Oct 29

Remembering 2011: Matt Guerrier


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireMatt Guerrier (33)

The setup: We set the stage pretty clearly when Guerrier signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Dodgers in December …

… Guerrier, who came up with the Minnesota Twins in 2004, has had a pretty fine career as a reliever, with a career ERA of 3.38. He has averaged 75.5 appearances the past four years. But the 32-year-old righty’s strikeout rate has dropped below six per nine innings over the past two seasons, and as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. points out, his fielding independent ERA was over 4.00 last season, indicating he’s benefited from some luck. Add to that a batting average on balls in play over the past two seasons of .224, which is exceedingly lucky — and a warning sign considering that, as David Pinto of Baseball Musings writes, he’ll have a poorer defense behind him in Los Angeles.

So you know, there’s some stuff that’s good with Guerrier, and there’s some stuff that’s less good. With the exception of 2008, when his ERA soared above 5.00, the results have been there. The main concern might be asking him to continue being this productive from ages 32-35.

Since the Dodgers’ last won a World Series, according to Baseball-Reference.com, the following pitchers have had an ERA below 4.00 with a K/9 rate below 7.00 for three consecutive seasons after turning 32, pitching a minimum of 50 innings: David Weathers, Steve Reed, Paul Quantrill, Terry Leach, Chris Hammond, Ryan Franklin and Jeff Reardon. I realize that ERA isn’t a very good way to measure the quality of relief pitching, but I’m just exploring the possibility of someone being good, not making any definitive statement.

So you have that. He might be good, maybe for a long time.

Against that, though, I would still offer that relievers are simply, unavoidably, notoriously inconsistent. We’ve detailed this frequently in the past, but to sum up, it’s exceedingly rare that relievers don’t go through bad spells, and when you try to jump on the bandwagon of one that’s been successful for a while, the odds grow against you.

There have been 66 pitchers for the Dodgers in the Ned Colletti era, from Jonathan Broxton to Mark Loretta. The highlights in the bullpen have been the low-risk investments, coming up through the farm system or coming in as cheap free agents, who have paid dividends. Perhaps, based on the failures of the 2010 bullpen, Colletti has decided he can’t play that game anymore, though you’d think George Sherrill might dissuade him from placing such a big bet on Guerrier. …

The closeup: At the start of the year, with the rest of the Dodger bullpen largely crumbling around him, Guerrier was mostly superlative. He had a terrible outing April 23 in Chicago, the game in which the Dodgers rallied from a 5-1 deficit to take an 8-5 lead, only for Guerrier to allow five runs in his second inning of work to take a 10-8 loss. They were the first runs Guerrier had allowed after 11 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. One week later, Guerrier allowed three runs (two earned) in the bottom of the eighth inning against San Diego, turning a 2-2 tie into a 5-2 defeat. Nonetheless, through June 4 Guerrier had recovered to the point that he had a 3.04 ERA and had stranded 10 of 13 inherited runners. He allowed no runs or inherited runs in 22 of 29 appearances, and if it weren’t for those Chicago and San Diego games, Guerrier’s ERA through June 4 would have been 1.00 in 27 innings.

From that point on, however, Guerrier became less reliable, not only with a 4.91 ERA for the remainder of the season but by allowing 57 percent (16 of 28) of inherited runners to score – far too high a figure for any major-league reliever. Guerrier finished 2011 with a 4.07 ERA and 46 percent (19 of 41) inherited runners scoring. The average National League reliever allowed a 4.16 ERA and 30 percent of inherited runners to score.

If a rookie like Javy Guerra or Josh Lindblom had pitched the way Guerrier did, you would shrug and say “that’s about what you expect” or “you get what you pay for.” But for a multiyear contract man, it was disappointing – and yet, not completely surprising. I admit that I had lost track of how Guerrier was more effective in the first two months of the season – at a time when much of the team was injured or underperforming – but the total year was unfortunately inconsistent.

Coming attractions: Guerrier has two more years left on his unevenly structured contract: He was paid $1.5 million in 2011 but is owed $4.75 million in each of 2012 and 2013, with $1 million deferred until 2014. He will likely be the Dodgers’ highest-paid reliever in 2012. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers more on Guerrier and his contract.

Oct 29

Remembering 2011: Marcus Thames


Chris Humphreys/US PresswireMarcus Thames (32)

The setup: Seeking to build a left fielder in Mr. Potato Head fashion, the Dodgers signed Thames in January to be the right hand of the tuber, based on the fact that he had a .350 on-base percentage and .491 slugging percentage against lefties in 2010. He was going to be 34 and had a terrible defensive reputation, but for $1 million, there was hope he could be useful at least as a bench player.

The closeup: In April, Thames hit two pinch-hit home runs. That’s about it for positives. As a left fielder, Thames went 8 for 42 with four walks, no home runs and a .523 OPS in a season that was crippled in May by a right quad strain that knocked him out for five weeks. Overall, Thames had a .243 on-base percentage and .333 slugging percentage when the Dodgers cut him loose to make room for Juan Rivera, who provided everything the Dodgers wanted from Thames and more.

After clearing waivers, Thames signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees. He was assigned to the Yankees’ minor-league complex and was supposed to eventually report to Triple-A Scranton, but he did not play in a professional game the remainder of the year. The only news I could find about him was this recent Winston-County Journal piece describing his appearance as a guest speaker at the local Boys & Girls Club – something, based on his background, that is not surprising at all.

Coming attractions: Only one season removed from being a productive part-timer, Thames could easily reappear in a major-league uniform next season if he is healthy and hasn’t in fact quietly retired, but you can bet if he does make another go of it, it will be in the American League.

Oct 29

Remembering 2011: Dana Eveland


Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDana Eveland (31)

The setup: Eveland, 28, drew a non-roster invite from the Dodgers over the winter to Spring Training. After pitching 168 innings for Oakland in 2008 with a 4.34 ERA, Eveland staggered through the next two seasons with a combined 6.96 ERA in 98 1/3 innings for the A’s, Toronto and Pittsburgh, allowing 204 baserunners while striking out 46. Eveland than had the honors of incurring the Dodgers’ first Spring Training injury of 2011, a bum hamstring that eliminated whatever chance he had of making the Opening Day roster.

The closeup: Eveland ended up being Albuquerque’s top pitcher in 2011 with a 4.38 ERA in 154 innings, averaging more than six innings per start in the tough hitting environment to become a Pacific Coast League All-Star. Still, it wasn’t until September came and the Dodgers were winding down the season of youngster Nathan Eovaldi that Eveland returned to the bigs. He dominated his first start, holding the Pirates to one run over eight innings and 99 pitches, an achievement by a first-time Dodger matched by only four others in the past four decades. In start No. 2, he shut out San Francisco over seven innings to lift the Dodgers to a .500 record in 2011 for the first time in ages.

His next two outings went not nearly as well (nine innings, nine runs combined), but he finished on an upbeat note with 5 2/3 shutout frames at Arizona, ending his season with a 3.03 ERA. He allowed 36 baserunners in 29 2/3 innings but struck out only 16.

Coming attractions: Eveland is in that position of renting a spot in the Dodger rotation in November but being a long way from owning it in April. As an inconsistent pitcher who doesn’t strike many out, Eveland would still have to prove he’s more than a spot starter.

Oct 28

Remembering 2011: Jamie Hoffmann


Charlie Riedel/APJamie Hoffmann (30)

The setup: After playing in 14 games for the Dodgers in 2009, Hoffmann went to the Yankees via the Rule 5 route, ended up returning to the Dodger organization and spent all of 2010 with Albuquerque, leading the team in hits with 169 while OPSing .800. A strong defender, Hoffmann has seemed worthy of a backup spot on a major-league roster to me, though professional opinions tend to differ.

The closeup: Hoffmann turned out to be the second position player called up by the Dodgers this year, coming up April 11 essentially to replace the latest Dodger injury victim, Hector Gimenez. Hoffmann pinch-hit that night and grounded out, then started three nights later and went 0 for 3 with a strikeout. The following day, Hoffmann was sent back to Albuquerque in another domino-effect series of moves, and did not make it back to Los Angeles the remainder of the year despite having his best year with the Isotopes: .356 on-base percentage, .497 slugging percentage and 22 home runs. He set a Pacific Coast League record for consecutive errorless games by an outfielder that is still going strong at 188, and was ultimately named the Isotopes’ 2011 Most Valuable Player.

Coming attractions: Hoffmann remains on a Dodger 40-man roster that, once free agency begins, will have only five outfielders on it. The chances of him holding that same spot next April seem slim.

Oct 26

Remembering 2011: Hong-Chih Kuo


Kirby Lee/US PresswireHong-Chih Kuo (29)

The setup: Coming off his spectacular 2010 (1.20 ERA, .211 opposing on-base percentage, 73 strikeouts in 60 innings and a career-high 56 games) and three years removed from his most recent surgery, Kuo was expected to be an integral, if not the most integral, component to the Dodger bullpen.

The closeup: It was a bruising season for Kuo.

He lasted fewer than three weeks before he landed on the disabled list April 16 with a lower back strain, related to problems we would learn had been with him since the season began. That, at the time, seemed to explain why Kuo had walked four in 2 2/3 innings of a shaky start to 2011. Kuo returned to active duty May 1, only to be charged with four runs on a walk, a hit batter and two singles in one-third of an inning that night, though three of those runners scored with Mike MacDougal on the mound. Kuo’s ERA soared to 15.00; it would never drop below 8.00 at any point in the remainder of the year.

Only 10 days later, on May 11, Kuo went back to the disabled list, but not for physical reasons. Officially sidelined by “anxiety disorder,” Kuo was the subject of a piece by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports in late June:

… Kuo, who turns 30 next month, is one of the game’s top left-handed relievers when healthy. But he has undergone four elbow operations and battled the “yips” — an inability to throw the ball with accuracy — in 2009. In early May, during a series in Pittsburgh, he told Conte he no longer could pitch due to his anxiety.

Conte, after receiving permission from Kuo, spoke at length about the pitcher’s condition.

“The analogy I use is if you’re scared of small places, you’re claustrophobic and you’re scared of snakes. But you’re really good at catching those snakes, and they ask you every day to walk into a small, closed window-less room to grab them,” Conte said.

“They bite you. It hurts. But you’re the best in the world at doing it and they pay you a lot of money to do it. And every day it becomes worse and worse. It makes you believe you can’t do it, not for glory, not for fame, not for money.

“That’s how he was in Pittsburgh. He was like a guy in water who couldn’t float and begging to get out of the water. It was very emotional, the way he was begging us not to put him out there.” …

When Kuo came back on June 21, it still wasn’t with any sort of consistency, allowing at least one run or one inherited run in 14 of 31 appearances through the end of the season. He could still strike batters out at an incredible rate – 36 in 27 innings – but he couldn’t be relied upon to do so without putting a bunch on base.

In September, Kuo did have two games in which he pitched two shutout innings. The first, on September 2, earned him his only victory of the season. The second, on September 24, lowered his season ERA to exactly 9.00. Kuo, who had allowed 48 baserunners in 60 innings the year before, finished with 49 in 27 innings this time.

Coming attractions: Entering the offseason, Kuo figured to become a free agent based on the assumption that the Dodgers will not tender him a contract that would commit them to paying well over $2 million in 2012. Though Kuo himself speculated to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that he might retire, he was planning to pitch in a series of exhibition games against major-leaguers in his native Taiwan – only to come down with left-elbow discomfort, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports.

If and when he’s ready to resume his major-league career, Kuo (like Hiroki Kuroda) might decide he’s only comfortable doing so with the Dodgers, who could re-sign him for a lower base salary after non-tendering him. It is a very uncertain future for Kuo in baseball to say the least, but I’ll always be struck by how Dodger fans, who can be a bitterly impatient lot when it comes to struggling players, always seemed to stand by Kuo no matter how bad it got. Signed by the organization in 1999 and a battler almost every day since, sidelined by the first of two Tommy John surgeries after his very first game in the minors in 2000, Kuo has earned tons of respect from this community.

Oct 25

Remembering 2011: Rod Barajas


Ric Tapia/Icon SMIRod Barajas (28)

The setup: Barajas bashed the ball for the Dodgers last year (.939 OPS, five home runs in 72 plate appearances) in a short stint after the Mets designated him for assignment in August 2010. In a 24-hour whirlwind that December, the Dodgers cut ties with incumbent-but-injured Russell Martin and signed Barajas to a one-year, $3.25 million deal for 2011, in contrast to the $500,000 plus incentives the Mets had guaranteed Barajas 9 1/2 months earlier. At his peak, Barajas had never been guaranteed more than $3.2 million for a year, and neither Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. nor myself thought Barajas could get more than $2 million. Though there was a cost savings in switching Martin’s uncertain future for Barajas, and though Barajas was a Southern Californian happy to be with the Dodgers, the contract had small-scale blunder written all over it, the same way that the second years in Los Angeles for Marlon Anderson and Ronnie Belliard went so unhappily.

The closeup: Not unlike Martin, whose surge-and-retreat year for the Yankees ended with a .723 OPS (92 OPS+), Barajas had a streaky 2011. His OPS was .635 at the end of July, before he connected for a .403 on-base percentage, .750 slugging percentage and six home runs in 62 plate appearances in August. His 10 total bases (two home runs and a double) against St. Louis on August 23 were unsurpassed by any Dodger this year. Thanks to that, he was able to finish the year with a .717 OPS that was slightly lower than Martin’s but a 97 OPS+ that was slightly higher. Barajas finished second on the Dodgers in home runs with 16, a mere 23 behind the team leader, despite missing a month at midseason with a sprained ankle and playing in only 98 games, seventh on the team. Fangraphs pegged Barajas’ value for 2011 at $5.8 million, Martin $13.8 million.

As late as August 23, Barajas had the same number of home runs and walks (14 of each), but he avoided becoming the rare Dodger to finish with more round-trippers than free-trippers, ending the year with 16 of one and 22 of the other. He threw out 20 of 80 runners attempting to steal.

Coming attractions: Barajas, who turned 36 in September, is a free agent who will sign somewhere for next year, but his Dodger future depends on his willingness to reduce that 2011 salary. His Los Angeles return would allow the Dodgers to slow-cook Tim Federowicz, who has played only 115 games above Single-A in his career, in the minors a bit longer next spring. But no outsider seems sure about whether Barajas will wear Dodger white and blue in 2012, and I don’t know that any insiders are sure either.

Oct 22

Remembering 2011: Jay Gibbons


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireJay Gibbons (27)

The setup: When Gibbons hit his fifth home in about a month with the Dodgers late in the 2010 season, it seemed clear that the power-starved team would be signing him up for 2011 – and sure enough, that’s what happened. Having OPSed .819 in his short 2010 spurt, Gibbons was expected to begin the season as part of a left-field platoon. Then, in March, word began to surface that Gibbons was having eye problems, and then some. His comeback story detoured into a season-opening journey to the disabled list.

The closeup: Gibbons eventually returned to active duty in April with Albuquerque and OPSed .832 in 49 April at-bats, convincing the Dodgers (to at least hope) he was ready for major-league pitching (as his platoon partner, Marcus Thames, went on the disabled list). From May 3 to June 3, Gibbons played in 24 of 28 Dodger games, starting 15, with a .323 on-base percentage and .345 slugging percentage – including a .359/.432 surge in the last 12. Though those weren’t dominant numbers, they were good enough on a struggling team and heading in the right direction that it came as some surprise that the Dodgers designated Gibbons for assignment on June 6. Technically, Gibbons’ departure made room for the return of Thames (who himself was eventually cut loose for Juan Rivera) but effectively, Gibbons’ role as a left-handed hitting reserve outfielder was taken by Trent Oeltjen, who was called up June 9 and remained on the team for the rest of the year.

Gibbons cleared waivers and finished the year with the Isotopes, for whom he ended up with a .403 on-base percentage and .456 slugging percentage. His entire Dodger career consisted of 61 games, 142 plate appearances, six home runs and a .755 OPS.

Coming attractions: Gibbons, who will be 35 in March, is a free agent.

Oct 21

Remembering 2011: Lance Cormier


Nam Y. Huh/APLance Cormier (26)

The setup: Signed to a minor-league contract in February, the 30-year-old Cormier was coming off three straight adequate years in the American League in which he pitched in 158 games with a 3.71 ERA. He walked four batters per nine innings in that time, so he was no one’s idea of a savior, but he was coming off a better year than, say, Mike MacDougal.

The closeup: Um, yikes. Thrust into a mop-up role, Cormier kept spilling the bucket, allowing 11 runs (nine earned) in seven innings over his first four appearances through April 15. He pitched only three games in the next month.

On May 18, the Dodgers rallied from deficits of 4-0 in the fifth inning and 5-2 in the eighth to tie the Giants, 5-5. But they had used three relievers in the process, and three others were unavailable (Vicente Padilla had forearm stiffness, while Kenley Jansen had pitched four of the past five days and Matt Guerrier the past two). So they turned to Cormier, who hadn’t pitched in a game closer than three runs all season. With two out and two on, Cormier allowed a three-run, game-winning home run to Cody Ross.

Cormier pitched one more game for Los Angeles, giving up two runs in two innings to lower his 2011 ERA to 9.88 in 13 2/3 innings. On May 24, he was designated for assignment, making room for Rubby De La Rosa. Cormier returned to the Tampa Bay organization, spending the rest of the year in Triple-A Durham with a 5.51 ERA, allowing 80 baserunners while striking out 25 in 47 1/3 innings.

Coming attractions: Cormier faces an uphill march trying to get back in the majors, but with relievers, you never know.

Oct 21

Remembering 2011: Dee Gordon


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireDee Gordon (25)

The setup: Many branded Gordon the Dodgers’ shortstop of the future, but not without reservations. He had a .332 on-base percentage and .355 slugging percentage with 53 steals in 73 attempts and 37 errors for Double-A Chattanooga at age 22. This prediction from January rather accurately laid things out:

… In different circumstances, 2012 might seem to be the earliest Gordon would reach the majors, with a starting job not in sight for at least another year after that. However, 2011 likely marks the end of the six-year Rafael Furcal era, and by now it’s safe to expect that that era will include at least one more trip to the disabled list for the otherwise talented Dodger shortstop. While Jamey Carroll has shown he can fill in for Furcal, a prolonged absence conceivably could compel the Dodgers to accelerate Gordon’s timetable, allowing him to reach the majors this summer. …

The closeup: Yep, that’s what happened … not that it wasn’t still something of a shock when Gordon got the call to the majors June 6. Playing for Triple-A Albuquerque, he had a .361 on-base percentage and 22 steals in 25 attempts, but there was still the fear that this promotion was coming too soon and that the majors would eat Gordon up.

After making his debut as a pinch-runner (and scoring) that night in Philadelphia, Gordon got his first major-league start the next day. It certainly helps calm the naysayers when you get hits in your first three at-bats, as Gordon did. Gordon’s speed and defensive range and overall sparkle became immediately apparent, so much so that it encouraged one to be patient with his weaknesses.

That patience would be necessary. After starting out 14 for 43 (.326) with one walk and eight strikeouts in his first 10 starts, Gordon went into a 5 for 39 slump that left his OPS at .530. Nine steals in 12 attempts couldn’t make up for that. He would have games like this one on June 13 in which he’d electrify the offense in one moment and then make a critical error on defense in the next.

On July 1, Gordon became the first Dodger in 83 years to steal second, third and home in the same inning. But a few days later, when Rafael Furcal was activated from the disabled list, and Gordon was sent back to Albuquerque, it was easy to understand. The kid still had things to work on, and he needed to play every day.

Gordon came back to Los Angeles after St. Louis traded for Furcal, but his second stint was short-lived. He hurt his shoulder making an awkward tag on a rundown play August 6, aggravated the injury a few days later and ended up missing the rest of August. Again, as disappointing as this was, there was some upside in the possibility that Gordon might learn to take better care of his body.

In September, Gordon gave the Dodgers a treat. Playing 26 games in 28 days, Gordon had 42 hits — most in the National League — along with 12 steals in 16 attempts, seven doubles and a triple for an .850 OPS. He finished the 2011 major-league season with a .325 on-base percentage and 362 slugging percentage, and his 24 steals (in 31 attempts) tied for the most by a rookie in the NL. Of the 48 Dodgers who suited up in 2011, Gordon finished ninth in Value Over Replacement Player. For all his foibles, it’s hard to call this anything but an impressive debut.

Coming attractions: Gordon eliminated all doubt that he’ll be the starting shortstop when the calendar turns to 2012. Now, that doesn’t mean he has put the minors behind him forever — he could struggle with the bat as pitchers exploit his lack of walking ability and find himself back in training mode. But the best guess is that you’re looking at the Dodgers’ 6-man for the next several years. If he improves his defensive fundamentals and maintains that wonderful speed, the Dodgers can live with his offense at shortstop.

Oct 19

Remembering 2011: Hiroki Kuroda


Norm Hall/Getty ImagesHiroki Kuroda (24)

The setup: Amid much speculation that he might sign elsewhere, namely Japan, Kuroda returned to the Dodgers on a one-year contract he signed in November for $12 million, one-third of which was deferred. He was coming off his best of three seasons as a Dodgers: a 3.39 ERA with 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

The closeup: Despite turning 36 in February, Kuroda topped himself yet again, turning in his best ERA as a Dodger (3.07, ninth in the National League) in a career-high 32 starts and 202 innings with 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. At the start of July, it was Kuroda, not Clayton Kershaw, who was leading the Dodgers in ERA.

Kuroda was also one of many symbols of the Dodgers’ woebegone first four months: At the end of July, even as he was cruising with a 3.11 ERA, Kuroda had a 6-13 won-lost record and was threatening to become the unluckiest starting pitcher in Los Angeles Dodger history. But after choosing to stay with the Dodgers rather than be traded to a contender, he finished the year winning seven of his final 10 decisions (with a 3.00 ERA).

Kuroda’s 16 losses were still the most by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser in 1987, but only Kevin Brown has ever had a better adjusted ERA for a season in Los Angeles at the age of at least 36. In exactly 25 percent of his starts, Kuroda pitched shutout ball for at least six innings, and his 22 quality starts were tied for 11th in the NL. And he was just a lot of fun to have on the team.

Coming attractions: No one’s expecting Kuroda to sign anywhere on this continent except Los Angeles for 2012, but no one’s saying which continent he’ll choose. Ned Colletti told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that the Dodgers might not have an answer until after free agency begins. If Kuroda returns, it might be asking too much to hope he would duplicate his 2010 or 2011 performances, but expecting that he would be a useful (not to mention joyful to watch) member of the starting rotation doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Oct 18

Remembering 2011: Ivan De Jesus Jr.


George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesIvan De Jesus Jr. (23)

The setup: De Jesus spent 2010 trying to come back from the broken leg that ruined his 2009. The results were uninspiring: a .740 OPS with Triple-A Albuquerque. It was the wrong direction for a player who in 2008 put together a .419 on-base percentage in the Southern League at age 21. That left his prognosis for 2011 decidedly mixed, though there was definitely the possibility of him winning a spot somewhere on the major-league roster.

The closeup: Thanks to Dodger injuries, De Jesus started two of the team’s first three games, going 0 for 7 with a walk and five strikeouts. He made a round trip on the Albuquerque-Los Angeles shuttle, coming back April 12 when Rafael Furcal punched his buy-12, get-one-free card for the disabled list. De Jesus got his first major-league hit in his ninth at-bat of the season, then hardly played for the next week. At the time, one might have spotted pockets of a “Free De Jesus” movement building hither and yon.

De Jesus got five starts in late April and early May and went 5 for 17 with a walk, but the infrequency of his playing time illustrated that the Dodgers just weren’t ready to commit to him — especially with Aaron Miles around. On May 13, De Jesus was replaced on the active roster by none other than Juan Castro and managed only one at-bat in the majors the remainder of the season.

His final totals: a .235 on-base percentage and .188 slugging in 35 plate appearances — not much, though still more productive than Eugenio Velez. In the minors, De Jesus did show improvement, with a .389 OBP and .432 slugging. But for the second year in a row, he watched others from Albuquerque get a September callup, while he put his glove and bat away.

Coming attractions: The fact that Justin Sellers has surpassed De Jesus on the Dodger depth chart says a lot about the latter’s standing with the franchise. As was the case in 2011, De Jesus will begin Spring Training in the running for a major-league spot, and it’s certainly not too late for the 24-year-old to make a positive impression. But the likelihood is for him to begin the season in Albuquerque with the hopes of working his way out.

Oct 18

Remembering 2011: Josh Lindblom


Kirby Lee/US PresswireJosh Lindblom (22)

The setup: The second-round draft pick from 2008 has had Dodger minor-league watchers excited about his potential for some time, especially with a 2.54 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 39 innings for Albuquerque in 2009, but his star dimmed in a rough 2010 (6.54 ERA with the Isotopes). As with Scott Elbert, the Dodgers’ indecision about whether to make him a starting pitcher or not didn’t seem to help, but as with Elbert, the team committed to making him a reliever in 2011.

The closeup: Lindblom began the year in Double-A Chattanooga and thrived in three stints down there, totaling a 2.13 ERA, 54 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings with 48 baserunners allowed. He came up to the big club on May 29 when Kenley Jansen went on the disabled list for what figured to be a temporary stay, but he made a decent first impression with a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings, though he struck out only five and allowed three of four inherited runners to score. Lindblom went back to Double-A after Jansen returned to active duty, allowed two runs on 11 baserunners in 17 innings while striking out 18, then came back when Jansen had his cardiac arrhythmia at the end of July.

From that point on, except for a one-week roster-crunch detour to the minors in late August, Lindblom was pretty much a Dodger to stay. Though his season ERA with the Dodgers rose to 2.73, he was actually more convincing the second time around, stranding nine of 11 inherited runners and striking out 23 in 19 innings while allowing only 20 baserunners. His highlight: September 14, when he was suddenly pushed into a game against National League West champion Arizona after Clayton Kershaw was ejected and struck out the side in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh.

Coming attractions: One of the Dodgers’ bright young firebrand firemen, the 24-year-old righty should join Jansen, Elbert and Javy Guerra as one of at least four 26-and-under pitchers in the 2012 bullpen.

Oct 17

Remembering 2011: Tim Federowicz


Mark J. Terrill/APTim Federowicz (21)

The setup: A 24-year-old catcher who had a .745 OPS with Boston’s Double-A affiliate Portland in the Eastern League, Federowicz came to the Dodger organization on July 31 with Juan Rodriguez and Stephen Fife in the three-team deal that sent Trayvon Robinson to Seattle. Despite praise for his defensive skills, almost every fan who cared was annoyed – a tidbit Federowicz quickly became aware of. Federowicz adapted to Triple-A Albuquerque easily enough, with a .431 on-base percentage and .627 slugging percentage in 102 plate appearances before getting a September promotion to Los Angeles.

The closeup: After making his debut in the eighth inning of a September 11 game against the Giants and striking out in the ninth, Federowicz reached base three times in his first career start September 15, on a hit-by-pitch, a single to center and a walk. He singled and walked in his next start two days later, then went 0 for 7 for the remainder of the season to finish 2 for 13 with a .313 on-base percentage and no extra-base hits. He threw out two of five runners attempting to steal.

Coming attractions: Federowicz has a big ally in Dodger general manager Ned Colletti, who moved Trayvon and earth to acquire him. The signing of a veteran catcher would probably mean that Federowicz starts the next season with more seasoning in the minors, because A.J. Ellis is finally out of options. Either way, Right Said Fed figures to be sexy enough to play in 50 to 100 games for Los Angeles in 2012.

Oct 15

Remembering 2011: Rubby De La Rosa


Julie Jacobson/APRubby De La Rosa (20)

The setup: De La Rosa was the Dodgers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010, but more than half of that season was spent with Single-A Great Lakes. At Double-A Chattanooga, he had a 1.41 ERA in eight starts covering 51 innings, but with a modest strikeout ratio of 6.9 per nine innings. He became the team’s most exciting pitching prospect almost overnight, but there were questions about his lack of experience. At the end of Spring Training, De La Rosa made his Dodger Stadium debut with 5 2/3 innings of two-hit, no-walk shutout ball and six strikeouts (including Ichiro twice). Appetites whetted.

The closeup: De La Rosa looked strong back in the Chatt room, with a 2.92 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 40 innings (51 baserunners allowed). In May, the Dodgers showed their willingness to start promoting key prospects from within by calling up Jerry Sands. De La Rosa came next, with the Dodgers giving up on Lance Cormier. De La Rosa began his major-league career in relief by striking out two in a perfect inning that helped preserve a 5-4 Dodger victory in Houston (in which Sands hit a grand slam and Javy Guerra got his first save). After two more bullpen outings, Jon Garland went on the disabled list, and De La Rosa was pushed into the starting rotation, making his first start at 22 years and three months. In that game, De La Rosa walked five in the first two innings, yet managed to last five innings in all, allowing one run and earning the 6-2 victory.

De La Rosa battled his control throughout his run as a starting pitcher, walking 30 in 55 2/3 innings, but he also showed dazzling stuff at times (striking out 55). In a three-start stretch, he allowed one run in seven innings at Minnesota, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Mets on Independence Day and pitched one-hit, eight-strikeout ball at San Diego on July 9. All in all, it was pretty joyous.

In a Dodger season filled with injuries, none was more depressing than what happened to De La Rosa – a partial ligament tear in his right elbow that sidelined him after a laborious four innings against Arizona and put him under the knife for Tommy John surgery in August. He finished his rookie year with a 3.71 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. In his entire professional career, including the minors, De La Rosa has still thrown only 280 2/3 innings.

Coming attractions: For those who think the comparison is worthwhile, Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, who also had Tommy John surgery to repair a UCL tear, went 12 1/2 months between major-league starts. That would seem to open the door for an August return for De La Rosa, though I just have trouble believing that De La Rosa would match Strasburg’s timetable. So maybe September, at a point when the Dodgers would either be playing out the string or getting a timely Rubby injection for a postseason run. Or maybe not at all in 2012. In any case, by 2013, De La Rosa might be part of a Dodger rotation that also includes Zach Lee. We can hardly wait.

Oct 15

Remembering 2011: Jamey Carroll


Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireJamey Carroll (19)

The setup: Carroll was the sung hero of the 2010 Dodgers, exceeding expectations at the start of his two-year contract with a .379 on-base percentage in 133 games, 69 of them played at shortstop in support of an oft-injured Rafael Furcal. For 2011, he was once again slated for a bench role, but this time with everyone prepared for him to play often, given the frail state of the Dodger infield.

The closeup: Yep, you could say Carroll found regular time again – at age 37, he came to the plate 510 times, ranking fourth on the Dodgers this season. He started on Opening Day and in 111 games overall (57 at second base, 54 at shortstop). He played in 58 of the Dodgers’ first 60 games and sat out only 16 of 161. The fact is, he could have even played more. Come July, when there was only one opening for a so-called reserve in the starting infield, Aaron Miles was taking away playing time even though Carroll had the Dodgers’ third-highest on-base percentage in 2011. And then, of course, Dee Gordon entered the picture.

As it happens, Carroll did go through a summertime slump, with his on-base percentage falling to .329 and his OPS to .636 over July and August. He rebounded a bit in September and finished the season with a .359 on-base percentage (down .020 from 2010) and .347 slugging percentage. That includes three four-hit games between May 20 and June 11; he also walked in two of those games. Two statistical oddities from Carroll:

Overall, among infielders with at least 800 plate appearances, Carroll has the highest on-base percentage of any in Los Angeles Dodger history, according to Baseball-Reference.com.


Rk Player OBP PA From To Age
1 Jamey Carroll .368 924 2010 2011 36-37
2 Jeff Kent .367 2146 2005 2008 37-40
3 Mike Sharperson .363 1271 1987 1993 25-31
4 Eddie Murray .359 1983 1989 1997 33-41
5 Ron Cey .359 6108 1971 1982 23-34
6 Jim Gilliam .358 4893 1958 1966 29-37
7 Billy Grabarkewitz .357 966 1969 1972 23-26
8 Eric Young .355 1366 1992 1999 25-32
9 Todd Zeile .352 842 1997 1998 31-32
10 Rafael Furcal .351 2802 2006 2011 28-33

Coming attractions: Having more than justified the two-year, $3.85 million (plus incentives) contract he signed in December 2009, Carroll is a free agent, and there will be a lot of sentiment toward resigning him. Keep in mind that Carroll shouldn’t be expected to produce as much in the future as he has in the past, though we said the same thing two years ago and look what happened. At a minimum, it’s reasonable to think that Carroll 2012 would be at least as effective as Miles 2011 (salaries aside). Some team will want Carroll, that’s for sure.