Thursday, September 29, 2011

The 2011 Season: Some Thoughts

So, I guess that happened. That being the entire 2011 season. Anyway, I just had a couple of thoughts that were too long for Twitter and decided to post them here.

1. Before the season began, I thought to myself that if everything went right this season the Dodgers could get somewhere around 86 wins and (again, all things going right) that might allow them to win the division. That meant Casey Blake contributing (ha), getting quality innings from Jon Garland (Ha), getting a lot of scoreless outings from Broxton, Kuo, and Vicente Padilla (HA!), and getting a handful of homeruns and some solid defense from Juan Uribe (HAHAHA!). Obviously, things didn't go right.

On the bright side, Uribe did end up the star of one of the best baseball memes of the season.

Of course, I never imagined the Diamondbacks would win 94 games, so that really blew everything away anyway.

Still, for all the injuries and question marks, the Dodgers had a great second half and still ended up winning 82 games. Even though there's no reward for finishing in 3rd place in your division, there's still some pride to be had in having a winning record for this season, especially because a few months ago, winning 70 games seemed like a barely achievable goal.

This team deserves a lot of credit for the strong finish. And that means a lot coming from me, considering how cynical and "dead inside" I've been for the last several months.

2. Speaking of credit, James Loney deserves a bunch for saving himself from what was quickly becoming a horrific season. He somehow managed himself 12 homeruns and a line of .288/.339/.416. That's not that much worse than his career numbers. 2011 actually turned out to be a very James Loney year.

Does this mean he shouldn't still be non-tendered this offseason? Yes and no. I know that's not an answer. Let me explain.

If there is money to spend for free agents this offseason, 1st base is definitely in need of an upgrade. But let's be honest, the budget will probably be conservative. Where is McCourt going to get the money to sign big checks? If that's the case, might as well keep Loney (this route might include non-tendering him and resigning him cheaper). There's not a whole lot of sense in letting Loney go and creating a hole at first base if the front office isn't going to have the money available to replace him.

(Quickly, while I'm still partially on the subject, Rod Barajas had a totally Rod Barajas year as well: 16 homeruns and a line of .230/.287/.430. Compare that to his career line of .238/.284/.414. I guess you couldn't ask for more?)

3. Dee Gordon, Jerry Sands, and Rubby De La Rosa (may his 2012 season rest in peace) have me excited for the future. Flashes of brilliance from all three.

4. Finally, Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp.

Granted, I'm biased, but these two should be Cy Young and MVP, respectively. Both races are going to be close, and both players should be really proud of themselves no matter where they finish in the race.

A lot has been said about who should win what and for what reasons, so I won't get into it too heavily. I'll just say this about Matt Kemp:

If Matt Kemp had won the Triple Crown (ignoring how unimportant the stats that make up the Triple Crown are) he'd probably be a near unanimous MVP choice. Kemp finished the season at the top of the leaderboard in both homeruns and RBIs. He finished with a .324 batting average, coming in third to Ryan Braun (.332) and Jose Reyes (.337). Kemp was 195 for 602 on the season. If Kemp had gone 203 for 602, he would have finished the season batting .33721 to Reyes' .3371 (181 for 537).

What I'm saying is this: Kemp missed out on the batting title in the Triple Crown race by eight hits. Eight. This is over a six month season. That's something like just one more hit every three weeks of the season. One bloop single here or there. A lucky hop. A squib single towards a 3rd baseman who was playing too far back. A fly ball that an outfielder loses in the sun and never gets his glove on. A line drive or ground ball that stays fair instead of just drifting foul. Eight hits over the course of a long season is so, so minimal.

Point being, if you would have voted for Kemp had he won the Triple Crown but wouldn't now that he just missed out on it, consider how very slim the margin was here. If missing just eight hits over an entire season costs Kemp the MVP award, it would be a tremendous shame.

Last thing, still related to Kemp and Kershaw.

It is such a travesty that the Dodgers have, arguably, the best young starting pitcher and the best young position player in the league and the best they can do is finish 3rd in the NL West.

These two young players are in or entering their prime and they are being surrounded by players the likes of Juan Uribe and Eugenio Velez (not that Velez cost this team their shot at the playoffs, but I think you get my point). Frank McCourt won't, or can't, spend big to improve the team, and the small amount of money he does allot, Ned Colletti wastes on poor free agent signings (Matt Guerrier is still owed $7.5 million over the next two years).

They've turned what should be something great into a mess.

I guess if I were to point a single reason why I only went to one home game this season (and the tickets were bought by someone else) it'd be that. So, there you go, McCourt. If you are wondering why attendance is down so much this year, it's you. You are the face of a group of people that have turned this great franchise into one of constant upheaval, and one, worst of all, that has begun to squander some of the best years of its brightest young players.

Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw should be the center pieces of a 100 win team heading for the playoffs. Instead, they are heading home before the start of October while McCourt still sits in court trying to get control of a team no one wants him to have.

At least, that's just my reason for attending the fewest amount of Dodger games in season since I was a little kid ... though, what am I but just another fan?

God, this got depressing. I didn't mean for it to be, but whenever I get to thinking about the number McCourt has done to this franchise, I start to go to a dark place.


I'm going to take a couple of deep breaths and get myself ready for the offseason.

Monday, April 11, 2011

10 Games Into 2011: Some Thoughts

What's this? A blog post?! Yes it is. I should point out that I've pretty much abandoned this blog and moved my Dodger opining exclusively to Twitter.

Except, that is, for when I have thoughts longer than 140 characters (not often).

Anyway, the Dodgers stand 6-4 after ten games, and I have some thoughts.

1. I'm still worried about this somewhat patchwork roster. Of the 25 men to make the roster, I'm still at unease with five of them.

Hector Gimenez had a good spring, but, frankly, he's looked overmatched more than a few times in the major leagues. He's on the DL now, with a phantom knee injury and I'm in no hurry to get him back.

Aaron Miles. I don't get the point. He's not a good hitter, not a great fielder. Jamey Carroll does everything he does and does it better. I guess with health questions hanging over the heads of both Rafael Furcal (who, as I'm writing this, it turns out has a broken thumb) and Casey Blake, you need another utility infielder around. I just wish we had better options than Miles. I'm no big fan of Ivan De Jesus, but at least he can provide the club some defensive value. And Mattingly won't be tempted to bat him leadoff or second.

Mike MacDougal and Lance Cormier. MacDougal was good at one point, but that was many moons ago. He's been ok so far in his relief appearances, giving up just a homerun over three innings of work. Cormier isn't a great option, barely squeaked onto the roster at the end of Spring Training, and has already given up four runs in four innings. I'm guessing Vicente Padilla, whenever he returns, kicks out Cormier and we just end up hoping MacDougal doesn't blow up in our faces, but that's really less than ideal.

AJ Ellis/Dioner Navarro. Ok, so this is more a technicality. Navarro wasn't really on the Opening Day roster and he's the one I have more of a problem with, but this is my blog, so deal with it. I'm not a big proponent of AJ Ellis. I like his on-base skills, but he has the power stroke of a four year old girl. Still, he seems to call a pretty decent game, and he's more than comfortable with our starting pitchers. And it's not like Dioner Navarro, who hit .258/.294/.323 in Spring Training (and .194/.270/.258 last year) is really a guaranteed offensive improvement. If Mattingly is intent on catching Rod Barajas almost every day (though in fairness to Mattingly, the way his roster was built, he has little choice), then I'm ok with Ellis as backup. Again, this is really less than ideal. It's an unfortunate by-product of the way this roster was put together.

2. If this team wants to continue to do well this season, we're going to need some players to not regress too much, and others to progress a whole lot more.

I love what Matt Kemp has done this first week and a half. He's been a man on fire. It's fantastic. But before we all freak out too much, let's not forget that Kemp, in his first 10 games last season, hit .333/.385/.756 with five homeruns, four doubles, and five walks. And we all remember how last season turned out. I'm not trying to be a downer, but I'm just reminding everyone that the .441 batting average Kemp has right not is almost certainly going to drop.

The key is making sure it doesn't drop too much.

The same goes for Tony Gwynn. He's had a pretty solid start to the season. And I really like the defense he provides in the outfield. But I have doubts we can trust him to continue hitting .333 like he has so far. However, if he can stay somewhere in the high .200s and continue with his excellent defense, I'll be ok with him taking a majority of the starts in left field.

On the flip side, Juan Uribe and James Loney are killing me. Both are hitting in the .100s (.129 and .154 respectively) and neither is drawing walks or getting extra base hits (0 BB, 1 2B for Uribe; 2 BB, 1 2B, 1 HR for Loney). These were the two guys expected to battle it out to be the third option behind Ethier and Kemp on offense. Instead, it feels like the entire offense is resting its hopes on Ethier, and more so Kemp to get anything done. The 5, 6, 7 spots in the lineup have been a black hole.

If these two can turn it on, I'll feel a lot better about our chances in 2011.

And isn't how I feel what really matters?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Offseason Awards: MVP

Alright, last award, the big one: M. V. P.

Now, before I get into this, I want to preface it with something. I love stats. I really do. I like looking them up and examining them.

It used to be RBIs and Wins. Nowadays I'm working on learning newer ones that better explore and explain the game. I'm working on learning different kinds of Sabermetrics, figuring them out. I know I'm late to the game, but I'm getting there. I really like WAR.

All that being said, I'm going to work away from the stat books for this one.

And why not, it's all meaningless opinion anyway.

On a pretty mediocre 2010 Dodger team, there were still a few standouts. Kershaw, as well as Kuroda and Billingsley were a great three man pitching rotation.
Hong-Chih Kuo had one of the best seasons for a reliever in recent memory. Rafael Furcal, when healthy, was an excellent addition on offense and defense.

All these men would be worthy picks for MVP of this team, but I really got to go with my gut (ugh) on this one.

So, the winner is...

Jamey Carroll.

Maybe you agree. Maybe you don't. (Carroll's WAR was 2.4 this year, 6th on the team in case you were wondering) But here's where I'm coming from.

When Carroll was signed this previous offseason, I was pretty blasé about it. Then, we added Ronnie Belliard, and I started wondering what the point of having both players on the roster would be. I wasn't really comfortable with the whole setup, and frankly, I was thinking: "We have Belliard, why do we need Carroll?"

Either way, the season began. In the first month, Carroll made sporadic appearances, coming in for defense, starting here and there at 2nd base or shortstop. Then Furcal got hurt.

Next thing you know, Carroll was starting everyday at shortstop. Then Furcal came back. And Carroll slipped back into the spot starter role. He made starts at shortstop, 2nd, and 3rd base this time. This utility role continued until early August, when Furcal was hurt again.

And Carroll stepped right back into the shortstop role. Then September rolls around. Furcal is back. Some kids are up. Carroll goes back into the utility/spot starter role.

I know I went on too long with that, but the point I'm making is, Carroll filled a lot of roles this year (including playing a little left field) and he never complained. He just did his job and he did it well. He filled in when he was needed, or he sat on the bench when he wasn't. And over this whole time, he still posted a .379 OBP, good for first on the team (minimum 300 plate appearances).

And look how David Eckstein trembles beneath him.

So, for being that guy, Jamey Carroll is your "J's Dodger Blog 2010 MVP"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Offseason Awards: Cy Young

Big awards time, the tension is palpable...

The nominees are:

Hiroki Kuroda - The old guy showed he still had some stuff left in the old guy tank. Kuroda made 31 starts in 2010, posting a 3.31 ERA in 196.1 innings. He struck out 159 batters while walking just 48. He had 21 quality starts, including one where he carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the Phillies.

Chad Billingsley - I suppose Billingsley might have been a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year except I don't really feel like his 2009 was that bad. Either way, his 2010 was good stuff. 31 starts, 3.57 ERA over 191.2 innings. He struck out 171 to just 69 walks, had 18 quality starts, and pitched the second complete game shutout of his career.

Clayton Kershaw - The 22 year old pitched 204.1 innings, posting a 2.91 ERA over that span. He struck out 212 batters, had 23 quality starts, and picked up the first complete game shutout of his career.

And the winner is...


Alright, not everyone, but before I announce the winner, I want to give all three nominees props.
Looking back at the stats, I was surprised by how good our top three pitchers were this season. I mean, just solid work from all three men. So, really, props to all three, but there can only be one winner, and that person is...

Clayton Kershaw for the second year in a row.

He had the 12th best ERA in all of baseball and was 7th in strikeouts per nine innings. And striking out 200+ batters in a season is flatout impressive.

For all that, he's the winner of the "J's Dodger Blog 2010 Cy Young" award.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Offseason Awards: Rookie of the Year

I'm doing some more consolidating of the offseason awards I hand out.

Today, I'm cutting out the Gold Glove, mainly because fielding is hard to judge and checking out the UZR leaderboards on the Dodgers, I'm seeing Reed Johnson at number one, which seems acceptable except for how small the sample size is. Then, at number two, you have Casey Blake, which greatly surprised me.

So, I guess Casey Blake gets the Gold Glove award, but again, hard to judge.

Ok then. Rookie of the Year, another award with not a whole bunch of viable candidates.

Six players made their debuts this year: Carlos Monasterios, Russ Mitchell, Jon Link, John Lindsey, Kenley Jansen, and John Ely.

Russ Mitchell came up in September and didn't get a whole lot of experience. Jon Link got just 8.2 innings worth of work in.

You have to give John Lindsey an honorable mention for finally making it to the show but the poor guy got just twelve at-bats before breaking his hand. At least he got a base hit.

I give credit to Monasterios for jumping from the low minors and sticking the whole year on a major league roster. He had a couple of good moments, and was admirable for his ability to work out of the bullpen and make spot starts on short notice.

Unfortunately, not all of his 88.1 innings were of the highest quality. For example, he posted a 2.20 ERA in 28.2 innings in April and May, which was great. Then he posted a 5.43 ERA from June until the end of the season, which was not as great. Overall, he finished the season with a 4.38 ERA, which is pretty good for a guy who hadn't even sniffed the minors before this year.

That leaves us with our last two candidates: Ely and Jansen. This is actually pretty tough for me.

Jansen was fantastic. 0.67 ERA in 27 innings. 41 strikeouts to just 15 walks.

On the other hand, because Ely struggled through his last nine appearances (8.18 ERA in 44 IP) and raised his overall ERA on the season to 5.49, it makes it easy to forget that he was great through his first nine. After getting called up, Ely posted a 3.38 ERA in 56 innings through nine games, striking out 41 to 13 walks.

So, again, tough decision.

But I got to give it to Ely.

Taking nothing away from Jansen, because I thoroughly enjoyed watching him pitch this year and I think he's got a very bright future, but, at least for me, his 27 innings pitched can't trump the fact that John Ely was fourth on the list of Games Started for pitchers this year or that Ely racked up nine quality starts in his rookie campaign.

There's a lot of value in that, and as such, John Ely wins the "J's Dodger Blog 2010 Rookie of the Year" award.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Offseason Awards: Reliever of the Year

Alright, I'm gonna jump into these awards with the Reliever of the Year. Historically (all of two years), I've started with Comeback Player of the Year.

This year though, not a whole lot to go on. If it means anything, Jay Gibbons. And he had all of 80 plate appearances this season, so, there you go.

...and provided Jeter-esque Gold Glove defense in left.

On the other hand, whatever the opposite of Comeback Player of the Year is, there were a handful of candidates for that.

Anyway, let's talk Reliever of the Year.

It's Hong-Chih Kuo.

Yeah, I'm not screwing around.

Well, I mean, I started this blog post with the intent of naming a bunch of candidates and their qualifications but, uh, looking at the stats and refreshing my memory of this season I realized what a miserable bullpen we had this year.

Kuo was pretty much the one bright spot. 60 innings of 1.20 ERA baseball.

So, for that, he wins the "J's Dodger Blog 2010 Reliever of the Year."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dodgers Sign Ted Lilly

I wasn't even in offseason mode yet, and look at the Dodgers, jumping in with a splash. (Small splash? Medium sized splash.)

The Dodgers re-upped with Ted Lilly, signing him to a three year deal. This news is a little bit bittersweet for me. Will Ted Lilly be good next year (definition of good being 25+ starts, about 4.00 ERA)? Yeah, probably.

But this deal immediately makes me thing of the Casey Blake deal: three years for a guy in his mid-30s who is beginning to show signs of decline. Sure, we got a decent offensive year out of Blake in 2009 (122 OPS+), but by the second year in the deal (2010, 99 OPS+), we were already starting to regret it. The third year (if Mattingly is smart) will have us paying Casey Blake $5.25 million to be a platoon(/bench?) player.

Which brings me back to Lilly. Obviously, there's no guarantee that Lilly will take the Casey Blake route of decline but it wouldn't shock me. Weird, but trends seem to show that players get worse, not better as they age.

I'm won't be surprised if we're regretting this deal by half-way through the second year.

We also don't know the monetary details of the contract yet. Ted Lilly was going to be one of the top pitchers on the free agent market this offseason. I'm worried about what the Dodgers offered him to not go into said market.

If it's too expensive, we might be looking at a guy who (in an ideal baseball world) is a 4th starter as our big free agent signing this offseason.

Still, our entire starting rotation at this point was comprised of Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, so being able to pencil in Ted Lilly for somewhere around 30 starts and 180-200 innings of about 4.00 ERA pitching is still a plus.

Just as long as you remember that pluses come in many sizes.

UPDATE: Lilly gets 3 years and $33 million. It's a lot, or, at least, more than I'd hoped. There's a couple ways to look at this. I'm sure on the open market, Lilly gets more than that (though I'm not sure too much more, I'm thinking maybe $12 million) so the Dodgers, in a way, got Lilly for cheap.

On the other hand, flash forward to a couple years from now, when Ted Lilly is still getting paid $11 million and possibly not producing as much. Suddenly, things aren't looking so cheap anymore.

Anyway, point is, next year we'll have Lilly in our rotation and be paying him $11 million. It's more than I hoped, but still better than I expected.

... so it's a plus.

Again, size of said plus to be determined.