest to the majors, with speculation he could be in the bigs as soon as late this season.

Jul 02

Luis Cruz to make Dodger debut

Reds at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Elian Herrera, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
Juan Rivera, RF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Luis Cruz, SS
Chad Billingsley, P

Dee Gordon is getting a day off after suffering a cramp in his leg late in Sunday’s game. Given that the Dodgers don’t really have a backup shortstop and were contemplating adding a player to the bench, it comes as little surprise that they have brought up Luis Cruz to the big-league roster, with Shawn Tolleson returning to the minors.

Cruz has been viewed by some as, if not a savior, at least a viable improvement over the oft-struggling Gordon. Without ruling out an Elian Herrera-like hot streak, it seems unlikely. The 28-year-old has a lifetime .275 on-base percentage and .260 slugging percentage in 169 major-league plate apperances, and while he is at .348 and .529 for Triple-A Albuquerque this year, keep in mind that OBP is lower than what Gordon had with the Isotopes in 2011. (In addition, as the man from Cat Hell, Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, notes, Cruz’s minor-league OPS on the road this season is .672.) But, as a backup’s backup, we’ll hope for the best.

Gordon, by the way, had a .342 on-base percentage with seven steals in eight attempts in his past nine games. That’s not to say that his overall performance this year hasn’t been disappointing, but again, we went into 2012 knowing that he’d be a work in progress.

Ted Lilly, by the way, was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Lilly last pitched May 23. On the bright side, Mark Ellis and Javy Guerra have begun their rehab assignments and could be activated this week.

* * *

The Dodgers announced the signings of four 16-year-olds from Latin America today: pitchers Lenix Osuna, Victor Gonzalez and William Soto and catcher Julian Leon. Osuna is the son of former Dodger pitcher Antonio Osuna.

Jun 30

Beneath the cliffs of insanity

Friday’s 9-0 loss to the Mets marked the 11th time in Los Angeles Dodger history that the team could have achieved the same result simply by forfeiting.

 The Dodger offense in 45 innings since Monday:
  • Total baserunners: 39
  • Runners to get as far as first base: 20
  • Runners to get as far as second base: 15
  • Runners to get as far as third base: 2
  • Runners to get as far as home: 2

It was a lovely evening at the ballpark last night to watch futility.

While wondering whether Campbell’s sells alphabet soup with all the letters between A-N and P-Z removed …

  • Carlos Lee became a rumored trade target for the Dodgers last night in a deal that could cost them former first-round pick Garret Gould. Chad Moriyama analyzesthe pitfalls of that deal. An excerpt:

    … Carlos Lee’s current slash line is .290/.342/.412/.754, which is in line with his recent production, and he projects to hit .276/.328/.434/.762 the rest of the way. Additionally, consider that he’s a terrible defender in the outfield and a fringe to poor defender at first base.

    James Loney’s current line is .236/.303/.323/.626, which is partially the result of lower than normal BABIP. He projects to hit .266/.327/.387/.714 the rest of the way. Plus, he plays above-average to plus defense at first.

    Now 50 points difference in OPS is nothing to scoff at, but factor in the defense and then consider that Loney has a .802 OPS career against righties (.669 against lefties) and Juan Rivera  has a .821 career OPS against lefties (.747 against righties). Now the gap is basically non-existent.

    You know how to tell that this trade is an iffy upgrade? When it’s even arguable as to whether a potential acquisition is an improvement over James Loney and Juan Rivera. …

    Update: Reports online this morning indicate the Dodgers and Astros have agreed to terms, and the deal hinges on Lee’s approval.

  • Mark Ellis is beginning a rehab assignment with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga tonight, writes Andy Kamenetzky of ESPNLosAngeles.com. He could be activated inside of a week.
  • Andre Ethier could return to the lineup as soon as Monday, writes Alex Angert of MLB.com, but it’s a dicey proposition.
  • The Dodgers have signed first-round pick Corey Seager in a deal that features a $2.35 million bonus, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
  • At Minor League Ball, John Sickels started a conversation about whether baseball has become too expensive for the average kid. Alex Remington offers his own thoughts at Fangraphs. The commenters in each post offer wide-ranging responses.
Jun 23

Dodger Defcon ratings

Starting today, I’m making periodic contributions to the CityThink blog at Los Angeles Magazine. My first piece looks at the state of the Dodgers from a War Games perspective. Check it out …

Good teams have bad weeks, and one bad week like the Dodgers are having (with four losses in a row, including Friday’s 8-5 come-from-ahead defeat against the Angels) doesn’t ruin a season. At the same time, people have feared all along that the Dodgers are a team living on the brink of destruction in a dangerous baseball world.

In the spirit of War Games, here’s a snapshot of which Dodger problems are tic-tac-toe and which are global thermonuclear war …

Read the rest at CityThink …

Jun 18

Matt Kemp tackles recovery, walkoff heroes

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wondering whether Matt Kemp would come charging out of the dugout Sunday the moment Dee Gordon delivered his game-winning hit, nor the only one petrified that he would reinjure his hamstring while wrestling Gordon to the ground. Indeed, Vin Scully seemed to share some of those fears.

Well, Kemp walked away unscathed (which is more than the shaving-creamed Gordon could say).  Given that, it seems like a good time to update his injury status. Here’s Alex Angert of MLB.com:

Manager Don Mattingly said Matt Kemp and Mark Ellis will travel with the Dodgers on the road this week, while Matt Guerrier, Ted Lilly, Justin Sellers and Javy Guerra will stay back with a trainer.

“They are doing a ton of baseball work,” Mattingly said about Kemp (strained left hamstring) and Ellis (left leg injury). “They are on the field taking batting practice now and they are able to do a lot more stuff on the field.”

He added Kemp seems to keep progressing and Ellis is doing really well. As for the players not traveling to Oakland, he said Sellers’ recovery from a bulging disc in his back is taking some time and Lilly (left shoulder inflammation) has been a process. However, Guerra (right knee inflammation) is doing well and Mattingly reaffirmed that he will travel to San Francisco next week. …

No word of when Kemp might start a minor-league rehabilitation assignment, so July would seem to remain the target.

Kemp, who is already eligible to come off the disabled list, has played 10 innings since May 13. The Dodgers are 23-12 (.657) when he starts and 19-13 (.593) when he doesn’t in 2012.

May 20

Chad Billingsley and the truth about meltdown innings

Cardinals at Dodgers, 5:05 p.m.

Mark Ellis had emergency surgery Saturday, will be out at least six weeks.

Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Elian Herrera, 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Andre Ethier, RF
Adam Kennedy, 3B
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Chad Billingsley, P

Chad Billingsley, who pitches tonight for the Dodgers against the Cardinals on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, has a reputation for being exceptionally prone to having a single inning where everything goes wrong and he can’t stop the bleeding, with questions about his mental focus and fortitude inevitably following.

For a while, I’ve wondered how much more often this actually happened to Billingsley than to other pitchers. I finally decided to take a look. (You can see the data at the bottom of this post.)

Since 2010, Billingsley has had what we’ll call a meltdown inning – three or more earned runs allowed – in 5.4 percent of his innings. That is the highest figure among the four starters most used by the Dodgers, topping Ted Lilly (4.4 percent), Hiroki Kuroda (4.0 percent) and Clayton Kershaw (3.2 percent).

How significant is this?

Every 10 starts, Billingsley has one more meltdown inning than the best pitcher in the National League does. The difference between Billingsley and Kershaw in this category is approximately two bad innings out of every 100. Given that these guys pitch roughly 200 innings a year, you’re talking about four additional bad innings per year – which goes a long way toward explaining the difference in their ERAs (2.49 for Kershaw, 3.88 for Billingsley) since 2010.

Billingsley is not as good a pitcher as Kershaw. That much is clear, and it’s reflected in the fact that Billingsley is a bit more vulnerable to a bad inning than Kershaw is. But this idea that Billingsley is uniquely prone to the meltdown inning – that it’s practically his calling card – is harder to sell.

Last year, for example, Billingsley and Kuroda each made 31 starts. They each had eight innings in which they allowed three runs. They each had two innings in which they allowed four runs. And yet even though a higher percentage of Kuroda’s 2012 runs allowed came in his meltdown innings, Kuroda did not leave the Dodgers with remotely the reputation for this sort of thing that Billingsley has. In fact, many argue that Kuroda’s mental game is a strength of his.

Since 2010, 80 of the 183 earned runs Billingsley has allowed have come in those 23 meltdown innings (43.7 percent). In that same span, 53 of the 138 earned runs Kershaw has allowed have come in his 16 meltdown innings (38.4 percent). Billingsley is worse than Kershaw, but Kershaw is nearly every bit as likely to give up the runs he does allow in bunches.

To the extent that Billingsley does give up the most meltdown innings of any regularly used Dodger starting pitcher, his reputation is deserved. But he doesn’t do it so often that he should wear it like an albatross, that it should become a “here we go again” moment each time it happens. Not when out of every hundred innings, Billingsley does it five times and Kershaw does it three.

Even the best Dodger pitchers give up runs in bunches. That’s just kind of how baseball works.

2012 (innings of three, four, five, six and seven earned runs allowed):

Pitcher Starts Innings ERA Three Four Five Six Seven Total Start% IP%
Billingsley 8 44.67 3.83 1 1       2 25.0% 4.5%
Capuano 8 50.00 2.34   1       1 12.5% 2.0%
Harang 8 49.33 3.83 2         2 25.0% 4.1%
Kershaw 9 61.67 1.90 2         2 22.2% 3.2%
Lilly 7 45.33 1.79 1         1 14.3% 2.2%
Total 40 251.00 2.69 6 2 0 0 0 8 20.0% 3.2%

2011:

Pitcher Starts Innings ERA Three Four Five Six Seven Total Start% IP%
Billingsley 32 188.00 4.21 5 4 2     11 34.4% 5.9%
De La Rosa 10 55.67 3.88 2   1     3 30.0% 5.4%
Ely 1 5.67 6.35           0 0.0% 0.0%
Eovaldi 6 32.00 3.09     1     1 16.7% 3.1%
Eveland 5 29.67 3.03 1 1       2 40.0% 6.7%
Garland 9 54.00 4.33 2     1   3 33.3% 5.6%
Kershaw 33 233.33 2.28 6 1       7 21.2% 3.0%
Kuroda 32 202.00 3.07 4 2       6 18.8% 3.0%
Lilly 33 192.67 3.97 6 3       9 27.3% 4.7%
Total 161 993.00 3.41 26 11 4 1 0 42 26.1% 4.2%

2010:

Pitcher Starts Innings ERA Three Four Five Six Seven Total Start% IP%
Billingsley 31 191.67 3.57 8 2       10 32.3% 5.2%
Ely 18 100.00 5.49 10 1       11 61.1% 11.0%
Haeger 6 23.00 9.78 2   1     3 50.0% 13.0%
Kershaw 32 204.33 2.91 6       1 7 21.9% 3.4%
Kuroda 31 196.33 3.39 8 2       10 32.3% 5.1%
Lilly 12 76.67 3.52 2 1 1     4 33.3% 5.2%
McDonald 1 5 7.20           0 0.0% 0.0%
Monasterios 13 53.33 5.91 3         3 23.1% 5.6%
Ortiz 2 7.33 9.82     1     1 50.0% 13.6%
Padilla 16 95.00 4.07 2 3       5 31.3% 5.3%
Total 162 952.67 3.99 41 9 3 0 1 54 33.3% 5.7%

2010-12:

2010-12 Starts Innings ERA Three Four Five Six Seven Total Start% IP%
Billingsley 71 424.33 3.88 14 7 2     23 32.4% 5.4%
Capuano 8 50.00 2.34   1       1 12.5% 2.0%
De La Rosa 10 55.67 3.88 2   1     3 30.0% 5.4%
Ely 19 105.67 5.54 10 1       11 57.9% 10.4%
Eovaldi 6 32.00 3.09     1     1 16.7% 3.1%
Eveland 5 29.67 3.03 1 1       2 40.0% 6.7%
Garland 9 54.00 4.33 2     1   3 33.3% 5.6%
Haeger 6 23.00 9.78 2   1     3 50.0% 13.0%
Harang 8 49.33 3.83 2         2 25.0% 4.1%
Kershaw 74 499.33 2.49 14 1     1 16 21.6% 3.2%
Kuroda 63 398.33 3.23 12 4       16 25.4% 4.0%
Lilly 52 314.67 3.55 9 4 1     14 26.9% 4.4%
McDonald 1 5 7.20           0 0.0% 0.0%
Monasterios 13 53.33 5.91 3         3 23.1% 5.6%
Ortiz 2 7.33 9.82     1     1 50.0% 13.6%
Padilla 16 95.00 4.07 2 3       5 31.3% 5.3%
Total 363 2196.67 3.58 73 22 7 1 1 104 28.7% 4.7%
May 19

Ellis for chillin’

Thanks to the left leg injury he suffered Friday, Mark Ellis joins Juan Rivera, Matt Kemp, Juan Uribe and Jerry Hairston Jr. in the Society of Disabled Position Players. In his place, Ivan De Jesus Jr. becomes yet another ballplayer’s son on the Dodger roster.

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has more.

Cardinals at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXV: Kershnakes on a Plane
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Elian Herrera, 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Andre Ethier, RF
Adam Kennedy, 3B
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P
May 19

Gordon might head to minors soon

From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, after a postgame chat with Dodger manager Don Mattingly:

… Mattingly seemed to concede for the first time after the game that shortstop Dee Gordon might not be long for the leadoff spot. Gordon continued to struggle there, going 0-for-5 without hitting a ball out of the infield, and he now is 2-for-31 over the past seven games.

“Seeing it from where I was at tonight, it wasn’t very good,” said Mattingly, who got to watch most of it from the center-field television camera on the television in his office because he was ejected by plate umpire Tom Hallion in the top of the third inning. “The game seems to be moving awfully fast for him right now. We are going to continue to make decisions. But in the same breath, this kid is going to be a good player. He is going through something right now that is going to make him a better player later on.

“Things aren’t easy in this game, and there are times when you’re going to go through rough stuff. He is going through some rough stuff right now.”

Reading between the lines of Mattingly’s comments, it sounds like something will happen with Gordon soon, possibly before Saturday night’s game. Because Gordon is such a key part of the Dodgers’ future, it isn’t likely anyone is going to let him sit around on the bench. A stint in Triple-A would seem more logical because it would mean he would be getting regular at-bats and have a chance to work out the kinks, something he couldn’t do as a reserve player in the major leagues. …

Gordon’s batting average fell to exactly .200 Friday, with a .239 on-base percentage.

One delaying factor could be the health of Mark Ellis, who had to leave Friday’s 6-5 Dodger victory over St. Louis shortly after he was hit with a hard takeout slide. X-rays were negative, but if Ellis has to miss any games, that would remove another starter from the Dodger infield. That said, the Dodgers could still bring up someone like Ivan De Jesus to be a reserve to back up the infield of, yes, Adam Kennedy, Justin Sellers and Elian Herrera.

Herrera, who drew the eight-pitch walk to start the bottom of the ninth and then went from first to third on Adam Kennedy’s fourth hit, could see more playing time thanks to that at-bat.

May 12

Dodgers sign Aaron Miles to minor-league deal

Rockies at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Bobby Abreu, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Aaron Harang, P

I’ve made a few references to Aaron Miles this year, wondering why, with all the issues the Dodgers have had at third base, the Dodgers didn’t take him for another spin. Not that Miles was a problem-solver – but compared with Adam Kennedy or Justin Sellers, it just seemed odd that he wasn’t invited to the party. He came to the plate a whopping 490 times for the Dodgers last year.

Well, here it is. Dylan Hernandez of the Times reports that Miles has signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers and has begun working out at the team’s Arizona facility. Miles “misplayed the free-agent market,” Hernandez wrote, implying that his contract demands were too high after a .314 on-base percentage and .360 slugging percentage in 2011. Miles hit .231 after July 1.

In Friday’s game, the Dodgers never trailed and won, 7-3. Chris Capuano turned in another striking performance, extending his scoreless inning streak to what would have been the 25-inning mark before allowing a seventh-inning home run to Michael Cuddyer.

Mark Ellis was the Dodgers’ early hitting star with a home run and two-run double, and Andre Ethier came a triple shy of the cycle. Juan Uribe joined Ellis in hitting 2012 home run No. 1, while James Loney reached base three times and Matt Treanor had two singles.

Ellis has a .472 on-base percentage and .533 slugging percentage in 37 plate appearances this month. For the year, he is 10th in the National League in OBP (not counting A.J. Ellis, whose day off Friday left him two plate appearances short of the minimum), and he has yet to make an error.

Pitching with a 7-1 lead in the ninth, seldom-used Todd Coffey faced five batters and allowed three hits and a hard-hit sacrifice fly that Ethier caught with perhaps the best defensive play of his career, sliding into the wall in the corner of right field. Coffey has now allowed 13 baserunners in 3 1/3 innings this season.

There was some fear that Ethier might be hurt, but he professed to be fine.

“I just banged up my toe a little bit,” he told Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.. “I was trying to avoid hitting my knee. I tried to kick the wall to avoid sliding into it.”

MIke MacDougal, by the way, is not coming back to the Dodgers. MacDougal “has cleared waivers and rejected an outright assignment to the minors,” according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “The Dodgers thusly have requested unconditional release waivers on him, meaning MacDougal’s time with the club is over.”

Matt Kemp, who was recovering from hamstring issues earlier this week, has gone hitless in consecutive starts for the first time this season. (Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports has more on Kemp.) In May, Kemp is 7 for 28 with a double, triple and seven walks (.746 OPS) – and is no longer the hottest player in baseball. That would be Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, who in his past five games is 11 for 21 with four walks, a double and eight home runs. Shawn Green of the Dodgers was the last to hit more homers in such a short span.

Feb 27

The defensive potential of Mark Ellis

If the Dodgers replaced baseball’s 27th-best second baseman offensively with the ninth-best, a lot of us would be doing cartwheels. At least three cartwheels, maybe seven.

By that token, maybe we should be doing at least two cartwheels – and as many as 11 – over the fact that, according to David Pinto of Baseball Musings, the Dodgers are replacing baseball’s 27th-best second baseman defensively with the ninth best. He’s in the decline phase of his career, but Mark Ellis should still be a considerable improvement over Jamey Carroll (the aforementioned No. 27), and Aaron Miles, who combined to take 75 percent of the Dodgers’ innings at second base last year.

Wrote Ken Arneson, who has watched Ellis play with Oakland, on Twitter: “Good to make note of the numbers, because Ellis’s defense is as invisible as a mistake-free umpire.”

Elsewhere …

  • © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

    Today in Jon SooHoo: Dee Gordon is off to the races.
  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times chronicles the maturation of Matt Kemp.
  • Former Dodger reliever Danys Baez is retiring, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (via MLB Trade Rumors). From 2006, the year the Dodgers acquired him and Lance Carter from Tampa Bay for Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany, Baez had a 5.16 ERA (85 ERA+) in 265 1/3 innings with 154 strikeouts and 396 baserunners allowed. And one balk. Jackson in that time has pitched 1,003 2/3 innings with a 4.38 ERA (99 ERA+), 753 strikeouts and 1,495 baserunners allowed. And five balks.
  • Here’s an interesting story from my Variety colleague Stuart Levine about how the move of “Downton Abbey” and “Luther” from the Emmy miniseries to the Emmy drama category could presage the Emmys nominating 10 programs for top drama in 2013.
  • Meanwhile, I bid farewell to the Oscars with a Variety On the Air blog post calling for Academy to understand, once and for all, that they’re making a TV show, rather than filming a stage show. And that starts with the selection of their next host.
Nov 16

Kemp will be king, but there will be no Prince

Ned Colletti said Tuesday that it’s “unrealistic” that the Dodgers will sign Prince Fielder. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more.

Amid reports such as this from Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com that Matt Kemp’s soon-to-be-official eight-year contract will pay him just over $10 million next season, it would appear that the Dodgers are in for one more spring of budget tightening as the ownership transition takes place. The contract for new second baseman Mark Ellis pays $2.5 million in 2012 and $5.25 million in 2013, plus incentives, Jackson reports.

The Dodgers’ main mystery right now is starting pitching, considering that the back end of their rotation is made up of Nathan Eovaldi and Dana Eveland and there’s no guarantee yet that Hiroki Kuroda will return.

  • Though as a Dodger fan you might find it moot, David Schoenfeld of ESPN.com explores how much the Kemp deal will affect Fielder’s next contract.
  • New stats-oriented director of contracts, research and operations Alex Tamin influenced the Ellis signing, general manager Ned Colletti told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • The Ellis signing gets a mixed review from Chad Moriyama.

    … For the money, Ellis should be a passable option considering the alternatives were not exactly appealing, nor were there strong internal candidates. However, while Ellis should be better going forward than he was in 2011, he still figures to be below the league average threshold, making him a fringy or mediocre starter. Additionally, there’s the real risk that he goes through a collapse in skill before the contract is up. So while the finances might pan out okay, this has to rate as an average deal at best.

  • Here’s a January 2008 ode to Ellis from my former Baseball Toaster compadre Ken Arneson.
  • New Dodger trainer Sue Falsone, interviewed by the Huffington Post, says the song that reminds her most of Los Angeles is “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but we’ll hold out hope for her success here anyway (link via Vin Scully Is My Homeboy).
  • Former Dodger outfielder Xavier Paul unknowingly got caught up in an Australian Baseball League scam, reports Alexis Brudnicki of Baseball America and Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.
  • MLB.com also offered up its choices for top Dodger minor leaguers in 2011 by position. Compare them to the Dodger Thoughts Grain of Salt Midseason Minor-League All-Stars.
  • River Ave. Blues passes along a piece that shows that the value of the batting average statistic was being questioned 96 years ago.
  • In Tuesday’s mail, I received to my surprise (as a Los Angeles-based Hall of Fame non-voter) a 12-page full-color campaign brochure for Juan “Igor” Gonzalez’s Cooperstown candidacy. Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk rebuts the effort.
  • I was a fan of the Baltimore Orioles’ move in the 1990s to an ornithologically correct bird on its caps, in part because of the repeated use by sportswriters of the word “ornithologically.” I also thought it looked cool, so I’m a little disappointed to see them go back to the cartoon bird.
  • For your amusement/slash/horror: Life (the magazine, not the cereal) has chosen its 20 worst ever covers.
Nov 14

Dodgers close to adding second baseman Mark Ellis


Chris Humphreys/US PresswireMark Ellis

It’s natural to compare infielder Mark Ellis, whom the Dodgers are reportedly about to sign to a two-year contract, to Jamey Carroll, who recently completed a successful two-year contract with the Dodgers and just left to start another with the Twins.

The comparison isn’t necessarily a favorable one based on recent performance – Ellis delivered only a .288 on-base percentage and .346 slugging percentage this season despite playing half his year with Colorado, while Carroll was at .359/.347 as a full-season Los Angeles Dodger.

What intrigues me, though, is that if this choice had been offered two years ago, you might have picked Ellis over Carroll, who went .355/.340 with Cleveland in 2009 and was, then as now of course, 3 1/2 years older. Ellis had a .305/.403 mark with Oakland in 2009 – the on-base percentage was weaker, but given the respective ballparks, ages and glove abilities (Ellis has been above average in UZR at second base every year since 2003, according to Fangraphs, and superior to Carroll), you might have predicted that Ellis would have been more productive from 2010-11.

And in fact, as good as Carroll was for the Dodgers in 2010 (.379 OBP, .339 slugging, 100 OPS+, 2.5 WAR), here’s what Ellis delivered that same year: .358 OBP, .381 slugging, 103 OPS+, 3.4 WAR. It wasn’t until 2011 that Ellis came to appear so much worse than Carroll.

I can’t say I paid attention to Ellis this past season, but he’ll be 36 when his new contract ends, while Carroll will be on the downward side of 39. If you’re asking me today who I think will prove more valuable over that period of time, I think I’m going to lean toward Ellis, even if he’s nothing more than an upscale version of Aaron Miles.

Now, we do need to back away and realize that the Dodgers’ only choice wasn’t Carroll or Ellis. It was Carroll, Ellis or do anything else with the reported $8.75 million the team has committed to Ellis over the two-year stretch. The Dodgers, after all, have apparently committed close to a combined $10 million for each of next two seasons to Ellis and Juan Rivera – add in the more than $6 million that James Loney will earn next year if he remains a Dodger and you start to approach a hefty down payment on the first year of a Prince Fielder contract. The Ellis deal strikes me as one issued by a team that has an overflow of money or an underflow of savvy. I’d also offer that it’s another sign that prices this winter are just richer than we expected, period.

For the Dodgers’ sake, we’ll hope the addition of Ellis to a group that includes Juan Uribe, Dee Gordon and Loney means they’ll have one of the rangier defensive infields around. And just for the heck of it, we’ll also hope this: Uribe will bounce back from offensive vacuousness to offensive near-adequacy in 2012.

* * *

If I were making out the 2012 batting order today, here’s the approach I’d be curious to take.

1) A.J. Ellis, C
2) James Loney, 1B
3) Matt Kemp, CF
4) Andre Ethier, RF
5) Juan Rivera/Jerry Sands, LF
6) Juan Uribe, 3B
7) Mark Ellis, 2B
8) Clayton Kershaw, P
9) Dee Gordon, SS

It’s a little ungainly, I admit.

Here’s the approach I expect Don Mattingly might take:

1) Dee Gordon, SS
2) Mark Ellis, 2B
3) Matt Kemp, CF
4) Andre Ethier, RF
5) Juan Rivera, LF
6) James Loney, 1B
7) Juan Uribe, 3B
8) A.J. Ellis, C
9) Clayton Kershaw, P